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.

C-Liner History And Background

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.

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.

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.

C-Liner Designations

CConsolidation Line
F or PFreight or Passenger Service
A or BA or B Unit
16, 20, 24Horsepower Rating (1600, 2000, 2400)
4B-B Wheel Arrangement, 4 Powered Axles
5B-A1A Wheel Arrangement: 2 Powered Lead Axles (B), Rear 3 Axles Include Center Axle Unpowered (A1A)

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.  

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

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.

C-Liner Data Sheet 

Entered Production9/1950 (Pennsylvania #9448A-9448B-9449A)
Years Produced9/1950 - 3/1952
Fairbanks-Morse ClassCFA16-4/CFB16-4, CPA16-4/CPB16-4, CPA16-5/CPB16-5, CFA20-4/CFB20-4, CPA20-5, CPA24-5
Engine38D8 1/8 Opposed-Piston (8 cylinders = 1,600 Horsepower: 10 cylinders = 2,000 Horsepower: 12 cylinders = 2,400 Horsepower)
Engine BuilderFairbanks-Morse
Horsepower1600, 2000, 2400
Length (Over Couplers)56' 6 1/2"
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)14' 9 1/2" (Freight) or 14' 10 5/8" (Passenger)
Width10' 7"
WeightSee Table
Fuel Capacity1,200 Gallons
Air CompressorWABCO-3CD
Air Brake Schedule24RL
TrucksB-B or B-A1A
Truck TypeGSC Swing Bolster, Drop Side Equalizer
Truck Wheelbase9' 4" (B) and 15' 6" (A1A)
Wheel Size42"
Steam Generator (CP16-4)1,600-2,800 Lb/Hour: 1,000-1,150 Gallon Supply
Steam Generator (CP16-5/CP20-5)1,600-4,500 Lb/Hour: 1,600-1,800 Gallon Supply
Steam Generator (CP24-5)1,600-4,500 Lb/Hour: 1,500 Gallon Supply
Traction Motors370DE (4), Westinghouse
Traction Generator (1,600 hp)497B, Westinghouse
Traction Generator (2,000 and 2,400 hp)498A, Westinghouse
Auxiliary GeneratorYG54A, Westinghouse
MU (Multiple-Unit)Yes
Dynamic BrakesOptional
Gear RatioSee Table
Tractive EffortSee Table
Top SpeedSee Table

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.

C-Liner Weight Table (In Pounds)

CF16-4 CF20-4 CF24-4 CP16-4 CP16-5 CP20-5 CP24-5
A Unit249,500258,000264,000261,500286,000294,500300,500
B Unit246,000254,500260,500258,000282,000290,500296,500

Variants of FM's Consolidated Line were essentially the same locomotive and differed only in horsepower rating and truck arrangement. 

Gearing Options

Gear Ratio Maximum Speed Continuous Tractive Effort (Lbs) Continuous TE Rating Speed
68:156552,5009.2 mph (1,600 hp): 11.9 (2,000 hp): 14.2 (2,400 hp)
63:157048,6009.9 mph (1,600 hp): 12.8 (2,000 hp): 15.3 (2,400 hp)
62:178042,20011.4 mph (1,600 hp): 14.7 (2,000 hp): 17.6 (2,400 hp)
60:199036,50013.2 mph (1,600 hp): 17.0 (2,000 hp): 20.4 (2,400 hp)
58:2110032,00015.1 mph (1,600 hp): 19.5 (2,000 hp): 23.3 (2,400 hp)
57:2211030,00016.1 mph (1,600 hp): 20.8 (2,000 hp): 24.8 (2,400 hp)

As such, only a single data sheet will be included with notes highlighting each model's differences (if necessary).  The C-Line began with the CFA16-4/CFB16-4 (first completed in September, 1950) and ended with the CPA24-5/CPB24-5 (final completed in March, 1952).

C-Liner Production Roster

CFA16-4/CFB16-4 (FM)

Owner Road Number Construction Number Contract Number Completion Date Quantity
Pennsylvania9448B (B)16L355LD889/19501
Pennsylvania9450B (B)16L356LD889/19501
Pennsylvania9452B (B)16L357LD889/19501
Pennsylvania9454B (B)16L358LD8810/19501
Pennsylvania9492B (B)16L359LD8810/19501
Pennsylvania9494B (B)16L360LD8810/19501
Pennsylvania9496B (B)16L361LD8810/19501
Pennsylvania9498B (B)16L362LD8811/19501
Milwaukee Road23A, 23C16L479-16L480LD1137/19512
Milwaukee Road24A, 24C16L481-16L482LD1138/19512
Milwaukee Road25A, 25C16L483-16L484LD1138/19512
Milwaukee Road26A, 26C16L485-16L486LD1138/19512
Milwaukee Road27A, 27C16L487-16L488LD1139/19512
Milwaukee Road28A, 28C16L489-16L490LD1139/19512
Milwaukee Road23B (B)16L491LD1137/19511
Milwaukee Road24B-26B (B)16L492-16L494LD1138/19513
Milwaukee Road27B-28B (B)16L495-16L496LD1139/19512
New York Central6600-660716L541-16L548LD1262/19528
New York Central6900-6902 (B)16L549-16L551LD1262/19523
New York Central6603 (B)16L560LD1262/19521

CFA16-4/CFB16-4 (Canadian Locomotive Company)

Owner Road Number Construction Number Completion Date Quantity
Canadian National8700, 87022648-26491/19522
Canadian National870426685/19521
Canadian National8701, 8703, 8705 (B)2669-26715/19523
Canadian National8706-8722 (Evens)2696-270412/19529
Canadian National8724-8730 (Evens)2705-27081/19534
Canadian National8732-8740 (Evens)2709-27133/19535
Canadian National8742, 87442714-27153/19532
Canadian Pacific4076-40782716-27184/19533
Canadian Pacific4079-40812719-27215/19533
Canadian Pacific4455-4457 (B)2722-27244/19533
Canadian Pacific4458 (B)27255/19531

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

Owner Road Number Construction Number Completion Date Quantity
Canadian Pacific7005-70062646-26475/19512
Canadian Pacific405226806/19521
Canadian Pacific405326817/19521
Canadian Pacific405426828/19521
Canadian Pacific4055-40572683-26859/19523
Canadian Pacific4449 (B)26866/19521
Canadian Pacific4450 (B)26877/19521
Canadian Pacific4451 (B)26888/19521
Canadian Pacific4452-4454 (B)2689-26919/19523
Canadian Pacific410427264/19541
Canadian Pacific410527275/19541
Canadian Pacific4471 (B)27284/19541
Canadian Pacific4472 (B)27295/19541

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

Owner Road Number Construction Number Completion Date Quantity
Canadian National6700-67012850-285112/19542
Canadian National6702-67032852-28531/19552
Canadian National6704-67052854-28552/19552
Canadian National6800-6801 (B)2856-285712/19542
Canadian National6802-6803 (B)2858-28591/19552
Canadian National6804-6805 (B)2860-28612/19552

CFA20-4/CFB20-4 (FM)

Owner Road Number Construction Number Contract Number Completion Date Quantity
New York Central5102 (B)21L270LD725/19501
New York Central5103 (B)21L271LD726/19501
New York Central5104 (B)21L272LD727/19501
New York Central5006-500921L288-21L291LD723/19504
New York Central5010-501321L292-21L295LD724/19504
New York Central5014-501521L296-21L297LD725/19502
New York Central501621L298LD726/19501
New York Central501721L299LD727/19501

CPA20-5 (FM)

Owner Road Number Construction Number Contract Number Completion Date Quantity
Long Island Rail Road2001-200421L331-21L334LD866/19504
Long Island Rail Road2005-200621L335-21L336LD867/19502
Long Island Rail Road200721L337LD877/19501
Long Island Rail Road200821L338LD878/19501

CPA24-5 (FM)

Owner Road Number Construction Number Contract Number Completion Date Quantity
Long Island Rail Road2401-240421L497-21L500LD1149/19514
New Haven792-79921L533-21L540LD1241/19528
New York Central4500-450721L552-21L559LD1253/19528

* Became New Haven #790-791.


  • Kirkland, John F. Diesel Builders, The:  Fairbanks-Morse And Lima-Hamilton. Glendale: Interurban Press, 1985.

  • Pinkepank, Jerry A. Diesel Spotter's Guide.  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1967.

  • Schafer, Mike. Vintage Diesel Locomotives. Osceola: MBI Publishing, 1998.

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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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!