Oct 16, 2001
General Electric's Dash 8 line was a much improved design over the previous Dash 7 line, which ended on Conrail with the C30-7A. Microprocessors in the Dash 8 line increased efficiency while boosting tractive effort. For the first time, GE units were able to monitor and diagnose themselves, reducing the downtime in the shops.
Conrail's B40-8 had a standard 4,000hp 16-cylinder turbocharged prime mover. This maked it the highest horsepower 4-axle locomotive in North America. Conrail purchased 30 of these high-horsepower, low-tractive effort locomotives between April and May 1988 (CR 5060-5089). Unlike the 3,000hp, 6-axle, 6-traction motor SD-40-2 that can pull heavy coal drags over the rugged mountains of Pennsylvania at moderate speeds, the higher horsepower, low tractive effort of the B40-8 was more suited to Conrail's high-speed, time-sensitive intermodals, which was exactly the service for which Conrail purchased them.
According to photos, originally there had been a small single grab iron factory-installed on the nose of the untis. For better saftey, about mid-1991 Conrail changed to the up-side down "L" grab. The same mounting holes were used for the new "L" where the old one was, so only two new holes had to be drilled.
Trade Ins: When Conrail purchased their B40-8's from GE, they traded in 30 former Penn Central GP-9's as part of the deal. These units listed below had the same numbers under Conrail as they did under Penn Central: CR 7003, 7017, 7037, 7039, 7043, 7073, 7074, 7086, 7091, 7116, 7141, 7250, 7259, 7312, 7310, 7331, 7332, 7349, 7355, 7359, 7468, 7382, 7383, 7389, 7393, 7405, 7426, 7444, 7469, 7471.
Nose Handrails: Don Oltmann supplied me with the following concerning the nose handrails on the B40-8's. General Electric originally delivered the locomotives with a short handrail positioned horizontally across the nose. This small middle grab on the nose was intended for use when crossing between locomotives. However, the Dash 8's had a higher walkway level than the Dash 7's, so they consequently had steeper steps, making getting on and off the units more difficult. The solution was those upside-down "L" grab irons we currently see on the nose. The inspiration for them came from thumbing through the Diesel Spotter's Guide (original edition)! Reusing the original bolts was important since the front sand box was in the way of making any new holes in that area. The bottom, outboard holes were clear of the sand box. Part of the modification included a pair of vertical grab irons on the long hood, as well. These became standard on all following Conrail Dash 8's. I'm still working to find out when Conrail began and ended this modification program.
Working Together: All of Conrail's B40-8's had the 'Working Together for Safety, Service, and Success' decal applied to the nose by late 1988. Originally I had posted that a few units escaped the decal, but research from folks such as Lon Godshall has corrected that error. However, there is at least one odd ball unit here--in the late 1990's CR 5081 had some paint work done to the nose and was missing the decal. I have a photo of it on the photos page. According to Lon, as of 1997, CR 5071, 5080, and 5086 were repainted in the Quality scheme without the Working Together decal. The Working Together program encouraged work-place safety through Labor/Management cooperation. The program had seven primary committees, one committee for each operating division and another committee for all of Conrail's shops. These seven committees were comprised of 60 subcommittees, which were equally divided between union and management personnel. The program was a great success. In 1989, for example, Conrail had its first fatality-free year since the railroad had been created, plus job-related injuries were down 22% system-wide.
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