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

Jackson & Woodin Manufacturing Company

The Jackson & Woodin Manufacturing Company had its origins in 1840 at Berwick, PA, when Mordecai W. Jackson (1815-1880+) and George Mack established a foundry there to produce plows and plow castings, kettles and almost everything that farmers would want. Their works were housed in a 25' x 40' building with an attached shed in which agricultural implements were manufactured. They employed about 15 men.

In 1843, Jackson bought out Mack's interest and took in Robert McCurdy as his new partner. In 1846, he bought out McCurdy's interest. At this point, one source says he continued alone for three years, while another says he associated with Louis Euke. However that may be, during this time the firm began to build heavy wagons in addition to farm implements.

Jackson-Woodin Advertisement

In 1849, Jackson took in William Hartman Woodin (1821-1886) as partner. Woodin had been operating his own furnace and foundry at Foundryville on the north side of Berwick.

Among other things, Jackson & Woodin made the iron pipes laid by the Berwick Water Company in 1850 and bridge castings for the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad in 1858. In 1861, they entered the railway car building business, producing 20 simple four-wheeled cars. {39}

Additional shops were erected, and in 1865 the firm employed 150. On the morning of 17 March 1866 the shops burned to the ground. But they were soon rebuilt to an even larger size, and by 1869 the firm employed 250. In 1872, the shops were directly connected to the Lackawanna & Bloomsburg railroad.

On 1 March 1872, the Jackson and Woodin Manufacturing Company was organized as a Pennsylvania corporation, with Clement R. Woodin, president; Clarence G. Jackson, vice president; Garrick Mallery, treasurer. Mordecai W. Jackson and William H. Woodin, retired from active business, named themselves the executive committee. Both continued to pursue other business interests.

Jackson & Woodin Advertisement 2

Clement R. Woodin (1844-1898) was the son of W.H. Woodin. He was one of the founders of the Car Trust Company of New York, founded about 1878 with capital of $3 million, to finance car purchases. 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. By 1886 this firm had issued over $34 million in car trusts. {46}

Clarence G. Jackson (1842-1880) was the son of M.W. Jackson. He went to war at the age of 20 as a 2nd Lieutenant and then pursued a military career, becoming a colonel in the 1870s, and eventually quartermaster-general, a position he held at his death in 1880. During his later years he was also involved in several businesses, including Jackson & Woodin.  {37}

By 1880, the Jackson & Woodin Manufacturing Company was reportedly one of the largest freight car manufacturers in the country.

An 1887 County history  {37} says -

now they do about $1,500,000 per year, and give employment too about 1,200 men when running at full capacity. The firm also own and operate a large store and do a business from $100,000 to $125,000 per annum. The capacity of the rolling-mill is forty to fifty tons per day of finished iron or merchant bar iron. The car wheel factory manufactures from 150 to 200 wheels per day, and in connection with the wheel foundry they manufacture all kinds of castings. The pipe factory runs twenty-five to thirty tons per day, from three to twelve inches in diameter, used for water and gas. When the works are run under full capacity, 140 to 150 tons of pig iron per day are used. This gives some idea of the work done by them. The car shops have a capacity of twenty cars per day.

In 1892, William H. Woodin (1868-1934), son of the founder and later Secretary of the Treasury under Franklin D. Roosevelt,  became General Superintendent of the firm, and in 1895 he became its President.

In 1899, Jackson & Woodin was consolidated into the American Car & Foundry Company. It was one of the largest of the 13 companies involved. By then the Berwick plant had become the largest manufacturer of railroad cars in the eastern United States. It would continue to be one of the largest units of the vast American Car & Foundry Company.

American Car & Foundry — Berwick Plant

American Car & Foundry invested heavily in the Berwick plant. About three million dollars were spent on the purchase of additional land, erection of additional buildings and installation of machinery. By 1902 the Berwick plant had 2,600 employees, with a payroll of $140,000 a month, and a prospect of adding 2,400 more employees when the new facilities then being erected were completed.

In 1916, William F. Woodin, President of Jackson & Woodin and grandson of the firm’s founder became President of American Car & Foundry.

By 1940, the Berwick plant—begun in a building only 25' x 40'—encompassed well over 400 acres. {39}

By 1948, the Berwick plant had produced more than 230,000 cars. {245}

In the early 1960s, American Car & Foundry partially withdrew from car building, and the Berwick plant was sold in 1962 to a group of local business people who established the Berwick Forge & Fabricating Corporation.

For more on the American Car & Foundry Berwick Plant, click HERE.

11 April 2006

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