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

American Car & Foundry Company

What’s the American Car & Foundry Company (ACF Industries) doing in a website on wooden railway cars, you ask? Well, two things.

First, the American Car & Foundry Company did build cars that were made largely—if not entirely—of wood. Although by 17 March 1899, when AC&F came into being at New York City, a few all-steel cars were being built, most cars were still built largely of wood, though with an ever-increasing amount of steel. Hopper cars were early made entirely of steel, with gondola and flat cars following (though with wood floors). House cars first had steel frames with wooden sheathing. It would be almost the time of the 1st World War before the majority of box cars, tank cars and passenger cars were made entirely of steel.

Scioto Valley #104 - Wood car by ACF Scioto Valley Traction Company wooden car #104, manufactured 1903 by AC&F. Looks like it may have had a steel frame. Truss rods were not unusual in the early days of steel.

The second reason the American Car & Foundry Company belongs here is that it was where a lot of the wooden car builders went. There were 13 independent car builders consolidated into AC&F in 1899. {24} During the previous year, those 13 had accounted for 53% of all freight cars built outside the railroads’ own shops. {39} The following table shows the make-up of AC&F:

Company Year
Main Plant
Buffalo Car Manufacturing Co. 1872 Buffalo/Depew, NY  
Ensign Manufacturing Co. 1879 Huntington, WV  
Jackson & Woodin Manufacturing Co. 1861 Berwick, PA Built AC&F’s first steel-bodied car. Was one of the largest units of AC&F until closed in 1962.
Michigan-Peninsular Car Co. 1892 Detroit, MI
Adrian, MI
Was the largest of the companies.
Minerva Car Works 1882 Minerva, OH Built the first pressed steel freight car in the United States. Closed by AC&F almost immediately after acquisition.
Missouri Car & Foundry Co. 1865 St Louis, MO
Madison, IL
Murray, Dougal & Company 1864 Milton, PA Built one of the first railroad tank cars and continued to specialize in tank cars.
Niagara Car Wheel Company   Niagara (Buffalo), NY  
Ohio Falls Car Manufacturing Co. 1876 Jeffersonville, IN This plant was responsible for most of the company’s considerable interurban car production.
St. Charles Car Co. 1873 St. Charles, MO Did not begin passenger car construction until 1886, but became main passenger car works of AC&F. {50} It is the firm ACF Industries claims as its origin.
Terre Haute Car & Manufacturing Co. 1880s Terre Haute, IN  
Union Car Company   Depew, NY Had apparently been absorbed by the Buffalo Car Manufacturing Company in 1890, but continued to operate under its own name.
Wells & French Company 1869 Chicago, IL  

AC&F was incorporated in New Jersey, with capital of $60 million. The initial Directors of the company were W.K. Bixby of Missouri Car & Foundry, George Hargreaves of Michigan-Peninsular Car Company, J.L. Swyser of Ohio Falls Car Mfg. Company, Fred H. Eaton of Jackson & Woodin Mfg. Company, J.J. Albright of Union Car Company, H.B. Denton of St. Charles Car Company and Charles T. Schoen of Pressed Steel Car Company. {124}

Additional companies were added in ensuing years such that there were 18 by 1920. These were —

Company Year Founded Main Plant Location Year Acquired
Bloomsburg Car Manufacturing Co. 1863, 1871
   or 1875
Bloomsburg, PA 1899
Jackson & Sharp Co. 1863 Wilmington, DE 1901
Common-Sense Bolster Co.   Chicago, IL  
Indiana Car & Foundry {39}
Indianapolis Car Co. {27}
Indianapolis Car & Mfg. Co.
bef 1887 Indianapolis, IN 1905
Southern Car & Foundry 1899 Memphis, TN 1904

ACF Advertisement

American Car & Foundry invested heavily in the Berwick, Pennsylvania, plant (formerly Jackson & Woodin). About three million dollars were spent on the purchase of additional land, erection of additional buildings and installation of machinery. By 1902 the Berwick plant had 2,600 employees, with a payroll of $140,000 a month, and a prospect of adding 2,400 more employees when the new facilities then being erected were completed.

In 1904, the Berwick plant built the first ever all-steel passenger car. It was the first of a 300 car order for New York City’s IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) subway line. {40} The following year 36 motor cars and 72 trailers were built for the London underground (subway). By then, AC&F had steel shops at St. Louis, Missouri, Detroit, Michigan, Huntington, West Virginia, and Madison, Illinois, as well as at Berwick. In 1907, the Berwick plant employed 5,700.


09 April 2006

Home/Bldr. Index Bibliography Links Car-Bldr. Dictionary All-time Bldr. List C&S Rolling-stock