The FM H10-44 was the first in the builder's switcher line.
It was constructed during the latter half of the 1940s and sold
relatively well for Fairbanks Morse in comparison to other models. The H10-44 was originally meant for use only
in yard service. However, as is so often the case in the industry
railroads found the switcher suitable in all types of work from
yard service to branch line duty. For Fairbanks Morse it faced the
same issues as Baldwin and the American Locomotive Company. The company could
produce a fairly reliable, rugged, and efficient switcher (for
instance, its H12-44 model sold even better). However, when it came to main line models designed for heavy and/or extensive freight/passenger service issues arose.. In any event, H10-44s could be found in operation on many
Class Is from time they were cataloged in 1944 through the late
1970s and early 1980s.
Milwaukee Road H10-44 #769 kicks cars around the small yard in Savanna, Illinois on a July evening in 1964.
The FM H10-44 began production in August of 1944 capable of producing
1,000 horsepower using Fairbanks Morse's 2-cycle 38D8 1/8 opposed-piston
prime mover. The switcher featured a B-B truck setup and a high hood with the cab off-set to one end. As was the case with models manufactured by some of the other builders such as Baldwin's "Sharknose" carbody
design, the H10-44 received its beveled edges and curves from industrial
designer Raymond Loewy (a man who was actually hired by numerous
railroads around the country for various styling work from diesels and
steam to even electric locomotives). Fairbanks Morse outsourced internal components for its locomotives,
such as traction motors and generators, to Westinghouse Electric a move also made by Alco and Baldwin.
While some railroads and shop forces complained of FM's complicated
opposed-piston design no one could argue with the incredible tractive
effort and pulling power its locomotives offered. For instance, the
H10-44 could produce 72,000 pounds of starting tractive effort and
34,000 pounds continuous. Similar models offered by Alco and EMD could
simply not match this; this ability, among other things,
helped immensely in getting a train moving quickly. You may be wondering what was behind FM's switcher designation, which
was somewhat similar to Baldwin's early diesel locomotive models,
although it was much easier to understand and did not include so many
letters, dashes, and number designations. Using the FM H10-44 as an
example the “H” stood for Hood unit, “10” was for 1,000 horsepower, and
each 4 meant four axles and four traction motors.
Chicago & North Western H10-44 #1063 rolls through Proviso Yard doing daily switching chores as a crewman rides the pilot on July 11, 1966.
While the FM H10-44 was only marginally successful from a sales standpoint it is not necessarily because Fairbanks Morse's models in general were unreliable, as was usually the case with Alco (early on anyway) and particularly Baldwin. Reliability with FM's diesel locomotives has often been
questioned but I believe the issue was mostly due to the fact that FM's
opposed-piston prime mover was difficult to maintain and far different
from the standard designs being offered by the other builders. For
instance, in regards to the Train Master, it has been noted by John
Kirkland in his book The Diesel Builders Volume 1 that the
locomotives performed admirably for more than 20 years on the Southern
Pacific due to a maintenance team that understood the model, despite taking a daily beating in freight service.
Pennsylvania H10-44 #9192 is parked at the Chicago & North Western's Proviso Yard in Melrose Park, Illinois on June 22, 1966.
By the time production had ended on the H10-44 in April of 1950
Fairbanks Morse had sold 195 units to a wide range of Class I and
smaller railroads (the PRR purchased the most, 55).
Today, at least three FM H10-44s are known to be preserved, all of
which are former Milwaukee Road units; #760, #767, and #781. The former
unit #760) was the first ever produced by Fairbanks Morse and is one of
the only examples of its diesels that is still in operating condition
at the Illinois Railway Museum. Lastly, for more information about the FM H10-44 please refer to the chart above for a complete production roster.