News & Reviews News Wire Minnesota museum restoring rare Fairbanks-Morse switcher

Minnesota museum restoring rare Fairbanks-Morse switcher

By Steve Glischinski | January 18, 2024

MN&S H-10-44 will be cosmetically restored

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Blue, silver, and orange diesel switch engine
Minnesota, Northfield & Southern No. 11, a Fairbanks-Morse H-10-44, is believed to be only one of three intact examples in existence. The Lake Superior Railroad Museum has begun cosmetically restoring the locomotive. No. 11 is seen here in Golden Valley, Minn., during the 1960s. Lake Superior Railroad Museum

DULUTH, Minn. – The Lake Superior Railroad Museum has begun work to cosmetically restore Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern Railway Fairbanks Morse H-10-44 switcher No. 11. The museums plans to restore the cab, engine compartment, and locomotive exterior. It will be repainted into the MN&S 1960s-era paint scheme which featured large MNS billboard-style lettering. Earlier this month the locomotive was moved into the museum’s restoration shop and crews began sanding and stripping to determine if any of the metalwork is needed.

Old diesel locomotive cab
The cosmetic restoration will include an overhaul of the locomotive’s cab. Two photos, Steve Glischinski

No. 11 was built in 1946 as Minnesota Western Railroad No. 51. Minnesota Western had a 115-mile line from Minneapolis to Wesota, Minn., which was operated for many years by Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern. In 1956 Minnesota Western changed ownership, and the locomotive became MN&S No. 11. It worked in switching service for the short line, primarily in the western suburbs of Minneapolis. In 1976, it was sold to Hallett Dock Co., which used it to switch cars at the company’s dock in West Duluth, Minn. retaining its number 11. The only change Hallett made was the addition of a ladder toward the front of the locomotive; this will be removed during restoration.

Green diesel locomotive with hopper cars
In 1976, No. 11 was sold to the Hallett Dock Co., which used the locomotive to switch its West Duluth, Minn., facility, The FM H-10-44 pulls a cut of hoppers on July 30, 1984.

Hallett donated No. 11 to the museum on Feb. 19, 2005. Because FM diesel engines were still widely used in marine service, when railroads retired their Fairbanks-Morse locomotives the engines were usually removed and resold for marine use. When No. 11 was donated it was still operational, although it has not been started up by the museum in many years. No. 11 is one of only a handful of intact Fairbanks-Morse locomotives preserved in the United States.

Diesels produced by FM were used in Navy submarines during WWII. Hoping to capitalize on the locomotive market as the switch was made from steam to diesels, in 1944 Fairbanks-Morse began production of a 1,000-hp yard switcher, the H-10-44. The company produced 197 locomotives of this type from 1944 to 1949. While several FM models proved reliable, they never caught on with the railroads. Fairbanks-Morse produced its last locomotives in 1963 for export to Mexico. Another former MN&S switcher, FM H-12-44 No. 10, is displayed as Chicago & North Western No. 10 minus its engine at Milton, Wis.

There is no timeline set for completion of the restoration. For more information or to in support of the project, please visit the museum’s website.

4 thoughts on “Minnesota museum restoring rare Fairbanks-Morse switcher

  1. Santa Fe 560 (H-12-44) has been restored at the Southern California Railway Museum (formerly Orange Empire Railway Museum) in Perris, California. It has been painted in the “Zebra Stripe” scheme.

  2. This museum is a must! I’d rank it alongside Sacramento and Strasburg as being among the best. During my visit a couple of years ago, I ran into the Executive Director of the museum mingling with the crowd on a Saturday.

    If you visit, be ready for the steep prices in the area. Duluth is not a cheap place to live. And, the tourist season is short. Even summers can be on the chilly side. I had to wear a light jacket in August. Bring one dollar bills with you to pay for parking. The machines can be choosy with one’s.

    The only criticism I have of the museum is not enough benches outside for us old folks to rest on while exploring the treasures.

    Final point… Save Ferris!

  3. Many, including the Navy, lauded the F-M opposed piston design for its degree of acceleration. One can recall early childhood trackside memories of F-M powered locals (Plymouth-Forest Junction) switching in locales like Kiel, Wisc.

  4. Neat! Glad to see they’re going to restore this historic Fairbanks Morse diesel.

    As it appears this locomotive has not run in a number of years, it might not be possible to get it back to actual “operational” status, but that would be really neat to see some day as well …

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