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

Goodwin Car Company

Goodwin Car & Manufacturing Company

The Goodwin Car Company appears to have been an Illinois corporation with an office—perhaps its head office—in New York City, at 96 5th Avenue early on, and later at 17 Battery Place.

We have found Goodwin’s shares offered for sale in the New York Times as early as February 1901, but it may have existed before that, as we have found notice (again in the New York Times) of bond coupons of the Goodwin Car Trust payable December 1, 1899. [426]

Goodwin exhibited a dumping car at the Universal Exposition at Paris, France, in 1900, and is included in a list of New York State Exhibitors. [427]

Goodwin increased its number of directors from seven to nine in late 1900. [455] A year later, it increased the number from nine to eleven. [456] We have no sense, at this time, of what was going on to require this. Generally, this would suggest concessions made in order to acquire capital.

The 1904 edition of The Roadmaster’s Assistant {428} contains side and end elevations of the “Goodman Car,” and describes it as —

“... an all-steel car which dumps in several different ways by means of the inclined aprons which are hinged at the top, and by valves (traps) in the bottom of the car and running its whole length. The dumping is done by compressed air or by a hand-lever located on the end platform. This car will discharge half its load in [sic] one side and half on the other; half in the center and half on the outside; all on one side or all in the center as desired by the operator. The changes are accomplished by the simple movement of a lever, and the operation of dumping occupies but a second or two.”

An advertisement for “The Goodwin Car” in the same book indicates it is for “coal, coke, ore and other dumpable [sic] materials . . . filling, ballasting, track-raising.”

At the time this advertisement was published, the company had offices at 96 Fifth Avenue in New York City and at 115 Dearborn Street in Chicago. {429} We do not know where their manufacturing facilities were, nor, for that fact, whether they even built their own cars, or simply leased or sold them, as the ad indicates.

“The Goodwin Car” as illustrated in Construction and Maintenance of Railway Roadbed and Track, 1907.

Another book on railway construction and maintenance, published in 1907, also makes reference to “The Goodwin Car,” showing the same end elevation as in The Roadmaster’s Assistant. This volume {431} describes it thus —

“... the body of the car is built upon two plate-girder sills, 21 inches apart. These girders are 18 inches deep at the middle and 9¼ inches deep at the ends. The space between the sills is left clear for dumping the load between the rails, and from each sill there is an apron or floor inclining downwards. The two ends of the car are connected to stop side plates 18 inches deep and the car is divided at the middle by a transverse bulkhead, so that either of the two compartments can be dumped independently of each other. To the top side plate on each side of the car in each compartment, there is hinged a swinging door, which, when the car is loaded, rests upon the projection of a movable section in the bottom of the hopper. This bottom is composed of two narrow movable sections hinged to a longitudinal shaft. Each bottom section is held in position by a tripping device, by means of which the said movable section on either side of the car may be released, when it swings downward, inclining toward the apron, thus releasing the swinging door and permitting the discharge of the load. The apron is hinged along its middle line (longitudinally), so that the upper portion can be swung upward, as shown by the broken lines at the left side of the figure. When the upper section of the apron is set in this position and the swinging door released, the latter strikes against and is held by a spring on the raised portion of the apron and the contents of the car are discharged between the sills and inside the rails of the track. The dumping devices are arranged to be operated either by hand or by compressed air. Hand dumping is accomplished by the wheel at the end. When equipped for pneumatic dumping an air cylinder is attached at the end of the car, on the outside, beside the hand wheel. This car can be made to discharge half of its load on one side and half on the other; or half in the center and half on the outside; all on one side, or all in the center, as is desired. The car is 35 feet 11 inches long over the end sills, 8 feet 10 inches wide over all, and the extreme height above top of rail is 8 feet 6 inches. The carrying capacity is 80,000 to 125,000 pounds, or in volume, with the load heaped, it amounts to about 29 cubic yards. The ends of the car are of wood construction, but in later design the ends are constructed entirely of steel.

Business must have been good through 1906, and cars were apparently financed through equipment trusts, as regular announcements were made in the New York papers of dividends paid and interest paid on equipment trusts. It was about this time that Goodwin cars were utilized in building the Panama Canal, though we don’t know to what extent. {430}

But the dividend announced 20 January 1907 may have been Goodwin’s last: at least for a number of years. The stock market took a nosedive in 1907, and the economy would take several years of working toward recovery, only to drift downward to an ultimate low about 1911. From there it was all up.

During these years when business was generally poor in the United States, Goodwin recognized Canada as a possible alternative market, and was granted an import license in 1908. {432}

Beginning about 1912, the Florida East Coast Railway made extensive use of Goodwin cars in building up the right-of-way of its Key West Extension, which it had literally dredged up out of the Gulf of Mexico. {451} This right-of-way had been built up out of almost any material that was at hand, and the next 3 - 5 years were spent solidifying it with more stable materials, a task ideally suited to the Goodwin cars.

By 1912 things must have looked good to Goodwin, as it took a 20 year lease with option to buy on 25 acres in Stickney, Illinois, a manufacturing district just outside Chicago. {433} It had offices at 17 Battery Place in New York City and at 1524 Otis Building in Chicago. {469}

Another model of “Goodwin car”—this one made all of steel. (Robert Fackovec Collection)

But within two years the U.S. economy was in the dumper again as war began in Europe. Yet as war commenced, the economy swooped upwards again—for everyone except the railroads. And on 26 February 1918, the Goodwin Car Company was liquidated and its “Entire property, including 79 Goodwin cars [then] operating under lease, repair shop with machinery, storage tracks, etc., located on 25 acres leased land, under option, adjacent to Chicago” was sold at public auction (in New York City). {434}


09 April 2006

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