GE finally struck out on its own in the mid-1950s when it broke ties
with Alco, the effects of which would doom the legendary Schenectady builder in the years to come. For
the rest of the 1950s General Electric 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 prove the stepping stone for the company becoming the industrial leader was its U25B, first produced in 1959. The “U” stood 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. This original model was built between 1956 and 1966, not a
relatively long period of time but over that stretch it was able to sell
a bit shy of 500 units and the model effectively put Alco into third place and eventually out of the manufacturing business altogether.
The General Electric Universal series, which became more well known by their nickname as U-boats, was built through the late 1970s. During this time the line would turn out to be quite successful for GE as later models included more horsepower (except for the U18B and U23B) and tweaked upgraded designs, selling nearly 1,400 units between them (although all models basically carried the same carbody design and a number of such are virtually indistinguishable from one other). These newer models of the General Electric Universal series included the U28B, U30B, U33B, U23B, U36B and U18B.
GE’s Universal Series
Along with the "B" models, GE offered U-boats in a "C" designation as well, which simply referred to C-C truck versions of three axles each (six in total), instead of B-B version of two axles each (four in total). Built mostly after the "B" models between roughly the mid-1960s and mid-1970s the C-C versions also did quite well later on although earlier models of the U25C, U28C,and U23C were only marginally successful. GE’s success in the locomotive market has come for the very same reasons that EMD was the leader for years; high quality locomotives that were very durable and easy to maintain, which was a tremendous cost-savings to railroads. More information about GE’s various U-boat models can be found in the chart above.
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