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

Southern Car Company

The Southern Car Company was organized at High Point, North Carolina, in 1904 as a successor to the Briggs Car Company of Amesbury, Massachusetts. Edward R. Briggs, the principal of that company, became Secretary-Treasurer of Southern. Briggs had gone through a three-month strike in 1903, and it is quite possible that Briggs went south as many businesses have since, to avoid dealing with a trade union.

For whatever it’s worth, Southern’s initial advertisements reportedly said the company had moved to take advantage of “the best timber section of the South,” and assured prospects that it employed “the services of the skilled car builders from the North.” {485} [If you know any more of the story, would you share it with us?]

If Southern ever built anything other than streetcars and interurbans, we have yet to see it. One authority says the Briggs influence can be seen during Southern’s first few years in the design of their single truck closed body cars and their single truck open cross bench cars; even to the point of using images of Briggs cars in Southern’s advertising. Single truck cars of the Salisbury & Spencer Railway of North Carolina built before 1906 are said to be typical examples. A unique car built by Southern was called Merrymaking. It was apparently a combination open and closed parlor car appropriately described as “elegant.” [If you can tell us more about it, or suggest a source for more information, please contact us.]

Southern built 10 all-steel double-deck cars for Capitol Transit of Washington, DC, which are considered outstanding, and reportedly built New Orlean’s first steel cars (#400-449) in 1914. Though most of its production was used in the south, it also supplied railways in New York and in Puerto Rico.

Despite its apparent success, Southern couldn’t compete with the larger companies such as Brill and its wholly-owned subsidiaries. It even went so far as to bring in Albert H. Sisson, a man with long experience with electric traction, having been an executive with the Jewett Car Company, the St. Louis Car Company, and the Forsyth Brothers Company.

But the company nevertheless went out of business in 1916, bruised and battered by competition, the long depression years that followed the 1907 stock market crash, declining orders for streetcars, and the imminent entrance of the U.S. into the war in Europe that would become the 1st World War.

But [quite literally] . . . out of the ashes of the Southern Car Company would come the Perley A. Thomas Car Company.

11 April 2006

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