For actual road number, see Product Title.
In The Beginning
In the late 1950s GE’s engineers were developing a new V16 engine, and in mid-1958 it entered the testing phase. Just under a year later, in May 1959, a new locomotive with a clean-looking high-nosed hood diesel with that new FDL16 diesel engine under the hood, was released from GE’s Erie, Pennsylvania, factory for testing, soon following by another. Numbered 751 and 752, these new locomotives were designated as model XP24, or Export Test Units 2400 horsepower. As was the custom at GE, these two engines were also handed off to the Erie for testing.
These XP24s racked up more than 100,000 miles of rigorous running, and were returned to the factory for modifications. In 1960 these two XP24s re-emerged from GE’s plant in a new paint job – blue and off-white – a higher horsepower rating – 2500-hp – and a new model designation – U25B.
These two demonstrators were sent out into a railroading climate in which there were just two locomotive builders – Alco and EMD (and their Canadian subsidiaries Montreal Locomotive Works and General Motors Diesel) – and an economic recession. Working in GE’s favor, however, was their long history of not only building electric and diesel-electric locomotives (their first diesel-electric, a 200-hp steeple-cab for the Jay Street Railway in New York, was built in 1918), but also a solid track-record of supplying components to nearly all the other locomotive builders, particularly Alco and EMD, for many decades. In fact, GE had been successfully selling a line of small switchers for industrial and short line use, and even getting orders for their 44-ton and 70-ton diesels from many Class 1 railroads in the process. The big roads had some familiarity with their products, at least. (And the UP had owned some of the GE gas turbines, too, before the U25 was created.). Adding to their muscle, as it were, was that General Electric was a fairly large customer for these roads, shipping a sizable about of consumer products – refrigerators, stoves, air conditioners, - by rail. There is anecdotal evidence that the railroads would often order a few GE diesels along with their larger EMD orders to keep GE on-board as a shipping customer.
However, with their new U25B, GE had a number or large railroads place orders based upon the success of the demonstrator tour. Orders were placed by Santa Fe, Chesapeake & Ohio, Burlington, Milwaukee Road, Rock Island, Erie Lackawanna, Great Northern, Louisville & Nashville, New York Central, New Haven, Pennsy, Frisco, Southern Pacific, Union Pacific and Wabash. (Norfolk & Western purchased one to replace a former Wabash unit that was wrecked.) Many of these engines passed on to roads created through mergers, such as Burlington Northern, Norfolk & Western, Penn Central and Conrail, or were sold to other carriers, such as Rock Island’s U25s going to Maine Central.
Rio Grande tested the demos, but ultimately remained a solid EMD customer until the end, and Western Pacific and other roads that tested but didn’t purchase U25Bs, did place orders later, when the US economy improved, for subsequent GE U-Boat models. Even railroads that were not impressed initially, such as the Southern, became customers of GE diesels by the end of the 60s.
The initial demonstrators were high-hood units, with forward vision similar to EMD’s popular GP7 and GP9 models. By the early 60s most railroads were purchasing low-nosed engines to allow better froward visibility, and GE released demonstrator 2501 with a low-nose as well. This variation was the most common version, and all the railroads that purchased U25B had the low-nose version.
Between April 1959 and February 1966, Four-hundred seventy-eight U25Bs were built, and even all but two of the demonstrators were sold as well. Frisco purchased five ex-demonstrators, as well as eight more high-nose units, and the Union Pacific picked up four demonstrators, of which three were high-nosed.
If you model a railroad that did not own U25Bs, keep in mind that the demonstrators operated on almost all of America’s Class 1 railroads, and also on many smaller roads as well. And many of the U25Bs also got offline as the result of pool power agreements (in which railroads ran power through to other railroads so that power swaps would not delay train movements) or run-through agreements, such as Frisco power operating on Santa Fe trains between Memphis or Birmingham and Los Angeles. Modeling southern California’s Cajon Pass in the 1960s? You can run black and yellow Frisco U25Bs, with either high hood or low noses, in solid sets and still be historically accurate!
General Electric’s U25B paved the way for GE to become the dominant locomotive builder in North America by the end of the Twentieth Century, less than forty years after these engines were announced.
Rapido Trains is excited to be able to create the first accurate models of these groundbreaking diesels, as we will be producing both the U25B in low nose & high nose versions. We will have a variety of details available, too, from a variety of walkway-mounts toolbox configurations to correctly positioned – and lighted – class lights, which requires a much more complex mold in order to get them angled correctly. Both windshields will be offered, as well as offering the models either with or without dynamic brakes. Also, LED lighting, including more than just the headlights, cab interiors, the fan housing inside the grille area, and many other hitherto ignored details will be included as well – as you would expect from us! The high-quality sound you have come to expect from us will be included, too, of course … or you can order your U-boats without sound as well. Also, for the first time in a plastic model of a U25B, the high-nose version will be available as well!
Rapido spent a day at the Southern California Railway Museum (formerly the Orange Empire Railway Museum) in Perris, California, laser measuring their U25BE, Southern Pacific 3100, and then we spent of lot of time “backdating” the details to reflect an unrebuilt U25B. A big thank you to the members of the Museum for allowing us full access to their engine, and putting up with us in the 100º heat that day – mainly, they had to hear Craig's daughter gripe about how hot it was! (But she felt it was worth it at the end, as you’ll see at the end of our video thanks to the Museum going above and beyond for us!)
The HO scale U25B Locomotive features:
- Available as DCC-ready or with ESU LokSound V sound equipped from the factory!
- Phase I, II & III units represented in 1st run. (Phase IV & other units will come with future runs)
- Single-window style for low nose units. (Double-window in future runs)
- Both low- & high-short hood versions
- Early high- & later low-style side doors.
- Road specific details for each model
- Working step lights on low-short hood models
- Different roadname-specific exhaust stacks
- Roadname-specific battery box doors on engineer’s side
- Roadname-specific air cleaner boxes on rear
- Working inspection lights on all units
- Lighted control stand inside cab
- Different types of fuel & air tanks, as appropriate