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

Laclede Car Company

The Laclede Car Company was formed at St. Louis in 1883 by James P. Keily and Thomas F. Colfer, two employees of the Brownell Car Company who felt that they were being constrained by Frederick Brownell's conservatism, and were seeking a chance to experiment with new ideas. {183} Capitalization was $40,000. {184}

Laclede’s works were close to the riverfront between North 1st and North 2nd Streets with May Street to the north and Douglas to the south. This required a very compact layout, which Laclede made the most of, bragging that their cars were built in place rather than moved around during construction as at other works. Instead of shops being devoted to various purposes and pieces coming together in a single erecting shop, Laclede had seven erecting shops, with a total capacity of 100 cars.

Laclede Car works 1896
Plan of the Laclede Car works ca. 1896. To the left (approximately North) is May Street. To the top (approximately East) is 1st Street, and just beyond is the Mississippi River. Click on image for enlargement.

Laclede apparently suffered from almost continuous financial difficulties. Financial problems kept it out of business from January to September 1887 (following the formation of the St. Louis Car Company). {185} It apparently survived, nevertheless, even through the very lean years following the 1893 stock market crash.

Laclede went through a major reorganization in 1901, when its then-President, William Sutton, and then-Secretary, Emil A. Alexander, established the American Car Company. {183} Colfer, then company Treasurer, and Keiley, as a Director, applied to the Circuit Court for appointment of a Receiver, alleging mismanagement by Sutton and Alexander and that they had “turned over some of the business of the Laclede Car company to the new concern." {184} We don’t know what the court did with the application, but we do know Sutton and Alexander resigned and sold their interests to Keily and Colfer for $40,000 and that as a result Laclede increased its capitalization to $80,000. {183}

Horse car by Laclede 1901 for Tampica, Mexico
914mm. / 3 ft. gauge horse car built by Laclede about 1902 for use in Tampica, Mexico.

Laclede was in financial difficulty again in 1903, as were many car builders, and the much larger St. Louis Car Company acquired Laclede 25 April 1903 to add to its own production capacity.

During its relatively short life, Laclede produced horse, cable. and electric streetcars. Its products were good, and had a wide distribution. It produced a few interurban cars just prior to the takeover by St. Louis Car Company. Charlton {181} says it “did some building of coaches and trailers for steam roads,” but we have yet to see any evidence of this.

11 April 2006

Home/Bldr. Index Bibliography Links Car-Bldr. Dictionary All-time Bldr. List C&S Rolling-stock