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

Grice & Long

The firm of Grice & Long had its beginnings at Trenton, New Jersey, in 1858, when Joseph Grice opened a manufactory of railroad cars. It would be interesting to know the details of why and how he did this, in the wake of the financial panic of 1857, in which almost 5,000 companies failed nationwide.

Two years later, he was joined by Robert H. Long, a Philadelphia engineer, who in January 1860 had obtained a patent for a six-wheeled steam car with an offset boiler driving a single set of wheels through a train of gears.

Grice & Long Scientific American Image

Grice & Long steam car for use on steam railways. (Scientific American 26 Oct 1861)

Grice & Long hoped to sell this car to street railways, but met with little success. They therefore turned to the steam railways, where they had much better success. About 10 railways bought one or more of their steam cars, the Camden & Amboy being one of the 1st. Others went to the West Jersey Railroad, the Jacksonville & Lake City and the Huntington & Broad Top.

The Scientific American for 26 October 1861 described the car as being 37'-6" long, seating 36, and capable of attaining 25 miles per hour. It had a small baggage room between the engine room and the passenger compartment, probably more as sound-proofing than anything else. The steam engine weighed 11 tons and burned seven pounds of coal per mile.

In 1863, Grice & Long produced an eight-wheeled car with a 12½ ton engine. The Portland & Kennebec bought one of these for a stunning [then] $8,500!

These steam-driven self-propelled cars were less than successful, so Grice & Long turned to producing steam dummies and mine locomotives. They produced these through the late 1860s, Then failed in 1871.

Grice & Long 1869 Advertisement

1869 advertisement from American Railroad Journal.

For More Information

White, John H. Jr.,  “Grice & Long: Steam Car Builders,” in Jack Salzman (Ed.), Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies, vol. 2, New York, NY: Burt Franklin Company, pp. 24-39.

09 April 2006

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