MP Fairmont Speeder - at the Coffeyville,
Kansas yard for a Spring 2002 motorcar meet - Craig Meador
Speeders & Inspection Cars
Motor Cars, Scooters & Pushcars
The romance of an old Gandy Dancer (a.k.a.
pumpcars, they were back-breaking to operate,
to say the laest), the simple push-car to the inventive push crane,
and a sweet little motorized Speeder, aka Motorcar, Putt-Putt, Scooter,
small, low rail vehicle with gasoline engine used to transport work
crews. These are also some of the best known rail equipment of all.
During the period
of early railway expansion in North America in the 1840's to 1860's,
the only track inspection and light transport veichle available was
the velocipede a.k.a a Pumpcar or Gandy Dancer. These early machines
were powered by a hand-cranking, pumping motion that transmitted power
to the wheels.
In 1911, the Fairmont
Gas Engine & Railway Motorcar Co. of Fairmont, Minnesota, began offering
a variety of gas-powered motorcars which would replace the Pumpcar,
and these became the basis for all motorcars built since.
Their ulimate fate
however is an all too-familiar one. In the 1980's the introduction of
the Hi-Rail, which utilized a commercial truck platform that could travel
on both track and roadways commonly known as Hi-Rail. The Hi-Rail could
carry more people and equipment which began to replace the motorcar.
By the 1990's, no major railroad or its subsidiary in North America
were using motorcars.
favored manufacturer of this railroad equipment was Fairmont...
who's small, simple yet important rail products have today captured
the hearts of many railfans who have gone on to purchase the relatively
inexpensive vehicles, to enjoy ands preserve this bit of MoPac history.
on the thumbnails to see a larger image
known as track cars or motorcars, a speeder is motorized and does not
have a hand pump mechanism. These cars were used by the railroad to transport
workmen and supplies for maintenance. They were also used by MofW Dept.
formen and supervisors to inspect the right of way. Today, they have been
replaced by Hi-railers and pickup trucks fitted with retractable flanged
Typically the car has a front windscreen, roof and rear bulkhead, the
sides being open (they may have side curtains). They were often equipped
for towing one or more trailers loaded with men and/or equipment. The
Fairmont Gas Engine and Railway Motor Car Co. was the most popular manufacturer
of these speeders, beginning in 1911. By 1949 Fairmont was offering 19
models of motorcars, most being available in 11 different gauges from
23" to 66".
Today Fairmont is the only major speeder manufacturer still in business.
After buying Tamper Inc. in 1991 it became Fairmont-Tamper, a world-wide
supplier of a wide range of track maintenance equipment.
There is an example of an open canopy Fairmont speeder (minus the engine,
circa 1972) and push car in the book "Missouri Pacific Lines in
Color" by Joe Collias on page 128.
C&EI 43 - at Warrensburg station. Note the Fairmont
Speeder on the MoW truck; 1970's - Mike Cafferata Photo
MP Fairmont Speeder - skims idley by at Dallas, Texas. MoPac speeders
came in a variety of paint schemes including yellow, orange and even some
with diagonal safety stripes. August 27, 1983 - Brian Ehni Photo
MP-C165 - a Fairmont MT-19 Speeder. With the exception of the
Western Pacific tin sign added to the front, this fine Fairmont-built
example looks much as it did the day it was shipped new to MoPac on Feb.
8, 1978; Lincoln, Nebraska, 6/29/96 (this speeder has since been painted
into WP livery) - Todd Greuter Photo
Stats on Missouri Pacific Speeder #C165
|Class - MT-19
||Series - 'A'
||Group - 2
||Car # - 244531
|Approx. Weight - 1000 lb
||Approx. Top Speed - 40 mph
|Shipped new - February 8, 1978 to the Missouri Pacific
c/o D. J. Bertel, Ch. Engr. - Mtnce North Little Rock, Arkansas
|Scheme - Entire car painted Omaha Orange
Original Equipment included:
76178E Aluminum windshield
76179 Aluminum Canopy Top
76183 Side & Rear Curtains
78377 Double Electric Windshield Wipers
97424 Light group
MP-C165 - The Fairmont speeder weighs 1000 lbs and could reach a
top speed of 40 mph. Privately owned by S. Jones, it's caught here parked
on BNSF tracks at Lincoln Station, Nebraska. 6/29/96 - Todd Greuter Photo
||Back view of MP-C165. - rear angle,
Lincoln, Nebraska 6/29/96 - Todd Greuter Photo
MP-C165 - another rear angle, Lincoln, Nebraska 6/29/96 - Todd
||MP-C165 - At the controls of the MT-19;
Lincoln, Nebraska 6/29/96. - Todd Greuter Photo
MP-C466 - a Fairmont MT-14m,
seen at a motorcar event on the Camas Prairie Railroad (formerly UP),
Lewiston, in north central Idaho in May 1999. Fittingly the speeder poses
in front of another piece of MoPac equipment. - Wayne Parsons photo,
as seen at Waynes excellent journal: Motorcars,
Inspection Cars and Speeders.
MP-C466 - This speeder is completely enclosed
with hinged doors. Its also now privately owned
by W. Parsons, wearing MP emblems to proclaim its heritage. - Wayne
Parsons photo, as seen at Wayne's excellent journal: Motorcars,
Inspection Cars and Speeders.
Fairmont Motor Car Types
M-19 two-cycle engine generating about 8 horsepower with a belt
drive. They may have a small water cooled radiator (steam condenser) prominently
located up front. Inspection Car, two-seater with springs. Various models
MT-19 Most common Fairmont motorcar. Two-seater. "T" for "two-speed"
and "19" is Fairmont's notation for a smaller car. Various models produced
M-14 It is water cooled and has a belt drive. Four-seater Light
Section Gang Car. Usually open with no sides and no springs. Various models
MT-14 Common larger car. The engine is an air-cooled, two-cylinder,
horizontally opposed Onan of 18-22 horsepower. "T" for "two-speed" and
"14" is Fairmont's notation for a larger car. Also has no springs. Various
models produced 1967?-1986 *
S-2 A large two-stroke, belt-drive motorcar. Standard Section
Car, bigger than an M-14. Various models produced 1923-1982.
A very large motorcar powered by a Ford 300 c.i. industrial engine. Heavy-Duty
Section Gang Car capable of carrying a whole work crew. Various models
* Many Fairmont cars have two "T" model cites. This reflects Fairmont's
practice of offering a two-speed axle version of some of their belt-driven
cars, then a separate T model with a transmission, and usually an ONAN
engine. Both types of cars carry the same model number.
(Sources include Grover Cleveland/The
Railroad Motorcar Page)
Inspection Car Some equipment is a bit harder to classify as these
old insection cars were just a tad fancier than your typical putt-putt.
Traveling in Style
Missouri Pacific Superintendant's Inspection car lettered MP C-1974 -
It is best probably described as a large speeder/small motor car. The
car had a 4-2-0 wheel arrangement, the larger rear wheels being the main
tractive set, complete with a cattle-catcher, headlight, airhorn, sunshade,
wipers, brackets for marker lights, a rear caboose-type end platform,
and even curtains. The body itself has a distinct trolley-type look to
it, decorated in an Eagle-like scheme (the colors seem to be lighter than
typical Eagle Blue and Gray) and a Buzzsaw emblem edged in black trim.
The whole car apparently is big enough to hold three rows of seats plus
the engineer's chair at the front.
This was probably built pre-WWII, with the Eagle colors added after 1940
when the heavyweight passenger cars were being repainted. By the 1950's
it would be replaced by inspection automobiles with retractable flanged-wheels.
2004 Calendar offered online includes a formal MPRR photo of this car
at the Grace Street roundhouse at Omaha, Nebraska.
Shades of the "Galloping Goose"
Another inspection car, MP C-700, is quite a bit less dressed up and looks
more like an old Model-T in appearance (and seems to be built by the same
company that manufactured the Rio Grande's Galloping Goose). With
two wheels in front and four mounted aft, the all-metal carbody-type construction
has a cowling over the front-mounted motor with built-in cow-catcher,
with headlights mounted here and above the "windshield" and
numberboards. It looks to be painted an all-over dark color (possibly
black) and apparently has seating in 3 rows. There is an open rear balcony
An Otto Perry photo of this car can be seen online at the Denver
doesn't always apply in every case. By it's very nature the equipment
used in maintenance work were "hand-me-downs," surplus from
mergers and out-dated/unfit for revenue-service cars. MoW equipment was
a hodge-podge assortment. Overall, MoW colors were safety orange and some
yellow, with yellow on newer equipment likely becoming less common by
the late 1970's.
The MoPac was a large system made up of many roads. Different areas on
the system may have had their own preferred colors as well. According
to Charlie Duckworth (who worked MPRR MoW in the 1970s) the specified
colors of MoW equipment as of 1974 on the Northern Kansas Div., including
the gang trucks and roadmaster pickups were MoPac's "Safety Orange"
or "Omaha Orange." But the speeder schemes were a bright yellow with black
wheels and black diagonal safety stripes, pushcars were also bright yellow.
Some track alignment equipment may have been orange, but the speeders,
at least in the early 70's, were always bright yellow.
This equipment has been around as long as the railroad and been
seen built in a variety of styles, they were easy for the railroad to
homebuild to any specifications they required. Early models were all wood,
with Fairmont turing out metal framed ones in more recent times. They
were mainly put to task around the company car shops to move heavy parts.
They are also well known for their use in MoW service, trailing behind
a speeder to transport replacement crossties, spikes and other equipment.
There is an example of both wood and all-metal push cars in use at the
Sedalia Shops in the book "Cabooses of the Missouri Pacific Lines"
by Jerry Michels on page 247.
||Push Cars - these Fairmont-built metal-framed
cars are at Union, Nebraska on 3/16/97. The MoPac preferred "Omaha
Orange" paint on most of it's smaller MofW equipment in later years.
There were exceptions, pushcars were seen in yellow paint or none at all.
- Todd Greuter Photo
| How Old is
Too Old? The oldest equipment owned by any railroad often ended up
in Mantainence work. Similarly, aging MoW equipment itself when it became
old or more obsolete, would trickle down from the mainline to the smaller
branchlines. Even as late as the 1960's, "Gandy dancers" a.k.a.
pumpcars - which were entirely man-powered and among the earliest MofW vehicles
used by railroads, dating back to the young days of Steam-power - could
be seen running the rails of MoPac's Lincoln-Union Branch in Nebraska.
Trailers and Equipment Move over Rube Goldberg, nothing got more
down-to-earth inventive then this class of machinery.
MoPac Speeder Derrick - built by Fairmont. Also known as a "Go-Devil",
these little cranes were used on many railroads; seen at Dallas, Texas;
8/28/83 - Brian Paul Ehni photo, used with permission.
MoPac trailer #3154 - looking for all the world like a mystery
machine, this is nothing more than a Weed Spray Trailer, seen on 1/1/65
at Algiers, LA. - photo: John C. La Rue, Jr. Collection, used with
permission. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for his list of r.r. photos for
Craig Meador, Brian Paul Ehni, Wayne Parsons, John C.
La Rue, Jr. Collection.