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

Union Car & Bridge Works

Stone & Boomer
Union Car Works (Chicago)
Stone, Boomer & Bouton
American Car Company (Chicago)

The Union Car & Bridge Works had its beginning at Chicago, Illinois, in February 1848, when A.B. Stone and L.B. Boomer formed a partnership to construct wooden bridges under the patent of Stone’s brother-in-law William Howe, inventor of the patented Howe truss. The partnership did business under the name of Stone & Boomer. During the 1850’s they would construct bridges for 24 different railroads in Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin. { ? }

In November 1852, Stone & Boomer established the Union Car Works on South Clark Street. [Another source {330} says the works belonged to A.B. Stone & Co.] They produced their first car three months later. {329}

During 1853, Union produced 250 freight cars, 20 - 1st class passenger cars, 10 - 2nd class passenger cars, and 10 baggage and mail cars. They also furnished the iron work for 150 railroad bridges. {336}

During 1854, Union produced 400 cars, worth $300,000, and bridges worth $450,000. [336] These were primarily for the Western Division of the Rock Island Line and for the Ohio & Mississippi Company. {329}

In September of 1855, the Union Car works was destroyed by fire. At this time, they had contracts with 24 different roads in Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin, with gross annual earnings from bridge building of $800,000 per annum. [Almost $18 million in today’s buying power!] {329}

The buildings that were destroyed, all of wood, included a two-story framing shop, 60 by 110 feet, a two-story machine shop, 38 by 120 feet, a setting-up shop, 40 by 110 feet, with an “L” 30 by 38 feet, and a brass foundry 25 feet square. Their value was estimated at $65,000. [Almost $1.5 million in today’s buying power.] Insurance proceeds expected were less than $10,000. {333}

At the time of the fire, the Union Car Works employed about 300 workers, and was producing an average of two cars a day in addition to their bridge work. {333}

Most of the foundry work for the car works had been done by a foundry on Clark Street near 15th owned by George W. Sizer & Company and managed by Nathaniel S. Bouton, a principle of that firm. Shortly after the fire, Bouton bought the idle works of the American Car Company on behalf of Stone & Boomer and “shortly afterward” joined the partnership, which became Stone, Boomer and Bouton. {329} [Elsewhere Andreas says the works, located on the lake shore in the southern part of Chicago, were those of  “the American Bridge Company.” But that seems to be a confusion with a company later founded by L.B. Boomer (see below).]

The American Car Company of Chicago had begun building cars in November 1852. [332] It carried on an extensive manufacture of railroad cars in 1853/54. It was located on the lake shore at the foot of Rio Grande Street, now 26th. The section of the city surrounding its works became thickly settled and became known as “Carville.” {329}

President of the company was Timothy Dwight, and plant superintendent was J.H. Lyman. {329}

During its 1st full year of operation (1853), American Car produced 700 cars, with a value of $450,000. These were mostly freight cars, though it did build passenger cars for the Illinois Central Railroad. {329} It employed 260 men. {330}

During its 2nd full year of operation (1854), American Car produced 269 cars, with a value of $600,000. These consisted of 230 platform (flat) cars and 39 1st-class passenger cars. {329} This despite a fire in January that entirely consumed its brass and iron foundry, blacksmith and molding shops. {331}

But apparently the fire was too much for American Car, as it failed that summer and its works, consisting of a foundry, blacksmith shop, engine house, machine shop, paint shop, and two passenger car car shops, were lying idle in September of 1855 when the Union Car Works burned. {329}

The new firm of Stone, Boomer & Bouton did business under the name of the Union Car & Bridge Works, doing all kinds of iron work for railroads as well as structural and architectural iron. In addition to the new works on the lakeshore, Union Car continued to use the old foundry on South Clark Street. {329}

Sometime during 1857/58, Nataniel Bouton acquired the architectural cast-iron business of Frederick Letz and moved it to the Stone, Boomer & Bouton foundry. In 1858, Stone, Boomer & Bouton sold the works of Union Car & Bridge to the Illinois Central Railroad , which was acquiring as much lakeshore property as possible, and sold the burned-out works of the former Union Car Works on Clark Street to Nathaniel Bouton. And the Stone, Boomer & Bouton partnership was dissolved. {329}

Though the Union Car & Bridge Works did all kinds of foundry work and metal fabrication, we have found no evidence that it built any cars beyond those noted above.

Cast of Characters

Nathaniel Sherman Bouton (1828-1908) was born at Concord, New Hampshire. Though short of formal education, he apparently learned much from his minister father. At the age of 14, he went to work on a nearby farm. At 16, he began teaching school. A few years later (1846), he went to work for E. & T. Fairbanks selling scales throughout Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. {334}

In 1852, Bouton went to work for George W. Sizer & Company, a foundry firm that had sizeable works in Cleveland and Cincinnati, and was looking to establish itself in Chicago. He became manager of the Chicago operation, and a year later became a partner in the firm. {334}

The Sizer & Company foundry, at Clark near 15th Street, manufactured primarily car wheels and castings for other for the developing Chicago railroad trade. Among the firms supported in this way was the Union Car Works. {334}

Following the September 1855 fire that destroyed the Union Car Works, Bouton purchased the plant of the American Bridge Company and soon afterwards entered into partnership with Boomer and Stone, forming the partnership of Stone, Boomer & Bouton, which did business as the Union Car & Bridge Works. This firm built almost all the railway bridges in what was then known as “the West” (meaning more-or-less everything west of Pennsylvania), including the bridge at Rock Island that was the first to cross the Mississippi River. They also built railway cars. {334} This company was sold to the Illinois Central Railroad in 1857. {335}

In 1857, Bouton was appointed superintendent of public works of Chicago, a position he filled for three years. He was one of the three men who established the present grade of Chicago, and it was during his administration that the first streets were paved. In 1862 he became quartermaster of the 88th Illinois Infantry, a position he held until after the battle of Chickamauga [Sep 18-20, 1863], when he resigned and returned home to attend to his burgeoning business. {480}

In 1858, Bouton bought out the interests of Stone and Boomer in the old Union Car Works, which he rebuilt and operated until 1863. In that year he organized the firm of N.S. Bouton & Company, the “company” being Christopher B. Bouton and Edward F. Hurlburt. This firm did business until 1871, when it was incorporated under the name of Union Foundry Works with Bouton as President, Hurlburt as Vice President and Superintendant, and Christopher Bouton as Secretary and Treasurer. This firm specialized in architectural iron work. Among their contracts were many of the finest business blocks of the city, the custom house in Chicago, and that in St. Louis, the statehouse of Illinois and of Iowa, and most of the Chicago grain elevators. {334}

In 1881, the Western Indiana Railway Company acquired for a right-of-way the premises occupied by the Union Foundry Works. A new company was organized called the Union Foundry & Pullman Car Wheel Works. It was located on 11 acres in the newly-founded south suburban town of Pullman, where George Pullman was building his great works. It carried on a general foundry and machine shop business in addition to producing car wheels and other castings for the Pullmans Palace Car Company. Some 600 men melted about 150 tons of iron daily. {334}

In 1886, Bouton disposed of his interests in the “Pullman Palace Car Company.” [Did the writer really mean to say the Union Foundry & Pullman Car Wheel Works? Or did Bouton actually own an interest in Pullmans Palace Car Company?] He then organized the Bouton Foundry Company in Chicago, from which he gradually retired, leaving the business in the hands of several of the younger men who had been his employees and business associates. {335}

Andros Boydon Stone (1824- ) was born in Charlton, Massachusetts, the younger brother of Amasa Stone, Jr. He left home at 16 to serve an apprenticeship as a carpenter with his older brother. After a year and a half, when his brother was employed by William Howe, inventor of the Howe truss bridge, he was allowed to become time-keeper on the job. Howe subsequently bought out his apprenticeship contract and kept him as time-keeper, while adding various responsibilities, including making estimates, and drawing bridge plans. When his brother and Azariah Boody bought the rights to William Howe’s bridge patents for six New England states in 1842, he was given a job with their firm, Boody, Stone & Company. He began by supervising the construction of small bridges but circumstances gave him a chance to supervise a large one and he rose to the challenge, and was soon promoted to general superintendent of construction. After several years, when Boody, Stone & Company signed a contract with the Atlantic & St. Lawrence Railroad, Andros was made a partner with his brother and Azariah Boody. {482}

After several more years, in 1847, Amasa Stone and Azariah Boody separated, Amasa to take the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and Boody taking the other three. {467} It appears that Andros stayed with Boody, as he was then involved in building bridges for the Rutland & Burlington Railroad in Vermont. In 1850, Andros partnered with a Mr. Maxwell, and they apparently bought Azariah Boody’s interest in the Howe patents for the three northern New England states. {482}

In 1852, Andros moved west to Chicago, where he partnered with his brother-in-law, Lucius B. Boomer. During the next six years, the partnership of Stone & Boomer built an estimated 30,000 feet of bridges, including the first across the Mississippi river. Their Union Car Works

In 1855, Stone and Boomer acquired a new partner, Nathaniel S. Bouton, and the firm of Stone, Boomer & Bouton renamed their works the Union Car & Bridge Works. Their foundry produced iron works for cars, bridges and turntables, as well as buildings. One source { C } says in 1856 "Twenty iron-front buildings, all designed by the architects VanOsdel and Bauman, were built in Chicago . . . two, one of which was a bank, were made by Stone, Boomer and Bouton of Chicago."

In the Spring of 1858, Andros sold out his interest in Stone, Boomer & Bouton to Nathaniel Bouton and moved to Cleveland, where his older brother Amasah had become president of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad.

Lucius Bolles Boomer ( - ) was born probably in Worcester, Massachusetts. We know nothing at this time about his life before 1846, when Andros Stone married his sister Amelia. We do know that in 1852 he was in Chicago, for in that year he partnered with Andros to establish the firm of Stone & Boomer establish the Union Car Works, and to build bridges of the Howe truss type. In 1858, he sold his interest in that firm to Nathaniel Bouton.

In 1863, we find him described as a major bridge builder, with “large contracts with the United States government in erecting railroad bridges. Among others the firm replaced several bridges on the M. P. Railroad destroyed by the rebel Gen. Price during his raid.” { A }

In 1870, he joined with brother-in-law Andros Stone and several others to establish the American Bridge Company (Chicago). In 1878, however, “failed designs and troubles with contracts and general business conditions” brought about the firm’s liquidation. It was somehow resurrected as the American Bridge Works some 13 years later, but nine years after that (1900) was bought out by J.P. Morgan’s newly organized American Bridge Company.  { E }

11 April 2006

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