The GE U30C was developed during the age of the SD40 and SD40-2, one of
the most popular locomotive designs ever built, even today. Ironically,
part of the U30C's success (as it went on to become GE's best selling Universal model)
was due to the fact that EMD was so log jammed with orders that some went elsewhere to fill their power needs, and many turned to GE.
By the time the U30C entered production railroads were beginning to
understand the advantages of six-axle, high horsepower locomotives (as
could be seen in the success of the SD40/-2 series), and while the model
was plagued with reliability issues GE strove to resolve these issues
and was already regarded for its rugged and reliable traction motor, the
model 752. For General Electric, the U30C finally proved that the
company could compete against Electro-Motive although it
would take nearly 20 more years until it finally surpassed its rival.
Interestingly, a number of U30Cs remain in service today years after
GE ended production of the model. As several were retired the company instituted a rebuild program which extended
service lives of the model with upgraded equipment and components (essentially
they became variants of the later "Dash 7" line).
A pair of LS&I U30Cs, purchased second-hand from the Burlington Northern, rest for the day in the yard at Marquette, Michigan on August 14, 1994.
The U30C all but drove the American Locomotive Company out of business
as by the mid to late 1960s Alco was on the brink of exiting the manufacturing business altogether. Its comparative models, like the C628, C630, and C636 were simply not even as reliable as GE's models
(interestingly, Alco continued to outsource internal components from GE
through the end). The GE U30C began production in November, 1966 once
again utilizing the company's 4-cycle model FDL16 prime mover which could produce 3,000 horsepower. It featured standard GE angular, boxy carbody designs and the model utilized floating bolster trucks, which were standard on virtually all Universal models.
As for the locomotive's tractive effort, its starting force was about
the same as the U28C (91,650 pounds). However, it offered a much better
continuous rating of 92,500 pounds. The U30C was much longer than the
U28C at 67 feet, 3 inches. While the SD40/-2 series broke the ground on
railroads regularly using six-axle, high horsepower locomotives in main
line freight service the GE
U30C was plagued with reliability issues. Still, because the company
produced a very reliable traction motor and roads had difficulty
getting orders for the SD40 series many went on to buy the U30C. As
General Electric continued to refine the U30C model it became a more reliable locomotive by the early/mid-1970s and was nearly a C30-7 design by the time production had ended.
Rock Island U30C #4586 and a mate leave the Houston Belt & Terminal shops in Houston, Texas as Santa Fe CF7 #2583 rolls by during August of 1977.
In all some 18 Class Is
would purchase the U30C by the time production had ended in 1976, along
with a handful of industrial operations, the US Department of
Transportation, and a few for Mexican carrier Ferrocarril del Pacifico.
In total, GE would sell 606 U30Cs, including 6 U30CGs built for the
Santa Fe (this variant of the U30C featured a steam generator
for use in passenger service) who had also purchased a similar design
in the U28CG. There was also one other variant of the design known as
the P30CH built exclusively for Amtrak. The passenger carrier wound up
with 25 examples between August, 1975 and January, 1976 that carried a
boxy carbody similar to EMD's F40PH design. However, they were not very
successful with numerous reliability issues. They were replaced by
EMD's F40PHs and all were retired by 1991.
C&O U30C #3302 is seen here in Richmond, Virginia on January 29, 1970.
One additional interesting note is the Reading's five U30Cs,
6300-6304. The railroad received theirs so early, between June/July,
1967 that GE placed the units in U28C carbodies. Today, not only are a
handful of U30Cs preserved at museums around the country but
some remain in active revenue service, mostly now having been rebuilt
with upgraded equipment and components essentially making them a C30-7.
Additionally, others were rebuilt into the famed "Super 7s." More
information may be learned about them here. Lastly, for more information about the GE U30C please refer to the chart above for a complete production roster.