GE's Dash 8 line was a much improved design over the previous Dash 7 line, which ended on Conrail with the C30-7A. Microprocessors in the Dash 8 line increased efficiency while boosting tractive effort. For the first time, GE units could monitor and diagnose themselves, which reduced downtime.

Built in May and June of 1988, Conrail purchased 30 of the B40-8's, numbered in the 5060 - 5089 series. Built with a 16 cylinder, turbocharged prime mover under the hood, these 4,000hp units were designed for light weight, high speed, and time sensitive intermodal service. 30 former CR/PC GP9's were traded in as part of the deal. (CR 7003, 7017, 7037, 7039, 7043, 7073, 7074, 7086, 7091, 7116, 7141, 7250, 7259, 7312, 7310, 7331, 7332, 7349, 7355, 7359, 7468, 7382, 7383, 7389, 7393, 7405, 7426, 7444, 7469, 7471.)

The original factory-installed, small single grab iron on the nose of the unit, also found on the C39-8 model, was intended for use when crossing between locomotives. They were replaced however, sometime in 1991 when Conrail opted for the upside down "L" grabs due to safety concerns and difficulty boarding the locomotives from the ground, account the higher walkway.

Conrail selected the B40-8 class to pull not only its hottest trains, but also to promote its Labor Management program in 1988. A large 'Working Together for Safety, Service, and Success' decal was applied to the short hood nose of each locomotive. The program encouraged workplace safety through Labor - Management cooperation and promoted the premier relationship Conrail enjoyed with its workforce. The program had seven primary committees, (one for each operating division) and another for all of Conrail's shops. These seven committees were comprised of 60 subcommittees, which were populated by union and management personnel.

In 1999, the fleet was divided between Norfolk Southern and CSX. Those assigned to NS were renumbered into the 4800 - 4817 series, while CSX allocated units became 5950 - 5961. The 18 units that went to Norfolk Southern were later transferred to CSXT 5962-5979.
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