FM "Erie-Built" Locomotives

Last revised: March 6, 2022

By: Adam Burns

The Erie-Built's were Fairbanks Morse's first cab design it ever cataloged.  While largely designed as a passenger model, aimed at competing against Electro-Motive's successful E series, the Erie's were also offered with freight gearing.

In addition, their looks rivaled Alco's beautiful PA design as well as EMD's E series.  Fairbanks Morse worked incredibly hard to market a passenger model that could effectively hold its own against the leading manufacturers.

Incredibly, FM never really gave the locomotive a formal name; railfans coined the term "Erie Built" after FM elected to outsource manufacturing to General Electric at its Erie, Pennsylvania plant.

When the locomotives initially entered production in late 1945, FM did not have available capacity to build them.  In an effort to keep up with the competition, company officials elected to utilize General Electric, as GE was also supplying internal electrical equipment (traction motors, generators, etc.)

Fairbanks Morse did make several initial sales with the Erie-Built but overall failed to truly compete against either EMD or Alco.

In an ironic twist, both FM and American Locomotive cataloged passenger models which were quite aesthetically pleasing, featuring a long nose, sloped windshield, and clean streamlining. 

Unfortunately, neither could rival Electro-Motive's "E" series, which dominated the market until it was retired in the late 1950's.

Santa Fe's only A-B-A set of "Erie-Builts" is seen here in front of the beautiful station at San Diego, California, circa 1950. collection.

Erie-Built History And Background

Fairbanks Morse's cab models basically all carried a similar appearance, not unlike Alco's FA and PA.  FM introduced its cab line in an effort to compete against Electro-Motive's highly successful E and F series.

The first of these was known simply as the "Erie-Built" because the carbody was manufactured by General Electric at its Erie, Pennsylvania plant.

In 1950, however, the company introduced a formal line of passenger units known as the “Consolidated Line,” commonly referred today as C-Liners.  These later models were available in three different variations; 1,600, 2,000, and 2,400 horsepower.

The Erie-Builts began production in December of 1945; they featured a look somewhat similar to the PA with a long, graceful nose followed by a sweeping, streamlined body behind the cab. Overall, it was a very classy and elegant locomotive.

The Erie-Builts utilized A1A-A1A trucks and produced a hearty 2,000 horsepower, equipped with the builder's 2-cycle 38D8 1/8, 10-cylinder opposed-piston prime mover.

The locomotive's continuous tractive effort ranged from 26,200 to 41,000 pounds depending on the gear ratio chosen.  Aesthetically, some of the best remembered Erie-Builts were those constructed for the Milwaukee Road. 

Manufactured between December of 1945 and March of 1947 the locomotives powered the famous Olympian Hiawatha between Chicago and the Pacific Coast at Seattle.

They were clad in Milwaukee’s beautiful two-tone red/orange livery with chrome plating around the nose with Olympian Hiawatha included just under each side the cab. 

It was a very graceful, albeit brief look.   Surprisingly, the Erie-Builts sold relatively well (by Fairbanks Morse standards anyway) with 111 units outshopped by the time the builder had ceased construction in April of 1949.

An A-B-A set of Milwaukee Road's "Erie-Built" locomotives, which powered the original transcontinental "Olympian Hiawatha" (Chicago - Seattle), are seen here in Milwaukee during the late 1940s.

In all, seven Class Is purchased the diesel including the Santa Fe, Chicago & North Western, Milwaukee Road, New York Central, Kansas City Southern, Pennsylvania, and Union Pacific.

The Canadian roads never did bite on the design and as such no orders were taken through subsidiary Canadian Locomotive Works.  However, they did purchase a handful of C-Liners.

Erie-Built Data Sheet

Entered Production12/1945 (Fairbanks-Morse A-B-A Demonstrators*)
Years Produced12/1945 - 9/1949
Fairbanks-Morse ClassNone
Engine38D8 1/8, 10-cylinder Opposed-Piston
Engine BuilderFairbanks-Morse
Length (Inside Couplers)64' 10" (194' 6" In A-B-A Configuration)
Height (Top Of Rail To Top Of Cab)15' 1"
Width10' 6"
Weight (Passenger Units)328,000 Lbs
Weight (Freight Units)314,000 Lbs
Truck TypeGSC Swing Bolster, Drop Side Equalizer
Truck Wheelbase15' 5"
Wheel Size40" (42" Optional)
Steam Generator (Passenger Units Only)2,250 Lb/Hour, 1,170 Gallon Supply
Traction MotorsGE746 (4), GE
Traction GeneratorGT567, GE
Auxiliary GeneratorAM807, GE
MU (Multiple-Unit)Yes
Dynamic BrakesOptional
Gear Ratio (Freight)See Table Below
Tractive Effort (Freight)See Table Below
Top Speed (Freight)See Table Below
Gear Ratio (Passenger)See Table Below
Tractive Effort (Passenger)See Table Below
Top Speed (Passenger)See Table Below

* This A-B-A set became Union Pacific 50-M-1A, 50-M-3B, 50-M-2A.  They were soon renumbered as 981A, 983B, and 982A. 

Gearing Options (Freight Units)

Gear Ratio Wheel Diameter Maximum Speed Continuous Tractive Effort (Lbs) Continuous TE Rating Speed (MPH)

Gearing Options (Passenger Units)

Gear Ratio Wheel Diameter Maximum Speed Continuous Tractive Effort (Lbs) Continuous TE Rating Speed (MPH)

Erie-Built Production Roster (Passenger Units)

Owner Road Number Construction Number Contract Number Completion Date Quantity
Union Pacific50-M-1AL1060LD612/19451
Union Pacific50-M-2AL1061LD612/19451
Union Pacific50-M-3B (B)L1062LD612/19451
Milwaukee Road5AL1063LD810/19461
Milwaukee Road5B (B)L1064LD810/19461
Milwaukee Road5CL1065LD810/19461
Milwaukee Road6AL1066LD81/19471
Milwaukee Road6B (B)L1067LD81/19471
Milwaukee Road6CL1068LD81/19471
Milwaukee Road7AL1069LD81/19471
Milwaukee Road7B (B)L1070LD81/19471
Milwaukee Road7CL1071LD81/19471
Milwaukee Road8AL1072LD81/19471
Milwaukee Road8B (B)L1073LD81/19471
Milwaukee Road8CL1074LD81/19471
Milwaukee Road9AL1075LD83/19471
Milwaukee Road9B (B)L1076LD83/19471
Milwaukee Road9CL1077LD83/19471
Chicago & North Western (CStPM&O)6001-AL1090LD126/19471
Chicago & North Western (CStPM&O)6001-BL1092LD126/19471
Chicago & North Western (CStPM&O)6002-AL1093LD125/19471
Chicago & North Western (CStPM&O)6002-BL1095LD125/19471
Santa Fe90L1099LD95/19471
Santa Fe90A (B)L1100LD95/19471
Santa Fe90BL1101LD95/19471
Milwaukee Road22AL1102LD208/19471
Milwaukee Road22BL1104LD208/19471
Union Pacific984A-985AL1117-L118LD286/19472
Milwaukee Road21A, 21CL1119-L120LD208/19472
Union Pacific986B-987B (B)L1127-L1128LD2810/19472
Union Pacific704-706L1136-L1138LD343/19483
Union Pacific707L1139LD344/19481
Union Pacific706B (B)L1140LD344/19481
Union Pacific21B (B)L1157LD414/19481
New York Central4400-4403L1177-L1180LD473/19494
New York Central4404-4405L1181-L1182LD474/19492

Erie-Built Production Roster (Freight Units)

Owner Road Number Construction Number Contract Number Completion Date Quantity
Kansas City Southern (Louisiana & Arkansas)60AL1087LD1111/19461
Kansas City Southern (Louisiana & Arkansas)60B (B)L1088LD1111/19461
Kansas City Southern (Louisiana & Arkansas)61AL1089LD1111/19461
Kansas City Southern61B (B)L1091LD1111/19461
Kansas City Southern60CL1094LD161/19471
Kansas City Southern (Louisiana & Arkansas)61CL1096LD161/19471
Kansas City Southern (Louisiana & Arkansas)62C, 62AL1097-L1098LD226/19472
Pennsylvania9456B (B)L1103LD2911/19471
New York Central5000L1105LD1910/19471
Pennsylvania9458B (B)L1106LD2911/19471
New York Central5001L1107LD1910/19471
Pennsylvania9460B (B)L1109LD2911/19471
Pennsylvania9462B (B)L1112LD2911/19471
Pennsylvania9464B (B)L1115LD2912/19471
Pennsylvania9466B, 9468B (B)L1125-L1126LD2912/19472
Pennsylvania9470B (B)L1129LD2912/19471
Pennsylvania9476B (B)L1144LD357/19481
Kansas City Southern (Louisiana & Arkansas)62B (B)L1145LD494/19481
Pennsylvania9472B, 9474B (B)L1146-L1147LD356/19482
Pennsylvania9478B (B)L1158LD359/19481
New York Central5100L1159LD4612/19481
New York Central5101L1160LD461/19491
New York Central5002L1170LD4612/19481
New York Central5003L1174LD461/19491
New York Central5004-5005L1175-L1176LD462/19492

In this Union Pacific publicity photo an A-B-A set of "Erie Builts" have the eastbound "Pony Express" in Nevada's Rainbow Canyon south of Caliente during the mid-1950's.

The later C-Liners were a bit unorthodox as passenger locomotives with an odd B-A1A truck arrangement resulting in very few railroads purchasing it. 

The freight model, offered in a range of horsepower ratings, did a little better but in the end, FM gave up on the cab design altogether by 1953. 

Today, no Erie-Builts are known to survive.  Interestingly, a piece of this unique model lives on in Doyle McCormack's restored Alco PA #190.

The unit's trucks (designed by General Steel Castings) were salvaged for the restoration as they came from a scrapped Erie-Built, which had been converted for use by the Canadian Pacific in rail trains to lay continuous welded rail (CWR). Today, that PA is once again operational.

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