The H24-66 "Train Master"
Of all the locomotive models Fairbanks Morse produced during its short stint in the market the Train Master was by far its most revolutionary and best remembered. Officially cataloged by the builder as its H24-66 the locomotive
was a serious puller that was well built and very
powerful. Unfortunately, its undoing was simply that it was nearly a
decade ahead of its time as railroads had yet to realize the benefits of
powerful, six-axle locomotives that offered high amounts of tractive effort. Had
things been different and the locomotive cataloged more than a decade later the Train Master may have been the SD40-2 of its
day, propelling Fairbanks Morse as a major locomotive builder. Today,
there is one H24-66 preserved although it was built by FM's Canadian arm, the Canadian Locomotive
Works; Canadian Pacific #8905. The locomotive is currently on display
at the Canadian Railway Museum in Saint-Constant, Quebec.
The Train Master began production in April of 1953
and proved itself as the most "successful" locomotive on the market at
the time, even if railroads didn't realize it. The H24-66 utilized
Fairbanks Morse's 2-cycle 38D8 1/8 opposed piston prime mover that could produce a hefty 2,400 horsepower using C-C trucks (the model
was equipped with the Tri-Mount design). The TM offered the most
horsepower of any locomotive in its class at that time and despite its
size it could also out accelerate any comparable locomotive, even making
it ideal in some types of passenger service (a trait not missed by the Southern Pacific). The locomotive offered
unparalleled tractive effort; 79,500 pounds starting and an even better
82,500 pounds continuous! As such it had incredible acceleration and
could pull just about anything to which it was assigned. Unfortunately, when the locomotive debuted in the early 1950s
railroads had yet to grasp the diesel as a high horsepower
commodity and many saw the H24-66 as too powerful for their needs, not
to mention the complicated maintenance issues accompanying Fairbanks
Morse's odd opposed piston prime movers.
In the end when production had ended on the Train Master in June of 1957 just 127 had been built for a handful of Class I railroads. FM also built four demonstrators; TM-1 and TM-2 went to the Wabash while the Southern picked up TM-3 and TM-4. By the time the Train Master was released in 1953 Fairbanks Morse had ended Raymond Loewy's recommendations in styling its road switchers. However, it did continue to lean on some of his ideas giving the TM a clean look and soft, beveled edges (at 66 feet it was basically an elongated version of its smaller four axle road switchers). Perhaps the only truly negative aspect of the Train Master was its weight; at just over 194 tons it was quite heavy and hard on the track and infrastructure.
Despite the Train Master's weight issues and complicated opposed-piston design many railroads that purchased it found that the model
lived up to FM's hype. The locomotive took a beating on lines like the
Reading and Virginian where it was used in heavy coal drag service. On
the other hand the Southern Pacific liked theirs so well, particularly
its fast acceleration, that after newer models replaced the TMs in freight service
the railroad continued using them in commuter operations well into the 1970s. It
should be noted that while the Train Master only saw cool sales
numbers it is not necessarily because Fairbanks Morse's models in general were unreliable.
Fairbanks Morse H24-66/Train Master Production Roster
|Central Railroad Of New Jersey (CNJ)||2401-2413||13||1954-1956|
|Fairbanks Morse (Demo)||TM-1, TM-2, TM-3, TM-4||4||1953|
|Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Paific (Southern)||6300-6304||5||1954|
|Wabash Railroad||552-554, 552A-554A||6||1956|
Reliability with FM's diesel locomotives has often been questioned but the primary issue seems primarily due to the complexity of the opposed-piston
prime mover to maintain; it was far different from the standard designs offered by the other builders. For instance, it has been noted by John Kirkland book The Diesel Builders Volume 1
that the Train Master performed admirably for more than 20 years on the
Southern Pacific due to a maintenance team that understood the model and its mechanical inner workings,
despite taking a daily beating in freight service.
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