New York Central No. 6600 Fairbanks Morse Model CFA 16-4 Cab Unit at East St. Louis, Illinois, July 5, 1961. Photo by R.R. Wallin. Click to enlarge.

(Audio Visual Designs, Earlton, New York, via W. Lenheim Collection)



The Consolidation Line was a series of diesel-electric railway locomotive designs produced by Fairbanks-Morse and its Canadian licensee, the Canadian Locomotive Company. Railfans have dubbed these locomotives “C-liners”, however F-M referred to the models collectively as the C-Line. A combined total of 165 units (123 cab-equipped lead A units and 42 cabless booster B units) were produced by F-M and the CLC between 1950 and 1955.


Genesis of the C-liner

Main article: Fairbanks-Morse
Since 1932, Fairbanks-Morse had specialized in the manufacture of opposed piston diesel engines for United States Naval vessels. Not long after, the company produced a 300 hp (220 kW) 5 by 6 inches (127 mm × 152 mm) engine that saw limited use in railcar applications on the B&O, Milwaukee Road, and a few other lines. Additionally, two of the 5 × 6s were placed in an experimental center cab switcher locomotive under development by the Reading Railroad (road No. 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 Beloit, Wisconsin manufacturing facility.

In 1939, the SLCC placed F-M 800 hp (600 kW) 8 by 10 inches (203 mm × 254 mm) engines in six streamlined railcars, which are known today as the FM OP800. In 1944, F-M began production of its own 1,000-horsepower (0.75 MW) yard switcher, the H-10-44. Milwaukee Road No. 760 (originally delivered as No. 1802), the first Fairbanks-Morse locomotive constructed in their own plant, is now preserved and on display at the Illinois Railway Museum. F-M had yet to produce a railroad road locomotive, or any locomotive prior to the 1944 switcher which was built several years after its conception; all other locomotive producers, except for General Motors (and a few others who manufactured small industrial locomotives), were forced by the government to continue to build reciprocating steam locomotives during much of the war. All national locomotive production was subject to strict wartime restrictions regarding the number and type of railroad-related products they could manufacture (the U.S. Government in the name of the Navy commandeered all F-M O-P production well into 1944). Following World War II, North American railways began phasing out their aging steam locomotives and sought to replace them with state-of-the-art diesel locomotives at an ever-increasing rate due to the unfavorable economics of steam propulsion. Fairbanks-Morse, along with its competing firms, sought to capitalize on this new market opportunity.

In December 1945 F-M produced its first streamlined, cab/carbody dual service diesel locomotive as direct competition to such models as the ALCO FA and PA and EMD FT and E-unit. Assembly of the 2,000 horsepower (1.49 MW) unit, which was mounted on an A1A-A1A wheelset, was subcontracted out to General Electric due to 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, as a total of 82 cab and 28 booster units was sold through 1949, when production was ended. The Erie-Built program faced several problems, including a nine-month strike in Beloit near the start of production, the cost of outsourcing much of the Erie-Built's design and production to GE, and several high-cost components including two types of unique truck and secondary electrical and cooling systems.

F-M wanted to produce a carbody successor to the Erie-Built which could be manufactured in-house, and this required a new ground-up design and expansion of the locomotive shop at Beloit. Because of the design parameters laid down for the new locomotives, only the O-P engine, the traction motors, and a few accessories could be carried over from F-M's hood locomotives. The resulting Consolidation Line (known in-house as the C-Line) debuted in January 1950.

C-liners took many of their design cues from the Erie-builts, using a carbody that was 56 ft 3 in (17.15 m) long. This was 8 ft (2.4 m) shorter than the Erie-Built, yet had room for a 12-cylinder OP engine (as opposed to the Erie-built's 10-cylinder engine) and a 4,500-lb-per-hour steam generator. The C-Line was offered with 8-cylinder 1,600 hp (1.19 MW), 10-cylinder 2,000 hp (1.49 MW), and 12-cylinder 2,400 hp (1,800 kW) versions of F-M's 38D8-1/8 opposed-piston diesel prime movers. New two-axle trucks with a distinctive curved equalizing bar were developed, which became standard in other F-M locomotives.


MILW 26A (Fairbanks Morse C Liner, a CFA16-4) and 462 (RS3) at Madison, WI in April 1965. Click to enlarge. (Photo by Roger Puta, courtesy Marty Bernard, railfan 44, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


MILW 28A (Fairbanks Morse C Liner, a CFA16-4) at Bensenville, IL Yard on September 10, 1967. Click to enlarge. (Photo by Roger Puta, courtesy Marty Bernard, railfan 44, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

C-line models

The model designation followed the format of C (for Consolidation), F or P (Passenger or Freight), A or B (cab or cabless), two digits for horsepower, and one digit for the number of axles, so that CPA-24-5 was a 5-axle 2,400-hp passenger unit with a cab while CFB-16-4 would be a 4-axle, 1600-hp freight booster. Four-axle units used a B-B wheel arrangement, while a B-A1A wheel arrangement (three-axle rear truck with a center idler axle) was used on passenger units where the weight of the steam generator and feedwater tanks would cause the axle load to exceed 66,000 lb.

The C-Line was intended to consist of seven models, with A and B (cab and cabless) versions of each: Four-axle freight units with 1600, 2000 or 2400 horsepower, four-axle passenger with the 1600-hp engine, and five-axle passenger units with all three engines. However, several proposed models, including the CFA-24-4, CFB-24-4, CPB-20-5 and CPB-24-5 received no orders, and 1600-hp passenger units (in both 4- and 5-axle configurations) were only built by CLC.

CPx-16-4 models had steam generators of 1,600 to 2,800 lb/hr capacity and feedwater tanks of 1,000 to 1,050 gallons, while five-axle passenger models had steam generators rated at 1,600 to 4,500 lb/hr and feedwater capacity of 1,600 to 1,800 gallons, which could be increased to 1,850 gallons on CPx-24-5 models. Most C-liners were fitted out with main electrical generators manufactured by Westinghouse Electric. C-Liners were also built by CLC in Kingston, Ontario, and the last C-liners built by CLC for Canadian National Railways (CPA-16-5 Nos. 6700–6705 and CPB-16-5 Nos. 6800–6805) had General Electric equipment and lacked dynamic brakes.


Failure in the marketplace

Orders for the 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. Orders to the Canadian Locomotive Company were also forthcoming in Canada from the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railways. However, accounts of mechanical unreliability and poor technical support soon began to emerge. The Westinghouse generators in the 2,400 hp (1,800 kW) C-Line locomotives were prone to flashing over when wheelslip occurred at high speeds (such as on wet rails), and the OP prime movers initially suffered from relatively poor piston life and proved difficult to maintain. Engine reliability and maintenance problems led New York Central to repower all of its 2,000 and 2,400 hp C-Line locomotives (as well as several of its Erie-Builts) with EMD 567 engines in 1955-56, when the locomotives were between 3 and 6 years old. Moreover, railroads were quickly moving away from cab unit designs, and standardizing on road-switcher designs, as offered by the competition in the form of the EMD GP7 or the Alco RS-3 and even the Baldwin DRS-4-4-1500.

Robert Aldag Jr., who would eventually head up F-M's locomotive division, acknowledged that while the C-Line eliminated the high production costs of the Erie-Built, it failed in the marketplace due to its late entry, which he estimated was five years too late to take advantage of the sales boom due to dieselization in the US.

By 1952, orders had dried up in the United States, with a total production run of only 99 units. The units proved relatively more popular in Canada, particularly with the CPR, and orders continued there until 1955. Several variants were only ever produced by the Canadian Locomotive Company, and Canadian roads accepted a total of 66 units. However, Westinghouse had announced in 1953 that it was leaving the locomotive equipment market, in part because of the generator reliability issues in the F-M units. This development made continuing production of the C-liners impractical without a redesign, and since marketplace acceptance was already marginal, the decision was made to end production.

With the Train Master series, F-M continued production of their own road-switcher designs, but these also ultimately proved unsuccessful in the marketplace and Fairbanks-Morse departed the locomotive market.


Units produced by Fairbanks-Morse (1950–1953)

Freight units

CFA-16-4 (cabs) and CFB-16-4 (cabless boosters)

Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (“Milwaukee Road”)
A units Quantity: 12
B units Quantity: 6
A units Road numbers: 23A,C–28A,C
B units Road numbers: 23B–28B

New York Central Railroad
A units Quantity: 8
B units Quantity: 4
A units Road numbers: 6600–6607
B units Road numbers: 6900–6903
Notes: Delivered 2-3/1952, retired 9/1966

Pennsylvania Railroad
A units Quantity: 16
B units Quantity: 8
A units Road numbers: 9448A–9455A, 9492A–9499A
B units Road numbers: 9448B–9454B, 9492B, 9498B
Notes: (all even nos. only)


A units Quantity: 36

B units Quantity: 18

CFA-20-4 (cabs) and CFB-20-4 (cabless boosters)

New York Central Railroad
A units Quantity: 12
B units Quantity: 3
A units Road numbers: 5006–5017
B units Road numbers: 5102–5104
Notes: 5006, 5010, 5013, 5014 re-powered with 1,500 hp (1.12 MW) EMD 567C engines in 1955, remainder re-powered with 1,750 hp (1.30 MW) EMD 567C engines in 1956. All later scrapped.

Passenger units

CPA-20-5 (cabs)

Long Island Rail Road
A units Quantity: 8
A units Road numbers: 2001–2008

CPA-24-5 (cabs)

Fairbanks-Morse (demonstrator units)
A units Quantity: 2
A units Road numbers: 4801–4802
Notes: to New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad 790–791

Long Island Rail Road
A units Quantity: 4
A units Road numbers: 2401–2404

New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad
A units Quantity: 8
A units Road numbers: 792–799

New York Central Railroad
A units Quantity: 8
A units Road numbers: 4500–4507
Notes: Re-powered with EMD 16-567C engines 1955-56, all retired 10/66 and sold for scrap 1/67.


Total: 22


Models for the Hobbyist

Life-Like (and later Walthers) produced plastic A- and B-unit models of the four-axle freight C-Line locomotives in HO scale (Proto 1000 series) and N scale (Proto series). Because the C-Line units had identical car bodies, these models are correct for CFA-16-4, CFB-16-4, CFA-20-4 and CFB-20-4 locomotives. They are no longer in production.

Tru-Line Trains made 4- and 5-axle C-Liners in HO and N scale. The site announced that they were returning to production, but no date was given. On August 24, 2020, Atlas announced that they had acquired some Tru-Line Trains molds including the HO scale C-Line model.

Atlas Model Railroad made plastic models of the five-axle passenger C-Liner between 1967 and approximately 1969.

Rivarossi produced plastic four-axle C-Liner A- and B-units between 1954 and 1982. This model was later sold under the AHM brand.

Lionel announced 0 gauge versions of the CPA units (ex. MTH Tooling) in their 2021 Volume 2 catalog, pages 30-33. Dealer Trainworld announced custom versions for the Long Island Rail Road, clad in other LI liveries than offered in the catalog.



Type and origin
Power type: Diesel-electric
Builder: Fairbanks Morse (USA), Canadian Locomotive Company (Canada)
Build dates: September 1950-February 1952 (CFA/B-16-4) March-July 1950 (CFA/B-20-4) June-August 1950 (CPA-20-5) April 1951-March 1952 (CPA-24-5) May 1951-May 1954 (CPA/B-16-4) December 1954-February 1955 (CPA/B-16-5)
Total produced: 99 (USA), 66 (Canada)
​• AAR B-B or B-A1A
Gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length: 56 ft 3 in (17.15 m)
Prime: mover 38D-8-1/8
Engine type: Two-stroke opposed piston diesel
Generator: Westinghouse 497B (1600 hp models), Westinghouse 498A (2000 and 2400 hp models)
Traction motors: Westinghouse 370DE (4)
Cylinders: 8, 10, or 12
Cylinder size: 8.125 by 10 inches (206 mm × 254 mm)
Performance figures
Power output: 1,600 hp (1.19 MW), 2,000 hp (1.49 MW), or 2,400 hp (1,800 kW)
Disposition: One A unit and Two B units built by The Canadian Locomotive Company are preserved. The remainder of those, as well as all of the Fairbanks Morse built units scrapped.


See Also:

F-M Diesel-Electric Locomotives

Canadian Locomotive Company (coming soon)