Saffron Restaurants reservation The Unexpected Fairbanks-Morse: Part 2

The Unexpected Fairbanks-Morse: Part 2


June 2024by Gordon Lloyd, Jr./photos from the Lloyd Transportation Library

The Fairbanks-Morse Company of Beloit, Wisconsin, built a line of sturdy locomotives, with twenty years of actual production and deliveries to railroads in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Our research into the careers of lesser-known Fairbanks-Morse diesel locomotives to date (see the May 2024 issue of Railfan & Railroad) has focused on short-line and industrial F-Ms, with limited exceptions for Class I highways.

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific would fill one of those exceptions. Enthusiasts will remember Rock Island’s penchant for quirky locomotive purchases, except for Fairbanks-Morse, it seems. Rock Island’s sole involvement with the Beloit builder was limited to two H15-44 units, numbers 400 and 401, built in December 1948. The sales order was tailored to a special assignment: Chicago shuttle service. They were equipped with steam boilers and provisions for train lighting equipment. Flashy Rocket ship paint decorated the exterior of the locomotive. You could probably predict the final outcome, but we’ll take another look.

Fairbanks Morse

ABOVE: Half of Rock Island’s FM fuss is happening in Chicago, the flashy paint still fresh. Both H15-44 units, 400 and 401, were tailor-made for commuting and spent much of their FM lives moving passengers, but repowering EMD was their last attempt at longevity. —Lloyd Transport Library

Not unexpectedly, the unusual opposed-piston engines required special maintenance. Add to that the demanding expectations that come with commuting and it wouldn’t be long before long-term maintenance options were considered. Before celebrating their 10th anniversary, both were cycled through EMD, where LaGrange replaced 16-567C engines. Both were removed from the roster in 1966.

Central Georgia dominated Georgia. The 1,700-mile road also had connections in Alabama, as far west as Birmingham. Acquisitions of locomotives from Alco, Baldwin, EMC and EMD filled the list before the delivery of five H15-44 units in June 1949; they bore the numbers 101–105. The quintet of counter-piston road changers introduced that concept to the far-flung Georgia company, but the departure of inline or V-type engines was the big news here.

However, CofG’s FM chapter was not closed. In 1953, CofG revised the counter-piston idea with an order for H12-44s. CofG identified them simply as 315-318, numbered just above the last of CofG’s Baldwins, a four-unit set of S-12s also built in 1953.

Fairbanks Morse
ABOVE: Coal transporter Yankeetown Dock became the owner of three H12-44s. The first of its units was originally FM demonstrator 76. That former demonstrator is shown here as YDCX 1, operating with the purchased new YDCX 2 in Yankeetown, Ind., in April 1965.F. G. Tatnall, LTL

Northwestern FMs

FM’s sales forces secured the first of several Northwestern orders in late 1947, evidenced by the delivery of Weyerhaeuser Timber’s H10-44 number 481. Graduation from Beloit occurred in April 1948; the destination was the Vail-McDonald branch in Washington.

Weyerhaeuser’s Chehalis Western signed for two H10-44s, the 492 and the 493. The units left Beloit in May and June 1949 and headed for Chehalis, Washington. The railroad operated on both the Northern Pacific and Milwaukee Road tracks before switching to the Weyerhaeuser tracks for a short time. final run to the wood dump on Puget Sound. They operated separately, although both were equipped for multiple unit (mu) use.

In September 1949, the Pacific Northwest’s fourth FM resident was completed. Weyerhaeuser operated a huge sawmill in Longview, which required significant changeovers, involving incoming logs, loading products, and ultimately delivering them to the exchange. This FM belonged to Weyerhaeuser’s other Washington railroad, Columbia & Cowlitz. The H10-44 arrived simply numbered D-1.

Fairbanks Morse

ABOVE: On a sunny February 2, 1968, Soo Line’s first FM, H12-44 315, changes freight in Minneapolis. —Joe Stauber, LTL

The next FM purchase for Weyerhaeuser’s growing anti-piston fleet was number 1. Built in August 1951, the H12-44 spent much of its life in Enumclaw, Washington, about 30 miles southeast of Tacoma. This was known as the White River Branch. The special locomotive had a tendency to carry out assignments, making daily runs to the Northern Pacific and Milwaukee Road interchange in Enumclaw, about five miles away. It was later numbered Weyerhaeuser 714 and spent its final years in Vail, Wash.

The sixth and final FM in the Weyerhaeuser clan was Columbia & Cowlitz’s D-2, built in May 1956. Before the delivery of Weyerhaeuser’s Alco C-415 in 1968, the D-2 was renumbered 700, which it served until his retirement wore.

Three locomotives from the Weyerhaeuser family had expanded careers beyond the lumber business. When Columbia & Cowlitz acquired its C-415, the H10-44 D-1 was offered to Alco for trade-in value; the locomotive turned out to be in such good condition that Alco offered it for sale. Alco proponent Pacific Great Eastern (later known as BC Rail) was the unlikely suitor. Apparently the sale offer was attractive enough to influence the unexpected transaction, really a horse of a different color on a railroad whose loyalty had previously been concentrated. The locomotive was never repainted in Weyerhaeuser yellow and carried no PGE or BCR identification – it toiled, not in the dark, but in plain sight, working at the railway’s North Vancouver Yard for about five years. It carried its original number, D-1, until BCR renumbered it 1004…