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

Gilbert, Bush & Company

Eaton & Gilbert
Eaton, Gilbert & Company
Uri Gilbert & Son
Gilbert & Bush Company
Troy Car Works
Gilbert Car Manufacturing Company

Orsamus Eaton (1792-1872)  had been operating a carriage shop for 10 years at Troy, New York, when he took in Uri Gilbert (1809-1888) as a partner in 1830. In 1841, Eaton & Gilbert began building coaches for steam railroads and this soon became their main product.

American Railway Times, 25 December 1856

In 1844, Eaton and Gilbert formed a joint stock company {424} known as Eaton, Gilbert & Co. In 1852 or '53, after a fire in their Troy establishment, they erected new shop buildings on Green Island, in the Hudson River above Watervliet, NY.

In 1860, Eaton and Gilbert built some of the first cars with the “double deck” roofs designed by Webster Wagner which he called Monitor Roof cars and which would ultimately be referred to as clerestory (“clear-story”) roofs. During the Civil War, Eaton & Gilbert built wagons for the Union army.

The Green Island shops were themselves destroyed by fire, possibly in Troys Great Fire of 1862. Eaton retired and Eaton, Gilbert & Co. was dissolved. Uri Gilbert was joined by his son William, and the business was continued as Uri Gilbert and Son.

This firm in turn was reorganized in 1864 as Gilbert, Bush & Company.
The namesake Bush was Walter Ralph Bush. Bush was the nephew and (starting in 1838) business partner of James Goold of the James Goold Company - a.k.a. Albany Coach Manufactory Company. Goold and Bush dissolved their partnership in 1856, eight years prior to Bush partnering with Gilbert.

They continued building horse cars and steam railroad coaches. It is possible this firm was in turn reorganized as the Gilbert & Bush Co. in 1879, before finally being reorganized in 1882 as the Gilbert Car Manufacturing Co.

Gilbert & Bush 1879 Advertisement

Gilbert advertisements from 1879 Car Builders Dictionary.

In 1879, Uri Gilbert set up the Gilbert Car Trust. The function of a car trust was to pay the car builder cash for its production, and then let the railroads pay for the cars in installments. Before such trusts were established, many rail car builders were forced to take railroad bonds in payment for their production -- bonds that could easily become worthless due to the financial machinations of the railroads.

The Gilbert works produced a great variety of cars, both freight and passenger. It had a large export business, and it became world renowned for the elegant equipment made under contract with the Wagner Palace Car Co. At its peak, the Gilbert Car Co. plant occupied almost 12 acres.

After Uri Gilberts death in 1888, the firm went into decline, and the financial panic of 1893 dealt it a death blow. It stopped building cars in 1895.

However, in 1889 Gilbert had expanded from the manufacture of steam railway equipment into building electric streetcars. One of its draftsmen—John Taylor—designed a power truck for small street cars, and this truck was Gilberts main product during this time. And out of the ashes of the Gilbert Car Company, emerged the Taylor Electric Truck Company.

For More Information

Gilbert, Bush & Co., car manufacturing.” The R&LHS Bulletin, Issue 123, pp. 18-22.

02 Nov 2017

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