The GE U36B was a four-axle 3,600 hp (2.7 MW) B-B diesel-electric locomotive produced by General Electric from 1969 to 1974. It was primarily used by the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad and its successors, although thirteen provided the power for the original Auto Train. The U36B was the last GE's high-horsepower universal series locomotives.

CSX No. 5701 in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1987
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-electric
BuilderGE Transportation Systems
Build dateJanuary 1969 December 1974
Total produced125
Gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Length60 feet 2 inches (18.34 m)
Loco weight270,000 pounds (120,000 kg)
Prime moverGE FDL-16
Performance figures
Maximum speed75 miles per hour (121 km/h)
Power output3,600 hp (2.7 MW)
LocaleEastern and southeastern United States


General Electric's "high-horsepower" universal series locomotives were built around improvements to the 16-cylinder GE FDL-16 prime mover.[1] The U36B, rated at 3,600 hp (2.7 MW), was the most powerful of the four-axle universal series and the last such design.[2] It was visually indistinguishable from the GE U33B, both of which were 60 feet 2 inches (18.34 m) long.[3] The locomotives rode on Blomberg trucks from traded-in EMD general-purpose (GP) locomotives.[4] Each locomotive weighed 270,000 pounds (120,000 kg).[5] In common with other high-horsepower locomotives of its generation the U36B had large "bat-wing" radiators at the rear.[6]

The Seaboard locomotives had a 81:22 gear ratio, permitting a maximum speed of 75 miles per hour (121 km/h). The U36B and the six-axle GE U36C were designed to operate with the MATE (Motors for Additional Tractive Effort) slug. The MATE had four traction motors, allowing power from the locomotive to be distributed over a total of eight traction motors for double tractive effort.[7] The Auto-Train locomotives did not have steam generators for passenger comfort; this was supplied by a separate steam generator car behind the locomotives.[8]


The primary purchaser of the U36B was the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, which ordered 108 locomotives. The Auto-Train Corporation, whose Auto Train ran primarily over the Seaboard, ordered another 17, for a total production run of 125. Four of these would be delivered to Conrail after Auto-Train ran into financial difficulties. The Conrail U36B locomotives were fitted with AAR Type B trucks.[2][9] The unit price was $285,000.[5] The intended use of the U36B was "high-priority, fast freight services, such as intermodal trains."[10]

GE manufactured the U36B between January 1969 and December 1974, during a period when railroads in the United States moved away from high-horsepower designs. There were multiple reasons for this change: rising fuel prices because of the 1973 oil crisis, higher locomotive maintenance costs, and poor wheel adhesion, resulting from the primitive state of wheel-slip control at the time.[11] With its 900 horsepower (0.67 MW) per axle, the U36B was the "ultimate in adhesion-limited locomotives."[12] GE would not market another such type until the Dash 7 series in the late 1970s.[13]

Seaboard No. 1776 was painted in a red-white-and-blue color scheme to honor the United States Bicentennial and made numerous special trips.[5] The 13 Auto-Train locomotives were painted in that company's distinctive purple-white-and-red color scheme, devised by Carol Settles.[14] Amtrak leased car six of Auto-Train's locomotives during the unusually harsh winter of 1976–1977 to provide power for the ChicagoFlorida Floridian.[15]

At least one U36B has been preserved at the Lake Shore Railway Historical Society Museum.[16]

Original owners

General Electric manufactured 125 locomotives between 1969–1975:[2]

Railroad Quantity Road numbers
Auto-Train Corporation 13 4000–4012
Conrail 4 2971–2974
Seaboard Coast Line Railroad 108 1748–1855


  1. Pinkepank & Marre 1979, p. 40
  2. Wilson 2017, p. 100
  3. Foster 1996, p. 44
  4. Pinkepank & Marre 1979, p. 43
  5. Strickland, Sandy (November 10, 2017). "Call Box: Train was 'Spirit of 1776'". Florida Times-Union. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
  6. Solomon 2014, p. 87
  7. "More use from high power units". Railway Locomotives and Cars: 15–18. September 1970. ISSN 0033-8915.
  8. Walker 1972, p. 46
  9. Pinkepank 1973, p. 178
  10. Solomon 2014, p. 102
  11. Resor 1994, p. 408
  12. Resor 1994, p. 412
  13. Wheelihan 2002, p. 46
  14. Ely 2009, pp. 25–26
  15. "Chicago-Florida Train Resumed By Amtrak". Indianapolis Star. February 27, 1977. p. 162.
  16. Sweeney, S. (August 15, 2018). "Pennsylvania museum secures U36B for preservation". Trains News Wire.


  • Ely, Wally (2009). Auto-Train. Images of Rail (1st ed.). Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-6785-3.
  • Foster, Gerald L. (1996). A Field Guide to Trains of North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-3957-0112-0.
  • Pinkepank, Jerry A. (1973). The Second Diesel Spotter's Guide. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. ISBN 978-0-89024-026-7.
  • Pinkepank, Jerry A.; Marre, Louis A. (1979). Diesel Spotter's Guide Update. Milwaukee, WI: Kalmbach Publishing. ISBN 0-89024-029-9.
  • Resor, Randolph R. (November 3–5, 1994). "Innovation and Competition in Locomotive Manufacturing, 1950 - 2000". Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting. Transportation Research Forum. Daytona Beach, Florida. pp. 407–419.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  • Solomon, Brian (2014). GE and EMD Locomotives: The Illustrated History. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Voyageur Press. ISBN 978-0-7603-4612-9.
  • Walker, Warren (June 1972). "Auto-Train: A New Transportation Hybrid". Transportation & Distribution Management. 12: 46–48. ISSN 0039-8276.
  • Wheelihan, Jack (October 2002). "10 locomotives that didn't change the world". Trains. Vol. 62 no. 10. pp. 46–47. ISSN 0041-0934.
  • Wilson, Jeff (2017). Guide to North American Diesel Locomotives. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. ISBN 978-1-62700-455-8.

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