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

Davenport & Bridges - Page 2

In 1842, the Davenport & Bridges works were moved to the south side of Main Street, where they occupied the entire block between Portland Street and Osborn. They would remain the largest single plant in Cambridgeport until after 1850. {425}

A description of the works was published in the American Railroad Journal in 1848. This description was picked up by the Cambridge Chronicle and is reflected in the following from Leaders of Cambridge Industry: {439}

“To the three-story brick building fronting on Main Street, two large wings were added in 1848, extending on Osborn Street, known as the east and west wings. [Main Street running roughly east and west.] The west wing, facing on Osborn Street, was about three hundred and fifty feet long by forty feet wide. [Slightly more than the length of a modern football field from goal post to goal post.] The east wing extended parallel to the other wing, with an open area between. This building was two hundred and forty feet by forty-three feet, both wings were brick, two stories high. One wing was used as a foundry and blacksmith shop, the latter containing sixteen forges, while the other was used as a machine shop. There were eight smaller buildings, most of them about one hundred by thirty feet, some of them being two stories high. Over one hundred men were employed.”

Surprisingly, this works of the largest of the earlier car builders never had a direct connection to any railroad! Charles Davenport was one of the incorporators of the Grand Junction Railroad, which was chartered in 1847and hoped to make a connection to his car works, but by the time the railroad was completed in 1855, he had retired and his works was shut down. But that’s getting ahead of our story. {439}

In 1842, Davenport & Bridges had orders in hand for 800 cars. {245} The American Railroad Journal {444} described cars built that year for the Auburn & Rochester Railroad —

“The cars are each 28 feet long and 8 feet wide. The seats are well stuffed and admirably arranged—with arms for each chair, and changeable backs that will allow the passenger to change ‘front to rear’ by a manœuvre [sic] unknown in military tactics. The size of the cars forms a pleasant room, handsomely painted, with floor matting, with windows secured from jarring, and with curtains to shield from the blazing sun. We should have said rooms; for in four out of six cars, (the other two being designed only for male passengers,) [sic] there is a ladies’ apartment, with luxurious sofas for seats, and in recesses may be found a washstand and other conveniences. ... These cars are so hung on springs, and are of such large size, that they are freed from most of the jar, and especially from the swinging motion so disagreeable to most railroads.”

The drawings below were published several years later, but seem to agree closely with the description above.

Davenport & Bridges 1845 Coach

Davenport & Bridges built coaches like this probably from 1845 to 1860. The large “restroom” at the left end of the car, with its longitudinal benches, was for the ladies. (Above, American Railroad Journal, 7 August 1845. Below, American Railroad Journal, 8 August 1846.)

Side View of Davenport & Bridges Coach

In 1844, Charles Davenport received Patent No. 3,697, dated 10 August 1844, for a metal truck with cross-bracing. Davenport says in his application, “I do not claim making the truck frame of a rail road [sic] car or carriage with side truss frames united with diagonal braces as this has been known before, nor do I claim making these frames of iron or other metal.” But then he continues to describe the way his truck is constructed.

Others had competing designs, including Eaton & Gilbert and Fowler M. Ray, who would later found the New England Car Spring Company, promoting “springs” of India Rubber.

Davenport also received other patents we haven’t identified yet, and reportedly invented the reversible car seat, which eliminated the need to turn cars at the end of each trip. (Note the seats in the illustrations above.)

28 April 2006

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