A Brute of a Diesel
Written by: Gary Dolzall.
Norfolk Southern’s brutish and powerful General Electric C39-8 is coming soon to Train Simulator!
Brutish in appearance and potent at the railhead, General Electric’s C39-8 diesel locomotives served the Norfolk Southern for a quarter-century – and soon the distinctive C39-8 diesel, as created by Virtual Rail Creations, is coming to Train Simulator.
General Electric first entered the market as an independent builder of mainline diesel locomotives in 1959 with its landmark, 2,500-horsepower U25B, and throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, GE produced an ever-expanding line of “Universal” series diesels which came to be widely nicknamed “U-boats.” GE’s locomotive nomenclature changed in 1976 with the introduction of its “Dash 7” diesels, which promised advanced control features, better fuel efficiency, and improved reliability over the older U-boats.
The Dash 7 series, in turn, was replaced in the early 1980s with GE’s “Dash-8” locomotives which offered further advancements in the use of microprocessor controls and modular components for ease of maintenance. Initially, the Dash 8 line featured units in both four-axle (B-B) and six-axle (C-C) configurations and with horsepower per unit ranging from 3,200 (via a 12-cylinder 7FDL power plant) to 3,900 horsepower (with a 16-cylinder 7FDL engine). In 1987, GE squeezed an extra hundred horses from its 16-cylinder power plant and introduced the six-axle Dash 8-40C and the four-axle Dash 8-40B. The 12-cylinder variants of the Dash 8s never gained much of a following in the North American market, but their 16-cylinder sisters certainly did, and more than 1,700 GE 16-cylinder 7FDL-powered units would be constructed before the Dash 8 line was itself replaced by “Dash 9” models in 1993.
Among the GE “Dash 8” line, the first model to enter full production was the six-axle, 3,900-horsepower C39-8. Following the construction of a 3,600-horsepower, six-axle prototype in March 1983, General Electric upgraded the design to 3,900-horsepower and constructed a pair of preproduction C39-8s for Norfolk Southern (NS 8550-8551) in January 1984. That October, a dozen regular production C39-8s began rolling out of GE’s Erie (Pennsylvania) facility for the Norfolk Southern (NS 8552-8563) and through October 1986, NS would acquire 114 of the powerful six-axle (C-C) diesels.
Norfolk Southern’s C39-8s weighed in at 390,000 pounds, employed 83:20 gearing, and, with the exception of the two preproduction units, were set up to primarily run long-hood forward with a single bi-directional control stand. Dressed in NS livery, NS 8550-8613 wore “NW” (Norfolk & Western) sub-lettering while NS 8614-8663 were stenciled with “SOU” (Southern) sub-lettering. In 1987, another 25 similar units, designed C39-8E, joined the NS roster. These units differed visually from their earlier sisters in adopting what was, effectively, Dash 9 carbody styling.
Over the course of its production run, a total of 161 C39-8s were constructed by General Electric, with Conrail being the other buyer. With its round cab, raised dynamic-brake box, and propensity to often run-long-hood forward, the C39-8s were surely distinctive in appearance and earned nicknames ranging from “Camelbacks” to “Satellites.” Norfolk Southern’s fleet of C39-8s could be found working system-wide and handling mainline duties ranging from heavy unit coal and grain trains to priority intermodals. The rugged C39-8s served Norfolk Southern for more than a quarter-century until the last NS units were retired in 2009.
The Norfolk Southern C39-8 coming soon to Train Simulator from Virtual Rail Creations features a wealth of authentic and realistic operating features, including cold-start options, Head-of-Train and End-of-Train devices, and Pennsylvania Railroad-style cab signals. To put the big GE diesels to work, four career scenarios on the Train Simulator Horseshoe Curve route (the line became part of Norfolk Southern in 1999) are included. The NS C39-8 is included in clean, weathered, and snow-dressed versions.
The upcoming Norfolk Southern C39-8 pack also includes a variety of rolling stock, highlighted by Norfolk Southern’s innovative Triple Crown 53-foot RoadRailers in two variations, as well as modern 2-bay covered hoppers in Norfolk & Western and Southern liveries, and a Norfolk Southern 100-ton, three-bay coal hopper. – Gary Dolzall ■
Created by partner programme member Virtual Rail Creations, the Norfolk Southern General Electric C39-8 is coming soon to Train Simulator. Eastern rail giant Norfolk Southern purchased 114 of the 3,900-horsepower, six-axle GE diesels between 1984 and 1986 and used the potent locomotives system-wide for a quarter-century. Screenshots by Gary Dolzall. With the exception of two preproduction units, Norfolk Southern’s C39-8s were set up to primarily run long-hood forward, and such is the case as NS 8643 leads the way out of Altoona, Pennsylvania with westbound tonnage (above), then makes for a distinctive sight rounding famed Horseshoe Curve (below). Note: Screenshots depict content still in development. A trio of Norfolk Southern C39-8s are battling tonnage, gradient, and difficult winter weather as they grind up the east slope of the Alleghenies on the Horseshoe Curve route (above). Virtual Rail Creations’ upcoming C39-8 features a realistic cab and controls (below) and offers a wealth of authentic operating features, including cold-start options, Head-of-Train and End-of-Train devices, and Pennsylvania Railroad-style cab signals. Along with the GE C39-8, the upcoming pack from Virtual Rail Creations includes a variety of rolling stock highlighted by Norfolk Southern’s innovative Triple Crown RoadRailers. Smooth- and ribbed-side version of the 53-foot RoadRailers are included. Norfolk Southern Triple Crown RoadRailer services are often were hauled by a single locomotive and NS C39-8 8613 is doing the honors as a long RoadRailer curls itself fully around scenic Horseshoe Curve (above and below). Also included in the upcoming Norfolk Southern C39-8 pack are modern two-bay covered hoppers in Norfolk & Western and Southern Railway liveries (above) and a Norfolk Southern 100-ton coal hopper (below). The pack features four career scenarios on Train Simulator’s Horseshoe Curve route (a line Norfolk Southern acquired in 1999). Big, brutish, and powerful, the Norfolk Southern General Electric C39-8 diesel, in clean and weathered NS liveries, is coming soon to Train Simulator!