GE "U28B" Locomotives

The GE U28B replaced the builder's earlier entry model, the U25B, which proved be an instant success and remained in production for nearly 10 years. The company wasted no time in getting the U28B, which was slightly more powerful than its earlier counterpart into production. Overall, the locomotive appeared almost identical to its predecessor, as there were only minor differences between the two. Once again General Electric found moderate success with the U28B (several roads that purchased the U25B also bought this model) even though it was in production for only one year. More powerful four-axle models soon followed the locomotive and were just as successful.  As it turns out, some railroads acquired this model due to financial constraints, like the Milwaukee Road and Rock Island while others came to dislike the design altogether.  

After barely a decade of service, Norfolk & Western sold their fleet of 30.  As the company released more designs, the U28Bs were slowly retired and by the late 1980s most had been removed from remaining Class I rosters. Today, a few remain in use on short lines such as the Nashville & Eastern.

Rock Island's equipment by the late 1970's was completely shot; the company was even acquiring worn out locomotives from other railroads to fill shortages. Here, U25B #211 and U28B #267 are eastbound on the main near New Lenox, Illinois on April 2, 1977. Doug Kroll photo.

The U28B began production in January of 1966 and was virtually identical to the earlier U25B save for being slightly more powerful. It featured the same simple, boxy design that defined the Universal series (U28Bs came with a standard low-nose unless otherwise requested, such as with the Norfolk & Western's which ordered theirs with high, short hoods). The model utilized GE's 4-cycle FDL16 model prime mover that could produce 2,800 horsepower. It was the same length as a U25B and the same weight, 126 tons. However, the U28B's starting tractive effort was somewhat less at just 70,000 pounds (compared to the U25B's 75,000 pounds).

While General Electric used primarily its own internal equipment (i.e., traction motors and generators) it did outsource air bakes and compressors to Westinghouse Electric (as it did with virtually all of its models).  Once again GE released a locomotive that was generally reliable and easy to maintain (although complaints were sporadic GE worked to refine and pour more money into its locomotive program) even if it didn't win any fashion awards! While the model was only built between January and December of 1966 nine different Class Is purchased 148 units including the Burlington, Great Northern, Louisville & Nashville, New York Central, N&W, Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, Rock Island (who bought the most, 42), and Southern Pacific (this road picked up GE's four demonstrators, #7025-7028). GE probably would have sold more U28Bs if it had not released the U30B in mid-1966 undercutting the sales potential of its own model.

A quartet of Pittsburgh & Lake Erie U28B's are at SK Yard in Buffalo, New York on November 19, 1983, the first year of trackage rights operation into Buffalo. The railroad's U28B's were part of an early production run, carrying U25B carbodies. Doug Kroll photo.

Both GE and Alco had a difficult time gaining any type of footing during the 1960s given the immense success of Electro-Motive during this era from its GP7 and GP9 of the 1950s to the GP30, GP35, and GP38 a decade later that literally sold thousands upon thousands to dozens of railroads and private industries.  Most sales for both builders (GE and Alco) then were a result of EMD's backlogged orders. Additionally by the 1960s, railroads were beginning to order six-axle locomotives in larger numbers given their benefits of increased traction and weight distribution. As such, late model six-axle U-boats like the U30C, U33C, and U36C sold more than 1,000 examples between 1966 and 1975.  Likely due to their low production numbers no GE U28Bs are known to be preserved aside from those units that remain in use on short lines.    

High-hood Norfolk & Western "U-boats", U30B #8509 and U28B #1901 (along with another U30B), are on the connector track from Bison Yard to the Lehigh Valley in East Buffalo, New York on August 27, 1972. The N&W never cared for Universal locomotives and sold the units within 12 years of delivery. Doug Kroll photo.

GE U28B Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Burlington106-115, 140-149201966-1967
General Electric (Demo)7025-7028 (To Southern Pacific)41966
Great Northern2524-252961966
Louisville & Nashville2500-250451966
Milwaukee Road130-140, 380, 393-398171966
Norfolk & Western1900-1929301966
Pittsburgh & Lake Erie (NYC)2800-2821221966
Rock Island240-281421966
Southern Pacific7025-7028 (Ex-GE Demonstrators)41966

A tired Rock Island U28B, #242, and U33B #291, sit alongside Burlington Northern power at South Yard in Houston, Texas during September, 1976. Gary Morris photo.

For more reading about GE's U-boat line the book U-Boats 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!