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

Chattanooga Car & Foundry

Chattanooga Car & Foundry was founded sometime before 1887 at Chattanooga, Tennessee. We don't know yet who founded it or what was the initial form of organization, but it appears that by 1887 it was a corporation, with H. Clay Evans its chief stockholder and manager. Evans was a prominent man of the city, a banker and owner of several other businesses.

Chattanooga Car is listed in the under the categories of dump, drop bottom, freight, oil tank, push, logging, mine, tank and plantation cars. Interestingly, for a corporation that was supposedly in business before 1887, it was not listed in the “Car Builders” section of the 1887 edition.

In 1893, several big city newspapers {126} reported a bloody riot at Chattanooga on 3 February when non-union men who were filling the places of striking union molders attempted to leave the plant. The strike had occurred several weeks before, when Evans unilaterally changed the way molders were paid from daily wages to so much per casting.

That same year, the federal government began work on Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Parks, and Chattanooga Car cast a number of markers for these parks for $2.87 each. {17} They also furnished seventy iron gun carriages at $70.00 each, while the Commission requested from the War Department seventy-four condemned cannon tubes and 2,500 eight-inch shells for marking battery positions. {18}

A year later [1894] the roof fell in—literally—as a very heavy snowfall built up on the roof of the woodworking shops and caved them in with considerable damage.

In the “Buyers Guide” section of the 1895 edition of Poor’s Directory of Railway Officials, they are listed only under the categories of general freight cars, cane cars, and mine cars.

In 1897, Evans was accused of using the park markers for “advertising” his business by including on the markers the words “Chattanooga Car and Foundry Company, H. Clay Evans, Proprietor.” [A politician ahead of his time?] Apparently nothing came of the flap.

But the next year, Evans sold out to Gen John R. Healey and James Meehan, owners of the Ross Meehan Brake Shoe Foundry. The purchase was made with the stated intent of “go[ing] into the car manufacturing business on a large scale, uniting the two plants.” The combined plants were expected to employ about 600 men. {127}

Apparently the new ownership maintained the separate identities of the two businesses, as we find mention of each name in subsequent news items, though we have found no mention of Chattanooga Car & Foundry after 1905.

Other than the cars for the Lookout Mountain Inclined Railway, we have no information as to what types of cars Chattanooga Car & Foundry actually built, or for whom. The best we can do is note the types of cars under the categories of which they were listed in Poor’s Directory, as noted above.

Cast of Characters

Henry Clay Evans (1843-1921) was born in Pennsylvania, but moved the next year with his parents to Wisconsin. He attended business school in Madison and graduated from a business school in Chicago in 1861. He enlisted as a corporal in Company A, 41st Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry in 1864 and served four months. He settled in Chattanooga in 1870.

For some time Evans was connected with the Alabama & Chattanooga Railroad, and was one of the active promoters of the interests of the Roane Iron Company, which he served from 1874 to 1884 as secretary, treasurer, vice-president and general manager.

Evans served two terms as Mayor of Chattanooga, beginning in 1881, organizing the public school system, and later served as the city’s first school commissioner.

In 1884, Evans became Cashier of the First National Bank.

By 1887, he was the sole owner of the Anchor Flouring Mills, “the largest in the South,” and a large stock owner of the Lookout Mountain Inclined Railway Company (for which Chattanooga Car & Foundry built the cars, of course).

Evans became U.S. Representative from Tennessee in 1889 and served a single term, failing reelection. He served as First Assistant Postmaster General of the U.S. from 1891 to 1893. He was elected Governor of Tennessee in 1894 on the face of the returns but lost in a legislative recount.

Evans was appointed U.S. Commissioner of Pensions in 1897 and served until 1902 when he resigned to enter the Diplomatic Service, where he served as Consul to England until 1905. He was chosen commissioner of health and education for Chattanooga in 1911, and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1918.

09 April 2006

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