Sep 13, 2014
Conrail placed its only order of General Electric's B36-7 in 1983, ordering 60 units and placing them in the CR 5000-5059 series. The B36-7 uses a turbocharged 16-cylinder 16-7FDL prime mover to create 3,700hp. Conrail specifically purchased these high-horsepower, 4-axle units for high-speed intermodal service.
But time and deferred maintenance were not kind to these units. By the late 1990s, Conrail's B36-7 were battered and worn, often belching thick plumes of black exhaust while pulling lowly general merchandise freights. A long way from their former glory days on hotshot intermodals.
A major spotting feature of the B36-7 is the large 'bath tub' exhaust silencer on top of the long hood. In the early 1980s, the Federal Railroad Administration began mandating that all new locomotives be equipped with silencers in order to reduce noise pollution. As locomotives grew in horsepower, so did the noise that they produced; therefore, something had to be done. As a teenager, I clearly remember the distinctive, bone-rumbling 'glug-glug' of a trio of non-silencer GE locomotives fighting to accelerate up a grade. This is a sound we just can't hear anymore. Plus the dilapidated nature of Conrail's GE fleet back in the late 70s and early 80s just made the matter worse (or better, depending on how you looked at it!). Thick smoke and ear-pounding noise were the hallmarks of the old U-Boat fleet. Ah, the good old days....
A feature unique among Conrail locomotives were their FRA-approved classification lights. (These are the small, red lights on the nose and rear of Conrail locomotives.) Unlike standard classification lights, which shine their light out along the angle of the locomotive nose, FRA lights shine their beam directly down the tracks. Until its final days, Conrail adhered to the tradition of classification lights. All B36-7's came with such FRA lights.
The last feature we'll look at are the B36-7's trucks, which are General Electric's high-adhesion FB2 model. Not really too much I can say about these. Finally, all Conrail B36-7's are equipped with Type EL cab signal equipment, which is important to know if you model an area of Conrail were cab signals are in effect. I grew up in an area where there were no such beasts, so we had nothing to worry about.
While a fast and powerful locomotive, the B36-7 eventually found itself being over-shadowed by its more reliable and efficient successor, the 4,000hp B40-8.
The roster below covers those units operated by Conrail from the arrivial of the first unit in 1983 until May 1999.
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