In the late 1980s, as General Electric and General Motors' Electro-Motive Division engaged in heated competition (that continues today) for market share in the high horsepower category, GE announced its Dash 8 line of diesel locomotives. Although the first demonstrator version had only 3,200 hp, most of the Dash 8s had 4,000 hp when delivered and were therefore designated Dash 8-40. Because GE builds its diesel locomotives in five modules, it was able to customize its Dash 8s for each buyer to an unusual degree.
Some railroads ordered their Dash 8s with conventional cabs, while others opted for the wider North American or comfort cabs, identified by a "W" in the engine name. Some Dash 8s have 4-wheel trucks - denoted with a "B" - while a Dash 8-40C has 6-wheel trucks. This variety meant that these diesels, which were designed for fast freight duty, also found a home in Amtrak passenger service. Despite their many differences, all Dash 8s share microprocessor control. The microprocessor, a small computer, regulates rpm, fuel injection volume, generator excitation, and many other operational features to make the Dash 8s run more efficiently than any diesels before them. Did You Know?
The microprocessor in the Dash-8 prototype recognizes if the engine is overheating while in a tunnel, as opposed to a malfunction on the open rails, and allows it to keep operating a full power for ten minutes, so the crew doesn't find itself stranded in a tunnel.