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

St. Charles Car Company

St. Charles, Missouri, suffered a loss of employment in 1867 when the car repair shop of the North Missouri Railroad was closed. It stood idle for six years until it was reopened with funds provided by local citizens, most prominent of whom was Henry B. Denker (1839-1905+).Consideration was given to producing farm machinery, but railway car building won out.

Denker was born in Hanover, Germany, and came to this country in 1859, ultimately stopping at St. Charles. He operated a grocery business and meat packing house before organizing the St. Charles Car Manufacturing Company in 1872 or 1873, and had been St Charles County Treasurer since 1865. He was Vice President of the firm until 1895 when he became its President.

At first the business did poorly because of the 1873 panic and the decline in car-building business that ensued. But it gained strength and prospered for many years thereafter, building horse street cars, trolleys and freight cars for steam railroads.

The company’s name was shortened to St. Charles Car Company about 1880.

St. Charles began building passenger cars for steam railroads in 1886. Within a few years employment had risen to 1,800. [245]

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St. Charles was one of the 13 companies that merged in 1899 to form American Car & Foundry, and in later years became its main passenger car works.

In 1910, AC&F modernized the St. Charles plant and devoted it mainly to production of steel passenger cars. Passenger car orders dropped off after about 1955, and by 1961 ACF had decided to abandon that business and closed the plant the following year, retaining it as a research and storage facility. [245]

First decades of 20th century St. Charles plant built almost exclusively passenger cars: all kinds, but no sleeping cars until after WW2.

During WW1 turned out > 50k escort wagons and parts for artillery vehicles.

During WW2 mfg mil. equip: >1,800 light tanks, hospital cars at rate of 1/day in late 1944.

> war exp bldg  boom as rrs upgraded + repl worn-out older passenger equip. but 1950s passenger traffic dropped off + st. chas declined. in 1959 mfg ops at st./ chas phased out w/ shipment of last pass cars by ACF

11 April 2006

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