These extraordinary locomotives with two wheels up in the air really were built and put into service. They were tried on all kinds of trains, but proved inferior in every respect to the ordinary engines of the same capacity. After many modifications- none of which helped much- both were rebuilt as conventional 4-4-0 engines at the Rome works in or about 1884.
The Grant Locomotive Work's built the Fontaine in March of 1881 with shop number 1491. A second engine was built by Grant's in June 1881, with shop number 1503.
Most of the locomotives in the Museum of Retrotech have had some degree of success, or at least been a brave try that yielded useful knowledge. The Fontaine concept, however, appears to be devoid of any redeeming features. It was designed by Eugene Fontaine, of Detroit.
There are no existing Fontaines today.
These engines were examples of a 4-4-0 with the driving wheels ABOVE the boiler, their tread pressing on and transmitting motion to the carrying wheels by frictional contact.These locomotives are sometimes built with or without the tenders.
These engines were failed attempt to increase the speed of a locomotive.
These extraordinary locomotives with two wheels up in the air really were built and put into service. They were tried on all kinds of trains, but proved inferior in every respect to the ordinary engines of the same capacity.
The designer claimed this would increase the speed of the engine for the same boiler pressure, though why he should have thought so is a bit of a mystery; it would appear that all that has been introduced is another place for slipping to occur.
The likeliest explanation is that he was trying to gear up the real driving wheels so they turned faster than the "air-wheels".
Slightly larger driving wheels would surely have been an easier way to the same end.