Putt-Putt: Fairmont M19 Speeder

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

Ethan, South Dakota is where this fantastic little Fairmont M19 Speeder is located. I don’t know if the tracks on the west side of town are able to be used for a test drive or not, but it would sure be fun to own one of these things. This speeder is listed on Craigslist with an asking price of $3,000. If the link goes away the photos can be found here. Thanks to Pat L. for tracking down (ah hem) this great little piece of railroad history!

I wrote about a similar Fairmont M19 Speeder in April of 2016 and a Barn Finds fan and reader actually bought that one! Maybe one of you will pick up this little gem so I don’t have to. I have no clue what I would do with this but it’s in such nice condition and it’s so small and easy to store. But, then there’s the part about actually being able to use it.

A few folks commented on the story from last year on how they would drive vehicles of some sort down railroad tracks. That certainly isn’t legal, probably isn’t recommended, and surely isn’t too safe. But, there are private tracks all over the world that Speeder Clubs have access to for using their personal RR cars like this one. There are some excellent tips on this website and you can keep going by clicking on the link at the bottom of each page. It really looks like a fun hobby.

Let’s check out the interior of this speeder. This “putt-putt” (no really, that’s one of the names that they’re known as) appears to be in really nice condition. It has a “Canadian weather cab” and it’s about as basic as it gets, although having that all-weather cab is really a luxury. They were mainly used for railroads in Canada and Alaska. Motorized speeders were really invented to help railroad track maintenance workers get to and from their area of work each day without having to pump the old style handcar for sometimes hours at a time, and they were never meant for comfortable, public transportation. The seller says that they have used this speeder on hundreds of miles of track, legally, and it really sounds like a fun hobby. Wait, I said that already.

The controls look fairly complicated but for anyone who has ever driven a Model T or flown a DC-9.. just kidding.. The lever closest to the bottom, the one with the bend in it, is the spark advance/retard. The next one up is the throttle; push it forward (to the left in this photo) for idle and pull it back (to the right in this photo) for a faster speed. The little black knob on the far left is the choke and mixture control. You pull it up to choke the engine when starting it and turn it clockwise or counterclockwise to make it leaner or richer. The silver knob on the bottom right is, I believe, the switch for the lights and the black one on the other side of the gauge is, I believe, the ignition switch. The large lever in the center, that probably should have a red handle on it, is the brake. The lever on the top is the belt take-up lever, or the transmission control. It activates a belt which sets the vehicle in motion.

The power behind this thing, or in front of it, actually, will shoot this speeder down the tracks at 30 mph, according to the seller. The Fairmont motor is similar to what some of you may have seen at an antique tractor or steam thresher show. You can see that it looks like a stationery engine mounted on two angle iron skids. They can be started by turning the wheels or by using a crank on the side, and some have been converted to use a starter. They really do have a classic putt-putt sound, as heard in this YouTube video. I think this would really be a fun hobby. Have I mentioned that before?

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Comments

  1. Thomas

    I love this site!

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    • dick kast

      I worked on building these at railway motors Fairmont mn, about1960s.

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      • 1100RT

        Any chance you worked with one of the guys there with the last name Chase?

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  2. 86 Vette Convertible

    That’s cute as heck. I’d love to have some track to run it on.

    I have a cousin that when I was a kid made a side car to use to go to town. They had RR tracks that ran on the back side of the farm, it was about 2-3 miles the nearest town. IIRC he used rubber tires with some type of backer to keep them on the rails. Used what I think was some old gocart parts along with a weedmower motor. I was maybe 9-10 at that time and from what I remember he made it to town a couple of times. It was relatively safe to use, there was maybe 1 or 2 trains a week that went by. I don’t think it held up that long, but it looked like fun when it took off.

    2+
  3. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    This is awesome, Scotty! Usually when I see a “Fairmont” I want to stuff a 5.0 Mustang motor in it – I wonder how that would work in this case. I love the conical K&N style air-filter on this one, though. That must be worth an extra 0.03 HP at least.

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    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Ha, thanks, Todd! Yeah, and that aerodynamic shape gives ‘er another 0.17 mph, too!

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      • John T

        Sure does look like a lot of fun!

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  4. Sam

    There was a speeder club that had an annual run the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It started in town where they would drop off Santa Claus at the Courthouse square, then continue their run up and back of 35 miles.

    There was quite a variety of speeders, maybe 30 including a few modern pickups with narrow wheels/tires and railroad drop axles.

    2+
  5. Dave Wright

    I bought and sold a similar one to this last year. There great groups of people that get together and run there speeders on weekend trips. They will get 30 or 40 that run mostly abandoned tracks, many times in areas inaccessible by roads. It is a great hobby, I have been involved with them for 30 years as well as other rail rolling stock like locomotives and passenger cars. This one sold a few months ago for 3,000. I had to sit on my hands not to buy it……it was on the east coast.

    6+
    • John T

      Many years ago back in the 1960’s, there was a whole fleet of these shiny silver coaches running the Boston Commuter Rail on a daily basis. These self propelled coaches were known as “Buddliners” and required constant attention due to severe reliability issues. They were eventually retired when the Commuter Rail started using diesel locomotives to pull the coaches. Some of these locomotives acquired in the 1970’s are actually still in service today serving as backups to the 40 MPI (Motive Power, Inc.) locomotives purchased brand new in 2014 for over five million ($5,200,000!) each that are breaking down constantly. All 40 of these disastrous lemons have required service under warranty to replace wheel bearings, engine components and turbochargers among other things. What a nightmare for the poor Boston commuter! Anyway getting back to the Buddliners, I understand that a few of these are currently being used as Tourist trains in Cape Cod. So for a trip down memory lane, check it out online (www.capetrain.com) and head over to the station in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

      2+
  6. leiniedude

    Boy Dave, think of the transportation costs for that! There was a yearly festival near me that had a couple of speeder cars on site. They would offer rides to anyone that wanted one. Unfortunately they removed the tracks to expand a bike trail. I still feel bad for those people, as there are a ton of bike trails around here. Also put a big damper on the festival. As a side note, I do not receive any emails anymore when I am subscribed to a post. Anyone else having similar problems? Thanks, Mike.

    2+
    • Dave Wright

      Yep……..that is what kept me sitting on my hands. Actually, Amtrack moves private cars pretty cheep, the problem is the inspection can cost ten grand or more.The car has to be certified for over 100 miles an hour as I remember. My friends used to pay 1.00 a mile to move there Pullman from Montana to Arizona every year. It may have gone up since then. I may buy a boxcar next month in the Reno area. They are moving those laid on there side on trucks these days. Overwidth is easier to deal with than over height.

      3+
      • Dave Wright

        I guess you are on the same list as I am……I don’t get follow up emails any more either.

        0
      • Sam

        Funny that they have to be certified for 100 mph.

        I don’t think I would trust an AmTrak over 30 mph.

        I read a job posting for AmTrak engineer trainees….no drivers licensce required. Sounds funny eventhough there is no relationship between having a driver’s licensce or being a train engineer.

        1+
  7. leiniedude

    Thanks Dave, I hope it’s not the S list.

    1+
    • Howard A Member

      Hi leiniedude, I can say, this site, for some reason, has more problems than any other site I visit. It’s still worth it, though. ( fact is, sometimes, when posting usually at night, it freezes up my computer, and have to shut down and start over)

      1+
  8. michael streuly

    Yeah i want one. How about an engine swap. Take out the one lunger and put in a suzuki busa motor.

    1+
    • Dave Wright

      You can’t put power in these…….there is very little traction with steel wheels on steel tracks. That is why there are severe limitations on the grade rail roads can handle. It is about slow and easy.

      6+
  9. Ben T. Spanner

    This thing corners like its on rails!

    8+
  10. gaspumpchas.

    I have one like this, and another M-9 2 man car smaller.Tricky to run but A lot of fun if you respect the dangerous aspect of the Railroads.We used to offer the hosting railroad a service such AS brush cutting,trash cleanup,and possibly light signal maintenance or painting. RR’s that are willing to let you ride are becoming few and far between, due to liability. This car looks like good buy at 3k.Mine is a ex- Boston AND maine M-19 that is unrestored and still a workhorse- not afraid to load with tools, track material, and gitter done. I still do some freelance Track inspection and consulting.

    5+
  11. Jack Quantrill

    Saw four of these speeders on the old Kaiser Eagle mountain abandoned railway ready to roll for miles,and miles!,

    2+
  12. KevinW

    Is it me, or does the cab, (which is pretty much the whole thing) look like an old, shrunken down Freightliner? Good thing(?) I’m not wealthy, I’d buy this in a minute!

    3+
  13. Old guy

    I ran one of these the exact same for a canadian railroad for over 20 years. I nearly froze to death in the winter in one of these. I was so happy when they got highrail truck.

    3+
    • Dave Wright

      Did yours have a reverse gear or was it nessisary to use the lifting handles to turn the car around? I think they were made both ways.

      0
  14. Rod444

    Well the purists will want to have me hung and quartered, but as soon as I saw that I thought “those wheels have got to be about the same size as an Austin Mini” therefore, with a little backyard engineering and whole lotta welding skill (which I lack) I bet that could be turned into a roadable ‘car’. Imagine the looks you’d get pulling into a cruise night. (lets just ignore the difficulty of passing a DOT inspection and just run with the dream, shall we?)

    2+
    • Rod444

      See what I mean. Lol…

      2+
      • John T

        Just when I thought I’ve seen everything, It’s amazing what you can do with Photoshop. Going back to the rails if you make it over to YouTube check out “Speeders to Hazens”. This video features a whole gaggle of these little Speeders heading to North Conway, New Hampshire and runs nearly a half an hour!

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  15. Britcarguy

    Would never pass inspection – no steering wheel.

    3+
    • Howard A Member

      Hi Britcarguy, perhaps, but the Amish can drive it.

      2+
      • John T

        GiddyUp!!!

        0
    • Rod444

      Just use the brakes on one side and turn it like a skidsteer loader. Should work fine at freeway speed.

      1+
  16. Howard A Member

    Who has railroad tracks running through their yard? Maybe in Mexico. I always wanted to take the tires off a dirt bike, and “ride ‘er down the rails”. Not many tracks left, they’ve all been torn out and made into ATV trails by me, and that’s ok, they are a blast with fast snowmobiles. Be perfect for these hobby steam train outfits that maintain their own tracks. One question, how fast does it go in reverse? ( Oh, oh, I thought these tracks were abandoned,,,,step on it Scotty,,)

    1+
  17. 71 MKIV

    from someone who has run one of these,
    the engine in this thing is a two stroke, doesn’t care which direction. The timing lever, pushed in the direction you are going, is TDC. Start it there, or you find out what “crank wrist” means. As things speeds up, bring the lever towards the center, which advances the timing. You fiddle with the mixture/timing/throttle to obtain best forward motion.
    The cab on this one gives you a “front” and a “back”. Cabless, it’s easier to just start it going the other direction.
    This one has a (really big) alternator on it, which means the battery stays charged. The one I used let you know if the two 6 volt lantern batteries had expired, and you where in for a long push back.

    0
  18. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    This could be a first in vehicle design: a vehicle that’s taller than its wheelbase.

    0
    • Rod444

      Could also be the first vehicle you can parallel park by picking it up by the front handles and turning it 90 degrees to roll it back against the curb.

      1+

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