• Short locos

  • General discussion about locomotives, rolling stock, and equipment
General discussion about locomotives, rolling stock, and equipment

Moderator: John_Perkowski

  by Tallguy
Most locos seem to be 15+ft tall. Are there any significantly shorter?
  by Tallguy
Thanks, but I am looking for US standard gauge. I should have specified
  by RandallW
There might be some industrial oddities like this engine for a coking facility, I don't think you'll find much in the USA significantly shorter than 15 ft that runs on standard gauge. Note that even before WW I the PRR X23 class boxcar was 12' 3" tall , and by WW II the X37 class was 14' 10", so there was little advantage to building locomotives smaller than the cars they pulled.
  by edbear
After it sustained serious hurricane damage to many parts of its system in August 1955, the New Haven obtained a loan of about 60 US Army locomotives. Lots of its own motive power was stranded, put into work train service or in poor condition. The Army units were quite low, squat appearing. They had been designed to fit most clearances on roads on other continents which did not have the generous clearances of U. S. railroads. They could also be adapted to gauges other than U. S. standard. Some of the units on the NH lasted into 1956. You'll probably find photos in some of the Morning Sun/Sweetland books on the New Haven.
  by Bluebird
I don’t know if any of these count as ‘significantly shorter’ but most or all of GE’s 44 tonners have a height of 12 feet, EMD’s SW1001 is 14’ 3” and GE’s P42DC is 14’ 4”.


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  by Tallguy
Thanks, that is helpful
  by AllenHazen
15 feet seems to be a good guess for the height of a locomotive that can be used on most North American standard gauge railroads. Give or take: different railroads may have slightly different clearance diagrams, which can lead them to specify modifications to the standard design for locomotives they buy. (Also to different options: railroads with high clearances often specified roof-mounted horns, whereas close-clearance lines bought locomotives with horns mounted lower: sometimes on the side o the long hood.)
(Erie-Lackawanna had at least one line -- I ***think*** was the line in Pennsylvania that, in the old days, formed part of a non-PRR route between the New York area and Harrisburgh -- with close clearances. Sp they wanted to save a few inches on height: their SD-45-2 units came with reduced-height housings for the roof-top radiator fans. The New York Central had close clearances than many railroads; the beveled edges of the roof-top aftercooler (?) box on their Alco C-430 units were, I think, dictated by clearance concerns.)
The 14'3" SW-1001 is an interesting case. It was a modification of the SW-1000, which had the same 15" height as the SW-1500: acceptable for units bought by mainline railroads. By the 1960s, when these models were introduced, few mainline railroads were interested in 1000 hp switchers: a large part of the market for them was for industrial customers, some of whom probably had low clearance diagrams, and others had maintenance facilities that hade access to the machinery on full-height units difficult. So EMD "squished" the design to suit these customers.
  by AllenHazen
(Oh. Heights, and some other dimensions, of SW-1000 and SW-1001 available at
There are errors in some of the data tables at that site, but I'm willing to believe them on this!)
  by jamoldover
Joining the 44-tonner as a short locomotive, GE's 35-ton standard gauge model is only 10'6" tall (per the diagrams in the Car and Locomotive Cyclopedia). Granted, it was sold primarily to industrial customers, but there were larger railroads who also owned 35-tonners as well as it's smaller brother, the 25-tonner. They tended to find places as locomotive/car movers in shop areas, where their short length (more than their short height) enabled them to fit onto turntables or transfer tables with the equipment they were moving around. I know the LIRR has a couple of 25-tonners; the Providence & Worcester had at least one as well.