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

Elmira Car Works

Elmira Car Manufactory

The Elmira Car Works was founded at Elmira, New York, in 1851 by William E. Rutter, as a car repair shop servicing the newly constructed New York & Erie Railroad. A year later it began to build cars.

One source refers to the Elmira Car Works as the Elmira Car Company, but we have been unable to find any other source that would confirm this as the formal name of Rutter’s firm. Advertisements in the American Railway Times ca. 1853, refer to the firm as the Elmira Car Manufactory. Neither Arnold nor Charlton list Elmira Car anything.

This advertisement ran in the American Railway Times during much of 1853.

Elmira Car Works’ founder, William E. Rutter (1812-1882), was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and had learned the trade of carpenter in Baltimore. (One source says he was an experienced carriage builder.) In the early 1830s he went to work for the Boston & Providence Railroad, and later became master mechanic on their Stonington line. He moved to Elmira only a little before opening his plant.

White {44} says William T. Hildrup, one of the founders of the Harrisburg Car Manufacturing Company in 1853, went to work for the Osgood Bradley Company in 1842 and "Ten years later [1852?] he transferred to the Elmira, New York, car plant..."

Elmira may have done well during the 1850s, but it was no doubt hit hard by the financial panic of 1857, which brought railroad building to an almost complete halt. Wilson’s Elmira Directory for 1857 shows “Rutter William E. car builder, h e s Mill c First.” {400} But the online business listings show no Elmira Car Company nor any other car builder or railroad.

In 1858 Rutter sold his plant to the Erie Railroad, but stayed on as manager. Boyd’s Elmira Directory for 1860 {450} shows “Rutter William E., supt. car repairs, N Y & E R R, h Clinton bet College av and Columbia.”

The online version {448} of Brigham’s Elmira Directory for 1863 shows:

Cleveland James h, foreman, Elmira Car Shop, h 47 Cross
Dunn James, car builder, h Church nr Chemung canal
Moffat William, car builder, h 3 College av
Myers George W, car builder, h 57 Columbia
Rutter James H, station agent Erie railway, h 52 William
Rutter William E, car maker, h 11 Third
Ward Moses, car builder, h 81 Church

In 1870, the plant was leased to the Erie & Atlantic Sleeping Car Company, an offshoot of the Erie Railroad. Erie & Atlantic in turn was absorbed in 1872 by the Pullmans Palace Car Company, which used the Elmira shops for repairs until 1886.

09 April 2006

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