FM "H20-44" Locomotives

Last revised: March 6, 2022

By: Adam Burns

The H20-44 was the most powerful switcher Fairbanks-Morse cataloged.  It was also powerful true switcher ever built at 2,000 horsepower.

In fact, the locomotive was so powerful that John Kirkland notes in his book, "The Diesel Builders: Fairbanks-Morse And Lima Hamilton," all of its 2,000 horses could not be used in a true switching capacity.

The only way to do so was by using the locomotive in a transfer or road-switcher capacity were it was operating in main line service.

While the H20-44 sold better than other FM models, overall its sale were only lukewarm. Few Fairbanks-Morse diesel locomotives were ever preserved but thankfully, three H20-44's were saved and are on display at various museums around the country.

Union Pacific H20-44 #1366 (built as #DS-1369) is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union.

H20-44 History And Background

The H20-44 debuted in August, 1947 when it was featured at the AAR Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey alongside H15-44 #1500 and a pair of Erie-Built 'A' units.

FM was in such a rush to finish the H20-44 demonstrator, #2000, that paint crews had to finish the job on site!

The locomotive used the builder's standard 2-cycle 38D8 1/8 O-P prime mover (10 cylinders).

Additionally, it featured swing bolster, drop-side equalizer trucks with all internal electrical components outsourced from Westinghouse.

Aside from the high horsepower rating, the H20-44 featured a tractive effort rating of 42,800 pounds (at 14.7 mph) with 63:15 gearing.  No other gearing was optional on this unit.

At 51 feet in length it was somewhat shorter than either of FM's lightweight road-switcher models, the H15-44 and H16-44.

As was the case with most of FM's diesel locomotive models the company hired famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy to give the H20-44 fine lines and exterior features.

Finding such design features somewhat frivolous and doing little to boost sales, FM scrapped Loewy's recommendations in the model's latter years of production to save on construction costs.

An illustration of Fairbanks-Morse's opposed-piston prime mover.

In any event, Fairbanks-Morse apparently learned from the unsuccessful nature of the H20-44 and offered no future switcher-type models that included such a high horsepower rating.

Instead, in 1950 it released the H12-44 switcher that went on to become its most successful such design.

In regards to the model's classification system, it was more or less similar to what Baldwin used in its early diesel designs but was not quite as complicated in understanding.

For example, the H20-44's designation was as follows:

  • "H" stood for Hood unit

  • "20" was the horsepower rating

  • Each 4 meant four axles and four traction motors
Pennsylvania Railroad H20-44 #8917, the first in a fleet of 38 units the railroad purchased from FM. Paul Winters photo/Gary Morris collection.

When production had ended in March, 1954 the H20-44 had sold just 96 units to a handful of railroads. The Pennsylvania wound up with the most, 38 examples.

While FM locomotives were not the unreliable machines that is often portrayed in historical texts, the H20-44 was not an especially great design.

It was too powerful as as switcher and is why the H12-44 (at 1,200 horsepower) was much more suited for this role.  Interestingly, as a road or transfer switcher the H20-44 proved much more successful.

The small Akron, Canton & Youngstown of northern Ohio and nearby Pittsburgh & West Virginia, for instance, employed theirs in daily road assignments for many years.

H20-44 Data Sheet 

Entered Production8/1947 (Demonstrator #2000)
Years Produced8/1947 - 3/1954
Fairbanks-Morse ClassH20-44
Engine38D8 1/8, 10-cylinder Opposed-Piston
Engine BuilderFairbanks-Morse
Carbody StylingRaymond Loewy
Length (Inside Couplers)51'
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)14' 6"
Width10' 6"
Weight250,000 Lbs
Truck TypeGSC Swing Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer
Truck Wheelbase9' 6"
Wheel Size40"
Traction Motors370F (4), Westinghouse
Traction Generator474A, Westinghouse
Auxiliary GeneratorYG45A, Westinghouse
MU (Multiple-Unit)Yes
Gear Ratio63:15
Tractive Effort42,800 Lbs at 14.7 mph
Top Speed65 mph

H20-44 Production Roster

Owner Road Number Construction Number Contract Number Completion Date Quantity
Fairbanks Morse (Demo)2000*L1032LD438/19471
Union PacificDS1365L1031LD4310/19471
Union PacificDS1360-DS1364L1033-L1037LD398/19475
Pittsburgh & West Virginia50-51L1038-L1039LD4010/19472
Union PacificDS1367L1040LD4311/19471
Union PacificDS1368-DS1370L1041-L1043LD4312/19473
Akron, Canton & Youngstown500-502L1044-L1046LD421/19483
Akron, Canton & Youngstown503L1047LD422/19481
Indiana Harbor Belt (New York Central)7110-711420L18-20L22LD557/19485
Indiana Harbor Belt (New York Central)7100-710220L23-20L25LD447/19483
Indiana Harbor Belt (New York Central)7103-710420L26-20L27LD448/19482
Indiana Harbor Belt (New York Central)710520L28LD449/19481
Indiana Harbor Belt (New York Central)7106-710920L29-20L32LD4410/19484
Pittsburgh & West Virginia52-5320L33-20L34LD5810/19482
Indiana Harbor Belt (New York Central)7115-711620L35-20L36LD619/19482
Indiana Harbor Belt (New York Central)711720L49LD784/19481
Indiana Harbor Belt (New York Central)711820L50LD785/19481
Pittsburgh & West Virginia54-5520L51-20L52LD981/19512
Pittsburgh & West Virginia56-5820L53-20L55LD1021/19513
Pittsburgh & West Virginia5920L56LD982/19511
Akron, Canton & Youngstown50421L309LD1012/19511
Pittsburgh & West Virginia60-6521L630-21L635LD1055/19526
Pittsburgh & West Virginia66-7121L713-21L718LD1392/19536
Akron, Canton & Youngstown50521L832LD1623/19541

* Fairbanks-Morse demonstrator #2000 became Union Pacific #DS1366.  It was originally built for the AAR Convention held in Atlantic City, New Jersey in August, 1947.

A pair of Pennsylvania Railroad H20-44's sit in the dead line in Baltimore, Maryland on August 22, 1970. The locomotives were then owned by Ed Streigel, a scrap dealer who acquired most of his locomotives from the PRR, Reading, and Baltimore & Ohio. Roger Puta photo

When production had ended on the FM H20-44 in March 1954 it had sold to five different railroads:

  • Akron, Canton & Youngstown (6)

  • New York Central (19)

  • Pennsylvania (38)

  • Pittsburgh & West Virginia (22)

  • Union Pacific (10)

UP also went on to purchase FM's two pair of demonstrators, both of which were designated  #2000 giving the railroad a total of 12 units. 

Today, at least three FM H20-44s are preserved;

  • Union Pacific #DS-1366 at the San Diego Railway Museum

  • Union Pacific #DS-1369 at the Illinois Railway Museum

  • Akron, Canton & Youngstown #505 at the Center for Transportation & Commerce in Galveston, Texas (painted as UP #410)

Lastly, for more information about the FM H20-44 please refer to the above chart for a complete production roster.

  1. Home
  2.  ›
  3. Diesel Locomotives
  4.  ›
  5. H20-44

Recent Articles

  1. Cajon Pass (Railroad)

    Oct 04, 22 08:41 PM

    Cajon Pass was one of the Santa Fe's heralded engineering achievements, completed in 1885.

    Read More

  2. Colorado Scenic Train Rides

    Oct 04, 22 07:43 PM

    Colorado has a rich history with railroads related to its legendary mining trade. As such, there are several heritage excursions and museums found there today. Learn more about Colorado train rides an…

    Read More

  3. Fairbanks-Morse Locomotives

    Oct 04, 22 07:38 PM

    Fairbanks-Morse locomotives were rugged but also quite contrary in terms of maintenance due to their complicated opposed-piston prime mover. Their locomotives were built for only 14 years.

    Read More

  4. Alco "DL-109" Locomotives

    Oct 04, 22 07:27 PM

    While only marginally successful the Alco DL series was essentially the company's entry into the main line diesel locomotive market.

    Read More

  5. EMD "567" Engine

    Oct 04, 22 06:40 PM

    The Electro-Motive's model 567 diesel engine first released in 1938 was not only highly reliable but also spelled the end of steam as main line power.

    Read More

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

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

It is quite staggering and a must visit!