GE "U25C" Locomotives

The GE U25C was the builder's first entry into the six-axle locomotive market, first built during the early 1960s a few years after the company had released its first production locomotive in the United States, the U25B.

This initial model, and the following U28C, sold rather poorly for General Electric (although several Class Is did experiment with and purchase a few units).

Much of this can likely be attributed to two things:

  • First, while GE had collaborated with other companies in the industry for decades (such as the American Locomotive Company) it had never built its own locomotives

  • Second was the fact that many simply railroads were not yet interested in six-axle designs.

It seems a funny notion in today's industry but four-axles were the order of the day from the 1940's through the 1960's.

However, future models like the six-axle U30C and U33C sold quite well for the company as railroads began to embrace, and see the benefits of, powerful six-axle locomotives. After the mid-1970s nearly all domestic-built GE diesel locomotives were of the C-C variety.

Former Northern Pacific U-boats, U25C (#5604) and U28C (#5676), during the early Burlington Northern era at Savanna, Illinois in August of 1971. Warren Calloway photo.

The GE U25C first began production in September, 1963, four years following the production of the U25B, its four-axle cousin.

At the time of its production many were still reluctant to use six-axle, high-horsepower diesel locomotives in main line freight service so GE had a tough time making a case for the U25C even though it featured reliability and straightforward design features which the company became well known for.

General Electric's Fleet Of "U-Boats"

U18B, "Baby Boat" 













Utilizing GE's 4-cycle model FDL16 the U25C could produce 2,500 horsepower. Since the unit featured a C-C design it not only provided more traction but also could be operated on light or secondary lines as its weight could be more evenly distributed over the rails.

Seaboard Coast Line U25C #2112 (built as Atlantic Coast Line #3012 in 1965) is seen here with a mate at Richmond, Virginia on April 16, 1978. GE's six-axle Universal models carried a striking similarity to Alco's six-axle Centuries, save for the square (GE) versus round (Alco) fuel tank. Warren Calloway photo.

The classification for the GE's six-axle designs are quite similar to its four-axles. For instance, in the case of the U25C; "U" regarded its Universal line, "25" was the first two digits of its horsepower rating, and "C" described its powered axle rating (C-C).

At 60 feet, 2 inches in length the U25C was actually the same length as the four axle U25B. However, beginning with the U28C GE began increasing the length of its C-C road switchers (and they continued to grow with the U30C through U36C).

All of the locomotive's internal equipment including main/auxiliary generators and traction motors were all constructed by GE itself while air equipment was supplied from Westinghouse Electric.

A former Pennsylvania Railroad U25C, now painted in Conrail blue, is seen here at Lyons, New York on February 28, 1982. Doug Kroll photo.

The most noticeable benefits of the U25C was, as mentioned above, its starting tractive effort rating of 90,000 pounds nearly 17% higher than with the U25B.

This allowed the locomotive to get trains started much faster. While railroads were still reluctant to purchase high-horsepower six-axle locomotives within a few years they began to come around.

Lake Superior & Ishpeming U23C's #2301 and #2300, along with U25C #2501, are switching the ore dock yard at Marquette, Michigan on September 26, 1987. Doug Kroll photo.

Eventually, GE would sell more and more such models following the U28C, U30C, U33C, and U36C (combined, these models would sell well over 1,000 examples).

By the time production on the GE U25C had ended in December, 1965 some 113 units had been sold six different Class Is including:

  • Atlantic Coast Line (21)

  • Burlington (12)

  • Lake Superior & Ishpeming (2)

  • Louisville & Nashville (18)

  • Northern Pacific (30)

  • Pennsylvania (20)

  • Ten that were purchased for the Oro Dam in California (these units later went to the L&N). 

Today, at least one GE U25C is known to be preserved, LS&I #2501, still owned by the railroad since it was bought new in 1964 and on display in Marquette, Michigan.

GE U25C Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Atlantic Coast Line3000-3020211963-1965
Lake Superior & Ishpeming2500-250121964
Louisville & Nashville1500-1517181965
Northern Pacific2500-2529301964-1965
Oro Dam8010-8019101963-1965

Another view of Seaboard Coast Line U25C #2112 offering a good view of its rear radiator fans and roofline. Warren Calloway photo.

For more reading about GE's U-boat line the book U-Boats: General Electric's Diesel Locomotive by author Greg McDonnell provides a complete history of the company's first production diesel models.  

Also, noted historian Brian Solomon has authored a number of books covering the history and background of GE's locomotives.  

Two, which provide a general but thorough coverage include GE Locomotives and GE And EMD Locomotives: The Illustrated History.  As with virtually all of Mr. Solomon's you can expect a well-written title with large, crisp, and sharp photographs. 

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Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

Wes Barris's is simply the best web resource in the study of steam locomotives. 

The amount of information found there is quite staggering; historical backgrounds of wheel arrangements, types used by virtually every railroad, preserved and operational examples, and even those used in other countries (North America and beyond). 

It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website.  It is a must visit!

Researching Rights-Of-Way

A popular pastime for many is studying and/or exploring abandoned rights-of-way. 

Today, there are tens of thousands of miles scattered throughout the country.  Many were pulled up in the 1970's and 1980's although others were removed long before that. 

If you are researching active or abandoned corridors you might want to check out the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Historical Topographic Map Explorer

It is an excellent resource with thousands of historic maps on file throughout the country.  Just type in a town or city and click on the timeline of maps at the bottom of the page!