GE "U33C" Locomotives

Last Revised: December 21, 2021

By: Adam Burns

The U33C was one of General Electric's most powerful six-motored road-switchers, and one of the last cataloged before moving on to the more technologically advanced "Dash 7" line.

Once GE had proven its worth with the U30C, a model that sold  more than 600 examples, the company's sales began to take off. 

This was particularly true with the "Dash 7" line, a continuation of the U-boat series sporting upgraded electronics and other features.

For the Class I's that acquired U33C's, many remained in use through the early 1990's.  However, over time the units were slowly phased out in favor of newer "Dash 7" and "Dash 8" variants. 

The U33C was General Electric's first six-motored model to sport a noticeably flared rear radiator; needed to handle the unit's 3,300 horsepower.

The model sold relatively well for GE with some 375 units out-shopped by the time production ended in 1975.  Southern Pacific purchased the most, taking possession of 212 units between 1969 and 1975

Erie Lackawanna U33C's, seen here after being returned from the Delaware & Hudson, are once more wearing their EL livery at Hornell, New York on January 15, 1976. Carl Sturner photo. Author's collection.


U33C History And Background

The U33C began production in September, 1967.  As Greg McDonnell notes in his book, "U-boats," the first four units produced were Milwaukee Road #8000-8003.

These units had been ordered as U30C's but were upgraded to U33C specs during the course of production.  While the late-era Milwaukee acquired many GE products, these four were the only U33C variants it rostered.

The model continued to utilize GE's standard 4-cycle, 7FDL16 prime mover.  Aside from a slight bump in horsepower, and the rear flared radiator, the U33C was otherwise identical to the U30C.

One of Great Northern's just-delivered U33C's, wearing the road's "Big Sky Blue" livery, is seen here at the Dale Street Shops in St. Paul, Minnesota on April 26, 1969. Myron Gilbertson photo.

While sales for the U33C were not as strong as that of its earlier counterpart it did sell to 11 different Class I's and a private company (S.J. Groves & Sons).  The roads to purchase the model included:

  • Santa Fe (25)

  • Burlington Northern (39)

  • Delaware & Hudson (12)

  • Erie Lackawanna (12)

  • Great Northern (15)

  • Illinois Central (10)

  • Milwaukee Road (4)

  • Northern Pacific (10)

  • Penn Central (24)

  • Southern Railway (10)

  • Southern Pacific (212)

Some lines like the Milwaukee and Santa Fe had become regular buyers of GE products by the 1970s.  From a historical perspective, GE's decision to sell its own road-switchers, and their ultimate success, put Alco out of business.

The revered company, which had been in business since 1901 (and with successors that dated back to the industry's earliest days), closed its plant in Schenectady, New York in early 1969.


U33C Data Sheet

Entered Production1/1968 (Milwaukee Road #8000)
Years Produced1/1968 - 1/1975
GE ClassU33C
Engine7FDL16 (16 cylinder)
Engine BuilderGeneral Electric
Horsepower3300
RPM1050
Length67' 3"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)15' 4"
Width9' 11"
Weight363,000 Lbs
Fuel Capacity3,000 Gallons
Air Compressor3CDC (Westinghouse)
Air Brake Schedule26L (Westinghouse)
TrucksC-C
Truck TypeTrimount/Adirondack
Truck Wheelbase13' 0"
Wheel Size40"
Traction Motors752 (6), GE
Traction AlternatorGTA11AC, GE
Auxiliary GeneratorGY27, GE
MU (Multiple-Unit)Yes
Dynamic BrakesOptional
Gear Ratio74:18
Tractive Effort/Starting91,650 Lbs
Tractive Effort/Continuous92,500 Lbs at 10.7 mph
Top Speed70 mph


U33C Production Roster (Total Built = 375)

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number Completion Date Quantity
Milwaukee Road8000-8003*36504-3650719361/1968-2/19684
Penn Central6540-655936670-3668919342/1968-4/196820
Illinois Central5050-505936690-3669919514/1968-5/196810
Penn Central6560-656336864-3686719648/19684
Great Northern2530-253836776-3678419615/1968-7/19689
Erie Lackawanna3301-330636785-3679019627/19686
Southern Pacific8600-862936899-3692819811/1969-4/196930
Great Northern2539-254437026-3703118024/19696
Southern Pacific8630-864437032-3704618074/1969-5/196915
Erie Lackawanna3307-331537054-3706218108/19689
Santa Fe8500-852437073-3709718116/1969-8/196925
Northern Pacific3300-330937118-3712718097/196910
Southern Pacific8645-864637179-37180181210/19692
Southern Pacific8647-868737181-372211812/18142/1970-6/197041
S.J. Groves & Sons Construction507-50837366-37367181710/19692
Southern Railway3805-3809**37388-3739218154/19705
Delaware & Hudson754-76237616-3762418449/1970-12/19709
Burlington Northern5725-573437685-3769418412/1971-3/197110
Burlington Northern5735-576337972-3800018537/1971-9/197129
Southern Pacific8688-871338095-3812018712/1970-6/197026
Southern Pacific8714-873738121-38144187110/1971-12/197126
Southern Railway3810-3814**38213-3821718611/19725
Southern Pacific8768-877738785-3879418111/1973-2/197310
Southern Pacific8778-878539297-3930418116/1973-7/19738
Southern Pacific8786-879639733-3974318562/1974-4/197411
Southern Pacific8585-859939753-39767184212/1974-1/197515

* Ordered as U30C's but upgraded to U33C specs during production.

** Equipped with a high, short hood.

Sources:

  • 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.


A pair of new Northern Pacific U33C's in Missoula, Montana during 1969.

The Universal line is often considered a success from a macro view as General Electric refined its product and, in doing so, sold continually more locomotives.

However, operating and maintenance crews generally disliked the U-boat, complaining of their rough ride and suffering reliability issues by comparison to similar EMD products.

However, General Electric, which already offered a reliable and rugged traction motor (the 752), corrected these issues over time. 

Unfortunately, with such a high turnover trade-in program as GE continually improved its product, no U33C's were preserved.

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