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GE's "U28B": A 2,800 HP Model Of The Universal Line

Last revised: July 19, 2024

By: Adam Burns

The U28B was a late era U-boat model released during the horsepower race between General Electric, Electro-Motive, and American Locomotive.

The model was a slight step up in horsepower over GE's successful U25B, which had burst onto the locomotive market in 1959. 

It had proven General Electric as a respectable builder, as well as an immediate contender to knock Alco from its second place position.

Externally, the U28B was almost identical to its predecessor.  While the carbody was slightly updated during production, most of the model's improvements were unseen as GE continued to refine its product with internal upgrades.

The U28B was produced for only one year.  It was cataloged during a time when all three builders were working towards a 3,000 horsepower road-switcher.  For General Electric, this was the U30B and U30C released in mid/late 1966.

As the company released more designs, U28Bs were slowly retired.  By the late 1980s, most had been removed from remaining Class I rosters. 


91283427352756286876893896897.jpgA set of new Pittsburgh & Lake Erie U28Bs, #2805 and #2804, were photographed here at Lowellville, Ohio in March, 1966. Photographer unknown. American-Rails.com collection.


The U28B began production in January of 1966; the model was cataloged primarily to keep pace with similar designs in production by Electro-Motive and Alco.

The carbody continued to feature the same simple, boxy design that defined the Universal series.  The most noticeable external difference, with early variants, was the use of a split windshield.

This change had originally been applied to late model U25B's as GE became aware the single-piece windshield was quite expensive to replace.  The U28B continued to utilize GE's 4-cycle 7FDL16 prime mover that could produce 2,800 horsepower. 

2399263912374276290918757826897.jpgMilwaukee Road U28B's #132, #139, and two others are serviced at Bensenville, Illinois in October, 1967. As Milwaukee's financial plight worsened the railroad purchased increasing numbers of GE units, which were generally less expensive than EMD products. Fred Byerly photo. American-Rails.com collection.

As Brian Solomon notes in his book, "GE Locomotives," the first U28B's to roll out of Erie featured virtually identical carbodies as the U25B. 

However, as production moved forward GE changed some aspects including a shorter nose and removal of the large, boxy "step" along the rear walkway. 

While General Electric used its own electrical equipment it did outsource air bakes and compressors to Westinghouse Electric. 

Continuing GE's drive towards simplicity, the U28B was generally reliable and easy to maintain.  Once more, the company worked to mitigate any complaints by backing its product with field engineers and warranties.

While the model was only built between January, 1966 and January, 1967, eight different Class I's purchased 148 examples of the U28B including:

  • Chicago, Burlington & Quincy 

  • Great Northern

  • Louisville & Nashville

  • New York Central

  • Norfolk & Western

  • Pittsburgh & Lake Erie

  • Rock Island

  • Southern Pacific (this road picked up GE's four demonstrators, #7025-7028)

GE would quite likely have sold more if it had not released the U30B in mid-1966 as the builder strove for a 3,000 horsepower locomotive.

AC-DC Transmission

As Mr. Solomon points out, the U28B's improvements went beyond aesthetics.  During the course of production of both the U28B and U28C, GE carried out a major electrical upgrade by switching to an AC-DC transmission system.

Solomon notes: "The new system used an alternator rather than a generator and employed silicon diodes to rectify alternating current to the direct current needed by traction motors.

This reduced the number of components, decreased maintenance, and, most significantly, allowed for higher output to traction motors."

Data Sheet and Specifications

Entered Production1/1966 (Southern Pacific #7025-7028)
Years Produced1/1966 - 1/1967
GE ClassU28B
Engine7FDL16 (16 cylinder)
Engine BuilderGeneral Electric
Length60' 2"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)14' 7"
Width9' 11"
Weight252,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity1,700 Gallons
Air Compressor3CDC (Westinghouse)
Air Brake Schedule26NL (Westinghouse)
Truck TypeSwing Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer (GSC)
Truck Wheelbase9' 4"
Wheel Size40"
Traction Motors752 (4), GE
Traction AlternatorGTA-9, GE
Auxiliary GeneratorGY27, GE
MU (Multiple-Unit)Yes
Dynamic BrakesOptional
Gear Ratio74:18
Tractive Effort (Starting)70,000 Lbs
Tractive Effort (Continuous)64,000 Lbs at 10.7 mph
Top Speed70 mph

Production Roster

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number Completion Date Quantity
Milwaukee Road393-398*35745-3575014681/19666
Pittsburgh & Lake Erie2800-282135856-3587714662/1966-3/196622
New York Central2822-282335878-3587915125/19662
Southern Pacific7025-7028**35852-3585514211/19664
Rock Island240-249*35906-3591514923/196610
Norfolk & Western1900-1929***35957-3598615247/1966-9/196630
Great Northern2524-252935987-3599215226/19666
Rock Island250-253*36003-3600614935/19664
Rock Island255-26136007-3601315266/1966-8/19667
Milwaukee Road130-13536035-3604015287/19666
Rock Island254****36078142110/19661
Louisville & Nashville2500-250436079-36083152210/1966-11/19665
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy106-11036101-36105153310/19665
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy140-14936106-36115153310/1966-11/196610
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy111-11536116-36120153312/1966-1/19675
Milwaukee Road137-14036136-36139154211/1966-12/19664
Milwaukee Road38036155154212/19661
Rock Island262-28136156-36175142110/1966-12/196620

*   Equipped with the U25B carbody.

** Built as GE demonstrators but were immediately sold to Southern Pacific.

***  Featured a high, short hood.

**** This unit replaced U25B #212 which was involved in a wreck.  #254 was the final U28B built with a U25B carbody.


  • Foster, Gerald. A Field Guide To Trains. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
  • Marre, Louis A. Diesel Locomotives: The First 50 Years, A Guide To Diesels Built Before 1972.  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1995.
  • McDonnell, Greg. U-boats.  Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 1994.
  • Pinkepank, Jerry A. Diesel Spotter's Guide.  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1967.
  • Solomon, Brian. GE Locomotives: 110 Years Of General Electric Motive Power. St. Paul: MBI Publishing, 2003.

249368923572635286930938.jpgMilwaukee Road U28B #5500 at Pigs Eye Yard in St. Paul; June, 1968. American-Rails.com collection.

It was this new AC-DC system which finally enabled all three builder's to offer road-switchers with a hefty 3,000 horsepower 

By then, railroads were warming to high-horsepower locomotive featuring six axles and greater tractive effort.

As a result, late-era U-boats like the U30C, U33C, and U36C sold more than 1,000 examples between 1966 and 1975.  Unfortunately, no example of the U28B was ultimately preserved.

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