Sep 13, 2014
Conrail inherited a total of 89 2,300hp U23B's from Penn Central and Lehigh Valley, while purchasing 10 new units in 1977. Prior to Conrail, Penn Central assigned their units to various locations, including Collinwood and Columbus. Beginning in April 1976, Conrail assigned the former PC units for maintenance to Selkirk in New York and to Buckeye in Columbus, OH, with all the former LV units going to Buckeye. As a result, the units saw general service duty all across the system.
Conrail transferred all the units to Buckeye in 1979, where they remained for four years until the yard closed in 1983. During a downturn in service in 1981 that saw thousands of employees laid off and drastic changes in operating practices, Conrail briefly stored their fleet of U23B's. When Buckeye closed in 1983, Conrail sent all the units back to Selkirk, which allowed the U23B's to travel over the entire system once again.
Then in 1985 disaster stuck. Two units (CR 2732 and CR 2739) suffered so much damage during a wreck that Conrail had no choice but to scrap the units at Hollidaysburg the next year. Of course, these were not the first U23B's wrecked. During the winter of 1978, CR 2781, still in its Lehigh Valley paint but renumbered for Conrail, smashed in its short hood. Conrail repaired the damage and repainted the unit at the same time. The unit would eventually go to the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern on October 3, 1996, where it became RBM&N 2394.
In 1986 Conrail was finally ready retire the remaining aging fleet of U23B's, which were becoming a maintenance headache, but increasing traffic and the return of 100 leased GP-38-2's to EMD gave the aging U23B's a brief extension on their lives. But five years later on May 9, 1991 Conrail finally retired the surviving 97 U23B's. For a brief time Conrail considered rebuilding them in Juniata into Super 7's but eventually gave up on the idea in 1994. In the meantime, Conrail placed several units into their leasing division (CRL) with CRL numbers but never renumbered the actual locomotives. They were CR 2706, 2738, 2746, 2753, 2770, 2778, 2780, and 2781.
In 1994, when Conrail decided against the Super 7 program, Conrail either returned the units to GE as trade-ins for the new C40-8W's or sold them off to industrial lines and regional railroads. Units went to Reading & Northern; Wimpey Minerals in Annville, PA, which leased one and bought two units; Providence & Worchester; Texas Utilities; and Transmodal in New Jersey. So ended the lives of these Uboat workhorses that fans enjoyed but Conrail hated.
A few last notes of interest to modelers. Shortly before Conrail, Penn Central began replacing the glass in the oval fixed cab windows by inserting steel plates while keeping the original rubber gaskets. Conrail did the same on some units, while on others removing the glass and welding rectangular steel plates over the opening. Be sure to check photos to see if and when a unit got modified.
Here is an interesting operating note. During a period in 1973, when a former Southern Railway executive was a trustee, Penn Central ordered 2750-2776 to be equipped with bi-directional controls, allowing the units to be run long-hood forward. Unfortunately, this meant that the engineer would have to sit on the inside of the tracks when running this way because the units did not have dual control stands, one on each side of the cab. While not a common sight, a number of units were put on "backwards" as the lead unit, probably to save time instead of turning the unit on a wye or turntable.
Comprehensive Roster [Download PDF Version ]
The roster below is comprehensive for Conrail between April 1976 and the last unit's retirement in the early 1990s. The roster contains all predecessor units Conrail inherited, plus it lists retirement dates when known.
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