GE "U30B" Locomotives

In many ways, the U30B was a milestone locomotive, allowing General Electric to finally offer a 3,000 horsepower road-switcher under a single hood.

During the horsepower race of the 1960's, all three builders worked towards, and finally achieved, a 3,000 horsepower variant.

The U30B witnessed modest sales (295 units) as the industry began recognizing the benefits of six-motored, high-horsepower locomotives.  

While GE offered two later versions of four-axled U-boats, disappointing sales resulted in the company discontinuing B-B designs of the Universal series by the mid 1970's.

GE locomotives continued to grow in popularity thanks to the builder's dedication to its product.  However, most crews never liked the U-boat, complaining of their rough ride and reliability.

Chessie System/C&O U30B #8204 and a trio of other units are working their way past the station in Prince, West Virginia to assist an eastbound coal drag on May 29, 1982. Doug Kroll photo.

Nevertheless, GE continued improving its product.  The U30B featured a number of upgrades during its production run, a trait that continued throughout the Universal line and into the later "Dash 7" line.

Today, there are at least two U30Bs preserved; Burlington Northern #5789 at the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society in Ohio and Western Pacific #751 at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, California.


U30B History And Background

The U30B began production in May, 1966.  General Electric's introduction of its 3,000 horsepower road-switcher was largely without fanfare.

As Greg McDonnell notes in his book "U-boats," demonstrators #301-304 rolled out of Erie, Pennsylvania quietly that spring and began testing on the New York Central. 

There were almost no noteworthy features on the locomotives to distinguish them from any other U-boat; they were adorned in a solid black scheme with a small GE logo under the cab window.  

A group of new Western Pacific U30B's, just a little over a month old, layover at the Rio Grande's Roper Yard in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 27, 1967. C.G. Heimerdinger, Jr. photo. Author's collection.

The U30B also represented General Electric's efforts to play catchup as Alco and Electro-Motive had already released their own 3,000 horsepower units.

In his book, "GE Locomotives," Brian Solomon notes how GE was able to finally achieve a stand-alone 3,000 horsepower road-switcher; the AC-DC transmission system.

The company's FDL16 prime mover was already capable of producing the needed horsepower.  The problem was in transferring this power to the traction motors and axles where it could be utilized.

Western Pacific U30B #3062 leads a long freight southbound/westbound through the Feather River Canyon near Pulga, California in October, 1979. Roger Puta photo.

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."

A pair of New York Central U30B's are seen here in Weehawken, New Jersey on January 20, 1968 just before the creation of Penn Central. Warren Calloway photo.

For General Electric the soft sales of the four-axle U30B, and particularly with the two latter models (the U33B and U36B), was a sign that B-B main line locomotives were losing demand within the industry.

Understanding this, General Electric instead began to focus more heavily on six-axle designs by the early 1970s.

Its late model C-Cs like the U30C, U33C, and U36C sold quite well for the company as more than 1,000 were produced. It was just a start but soon EMD would have serious competition by the early 1980s.


U30B Data Sheet

Entered Production5/1966 (GE Demonstrators #301-302)
Years Produced5/1966 - 3/1975
GE ClassU30B
EngineFDL16 (16 cylinder)
Engine BuilderGeneral Electric
Horsepower3000
RPM1050
Length60' 2"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)14' 9"
Width9' 11"
Weight254,800 Lbs
Fuel Capacity1,700 or 2,900 Gallons
Air Compressor3CDC (Westinghouse)
Air Brake Schedule26NL (Westinghouse)
TrucksB-B
Truck TypeSwing Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer (GSC) or Floating Bolster FB2 (GE)
Truck Wheelbase9' 4"
Wheel Size40"
Traction Motors752 (4), GE
Traction GeneratorGTA-11AC, 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


U30B Production Roster

Owner Road Number Serial Number Order Number Completion Date Quantity
General Electric (Demonstrator)301-302*35880-3588190055/19662
General Electric (Demonstrator)303-304**35935-3593614246/19662
Seaboard Air Line800-814***36121-36135154812/1966-1/196715
Atlantic Coast Line975-97836144-3614715461/19674
Illinois Central5000-500536200-3620515542/1967-3/19676
New York Central2830-283936246-36255155211/1966-2/196710
Norfolk & Western1930-1944****36256-3627015553/1967-5/196715
Norfolk & Western1945-1956****36326-3633715736/196712
Norfolk & Western1962-1964****36338-3634015737/19673
Norfolk & Western1960-1961****36341-3634215737/19672
Norfolk & Western1957-1959****36343-3634515737/19673
New York Central2840-285736379-3639615757/1967-9/196718
New York Central2860-288936411-364401577/15887/1967-9/196730
Louisville & Nashville2505-250936443-36447158911/19675
Milwaukee Road60093644915841/19681
Western Pacific*****751-75536451-3645515879/19675
Milwaukee Road6005-600836500-3650315841/19684
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy150-15436520-3652415831/19685
Western Pacific*****756-75936833-3683614049/19684
St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco)832-83536850-36853140610/1968-11/19684
Western Pacific*****760-76936998-3670714354/1969-5/196910
St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco)836-84337164-3717114538/1969-9/19698
Norfolk & Western8465-8514***37441-3749014548/1970-1/197150
Norfolk & Western8515-8539***37747-3777114625/1971-11/197125
Chesapeake & Ohio8200-820938218-38227147112/1971-1/197210
Chesapeake & Ohio8210-822238475-38487148211/1972-12/197213
St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco)854-85739901-3990414358/1974-9/19744
St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco)844-85339928-3993725785/197310
Chesapeake & Ohio8225-8234******40068-40077144612/197410
St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco)858-86240257-4026114713/19755

*       Became Chesapeake & Ohio #8223-8224.

**  Became Western Pacific #770-771; equipped with Blomberg trucks.

***     Equipped with Blomberg trucks from trade-in F3's.

****    Equipped with a high, short hood.

*****   Equipped with Blomberg trucks.

****** Equipped with General Electric's new floating bolster "FB2" truck, released in 1974.

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.


Norfolk & Western U30B #8476 is putting the caboose on a westbound train at Roanoke, Virginia in October of 1983. Rob Kitchen photo.

During the course of production the U30B enjoyed several improvements, most notably the rear radiator whereby GE began "flaring" the compartment a few inches wider than the carbody.

This became a notable trait of GE locomotives that carries on today under GE successor Wabtec Freight.  The U30B was also the first too feature GE's new "XR Series" of 1972, which stood for Extra Reliability.

The series featured more than 50 upgrades to the U-boat line such as improved wiring, insulation, wheel slip controls, and more.  There were even a few locomotives to sport a special "XR" livery including Louisville & Nashville U30C #1409 and St. Louis-San Francisco U30B #846.

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SteamLocomotive.com

Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com 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). 

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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. 

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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!