FM "C-Liner" Locomotives (Consolidated Line)

The C-Liners, officially cataloged as the builder's Consolidated Line included Fairbanks Morse cab models. Overall FM built six different types of cab units during the 1950s that included the CPA16-4, CPA16-5, CPA20-5, CPA24-5, CFA16-4, and CFA20-4.  The C-Liners replaced FM's earlier cab model the Erie-Built, which proved only marginally success at best. The updated version of FM's cab locomotives did not feature a carbody nearly as elegant as the former, which sported a European look. It was offered for either passenger or freight (with four or six axles) service and intended to compete against Electro-Motive's (EMD) popular E and F series as well as Alco's FA and PA models. Unfortunately, the C-Liners saw about the same level of success as the Erie-Builts and FM canceled the line after only a few years of production.

One system which tested most of FM's products was the Milwaukee Road.  The company wound up with a fleet of twelve CFA16-4's and six CFB16-4's.  It was also quite fond of the Erie-Builts and owned many switchers and road-switchers.  Ironically, despite FM's struggles in the industry the company is still in business today producing marine engines.

New York Central CFA20-4 #5006, a "C-Liner" model cataloged by Fairbanks Morse, is seen here coupled to an F7A at Kankakee, Illinois on March 25, 1956.

Fairbanks Morse entry into the cab locomotive market began with the Erie-Built model of 1945. This design was only intended for passenger service and had an appearance similar to the American Locomotive Company's (Alco) PA model with a long nose, and sweeping cab with a flush roofline. While FM had hoped to be a strong competitor against EMD and Alco this was not to be as the company canceled production of the Erie-Built after cataloging it for just four years. In 1950 they introduced a formal line of passenger and freight cab units known as the “Consolidated Line," more commonly referred to as C-Liners. These models were available in three different horsepower variations of 1,600, 2,000, and 2,400 with the option of either four or five axles. The former was only offered in their freight models while the latter used an odd B-A1A wheel arrangement in passenger service.  The most lightly-powered C-Liner was the CFA16-4 introduced in early 1950; it produced 1,600 horsepower using a B-B truck arrangement and was designed freight service.

Fairbanks-Morse's pair of CPA24-5 demonstrators, #4201-4202, are seen here at the company's plant circa 1950. They wore an attractive two-tone green livery and later became New Haven #790–791.

You may be wondering what was behind each model's designation, which was somewhat similar to Baldwin's early diesel designations. Using the CFA16-4 as an example the "C" referred to cab unit, "F" listed it for freight service, "A" was a designation for A unit, "16" was short for 1,600 hp, and "4" was the number of axles it carried. Of all the C-Liners the CFA16-4 sold the best outshopping 91 A and B units combined. However, the model sold much better to the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National (through FM's Canadian Locomotive Works) than it ever did to U.S. railroads as only the Milwaukee Road, Pennsylvania, and New York Central purchased examples.  Unfortunately, the rest of the line did not fare so well. The only other freight model, the CFA20-4, sold just 15 units. Fairbanks Morse's passenger models the CPA16-4, CPA16-5, CP20-5, and CP24-5 sold just 60 units combined.  Of these, the five axle models (the CPA16-5, CP20-5, and CP24-5) are the most interesting. 

Milwaukee Road CFA16-4 #26-A (manufactured in 1951) lays over in Madison, Wisconsin next to RS3 #462 during April, 1965. Roger Puta photo.

They featured a B-A1A setup whereby the front two axles were powered but the rear truck included three axles with a non-powered center axle (thus the term A1A). The reason for this was that FM situated its steam generator (which powered on board amenities for passengers such as heating) in the rear of the locomotives and the area needed extra support.   While the FM C-Liners were unsuccessful from a sales standpoint it is not necessarily because Fairbanks Morse's models in general were unreliable (although part of their unattractiveness was due to the carbody design). Reliability with FM's diesel locomotives has often been questioned but this issue was mostly due to the fact that FM's opposed-piston prime mover was simply too complicated 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 Train Masters performed admirably for more than 20 years on the Southern Pacific due to a maintenance team that understood the model.  The locomotives took a daily beating hauling freight trains, and later in commuter service, without series mechanical problems.

A diagram of the freight and passenger C-Liner variants.

Fairbanks Morse C-Liner Production Roster

CFA16-4/CFB16-4

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Canadian National8700-8744 (Evens, As)241952
Canadian National8701-8705 (Odds, Bs)31952
Canadian Pacific4076-4081 (As)61953
Canadian Pacific4455-4458 (Bs)41953
Milwaukee Road23A-28A, 23C-28C (As)121951
Milwaukee Road23B-28B (Bs)61951
New York Central6600-6607 (As)81952
New York Central6900-6903 (Bs)41952
Pennsylvania9448A-9455A, 9492A-9499A (As)161950
Pennsylvania9448B-9454B (Evens), 9492B-9498B (Evens) (Bs)81950

CFA20-4/CFB20-4

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
New York Central5006-5012 (As)121950
New York Central5102-5104 (Bs)31950

CPA20-5

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Long Island Rail Road2001-200881950

CPA24-5

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Fairbanks Morse (Demo)4801-480221950
Long Island Rail Road2401-240441951
New Haven790-799101951-1952
New York Central4500-450781952

CPA16-4/CPB16-4 (Canadian Locomotive Company)

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
CLC (Demo)7005-700621951
Canadian Pacific4052-4057, 4104-4105 (As)81952-1953
Canadian Pacific4449-4454, 4471-4472 (Bs)81952-1953

CPA16-5/CPB16-5 (Canadian Locomotive Company)

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Canadian National6700-6705 (As)61954-1955
Canadian National6800-6805 (Bs)61954-1955


New York Central CFA16-4 #6603 is seen here in Detroit, Michigan during January, 1965.

In the end, however, railroads and mechanical departments found the opposed-piston not to their liking when builders like Electro-Motive offered wonderfully reliable and rugged designs with standard prime movers.  All of the FM C-Liners had internal components such as traction motors, generators, and air equipment outsourced to Westinghouse Electric. Overall, virtually every model offered tractive efforts ranging from 65,000-70,000 pounds starting to 32,000 pounds continuous. Additionally, all C-Liners offered dynamic braking, something Fairbanks Morse did not include with many of its early diesel models.  Today, at least three C-Liners are known to be preserved all of which are located in Canada (it is said one C-Liner still owned by Canadian Pacific remains stored but operational). 




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Header Photo: Drew Jacksich




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