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

McGuire-Cummings - Page 3

Probably the most unusual cars built by McGuire-Cummings were three steel parlor-buffet-observation cars built for limited service on the Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern Railroad in 1915. This interurban line between Waterloo and Cedar rapids, Iowa, was constructed to steam railroad standards, and its operators tried to provide equivalent service in every way. Middleton {22} provides the following description of these 60'-½" 50-ton cars —

“Interiors were finished in oak, with writing desks, and leather upholstered wicker chairs and davenports. Floor were covered with green Wilton carpeting, and plate glass mirrors decorated the interior bulkheads. A uniformed porter served ΰ la carte meals from a Tom Thumb kitchenette. The spacious observation platforms were equipped with brass railings and scalloped awnings, and the company’s “Cedar Valley Road” emblem was displayed on the rear platform in the grand manner of steam railroad limited trains of the time.”

Unfortunately, extra-fare interurban service proved unprofitable, and the cars were ultimately rebuilt into deluxe coaches.

Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northers Parlor-buffet-observation Car #102
Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern Parlor-buffet-observation interurban car #102 in 1954 after conversion to a deluxe coach. Built by McGuire in 1913, these cars—though powered—originally had no controls, as they were designed to operate with another car as a two-car train. The kitchenette was up front where the baggage door and operator's station are now. #102 was donated to the Iowa Railway Historical Museum in 1956.

McGuire-Cummings moved its main plant from Chicago to Paris, Illinois, in 1919, following the 1st World War. Although there is no evidence of any corporate reorganization, the 1921 Paris city directory lists the firm simply as the McGuire-Cummings Company.

On 31 October 1925, McGuire-Cummings was reorganized as the Cummings Car & Coach Company, operating from its plant at Paris, Illinois, but with offices at 111 W. Monroe Street in Chicago. The factory covered 25 acres, and produced street cars, passenger cars, city and interurban cars, sweepers, car trucks, gas and electric snow sweepers, snow plows, and gas and electric buses. Electric locomotives were constructed and shipped worldwide.

Cummings Car & Coach Advertisement

In 1927, the factory reportedly had 100 employees at work, though 250 - 350 was considered “full-force.” Its payroll was in excess of $500,000, and it could produce 364 cars a year. That year it produced the world's first aluminum street car, built just like a steel car, but in cast aluminum. It was shown at the National Street Railway car convention in Cleveland, and was later put into service at Joliet, Illinois.

A 1930 Paris city directory shows the firm operating as the Cummings Car & Coach Co., “Builders of Street Cars, Gas, Electric Busses and Snow Fighting Equipment.” Cummings quit building rail cars about that same time, but apparently continued to stock and supply parts until 1943.

It was probably about that time (during the 2nd World War) that the factory became Midwest Body & Manufacturing Division (of McGuire-Cummings?), as it is so listed in a 1944 Paris city directory. During the war it manufactured bomb skids for the war effort.

Cast of Characters —

William A. McGuire (1840-1904) was born at Niagara, Ontario, Canada, and there received his education and began his business career. He came to Chicago in 1863, during the Civil War, as the economy of the Northern United States was booming due to wartime spending. There he engaged in the iron manufacturing business and founded the McGuire Manufacturing Company.

John J. Cummings (1875?-b1917?) was born in Illinois and educated at Armor Institute of Technology (now Illinois Institute of Technology).

In February of 1909, he bought the Denver & Intermountain Railroad, the interurban line from Denver to Golden, Colorado, apparently when its builders got into financial trouble. He supplied it with four cars about that same time. He sold the line in June of 1910. [One wonders if he might have acquired the line temporarily in lieu of payment for the cars and then let it go again when the original owners came up with the money.]

Can you tell us more about either of these two individuals? If so, please share it with us.

For More Information —

“Cars of the McGuire-Cummings Manufacturing Company, 1911.” Electric Railway Historical Society Bulletin #14. Chicago, IL: Electric Railway Historical Society, 1950.

Reproduction of selected portions of the 92-page McGuire-Cummings 1911 catalog. Includes Interurban passenger cars, combination passenger baggage cars, double truck city cars, single truck city cars, express cars, electric locomotives, crane cars, snow plows, snow sweepers, and more. Also four photos of interurbans: IT RR #1202 (1950), AVI Rwy #2 (undated), AE&FRE Rwy #204 (1934) and PRTC #84 (undated). 31 - 8½" x 11" pages, all b/w.

Sanders, Robert. (Front page article on the local McGuire-Cummings Coach and Car factory). Paris Beacon-News. 30 July 1927. Available on microfilm from the Illinois State Historical Library via interlibrary loan.

This article contains an interesting detailed description of the factory, department by department: who does what , how and where they are located.

Traction Planbook, 2nd Edition. Newton, NJ: Carstens Publishing, 1968.

Page 93 has a drawing of a McGuire-Cummings Snow Sweeper.

Many thanks to Teresa Pennington and the Paris Carnegie Public Library for their help in preparing this article.

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11 April 2006

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