General Electric wrestled the title of top domestic locomotive builder from EMD during the late 1980s with their Dash-8 series. GE once again positioned themselves to shakeup the locomotive world yet again less than a decade later. Entering the 1990s, GE completely revamped their locomotive lineup by utilizing customer feedback, learning from experience gained from previous locomotive series, and improvements in technology.
A single C44-9W demonstrator unit, numbered 8601, made its debut in 1993 (and later became C&NW 8601). While similar at first glance to predecessor models like the C40-8 and C40-8W, the Dash-9 series featured a few notable physical differences. Built on a slightly longer platform that allowed for a massive 5,000 gallon fuel tank, Dash-9s also featured thicker radiator “wings” at the rear of the carbody. This is usually the quickest way to differentiate them from previous models.
Thanks to its long production span and customer options, small detail differences could be noted between various customer orders. This includes changes with HVAC system vendors (the large “A/C” box behind the cab on the conductors side), engine cab profile, radiator lifting lugs, hood end, trucks, fuel tank, stepwells, operator’s cab, and even handrail profiles.
The C44-9W proved to be extremely popular over its production span with over 3,500 locomotives being sold new to ATSF, BC Rail, BNSF, CN, C&NW, NS (including 100 spartan cab equipped versions, nicknamed “Top Hats”), QNS&L, SP, and UP.