Builders of Wooden Railway Cars

— and Some of Other Stuff

Telling the stories of the independent builders of railroad cars in North America from the very earliest days of wooden cars, through the transition to metal cars and onward to the present, with emphasis on the more than 200 builders of wooden  cars before and into the early twentieth century.

From their beginnings in the first decades of the nineteenth century, America’s railroads multiplied and grew, until by the last decades of the century America was crisscrossed in every direction. A few railroads built their own cars, but the vast majority were built by independent car builders. The story of these builders parallels that of the railroads: from a handful in the early decades of the nineteenth century to hundreds during the last decades of the nineteenth century.

Iron technology was in its infancy and its ore scarce, but woodworking was familiar and the supply seemingly inexhaustible. The independent railway car builders active during the wooden car era came to that business from almost every conceivable occupation that dealt with wood: lumbering, sawmilling, millworking, general construction, wagon and carriage building, building of cabinetry and/or fine stairways, bridge building and ship building.

Some began with shops so small a single car wouldn’t fit entirely inside, while others began with large multi-building facilities completely laid out in advance. Some quickly went broke, while others succeeded beyond their founders’ wildest expectations, continuing to build cars well into the steel car era.

As metal became used more and more in every aspect of American life, the railroads continued to use wood. It was plentiful, the technology of woodworking was widely known and practiced, and best of all, it was cheap (at least in initial cost).

But gradually, beginning just before the turn of the century, railroad car builders began to see advantages in iron and steel. They tried to “sell” the railroads on these advantages, but the railroads continued to like the three advantages of wood. Eventually several coal-hauling railroads—that just happened to be related to big steel—saw the advantages of steel hopper cars and began to order them. Once the camel got its nose into the tent, so to speak, demand expanded and spread to other types of cars, especially passenger cars, which could now be advertised as “fireproof” (fire being a common hazard of riding a passenger car on America’s early railroads).

By the 1930s wood was used only in the sheathing of freight cars, and by the 1950s, even that had ended.

We set out several years ago to tell the stories of the pioneering firms in the United States—Builders of Wooden Railway Cars—and of the people who built them and contributed to their success. There was no prejudice against iron or steel, and some were documented  that started out building in iron or steel. But as time went on, more and more pioneers in the steel car field have been added, so we have added “... and some of other stuff” to include the builders in various metals, plastics, etc. (And the one builder that returned to wood in 1950!)

The list below shows builders currently represented. It you have information on one that isn’t here, let us know; we’re constantly adding more. If you have contributions, comments, criticisms or corrections—especially corrections—please click on the guy in the hammock below to send us an e-mail. We’ll gladly roust him from his slumber and put him to work!

Here's what we have as of 02 January 2008

Allison (Allison Mfg. Co. / Allison Car Works / W.C. Allison & Sons)
American Car Company (St. Louis)
American Car & Foundry
American Fireproof Steel Car Company
Amoskeag Manufacturing Company
Baker Iron Works
Barber Car Company
Barney & Smith Manufacturing Company
Billmeyer & Small
Bloomsburg Car Manufacturing Company
Bowers, Dure & Company
Osgood Bradley
Brandon Car Company
Briggs Carriage Company
J.G. Brill & Company
Brinkley Car & Mfg. Co.
Brownell & Wight / Brownell Car Company
Buffalo Car Company
Buffalo Car Works
(Townsend & Coit)
California Car Works
(J.S. Hammond & Company)
Canada Car & Manufacturing
Carter Brothers, Builders
Casebolt & Van Gulpin
Thomas Castor Carriage Works
Central Locomotive & Car Works
Central Transportation Company
Chattanooga Car & Foundry
Chicago Car & Locomotive Works
Chicago, New York & Boston Refrigerator Company
Cincinnati Car Company
Cobourg Car Company
Columbia Steel Car Company
Crossen Car Manufacturing Company
Cummings Car and Coach Company
(Mc-Guire Cummings)
Danville Car Company
Davenport & Bridges
Dayton Car Works
(Barney & Smith)
Dean, Packard & Mills, Car Manufacturers
Delaware Car Works
(Jackson & Sharp)
Detroit Car Company
Detroit Car & Manufacturing Company
Dure Car Manufacturing Company
Eaton, Gilbert & Company
Elliott Car Company
Elmira Car Works
Empire Car Works
Ensign Manufacturing Company
Erie Car Works
Etna Car Works
(Billmeyer & Small)
Fairbanks, Morse & Company
Fales & Gray
M. Feigel & Son
J. P. Flanders & Company
Gilbert, Bush & Company
Goodwin Car Company
Grice & Long
Grove Car Works
(Fales & Gray)
Gunderson, Inc.
Gunn & Black
(Brinkley Car Works & Manufacturing Company)
J. Hammond & Company
Harlan & Hollingsworth
Harrisburg Car Company
Hicks Locomotive & Car Works
Hicks Stock Car Company
Jackson & Sharp
Jackson & Woodin
Jewett Car Company
J.M. Jones' Sons
Junction Car Works
(Murphy & Allison)
Kilby Locomotive & Machine / Kilby Car & Foundry
Kimball & Davenport
Kimball Carriage & Car Mfg. Company
(Koppel Car Co., Arthur Koppel Car Co., Arthur Koppel Industries, Koppel Industrial Car & Equipment Co. Orenstein-Arthur Koppel Co. Orenstein & Koppel Co.)
G.C. Kuhlman Car Company
Laclede Car Company
Laconia Car Company
Lafayette Car Works
A. Latham & Company
Lenoir City Car Company
Madison Car Company
(Missouri Car & Foundry)
Magor Car Company
Manchester Locomotive Works
Mann Boudoir Car Company
Mathews-Davis Railway Motor Company
McGuire-Cummings Manufacturing Company
McKeen Motor Car Company
(McLean & Wright / McLean & Fleck / McLean, Wright & Co.)
Memphis Car & Foundry
Michigan Car Company
Michigan-Peninsular Car Company
Middletown Car Works
Milton Car Works
(Murray, Dougal & Company)
Minerva Car Works
(Pennock Bros.)
Missouri Car & Foundry Company
Mount Vernon Car Manufacturing Company
Murphy & Allison
Murray, Dougal & Company
National Car Company
National Steel Car Company
Nettleton & Bartlett
New England Car Company
Newhall, George T.
New Haven Car Company
Niles Car & Mfg. Company
Ohio Falls Car Company
Osgood Bradley
Pacific Car & Foundry
Patten Car Company
Peninsular Car Company
Pennock Bros.
Perley A. Thomas Car Works
Philadelphia Car Works
(J.G. Brill)
Pressed Steel Car Company
Prosser Twin Cylinder Car Company
Pullmans Palace Car Company
Ranlett Manufacturing Company
Robbins & Lawrence
Robbins Cylindrical Steel Car Company
St. Charles Car Company
St. Louis Car Company
Schall & King
H.H. Scoville & Sons
d/b/a Chicago Car & Locomotive Works
Sheffield Velocipede Car Co.
Smith & Perkins Locomotive Works
Southern Car Company
Southern Car & Foundry
Springfield Car & Engine
Standard Steel Car Company
The Steel Car Company
John Stephenson Car Company
Taunton Car Company/Taunton Locomotive Works
Terre Haute Car & Manufacturing Co
Perley A. Thomas Car Works
Tiffany Refrigerator Car Company
Toronto Car Factory (McLean)
Townsend & Coit
Tracy & Fales
Twohy Brothers Company
Union Car Company (Depew, NY)
Union Palace Car Company
United States Car Company
United States Car Company (Boston)
United States Rolling Stock Company
Virginia Locomotive & Car Works
(Smith & Perkins)
Wagner Place Car Company
Wason Manufacturing Company
Wells & French
Western Steel Car & Foundry
Whipple Car Company
Wilmington Car Works
(Bowers, Dure & Company)
Woeber Bros. Carriage Company
Wonham-Magor Engineering Works
T.T. Woodruff & Company
Woodruff Sleeping & Palace Car Company
Woodruff Sleeping & Parlor Coach Company
York Car Works
(Billmeyer & Small)

Appliances, Accessories, etc.

Baker Heater
Creamer's Automatic Ventilators
Eames Vacuum Brakes
Horton’s Reclining Chairs
Miller “Hook” Coupling
“Paper” Wheels
Ramsey's Car Truck Shifting Apparatus
Searle Heaters
Spear Anti-Clinker Heater
Tiffany Summer & Winter Cars


Early Vermont Car Builders

Railway Car-Builder's Dictionary
Railway Car Builders of North America (list)
Selective Chronology of the United States
Springfield’s Four
(The four companies at Springfield, Mass. in the mid-1800s)
Website Map and Log

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