Every Kid’s Dream: Fairmont Speeder

042716 Barn Finds - 19xx Fairmont Speeder - 6

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

In keeping with the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles theme here at Barn Finds, here is a nice Fairmont Speeder for your consideration. It’s listed on eBay with a price of $2,000 and it’s located in Fredericton New Brunswick, Canada; a little over an hour Northeast of the Maine border. Unless you’re in the Northeast portion of the US or Southeast portion of Canada you’ll have to plan on possibly some sizable shipping costs.

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If you were raised in almost any country in the world, which there is a fairly good chance of if you’re from the planet earth, you have probably fantasized about setting off down a lonesome railroad track with one of these vehicles at some point in your life. I know that I have more than once, and not just as a kid, but as a rational, reasonable, thinking, income-producing, job-creating adult.

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Fred Mahlman Sr. worked as a railroad section hand in the early-1900s in southern Minnesota and at the end of his long days he would have to hand-pump the rail car back to the shop in Fairmont, Minnesota. He knew there had to be a better way, especially with all of the motorized vehicles puttering around. After a few experiments with using a small engine manufactured by the Fairmont Machine Company they found a system that worked. The orders were coming in so quickly that Fred turned them over to Frank Wade and his Fairmont Machine Co., and thus Fairmont Railway Motors, Inc. was founded in 1909.

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The seller says that they just “had it started and it sounds good. It will require a battery but other than that it is in really good condition.” There is obviously no way to just put this on a set of RR tracks and start driving it so it has a very limited appeal. But, hey, most of the vehicles that I post about have a very limited appeal!

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The seller doesn’t mention what model number this is, and Fairmont Railway Motors has a Standard, Advanced and Master Series. I can guess that this is a “light inspection” category name because it’s for 1 or 2 men (there weren’t women railroad workers then). It would sure be fun to ride in this thing, although I don’t know where a person would do that.

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The controls are relatively straightforward, as far as driving a train goes.. It looks like the “lights” switch is missing and there’s a fuse laying by the starter/ignition, but it doesn’t look like an advanced degree is needed to operate one of these machines. The hard part, of course, is finding a private track in which to cut loose and have your fun without running head-on into an oil train from North Dakota or something. Have you ever fantasized about riding the rails, either as a kid or even as an adult? I know that I have.

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Comments

  1. Liam H

    There are miles and miles of abandoned right of way in America and there are groups of people who ride them every weekend

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  2. Milt

    I remember reading about a U.S. Club of “Rail Car Collectors” who actually tour on many of the little used or abandoned rails throughout the U.S. It wouldn’t take a lot of internet research to locate this group. Sounds like a fun way to see the USA.

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  3. Vegaman Dan

    It is a model M19 with Onan engine and all weather doors normally only found on Canadian and Alaska rail systems. Looks to be a late 80’s model. It is a desirable and reliable model that would be welcome at any speeder run. It would need to be inspected and certified by NARCOA (North American Rail Car Operators of America)

    Today these are replaced by hirailer pickup trucks, which ironically derail easier than these rigs. Light enough, the aluminum handles you see on the ends are long handles you slide out and then lift, letting you pick up one end and turn it around moving it like a wheel barrow.

    You’re right, you can just throw this on any tracks and ride, even abandoned ones. It used to be just a felony, but now it falls under Homeland Security as a potential terrorist activity. They really take it seriously and with good reason. These utility vehicles weigh 800-1200 pounds and the steel wheels are insulated, meaning they won’t trip the block detection signals or grade crossing. A potential derailment if a train comes across one on the rails.

    I have a 1972 model from British Columbia and it was a blast to take out on club speeder events. Even 39 feet on a curve. You snap sideways at the rail joint. My old rig had a hit and miss engine, cloth belt and hand crank for a starter.

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  4. JW

    I’ll bet it’s pretty noisy riding in that can all day. I think they mostly use pickups now with rail wheels that drop down from the under carriage.

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  5. Rick

    Huh… never heard of these. Weird, but useful little contraptions. Swap a set of auto rims and tires and street rod it…

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    • That Guy

      You’d also need to add a steering mechanism. These don’t have one. No need – you go where the rails go, whether you want to or not!

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  6. Richard Lewis

    We went on one of the speeder club outings and it was amazing. You will see scenery that is not visible by any other means. They will arrange for track usage on unused or little used rails and do out and back runs. People will trailer in their speeder and then unload it onto the rails and once everyone is ready they will all set off in a caravan on the rails. It was amazing!

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    • Puhnto

      Now that is definitely very cool.

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  7. Howard A Member

    Well, to be perfectly honest, I can’t ever remember dreaming about this, although, I have thought of taking the tires off a motorcycle and riding a rail on the rims. I can see it now, me and Scotty riding a rail, when Scotty sez to me, “do you hear something”? Oh oh, train coming up fast behind, move this thing Scotty, I can’t, it’s got an Onan motor!!!!!! Or worse, “is that a train coming at us? I thought you said these tracks were abandoned!!!”

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  8. Coventry Cat

    I saw a club here in NH on the rails one day, looked like a lot of fun.

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  9. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty G Staff

    Thanks for all of the great info on this, folks!
    Barn Finds has the most knowledgeable fans out there!

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  10. VetteDude

    So, I was thinking, is there anything that hasn’t been collected, clubbed, and grinned to death! Need to do a Google: is there a Porta-A-Can Collectors club?
    This could get out of hand real fast!!!

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  11. Tony Koz

    One day I took the family on a train ride to get pumpkins, the problem is the train wouldn’t run so we just loitered around looking at all of the old trains. One of the engineers who was supposed to drive the train offered to take us for a ride on his personal train. Of course we accepted. He roles the garage door up and pulls his train out onto the tracks, like a wheel barrel. It has two open benches on the sides and a single cylinder Diesel engine. He rolled the flywheel over and turned on the fuel. I will never forget that ride, mostly the part when we went over a tall bridge with no guard rails, or seat belts, or sides for that matter. My young children will also never forget.
    Anyway I want this, and I’m sure that I can find a place to run it.

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  12. Duff6

    Vegaman Dan probably just forgot to mention that the North American Railcar Operators Association has a website, NARCOA.org. There were many different models of these produced and they are regularly for sale along with much other railroad memorabilia. The website has a list of regional clubs that you can join to participate and a wealth of information about troubleshooting, pictures of past tours, schedules of future tours and a ton of really knowledgeable folks to answer questions. WOOHOO!! Ride The Rails!!

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  13. Williewonks

    In the early ’80’s my best friend and I were sophomores and recently became licensed drivers. My friend beat me to the punch and bought his first vehicle, a 1953 Chevy 3/4 ton farm truck w/ a 216, a 4 spd, and a wooden flatbed he built himself. I don’t know where he heard it, but told me about a rumor that claimed Chev pickups of that era were the perfect width and would sit perfectly atop the rails of a train track. As luck would have it, the 45 or so miles of track between the paper mill in my hometown and it’s sister mill an hour away by auto, was no longer used and hadn’t seen a train in years. The following weekend we decided to test the rumor and after carefully following the steps outlined by the teller of the rumor, were amazed that not only did it fit on the tracks, but if you let some air out of the tires, get it going and into second, then turn up the idle, it would follow the tracks and drive itself! It even stayed on track when crossing roads with the rails recessed into the pavement. For two summers he and I did this, fine tuning our trips with addition of a radio, ice chest full of our favorite beverage, and by screwing aluminum lawn chairs to the flatbed where we sat and took in the scenic beauty of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State from a perspective few had seen. I’ll never forget how far away from home it felt and how quiet it was even though the line paralleled a highway I’d been down a hundred times. I fondly remember the summer sun, the smell of the creosote on the ties, the stories and laughter my friend and I shared, how invincible we felt not having to hide while sipping on the ice-cold brew right out in the open! I also recall laughing to tears when at the end of one of the 3+ hour treks, we started back home on the highway but had forgot to stop and air the tires back up…probably should have stopped to take a little snooze before driving home. The tracks have long been pulled up, and most of the line is private property or part of the Memorial Trail that follows the path, but forever I will remember the miles and hours spent riding the rails on the back of a rusty ’53 Chev farm truck.

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    • Williewonks

      Here is the only pic I have of that truck. This would have been taken during one of the summers mentioned above as he only owned the truck about 2 years. That’s me in the middle, my best friend the owner/mechanic/conductor/engineer on the left, and my cousin on the right that although never rode the rails with us enjoyed some of the many great adventures we shared behind the windshield of this old pick-up.

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    • John H

      Thanks for sharing your memories! That sounds like it would have been a great weekend activity.

      When we bought our property in 1980 there was still a rail line that ran about 25 miles north to the coal breakers. There was just one train a week — Saturday morning — and the rest of the time would have been great to have a suitable pickup or a little speeder like this.

      The railroad tracks were taken up in the late ’80s or early ’90s and the plan is to eventually add it to the Rails to Trails in the county.

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  14. Jim

    That’s an ex-CN Fairmont MT-19. Kind of stupid that the guy added a CPR sticker–ruins the authenticity.

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  15. VetteDude

    Man, that is every boy’s dream come true!!!

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  16. Dave3056

    I have checked this site out for a couple of years as I am a gearhead. Also I have checked speeder sites out as well. When I saw this post on barnfinds I kept track of the eBay listing. Now my wife and I are heading to pick up this nice speeder. There are a few speeders and club in our area in northern New Jersey. Will keep all informed.

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Good for you Dave! Please keep us updated.

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  17. Bill McCoskey

    Back about 25 years ago, Western Maryland Railroad allowed speeder groups to use an abandoned line in the Frederick area, and it was great fun running these on the rails, now long gone.

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  18. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty G Staff

    Dave3056, that is fantastic news! Yes, please let us know how it goes, from the border crossing to the whole transaction and trip home; how exciting! Congratulations, and thanks for being a Barn Finds fan!

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  19. Harold Wood

    Well When I was in high school, we pretty much knew the Train schedule on the tracks that ran through our town and a bunch of us guys would put an old Elcamino on the tracks just outside of town at a railroad crossing then let a little air out of the tires so that they kinda held centered on the tracks then put it on autopilot after everyone got loaded up in the back with a case of beer and ride through several little towns down the line then turn it around at other crossing several towns away and head back where we started from. Never got caught out of all those times we did this.

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