The FM H15-44 began production in August of 1947 utilizing the builder's ubiquitous two cycle 38D8 1/8 opposed piston prime mover, which could produce 1,500 horsepower. This diesel engine became the company's standard design it employed in nearly all of its locomotive. The H15-44 was quite similar to Electro-Motive's GP7 released a few years later; it was about the same length at 54
feet and offered the exact same horsepower. Additionally, tractive
effort was quite similar although there were some differences; while the GP7 offered more
starting effort (65,000 pounds compared to 60,000 pounds) the H15-44 employed more continuous effort (52,500 pounds compared to 40,000).
Fairbanks-Morse's Catalog Of Diesels
The Popular 1,000 Horsepower, H10-44
FM's Bestselling Diesel Model, The H12-44 Switcher
The Company's Most Successful Road-Switcher, The H16-44
The Compact, High-Horsepower H20-44 Road-Switcher
The Six-Axle H16-66, "Baby Train Master"
Too Far Ahead Of Its Time, The Powerful H24-66, "Train Master"
FM's Passenger Locomotive, The So-Called "Erie Builts"
FM's Freight Locomotive Cab Design: The Consolidated Line, "C-Liners"
Because Fairbanks Morse was not heavily involved with the railroad industry prior to releasing its diesel line the company had little knowledge on styling and overall design. To compensate for this lack of aesthetic ability FM hired famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy to mold the H15-44 into a pleasing carbody that offered crews good visibility and versatility. Loewy's recommendations were subtle, and while some were more cosmetic in nature than utilitarian in general they were effective in giving the locomotive a nice look with clean lines and a flush roof. In truth, the H15-44 (and all of FM's switchers and road switchers) carried an appearance similar to Baldwin's designs. FM's model classification system also followed Baldwin's to some extent although they were not quite as complex. For instance, in the case of the FM H15-44 the “H” stood for Hood unit, “15” was for 1,500 horsepower, and each 4 meant four axles and four traction motors.
In the end, though, FM sold only 35 units when the last was outshoppped
in June of 1949.
The railroads that went on to purchase the locomotive included the
Akron, Canton & Youngstown (1), Central of Georgia (5), Jersey
Central (13), Monon (2), Denver & Rio Grande Western (3), Kansas
City Southern (2), Rock Island (2), and Union Pacific (five).
Additionally, there were two demonstrators built both of which were
numbered 1500; one in 1948 and the other in 1950. Interestingly, despite the issues the Fairbanks Morse suffered with its
opposed-piston prime mover and railroads' frustration with it the succeeding H16-44 design proved to be one of the company's best selling models.
Fairbanks Morse H15-44 Production Roster
|Akron, Canton & Youngstown||200||1||1949|
|Central Of Georgia||101-105||5||1949|
|Central Railroad Of New Jersey (CNJ)||1501-1513||13||1949|
|Denver & Rio Grande Western||150-152||3||1948|
|Fairbanks Morse (Demo)||1500 (1st/2nd)||2||1948-1950|
|Kansas City Southern||40-41||2||1949|
While the H15-44 was only marginally successful from a sales
standpoint 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 due to a maintenance team that understood the model, despite taking a daily beating in freight service.
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