Builders of Wooden Railway Cars ... and some of other stuff

Buffalo Car Company

Buffalo Car Works
Union Car Company
Buffalo Car Manufacturing Company

Do not be confused by the fact there were two entities that did business as the Buffalo Car Works. One existed only from 1853 to 1857 and was actually the partnership of Townsend & Coit. If it is the one you want, click HERE. The other existed from 1872 to 1899 and was actually a corporation named the Buffalo Car Company. If it is the one you want, read on.

The Buffalo Car Company was established in 1872 at Buffalo, New York.

In 1890, it merged with the Niagara Car Wheel Company. {293} That same year it became associated with the Union Car Company of Depew, New York (then a small town east of Buffalo and now a suburb of Buffalo). {294} Just what the nature of this association was, we don’t yet know.

The two plants were operated separately. {295} And the Union Car Company appears to have continued to exist as a separate entity, as —

1.   it was announced in March of 1894 that the general offices of the Union Car Company had been moved to the “big shop at Depew.” {300}
2.   it was announced in July of 1894 that J.D. McIlwain, formerly superintendent of the Harvey Steel Car Company at Chicago had been appointed Superintendent of the Union Car Works at Depew. {299}
3.   an 1895 announcement says that the Beech Creek Railroad had ordered 1,000 new coal cars, ½ from the Union Car Works, in Buffalo, ¼ from the Buffalo Car Works, and the other ¼ from the Milton Car Works [Murray, Dougal & Company] in Pennsylvania. {297}
4.   Virtually all reports of the companies consolidated into the American Car & Foundry Company in 1899 speak of the two companies—the Buffalo Car Manufacturing Company, and the Union Car Company—as separate entities.

The Union Car Company had been started eight to ten years after the Buffalo Car Company, possibly because Depew was a company town, essentially begun by Chauncey Depew of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, which ran through Buffalo, and established its shops at Depew.

Both companies were freight car builders, and continued to be after their association. We believe it was as a result of this association that the Buffalo Car Company changed its name to Buffalo Car Manufacturing Company.

By the 1890s, the city of Buffalo had become one of the nation’s great railroad centers, and Union Car then occupied almost 10 acres. {298}

We have no direct information telling how the two companies weathered the stock market crash of 1893 and the ensuing depression, but one can be sure they suffered hard times. But the effect had to have been at least somewhat mitigated by the companies’ close relationship with the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad.

Buffalo Car Mfg. Co. advertisement

(1893 edition, Poor’s Directory of Railway Officials)

An 1895 announcement of an order for 1,500 box cars “of the latest and most improved pattern,” implied the company had 1,000 men who would thus be kept “fully employed” for five months. The announcement also noted that these were the most expensive cars ever built for the Central, being equipped with air brakes, automatic couplers and Street trucks at a total cost of $900,000. {296}

In 1897, as the depression was about over, the Buffalo Car Mfg. Company resumed work after having been shut down for “several months.” Employment would resume with a “full force” of 600 to 800 men. {297}]

In 1899, the Buffalo Car Mfg. Company and the Union Car Works were two of the 13 car builders consolidated into the American Car & Foundry Company. {24}

The Depew plant must have been closed down as a result of the AC&F consolidation, because a news item in 1902 reported the Lackawanna & Western RR was “negotiating for the abandoned plant of the Union Car Company at Depew.” {301}

Yet during the 1st World War, both plants produced 155 mm. shells for use by the army and navy. {294}

The Depew plant closed in 1926 and its activity was transferred to the Buffalo plant, which kept going until 1931. {294}

American Car & Foundry reopened the Buffalo plant in 1940 to manufacture munitions, then closed it again when the war ended [ca. 1946]. It was reopened again in 1951 to supply "engineering, design, fabrication and testing for the Thermonuclear Weapons Testing Program." It was  closed again three years later when AC&F—now ACF Industries, Inc.—opened a replacement facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico. {295}

09 April 2006

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