FM "H12-44" Locomotives

The H12-44 proved as Fairbanks Morse's most successful diesel locomotive with nearly 400 constructed over an eleven year period.

Despite the fact that its diesels used a complicated opposed-piston prime mover a number of railroads came to like them for their incredible lugging ability and relative light weight.

This particular model looked quite similar to its predecessor, the H10-44, save for a slight increase in horsepower. While FM was able to sell a number of a diesels through its Canadian Locomotive Company arm it had difficulty finding sales to many foreign lines although a few did purchase their products.

As it turned out the H12-44 had one of the longest production runs of any FM model and so many were produced that at least sixteen domestic examples remain preserved today.

It seems FM fell into the same situation as American Locomotive and Baldwin; while the builder found sustained with its switchers the company failed to catalog an effective road-switcher.  Electro-Motive had the market all but locked up and had no true competitor until General Electric beginning in the late 1950's.

"September, 1969: At San Francisco's 4th & Townsend Depot Southern Pacific H12-44 #2351 has pulled the cars from cars having arrived on that afternoon's Train #99, "The Coast Daylight", from Los Angeles. By that time normal practice was to bring #99 in on Track 14, cut off the power so it could run light to the 7th & Townsend engine terminal. The depot switcher would pull the cars across 3rd then back them down King Street to the coach yard. As an aside, track #14 was the only track that ran past the depot. Today, with the possible exception of buildings in the distant back ground, everything in this photo no longer exists." - Drew Jacksich

The H12-44 began production during May of 1950 following the earlier H10-44. Railroads had liked this switcher and apparently were just after increased horsepower as the H12-44 sold even better. 

It came equipped with a standard Fairbanks Morse 2-cycle 38D8 1/8 opposed piston prime mover that could produce 1,200 horsepower using a B-B truck setup (meaning two axles per truck).

The carbody styling was again inspired by noted industrial designer Raymond Loewy.  However, to reduce production costs FM simplified the design in the fall of 1952 removing many of the styling features Loewy had suggested.

It did not really take away from the model's attractiveness although the locomotive did sport a more basic, boxy appearance.

Fairbanks-Morse's Catalog Of Diesels





H16-66, "Baby Train Master" 

H24-66, "Train Master" 

FM's "Erie Builts" 

FM's "C-Liners" 

The FM H12-44 carried roughly the same tractive effort as models being offered at the time by both Electro-Motive Division (EMD) and the American Locomotive Company (Alco); 61,000 pounds starting and 34,000 pounds continuous.

Yankeetown Dock Corporation H12-44 #2 is seen here in Lynnville, Indiana on July 26, 1980. The FM switcher began its career with the company in 1956, one of two Yankee owned. Doug Kroll photo.

Thanks to the locomotive's relatively light-weight the H12-44 was ideal for use in both yard/switcher service and could also be used in light freight service with its respectable horsepower rating. 

FM's classification system somewhat resembled Baldwin's initial system, although somewhat more simplified. In regards to the H12-44; the “H” stood for Hood unit, “12” was for 1,200 horsepower, and each 4 meant four axles and four traction motors.

Norfolk & Western H12-44 #3385 (ex-Wabash #385) switches train #111, the "Banner Blue," at Decatur, Illinois on May 7, 1966. Roger Puta photo.

Overall the locomotive sold 369 units in the U.S./Canada by the time production had ended in March of 1961 making it the manufacturer's most successful.

The Santa Fe certainly liked the switcher as the company wound up with 59 examples employing them heavily in light duty work.

Generally FM models sold relatively poorly although 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.

This was due to a maintenance team that understood the model, despite taking a daily beating in freight service. In any event, the H12-44 was purchased by a little more than a dozen Class I systems including industries Ayrshire Collieries, U.S. Steel - Fairless Works, Yankeetown Dock, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Even the U.S. Army bought the locomotive, 20 to be exact! FM's Canadian arm also built 30 for Canadian National Railway as well as an A1A-A1A design known as the H12-46. CN ultimately wound up with 30 examples of the variant built during the early 1950s.

Fairbanks Morse H12-44 Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Ayrshire Collieries Corporation111957
Canadian National1630-1659301951-1956
Canadian National7600-7629 (H12-46)301951-1953
Chihuahua-Pacific Railway (Mexico)7011961
Baltimore & Ohio196-197, 310-319, 9722-9726171951-1957
Central Of Georgia315-31841953
Chicago & North Western1071-1072, 1110-111691950-1953
Columbia & Cowlitz RailwayD-211956
Fairless Works (U.S. Steel)GE9-GE1681951-1952
Indianapolis Union Railway19-2131952
Kentucky & Indiana Terminal60-6671951-1953
Milwaukee Road1826-1847, 2300-2325481950-1954
Minnesota Western Railroad1011951
New York Central9111-9137271950-1952
Nickel Plate Road134-155221953-1958
Sandersville Railroad10011953
Santa Fe503-540, 544-564591950-1957
Santa Fe541-543 (H12-44TS)31956
St. Louis San Francisco Railway (Frisco)282-28541951
Soo Line315-31951952-1954
Southern Pacific1486-1491, 1529-1538, 1568-1596451952-1957
Tennessee Valley Authority2211954
U.S. Army1843-1862201953
Wabash Railroad384-38631953
Weyerhaeuser Timber Company111951
Yankeetown Dock1-221953-1956

Milwaukee Road H12-44 #718 carries out switching chores at the railroad's new station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 28, 1966. Roger Puta photo.

It should be noted that another variant was manufactured as well, the H12-44TS for the Santa Fe numbered 541, 542, and 543.

The AT&SF requested the locomotive for use in shuttling passenger trains and equipment around its Dearborn Station terminal in Chicago.

The locomotive was somewhat longer at 54 feet, 2 inches and featured the addition of a short hood ahead of the cab giving it the appearance of a road switcher. However, it still offered 1,200 horsepower and a B-B truck arrangement. Santa Fe regularly employed the three units in yard service until 1972 when the were sold. 

Today, #543 is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum. In any event, a photo of 543 is presented below pushing the Super Chief into Dearborn Station on October 14, 1972. 

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Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

Wes Barris's is simply the best web resource in the study of steam locomotives. 

The amount of information found there is quite staggering; historical backgrounds of wheel arrangements, types used by virtually every railroad, preserved and operational examples, and even those used in other countries (North America and beyond). 

It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website.  It is a must visit!

Researching Rights-Of-Way

A popular pastime for many is studying and/or exploring abandoned rights-of-way. 

Today, there are tens of thousands of miles scattered throughout the country.  Many were pulled up in the 1970's and 1980's although others were removed long before that. 

If you are researching active or abandoned corridors you might want to check out the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Historical Topographic Map Explorer

It is an excellent resource with thousands of historic maps on file throughout the country.  Just type in a town or city and click on the timeline of maps at the bottom of the page!