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

Osgood Bradley

Bradley & Rice
Osgood Bradley & Sons
Osgood Bradley Car Company

The company that bore his name was founded at Worchester, Massachusetts, in 1820 (or ’22) by Osgood Bradley to build stage coaches, carriages, wagons, gigs and sleighs.

Apparently Bradley was a better craftsman than businessman. One authority {82} says

“Despite the fact that his business survived to be handed on to his children, Bradley was in financial difficulties all his life. He failed several times and was considered a poor credit risk, if not a poor businessman, by Dun and Bradstreet. The companys fiscal affairs appear to have been managed more carefully after his passing.”

in 1826, Bradley began building coaches for the large stage line operators in New York and New England.

In 1829, he sold his business. We don’t know why, or what he did in the meantime, but by 1833 he was again back in business, building swell-sided bodies for road coaches. It was on the basis of these that in 1835 he built the first passenger cars for the Boston & Worchester Railroad, possibly the first passenger cars built in the United States. By 1837 he was specializing in railway coaches.

About 1839, Bradley took in Edward B. Rice as partner, and until 1849 the business operated as Bradley & Rice. In 1849 it reverted to just plain Osgood Bradley.

Advertisement from 1 December 1849 American Railway Times. Note in lower right corner: “Successor to Bradley & Rice;” apparently they had established sufficient good will to want to carry it forward. And carry it forward they did: this same advertisement ran for almost two years!

In 1842, Bradley employed William T. Hildrup. Hildrup worked for Bradley in all phases of car building during the next 10 years, and then—after a brief foray into the business on his own—became a founding partner in the Harrisburg Car Company.

In 1844, the Bradley works was the site for the testing of india-rubber car springs invented by Fowler M. Ray. They worked well on the light-weight cars of the day, and Ray went on to get a patent and establish the New England Car Spring Company.

During the Civil War (roughly 1861-1865) Osgood Bradley produced gun carriages for the Union Army.

About 1881, Bradley’s health was failing, and he took in as partners one or more of his three surviving sons. We know next to nothing of John Bradley (1827-1893) and only as much about Osgood Bradley [Jr.] as we can deduce, but we do know that Henry Osgood Bradley had long been associated with his father in the business, which for the next 19 years would continue as Osgood Bradley & Sons. (We deduce that Osgood [Jr.] was General Manager of the company at his death in 1896 as one source says Henry Osgood Bradley’s son John became General Manager upon the death of an uncle.)

Advertisement from 1887 edition of Poor’s Manual of Railway Officials.

The next year (1882), Henry Bradley’s son, John E. Bradley, joined the firm. He became its General Manager in 1896, and its President in 1901. That appears to be the year he reorganized the company as a joint-stock company, the Osgood Bradley Car Company.

New Haven coach #365 built 1891

New Haven coach #365, built 1891 by Osgood Bradley. This was one of the first two coaches sheathed with copper by the New Haven about 1900. The copper was given several coats of paint and then several coats of varnish. The outside was given another coat of varnish each year or so. About once every five years the finish was stripped down to the copper and reapplied.

New shops were built in 1910, and in that year the firm became “associated” with the Standard Steel Car Company, which seems to mean it was acquired, but operated as a wholly-owned subsidiary. At this time only the Pullman works in Chicago were larger than Osgood Bradley’s.

In the 1920s, Osgood Bradley and Standard Steel Car were quite active in the development of rail motor cars.

On 18 February 1930, Pullman, Inc. entered into a purchase agreement with the Osgood Bradley Car Company [MA]. Two days later Pullman established the Osgood Bradley Car Corporation [DE]. Stock ownership of this “shell” corporation was assigned by Pullman to the Standard Steel Car Company [PA]. Four days later Pullman, Inc. established the Standard Steel Car Corporation [PA] as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

On 1 March 1930, Pullman Inc. acquired the properties of the Standard Steel Car Company [PA] and subsidiaries and Osgood Bradley Car Company [MA] in exchange for Pullman Inc. stock and cash.

On 15 December 1931, Standard Steel Car Corporation [DE] was incorporated in Delaware. All of the stock was issued to Pullman, Inc. in exchange for all of the outstanding capital stock of Standard Steel Car Corporation [PA].

On 27 June 1933, the Osgood Bradley Car Corporation [DE] changed its name to Pullman-Bradley Car Corporation.

As of 26 December 1934, the Pullman-Bradley Car Corporation [DE] and Standard Steel Car Corporation [PA] were subsidiaries of the Standard Steel Car Corporation [DE] which was itself a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pullman Inc. On that date, Pullman Car & Manufacturing Corp. [DE] participated in a statutory merger with Standard Steel Car Corporation [DE], Pullman-Bradley Car Corporation and Richmond Car Corporation. The assets of these companies were transferred to Pullman Car & Manufacturing Corporation [DE]. Standard Steel Car Corporation [PA] was simultaneously liquidated and its assets transferred to Pullman Car & Manufacturing Corporation [DE]. Pullman Car & Manufacturing Corporation [DE] issued stock to Pullman, Inc. in exchange for the assets received from Standard Steel Corporation [DE] and its subsidiaries. Pullman Car & Manufacturing Corporation [DE] continued in existence as Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Co.

The Osgood Bradley plant was the only Pullman plant that was equipped for mass production of electrically operated streetcars and trolley coaches. Rapid-transit car production was therefore concentrated at the Osgood Bradley plant. Electric car trucks of various classes and designs were a standard part of its activity. As late as 1954/55 the Osgood Bradley plant executed orders for electric cars for the Long Island Railroad and for the New Haven.

As late as 1956, the Osgood Bradley plant was still producing railway rolling stock of all types. But about 1960 the oldest car building plant in the U.S. was closed.

Cast of Characters

Osgood Bradley (1800-1884) was born in Andover, Massachusetts, a descendant of the first Puritan immigrants to New England. As a youth he was apprenticed to a carriage builder in Salem (another source says Framingham). In 1822, he moved to Worchester and opened his own shop, building coaches, carriages and wagons in a large two-story wooden building connected by a platform with other buildings in the rear. In 1826, he began building coaches for the large stage line operators in New York and New England and reportedly built the majority of those used in that area. In 1835, he began building railway coaches. In 1837, he sold the carriage business and turned exclusively to railway coaches.

Henry Osgood Bradley (1828-1901) was the eldest son of Osgood Bradley. Early in life he became associated with his father in business, becoming Office Manager and General Accountant of the Bradley works. He went to California with the Forty-niners, but returned after a year and thereafter lived a sedate life.

Osgood Bradley [Jr.] (1836-1896) was the youngest son of Osgood Bradley. All we know about him at this time is that, if our sources are to be trusted, he was General Manager of the company at the time of his death in 1896. [Our source says that John E. Bradley became General Manager upon the death of his uncle, and President upon the death of his father five years later. Since his father died in 1901, this would put the relevant uncle’s death in 1896, and that is the year Osgood [Jr.] died. John’s other uncle, John, died in 1893.]

John E. Bradley (1860-1938) was the only son of Henry Osgood Bradley. He left college in his 2nd year and joined the firm in 1882. If our sources are to be trusted, he became General Manager about 1896, upon the death of his uncle and President in 1901 upon the death of his father. He expanded the company. and retired in 1930 when the company was sold to Pullman.

For More Information

The Mid-Continent Railway Museum owns a coach-baggage car built by Osgood Bradley for the Grand Trunk Railway in 1864 which it hopes to restore someday. You can read about it at their website.

19 April 2006

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