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

Kilby Car & Foundry Company

Kilby Locomotive & Machine Company

The Kilby Car & Foundry Company began at Anniston, Alabama, sometime between 1902 and 1910. It was the successor to the Kilby Locomotive & Machine Works, founded in 1898 by Thomas E. Kilby, who would go on to become Governor of Alabama. {359}

In 1889, Thomas Kilby had gone to work for the steel and railway supply firm of Clark & Company. He worked his way up to a full partnership with Harry Clark, and the firm became Clark & Kilby. It is likely the firm became Kilby Locomotive & Machine Works in 1898 either because of the death of Clark, or because of a desire to add the business of locomotive rebuilding.

The company’s works—built in 1898—covered four acres. It had its own steam  plant, powering all the machinery, heating the buildings and providing the electricity for its electric lighting. All tools were pneumatic. The 75 to 80 employees had a payroll of about $3,500 per week. The new company engaged in rebuilding locomotives, built logging, cane and tram cars, and manufactured frogs and switches. {360}

The officers, as of 1902 [and likely from the beginning], were Thomas E. Kilby, President, Whitfield Clark, Vice-president, and E.M. Kilby [Thomas’ younger brother], Secretary and Treasurer. {360}

Also, as of 1902, T.E. Kilby was in the process of starting up the Alabama Frog & Switch Company. The machinery for the plant had been ordered and the contract for buildings had been let. M.K. Moore was President of the new business, and M.B. Wellborn was its Treasurer. Thomas E. Kilby was named as its Manager. {360} It appears that early on the name of this company became Kilby Frog & Switch.

(Railway Age Gazette, 14 February 1913)

Sometime before 1910 Kilby Locomotive & Machine became Kilby Car & Foundry. This very likely had something to do with the stock market crash of 1907 and the ensuing financial problems of the railroads. It may reflect a financial reorganization of the company. And/or it may reflect a cessation of the locomotive rebuilding efforts of the company and more concentration on car-building and general steel fabrication. The company put out a catalog in 1910 titled “Kilby Standard Logging Cars.”

But Kilby must have built more than logging cars, as in 1924 we find documentation of an order for 150 gondola cars from the Southern railway. {361} And in 1934, we find Kilby mentioned in articles about small steel producers. {363}

In 1925, Kilby Frog & Switch was consolidated with the Weir Frog & Switch Company of Norwood (Cincinnati), Ohio, with the latter company becoming the controlling interest. {362}

Kilby apparently quit building railway cars sometime prior to 1938, probably due to the Great Depression, and it was reorganized as the Kilby Steel Company. Five years later, Thomas Kilby died, and three years after that Kilby Steel was acquired by the J.I. Case Company. Case held onto Kilby until 1953, when it appears it became a private company. In 2005 Kilby Steel Company, Inc. had 20 employees engaged in “[manufacturing] production and custom CNC specialized machining services.”

Cast of Characters

Thomas Erby Kilby (1865-1943) was born at Lebanon, Tennessee. His family early moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he attended the public schools. In 1887 he became an agent for the Georgia & Pacific Railroad at Anniston, Alabama. After two years, he became a very junior partner in the steel-making firm of Harry Clark & Company. He worked his way up to a full partnership and the firm became Clark & Kilby.

In 1898, Kilby apparently separated from Clark, and founded the Kilby Locomotive and Machine Company to rebuild locomotives. He also began his career in politics by serving two years on the Anniston City Council.

In 1900, Kilby was elected to the city’s Board of Education, on which he served until 1905.

In 1905, Kilby became Mayor of the City of Anniston. He would fill that post until 1909. He also became President of Anniston's City National Bank, a post he would hold until resigning in 1919 to serve as Governor of Alabama.

In 1911, Kilby became a state Senator, a post he would hold until 1915, when he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Alabama. He served that post until becoming Governor in 1919.

Kilby’s political career effectively ended at the end of his term as Governor in 1923. He ran for a U.S. Senate seat in 1926, and again in 1932, but was defeated both times.

11 April 2006

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