Founded 1823
Founder(s) Thaddeus Fairbanks
Headquarters Beloit, Wisconsin, USA
Industry Manufacturing
Products Agriculture machinery tractors, scales
Parent EnPro Industries
Fairbanks-Morse tractor of 1910 at Newby 09 - IMG 2177

A rare Fairbanks Morse tractor of 1910 at the 2009 Newby Hall Vintage Show

Fairbanks-Morse, is a historic American (and Canadian) industrial weighing scale manufacturer. It later diversified into pumps, engines and industrial supplies. One arm is now a diesel engine manufacturer located in Beloit, Wisconsin and has specialized in the manufacture of opposed piston diesel engines for United States Naval vessels and railroad locomotives since 1932. Fairbanks-Morse is currently owned by EnPro Industries, and now also manufactures a line of natural gas and dual-fuel powered engines and generators.

Fairbanks-Morse Pump is a separate company in business in Kansas City, Kansas, while Fairbanks Scales is a separate privately owned company based in Kansas City, Missouri.

Founding and early historyEdit

Fairbanks, Morse & Company had its beginning in 1823 when inventor Thaddeus Fairbanks began an ironworks in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, to manufacture two of his patented inventions, a cast iron plow (plough UK) and a heating stove. In 1829 he started in a hemp dressing business for which he built the machinery. Though unsuccessful in fabrication for fibre factories, another invention by Thaddeus, the platform scale, formed the basis for the great enterprise. That device was patented in June 1832, and a generation later, the E & T Fairbanks & Company was selling thousands of scales; first in the United States, later in Europe, South America and even Imperial China. Scales were integral to business as marine and railway shippers charged by weight. Fairbanks scales won 63 medals over the years in international competition. Fairbanks was the leading manufacturer in the US - and the best known the world over - until Henry Ford stole that crown.

In Wisconsin, L. Wheeler designed a durable windmill for pumping water, the "Eclipse Windmill." Wheeler set up shop in Beloit just after the US Civil War. Soon half a million windmills dotted the landscape on farms throughout the West and as far away as Australia. At about the same time, Fairbanks & Co employee Charles Hosmer Morse opened an office of Fairbanks & Co in Chicago, from which he expanded the company's territory of operation and widened its product line. Included in this, Morse brought Wheeler, and his Eclipse Windmill pumps, into business with the Fairbanks company. As a result, Morse later became a partner and the firm was subsequently renamed Fairbanks-Morse & Company by the closing decades of the nineteenth century. Headquartered in Chicago, all Canadian and American cities had branch dealerships of Fairbanks-Morse. Fairbanks first came to Montreal, Canada, in 1876 and later opened a factory there.

Market expansion into enginesEdit

In the late nineteenth century business expanded in the Western United States, as did the company's catalog. It grew to include typewriters, hand trucks, railway velocipedes, pumps, tractors and a variety of warehouse and bulk shipping tools. The company became an industrial supplier distributing complete "turn-key" systems: tools, plumbing, gauges, gaskets, parts, valves and pipe. Its 1910 catalogue was over 800 pages. The Company began producing oil and naptha engines in the 1890s (one-cylinder hot-tube engines). The Fairbanks-Morse gas engine was a success with farmers, and irrigation, electricity generation, and oilfield work also benefited from these engines. Small lighting plants built by the company were popular. Fairbanks-Morse powerplants evolved by burning kerosene in 1893, coal gas in 1905, then to semi-diesel engines in 1913 and to full diesel engines in 1924. In 1914 the company began production of the Model Z single cylinder engine in one, three and six horsepower sizes. The Z was soon made in sizes up to 20 horsepower (15 kW). Over a half million units were produced in the following 30 years. The model Z found favour with farmers, and the Model N was popular in stationary industrial applications. The Company also had brief forays into building automobiles, tractors, cranes, televisions, radios and refrigerators, but output was small in these fields.

After the expiration of Rudolf Diesel's American licence in 1912, Fairbanks entered the large engine business. The company's larger Model Y semi-diesel became a standard workhorse, and sugar, rice, timber, and mine mills used the engine. The model Y was available in sizes from one through six cylinders, or 10 to 200 horsepower (150 kW). The Y-VA engine was the first high compression, cold start, full diesel developed by Fairbanks-Morse without the acquisition of any foreign patent. This machine was developed in Beloit and introduced in 1924. The company expanded its line to the marine CO engine (Many 100 H.P. CO marine engines were used in the Philippine Islands to power ferry boats) and the mill model E, a modernized Y diesel. During WW1, a large order of 60 30 H.P. CO marine engines were installed in British decoy fishing ships to lure German submarines within range of their 6" naval guns. From this Fairbanks-Morse became a major engine manufacturer and developed plants for railway and marine applications. The development of the diesel locomotive, tug, and ship in the 1930s fostered the expansion of the company. Many Fairbanks-Morse engines were ordered by the US Navy in the Second World War.

Seagoing diesel enginesEdit

US Navy submarines in the Second World War used the Fairbanks-Morse Diesel units. Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines are widely used today in United States Naval vessels, such as the LSD-41 Whidbey Island Class and LPD-17 San Antonio Class Amphibious Assault Ships. FM diesel engines also provide power in the U.S. Coast Guard Hamilton-class cutters.

Railroad locomotivesEdit

Shortly after it won its first Navy contract, the company produced a 300 hp 5 x 6 engine that saw limited use in railcar applications on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, and a few other lines. Two of the 5 x 6s were placed in an experimental center-cab switcher locomotive being developed by the Reading Railroad (road #87, built in 1939 by the St. Louis Car Company, or SLCC, and scrapped in 1953). A 5 x 6 powered the plant switcher at F-M's plant.

In 1939 the SLCC placed F-M 800 hp 8 x 10 engines in six streamlined railcars, known as the FM OP800. In 1944 F-M began production of its own 1,000 hp (750 kW) yard switcher, the H-10-44. (originally delivered as #1802), the first Fairbanks-Morse locomotive constructed in their own plant, is now preserved and on display at the Illinois Railway Museum. F-M, like other locomotive producers, was subject to wartime restrictions regarding the number and type of railroad related products it could manufacture. After World War II, North American railways began phasing out their aging steam locomotives and sought to replace them with diesel locomotives. Fairbanks-Morse and its competitors sought to capitalize on this. The Virginian Railway was an early advocate of F-M power, buying this company's products rather than those of other manufacturers such as Electro-Motive Diesel or Baldwin Locomotive Works products.

In December 1945 F-M produced its first streamlined cab-equipped dual service diesel locomotive as direct competition to such models as the ALCO PA and EMD E-unit. Assembly of the 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) unit, which was mounted on a A1A-A1A wheelset, was subcontracted to General Electric because of a lack of space at F-M's Wisconsin plant. GE built the locomotives at its Erie, Pennsylvania facility, thereby giving rise to the name "Erie-built". F-M retained the services of renowned industrial designer Raymond Loewy to create a visually impressive carbody for the Erie-built. The line was only moderately successful. A total of 82 cab and 28 cabless booster units was sold through 1949, when production ended. The Erie-built's successor was manufactured in Beloit and designed from the ground up. The result was the Consolidated line, or "C-liner" (one of the company's best-known products), which debuted in January 1950.

Fairbanks Morse 4802 demonstrator

A builder's photo of FM Model CPA-24-5 demonstrator units #4802 (foreground) and #4801. The B-A1A configured units were eventually purchased by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad and assigned road #0790 & #0791.

Orders for C-liners were initially received from the New York Central, followed by the Long Island Rail Road, the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Milwaukee Road and the New Haven. F-M design locomotives were also produced under license in Canada by the Canadian Locomotive Company. Orders to the CLC were also forthcoming in Canada from the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railways. Accounts of mechanical unreliability and poor technical support began to emerge. It became apparent that the 2,400 h.p. Westinghouse generators were prone to failure, and the F-M prime movers suffered from short piston life and proved difficult to maintain. Moreover, railroads were quickly moving away from the cab unit type, and standardizing on road-switcher designs, as offered by the competition in the form of the EMD GP7 or the ALCO RS-3.

By 1952 orders had dried up in the United States and the production run was only 99 units, although they were more popular in Canada, particularly with the CP, and orders continued there until 1955. Several variants were only produced by the Canadian Locomotive Company, and Canadian roads received 66 units. Westinghouse had announced in 1953 that it was leaving the locomotive equipment market, partly due to the F-M generator problems. This made continuing production of the C-liners impractical without a redesign, and since marketplace acceptance was marginal, production was ended.

F-M continued to produce their road-switcher designs, including the Train Master series, but these met limited success in the marketplace. Financial problems resulting from a inter-family feud among the owners of F-M weakened the company, and this, combined with stiff competition from Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) products such as the F units, a declining market as the replacement of steam locomotives was at an end, and an expensive excursion into the development of a high-speed passenger train (P12-42), led F-M to exit the railway locomotive market. F-M sold its last locomotive in the US in 1958, and shipped its final unit to Mexico in 1963. The Canadian Locomotive plant at Kingston was closed after a lengthy labour strike in 1969.

Postwar Power ProductsEdit

Fairbanks-Morse continued to build diesel and gas engines, as it had been doing for the first half of the twentieth century. This is in addition to the pump and engine division, which produced Canadian Fairbanks-Morse branded products for farms, factories and mines.

Export offices were established in.Rio de Janerio and Buenos Aires;a factory was opened in Mexico. The model Z engines were built into the 1970s in Mexico. An Australian branch factory, similar to the Canadian Branch operation, was opened and remote sheep stations benefited from their products. It dated from 1902, when Cooper Sheep Shearing Machinery Ltd was set up in Sydney, and became an agent for Fairbanks-Morse in that Hemisphere.

The company sold and updated the Eclipse model of windpumps in North America until they became obsolete with widespread rural electrification in the 1940s. Low cost electricity from the grid eliminated the need for local power production by small and medium diesel plants. While many Fairbanks engines dutifully served into the late twentieth century, modernization, regional plant closures, and electricity were too much competition.

An inter-family feud for control of the company in 1956 weakened management: the sons of Charles Morse fought for ownership in the courts. Consequently, In the US, Fairbanks-Morse became part of the Whitney gun machining enterprise in 1958. The downhill slide continued for the next few decades, with assets being sold off, and branches of the company closed. Regional sales offices were closed, and the one-shop model no longer appealed to buyers in the new consumer age. Automakers, tractor makers and locomotive builders made inroads into Fairbanks-Morse's market share. Thus the company spiraled down, and was sold to other owners. The company was finally restructured in 1988, as F. Norden, a majority shareholder in the US scale franchise, bought back the Fairbanks Scale business and its assets in Vermont, Missouri and Mississippi.[citation (source) needed]


The building of engines resulted in the move into early Internal combustion engined tractor production. With the introduction of the Fairbanks-Morse 15-25, which was introduced in around 1910. This model was also built in Canada by the Canadian Fairbanks-Morse Co. The 15-25 hp tractor used a single-cylinder engine with low-tension ignition and a screen cooling system (the strange house shaped block on the front). The 15-25 was updated with the addition of mudguards, and was later described as a 15-30 model.

In 1912 a larger 30-60 hp model was added, which had a two-cylinder engine. This was only built for two years.

A 20-40 hp model was also built in Canada for a few years.

By 1915 Fairbanks-Morse tractor production had ceased, but the company still offered customers tractors that were built by other companies but sold under the Fair-Mor name: these were the 10-20 hp model built by the Reliable Tractor & Engine Co. of Portsmouth, Ohio, and a 12-25 hp model built by the Townsend Manufacturing Co. of Janesville, Wisconsin.


Fairbanks Morse cylinder head at Newby 09 - IMG 2184

The huge single cylinder engine head on the tractor

Fm10-209 001

1917 Fairbanks, Morse

Very few of these tractors survive today. An example recently sold for the astounding sum of $350,000 in America.[citation (source) needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. Steel wheels Fairbanks article
  • "Fairbanks-Morse 38D8 Diesel Engine". PSRM Diesel Locomotives. Retrieved on January 1 2006.
  • Pinkepank, Jerry A. (1973). The Second Diesel Spotter's Guide. Kalmbach Publishing Co., Milwaukee, WI. ISBN 0-89024-026-4. 
  • Wendel, C.H. (1993). Fairbanks Morse: 100 Years of Engine Technology (reprint). Stemgas Publishing Co., Lancaster, PA. 
  • Wendel, C.H. (1987). Power in the Past, Vol. 2; A History of Fairbanks-Morse and Co. (reprint). Stemgas Publishing Co., Lancaster, PA. 

External linksEdit

Smallwikipedialogo This page uses some content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Fairbanks-Morse. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons by Attribution License and/or GNU Free Documentation License. Please check page history for when the original article was copied to Wikia

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.