Called "a gem" by Classic Toy Trains magazine, and "state of the art" by O Gauge Railroading magazine, the SW-8/9 locomotives feature a die-cast chassis, truck side frames and hood, prototypically correct standard or M.U. type pilots, scale handrails and cut levers, separately applied grab irons, see-through steps and foot boards, detailed cab interior with fully painted crew figures, see-through etched metal grills, 8 wheel drive, and a dual flywheel-equipped precision can motor.
The 3-rail locomotives are additionally equipped with A Big OTM Sound and Operating System designed by Dallee Electronics, Inc. This system allows for horn, bell, and prime mover sounds, regulated directional lighting, a selector switch for either forward-first or neutral-first operation, volume control and is fully compatible with Lionel TRAINMASTER in conventional mode. This version also includes die-cast Lionel couplers.