General Electric Diesel Locomotives


The General Electric Company has a history that dates back to the late 1870s and today is one of the largest corporations in the world building everything from jet engines to kitchen appliances and light bulbs. Their introduction into the locomotive manufacturing market began as early as 1918 and they built modest diesel switchers during the 1930s and 1940s. The company also built locomotives in conjunction with the American Locomotive Company (Alco) during this time, which partly explains why GE did not more vigorously compete in the market.  However, during the mid-1950s the company broke ranks with Alco and entered the main line diesel locomotive road switcher market. General Electric diesel locomotives quickly proved to be reliable machines and by the 1980s the company had reached the summit, taking away the number one production spot from then industry leader General Motors' Electro-Motive Division (today Electro-Motive Diesel), a position it still holds today. Interestingly, GE is credited with commercially producing the very first diesel-electric locomotive in 1918, a motor car design built for the Jay Street Connecting Railroad, #4.

Maine Central U18B #406, the "Colonel John Allan," sits in Rigby Yard at Portland on June 22, 1978. The MEC listed its U18Bs as the "Independence Class" to honor the country's bicentennial and were named for important figures of the Revolutionary War.

Designated as model GM-50 it was essentially a diesel powered motor car, somewhat similar to an interurban car, and built in conjunction with Alco and Ingersoll-Rand.  Later, in 1924 the three companies built a 300 hp, 60-ton boxcab design that would be purchased by the Central Railroad of New Jersey, followed by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.  In the following years General Electric diesel locomotives continued to remain small in nature and produced primarily for light branch, yard, and industrial duty. From 1928 through 1930 GE built box and some center-cab designs ranging from 300 to 600 horsepower. By 1940 the company would introduce its most successful switcher to date, the ubiquitous 380-horsepower, 44-tonner that was loved by industries for its lightweight design and ability to navigate tight curves, which were quite common within plants. When production ended in 1956 GE had built 373 44-tonners.

After the end of World War II GE followed up the success it was having with its 44-tonner model with two heavier models, a 70 and 95-tonner, both end-cab designs. The switchers were meant for branch line work on main line railroads and GE would wind up selling 385 of both models by the time production ended in 1959.  In 1954 GE ended its partnership with Alco and for the rest of the 1950s the company experimented with different road unit designs (such as an A-B-B-A set of cab units known simply as GE 750) selling a short batch of its first commercial design the UD18 in 1956. The model, however, that would be the stepping stone for GE becoming the industrial leader was its U25B, first produced in 1959.

The model would come to be known as the "U-boat" with the “U” standing for the Universal series, 25 for the unit’s overall horsepower (2,500), and B for the number of axles per truck (for instance, B-B trucks carry two axles and C-C trucks carry three axles).  There was nothing fancy about the U25B, especially its carbody, which carried simple straight lines from back to front and a short stubby square nose. However, the unit was durable and overall easy to maintain which the railroads loved, especially the maintenance crews who were tasked with keeping the locomotives running.

Seaboard System C30-7 #7017 lays over at Clifton Forge, Virginia with other power during the early CSX era in the fall of 1988.

General Electric's Universal series would ultimately span a total of six different designs in comparable B-B and C-C setups. Ranging between 2,500 and 3,500 horsepower all of the models only saw a few hundred of each built. However, beginning with its "Dash 7" series of the latter 1970s, and following with the "Dash 8" and "Dash 9" series' GE propelled itself into the lead of the diesel locomotive manufacturing race with EMD. In the 1990s through early 2000s GE further solidified itself as the leading locomotive builder by producing the successful AC series (AC4400CW and AC6000CW) that sold thousands of units.

The ES40DC, ES44DC, and ES44AC are part of the newest General Electric locomotives known as Evolution Series. This series followed the builder’s Dash 9 models and is designed to offer just as much horsepower as conventional diesels but by burning much less fuel and in turn producing fewer emissions. The Evolution Series was designed to meet the EPA’s Tier 2 requirement of emissions standards and is powered by a GEVO 12-cylinder prime mover. So far these new series contiues to sell well for GE, sustaining it as the premier locomotive builder nationwide.

For more information about all General Electric diesel locomotives and models please refer to the tables below (not all switcher models are shown here).

General Electric Diesel Locomotives and Models

GE Diesel Switchers

Model Type Units Built Date Built Horsepower
44-Tonner3851940-1956360-400
70-Tonner3851947-1959500-660

GE Road Switchers

Model Type Units Built Date Built Horsepower
U18B1631973-19761,800
U23B4811968-19772,250
U25B4781959-19662,500
U28B14819662,800
U30B2961966-19753,000
U33B1371966-19753,300
U36B1251969-19743,600
U23C2231968-19762,250-2,300
U25C1131963-19652,500
U28C711965-19662,800
U30C6061966-19763,000
U33C3751968-19753,300
U36C2381971-19753,600
U50C401969-19715,000
U50/D261963-19655,000
B23-75361977-19842,250-2,300
BQ23-710 (Built For SCL)1978-19792,250-2,300
B30-72791977-19823,000
B36-72301980-19853,600
C30-71,1371976-19863,000
C36-75991978-19893,600
Super-7N/R Series2511989-19942,250-3,000
B32-8491984-19893,150
B32-8W1 (Demonstrator)19893,150
B36-81 (Demonstrator)19823,600
B39-81461984-19873,900
B40-81501988-19894,000
B40-8W841988-19904,000
C32-81019843,200
C39-81611984-19873,900
C40-85851988-19924,000
C40-8W9001990-19944,000
C40-8M841990-19944,000
C41-8W1541993-19944,135
C44-8W53 (Built for CSX)1993-19944,400
C40-9125 (Built for NS)19954,000
C40-9W (Built for NS)1,0901996-20044,000
C44-9W2,4831994-20044,390
C44-9WL271994-19954,400
C44-9WM (Built for Brazilian Railroads)841997-20054,400
BB40-9WM (Built for Brazilian Railroads)1411997-20064,000
AC4400CW2,5981993-20044,400
AC6000CW3161995-20014,400-6,000
ES40DCStill In Production2004-Present4,000
ES44DCStill In Production2004-Present4,400
ES44ACStill In Production2004-Present4,400


Southern Pacific AC4400CW #232 and a mate power a westbound freight through Alta, California at Rocky Point during May of 1996.

For more information on General Electric's new Evolution Series of diesel you might want to consider the book GE Evolution Locomotives by author Sean Graham-White. The book was just released in the fall of 2007 and details the Evolution Series with nearly 150 pages of information and photographs. Thus far GE Evolution Locomotives has received excellent reviews from readers so if you have any interest in the new GEVO's you should very much enjoy this book.  Another book that covers modern diesel locomotives is Locomotives: The Modern Diesel and Electric Reference by author Greg McDonnell. Mr. McDonnell's book is much larger in scope than Modern Diesel Locomotives, covering newer diesels and electrics on nearly 250 pages which are packed full with excellent photography, illustrations, and diagrams. The book has received superb reviews by readers and is perhaps the best current work out there covering the topic. If you're interested in perhaps purchasing either (or both) of these books please visit the links below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.

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Related Reading

Four-Axle U-Boat Models



U18B




U25B




U28B




U30B




U33B




U36B


Six-Axle U-Boat Models



U23C




U25C




U28C




U30C




U33C




U36C


Other U-Boat Models



U50 (Experimental)




U50C (Experimental)


"Dash 7" Series Models



B23-7




B30-7




B36-7




C30-7




C36-7




"Super 7" Series


"Dash 8" Series Models



B32-8




B39-8




B40-8/W




C39-8




C40-8/W


"Dash 9" Series Models



C40-9/W




C44-9/W


AC Traction Models



AC4400CW




AC6000CW


Evolution Series



The Evolution Series