The GE P30CH is a 3,000 horsepower, diesel-electric locomotive built exclusively for Amtrak. The units were based off of the GE U30C freight locomotive.
In the early seventies, the nation’s railroads were beginning to relinquish themselves of their passenger network, ending the reign of various noteworthy trains operated by railroads throughout the country. The country’s rail passenger operations became nationalized, and thus, Amtrak was formed.
While in its infancy, Amtrak inherited locomotives and rolling stock from various different railroads throughout the country. Realizing the need for updated and modern motive power, Amtrak purchased 150 SDP40F locomotives for their long distance trains. However, additional power was required for the young company’s various nationwide ventures, leading Amtrak to purchase 25 GE P30CH locomotives, which were nicknamed “Pooch” by enthusiasts, due to the similarity in designation. Derived from the successful U30C freight locomotive, the units featured a cowl car body, much like its EMD counterpart.
Therefore, Amtrak placed an order in 1974 for 25 P30CH locomotives, to be used primarily on their long distance passenger trains. Because of delays in construction of the units, they entered service much later than initially expected. The P30CH locomotive was the first locomotive built for Amtrak that was solely built as a passenger locomotive, as the SDP40F was a kit-bash of the highly successful SD40-2. The locomotives were the first to be delivered with on board diesel head end power generators, which were twin Detroit Diesel generators, generating kilowatts of power. Because the locomotives entered service late than initially anticipated, it entered service simultaneously with the F40PH, of which would become the hallmark of Amtrak’s diesel fleet. Interestingly, the P30CH was slated to be the successor to the F40PH, due to concerns with the Blomberg trucks, however, the F40PH’s proved far superior.
Initially, the P30CH performed well, and was a favorite among train crews for its high horsepower ratings. However, it only took a few months for the locomotive to show its various flaws such as, truck ride quality due to axle issues, braking issues, dynamic brake response issues, and cracking engine blocks. These various issues plagued the units throughout their operating life, and became increasingly disliked by train crews and management alike.
Another pitfall was the locomotive’s six axle trucks, as it was difficult for the units to navigate tight turns. Additionally, the trucks would occasionally damage the track infrastructure. In order to prevent this, the locomotive’s horsepower was decreased from 3,000hp, to 2,830.
Perhaps the most trying issue these locomotive’s experienced were its braking issues. These issues were so severe, that they eventually caused a derailment in 1978. These various issues plagued the units for most of their operating life, making it difficult for Amtrak management to keep them in service.
The units spent most of their operating life hauling long distance passenger trains, however, they could also be seen hauling shorter commuter runs. In 1978, Southern Pacific leased 15 P30CH locomotives for their Peninsula Commute services, which is now operated by CalTrain. The addition of the Amtrak motive power allowed Southern Pacific to allocate more of their locomotives, primarily GP40P-2’s, to freight service for the time being. In the eighties, it was common to view the units hauling the then recently reinstated Autotrain from Lorton, Virginia to Sanford, Florida. Additionally, they found a home on the Sunset Limited during the eighties as well. In the early nineties, the locomotives began to fail and were ultimately replaced with EMD’s F40PH locomotive.
Although the P30CH was not the most reliable locomotive Amtrak owned, it helped mold the future for GE’s Genesis line of locomotives, as recently after their retirement GE partnered with Krupp to develop the next generation Genesis line, which acts as the primary form of diesel-electric motive power in the Amtrak fleet.
The GE P30CH included a GE 7-FDL prime mover, generating up to 3,000 horsepower, powering the GE GTA11 main generator, which provided DC electricity to six GE 752 traction motors, which produced 95,500 lbs of tractive effort at the rail head. The 7FDL-16 prime mover is the same engine seen in the most powerful four axle locomotive during this time, the U25B, and the U30C, of which the P30CH was derived. For more information about technical information, visit The Diesel Shop.
|Horsepower||3000-later downrated to 2830.|
|Auxiliary Generator||GY 27|
|Traction Motors||Six GE 752|
|Tractive Effort||Starting:95,500 lbs
|Air Brake||Westinghouse 26L|
|Total Length||72’ 4”|
|Minimum Turning Radius||29 degrees|
|Fuel Capacity||1,4000 gallons|