In the early 1960s, as the result of competition between rival locomotive builders General Electric (GE) and General Motors (EMD), a new model of diesel-electric capable of producing 2,250 horsepower rolled out of EMD’s facility at La Grange, IL. Dubbed the GP30, it was a continuation of General Motors’ popular General Purpose series, and the first model EMD produced to be considered part of the second generation of diesels. Nine hundred forty-eight units in total were produced for various North American railroads during the three years that the GP30 was offered for sale.
No. 2198 was constructed in May of 1963 as part of a fifty-two-unit order for the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). Originally carrying No. 2250, it was assigned to power some of the longest, heaviest, and fastest freight trains that the PRR operated. The locomotive could be seen traversing the mainline between New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, passing through a varied landscape which included the famous Horseshoe Curve just west of the Pennsy’s main shop town of Altoona, PA. As delivered, No. 2250 wore a simplified dark “Brunswick Green” paint scheme with the railroad’s familiar red and white Keystone logo applied to the sides and nose of the unit.
When the GP30 fleet arrived on the Pennsy, money was getting tighter every day. The once-mighty railroad was becoming a shadow of its former self due to many different factors, including competition from roadway vehicles and the inability to freely change rates charged to customers. The locomotive only worked for its original owner for less than five years before becoming part of the giant Penn Central Transportation Company (PC) roster, the result of a 1968 merger of the PRR with its longtime rival, the New York Central (NYC).
To prepare for the coming of PC, and the resulting combination of two already large locomotive rosters, both the PRR and NYC renumbered several units in an attempt to keep like models together. As a result, No. 2250 became No. 2198 at this time to bridge the gap between Pennsy and Central GP30’s. It also received the simple black and white colors of its new owner, with the red Keystones giving way to a curvy wormlike PC logo. The locomotive was one of only a few in the late 1960s and very early 1970s to have the “P” portion of the logo a bright red, changed to white as time went on.
During its Penn Central years, No. 2198 continued to serve on former home rails, but also occasionally migrated to former NYC territory. Due to the railroad’s perilous financial condition, like most of its roster mates, the young unit would suffer from deferred maintenance.
On April 1st, 1976, after several years of planning on Capitol Hill, PC became one of several bankrupt railroads in the northeastern United States merged into the government-funded Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), aimed at keeping the region’s railroads from total collapse. No. 2198 became Conrail property, losing its PC markings in favor of tiny CR lettering on the unit’s sides and nose. While at times roaming the system, Conrail tended to keep the locomotive assigned around New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, including the Philadelphia region. It received a much-needed refurbishment in 1978, which included a new paint job into Conrail’s attractive blue and white scheme, and continued to work until 1991 when age and new locomotive purchases sidelined the unit to storage along with similar members of the fleet.
In 1996, the locomotive was acquired and moved to Bucks County to begin a new career on the NHRR. After some mechanical work was performed, it was pressed into both freight and excursion service on our seventeen-mile line, with a new paint job of burgundy and gold following shortly after.
No. 2198 was the primary freight unit in its early years with the company, only operating on passenger trains if the steam locomotive was down for repairs. However, with the acquisition of larger diesels in recent years, the locomotive has seen more time with the heritage operation on the northern end of the line. Because the locomotive possesses cab signaling equipment, it is able to operate offline over the connecting trackage of SEPTA, the Philadelphia area commuter agency. No. 2198 has more often than not been on the head end of off-campus excursions in recent years, including trips for Lansdale Founders Day and Willow Grove’s Tricentennial Excursion in the spring of 2011.
No. 2198 is one of several GP30s that operate today within Pennsylvania, and one of the few still in near original condition. It is also one of sixteen that survive the Pennsylvania Railroad’s fifty-two-unit order.