Wooden Passenger Car Builders

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This page was last updated on August 6, 2015.

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Barney & Smith

The Barney & Smith Car Co. had its beginnings in 1849 at Dayton, Ohio, with the organization of the Dayton Car Works to build horse-drawn cars for street railways. A line of agricultural equipment was added in 1852, but the street railway business was growing too rapidly to support two separate industries, so the agricultural business was sold. Bankruptcy came in 1857 during a financial panic, causing several railroads to default of paying for finished cars. By this time the company was known as Barney, Parker & Company, and was forced to remain closed until sometime in 1858. After reopening, by 1859 the company employed over 1200 persons. Some of George Pullman's first sleeping cars were built by Barney, Parker & Co.

The company furnished freight cars and passenger cars to the southern states prior to the Civil War, and to the northern states before and during the war. As the war ended, the company was a secure and established railroad equipment producer, expanding the plant to produce 20 freight cars a week and two passenger cars a month. The average number employed was 350.

In 1864, with the retirement of Caleb Parker, the company was reorganized from Barney, Parker & Company, to Barney, Smith & Company. It was reorganized in 1866 as a stock corporation named Barney & Smith Manufacturing Company of Dayton. During the early 1870s, the company's business included full-sized sleeping cars for both broad gauge and narrow gauge railroads, and horse-drawn cars for street railways.

Barney & Smith was reportedly the largest car builder in the nation until Pullman opened his big plant near Chicago in 1881. In that year Barney & Smith employed more than 1,500 workers. By 1890, Barney & Smith employed more than 2,000 workers. In the early 1890s, Barney & Smith began building electrified cars for the street railways, by the mid 1890s company grew to be a major supplier of freight and passenger cars, producing almost 6 per cent of the nation's total car production.

But Barney & Smith was not on the leading edge of rail car development, including not owning any patents for the components it used to build its cars. Barney & Smith was losing its business to its rapidly growing competitor, Pullman Palace Car Company, which controlled and owned numerous patents. In 1892 the Barney family sold its interest and the firm became publicly traded as the Barney & Smith Car Company.

Barney & Smith ignored the steel freight car market until 1905, by which time the designs were well-developed, and the market dominated by the company's competitors. B&S built two all steel passenger cars in 1907 for the Erie Railroad. These two cars, an RPO and a coach, had been ordered in 1905. From that time on, the company continued to struggle, selling wooden cars, steel cars, and a limited number of cars to a few interurban railroads. Dennis Storek provided examples from cars built for Soo Line give a close timeline of the period Barney & Smith changed from building all-wooden cars, to all-steel cars. In 1909, B&S built two Observation lounges and five Baggage-RPO cars for Soo Line, all with wood underframes and wood bodies. In 1910-1912, B&S delivered a total of 12 cars to Soo Line, all with steel underframes and wooden bodies. Also in 1911 and 1912, Soo Line recieved its first all-steel cars from B&S, in the form of two groups of six all-steel coaches, one group in 1911 and another in 1912. In 1913, Soo Line received 18 all-steel cars from B&S, and in 1914, a total of 17 all-steel B&S cars were delivered.

Government control of the nation's railroads in 1918 was the beginning of the end. "There was business to be had, but only to the lowest bidder, which Barney could not be. The post-war depression cut even what few orders there were." The plant closed in February 1921, and the entire complex, 47 acres, 76 buildings, machinery, plant locomotives and materials was liquidated on June 12, 1924 in a two-day auction that netted just $476,257 against indebtedness of almost $2 million.

Dennis Storzek wrote on May 6 and 8, 2012:

B&S lasted until 1924, although the last five years the company was practically comatose. But, B&S did successfully make the change to building steel passenger equipment in 1910. By 1911 B&S had successfully transformed their standard passenger car to a "all steel" product, although those cars still incorporated a lot of wood in their interior finish. The fact that the firm went bankrupt was due to factors other than their ability to build up-to-date passenger cars. (Pullman built its first steel passenger car in 1909, so B&S was not too far behind their competitors in the steel passenger car market.)

Unfortunately, a list of cars built by Barney & Smith apparently doesn't exist. Barney & Smith is maybe the only major builder that went completely out of business... no successor company, just a sheriff's sale in 1924. There is no known extant lot list. When Trostle did his book, "The Barney & Smith Car Company: Car Builders Dayton, Ohio ", he tried to reconstruct a list from secondary sources, but it was woefully inadequate, at least as far as the Soo Line was concerned. He missed about 80% of the B&S cars the Soo owned. The accuracy for other roads may vary, depending on how much roster information from railroad sources he found.

Roger Hinman wrote on May 8, 2012:

The New York Central placed an order for five all steel baggage cars with B&S in 1909 with delivery in 1910. There were orders in 1911 for steel club cars and postal cars.

(Read more about Barney & Smith at Mid-Continent Railway Museum)

A preliminary review of available Union Pacific records show that UP and its subsidiaries bought the following 53 wooden cars from Barney & Smith.

Date Qty. Type Series Notes
1870 2 45'-3" wooden Baggage & Mail UP 1376, 1379 renumbered to UP 2214, 2216
1879 5 52'-5" wooden Chair UP 131-135 renumbered to UP 510-512
1880 1 wooden Coach UP 23 renumbered to UP 75, renumbered to UP 482
1880 1 45'-9" wooden Baggage UP 1292 renumbered to UP 92, renumbered to UP 1608
1883 1 54'-6" wooden Officer OSL 120 renumbered to OSL 01, renumbered to OSL 177
1886 7 51'-6" wooden Coach UP 525-531  
1886 2 51'-6" wooden Coach UP 532, 533  
1886 1 wooden Baggage Passenger UP 33 renumbered to UP 776, renumbered to UP 1465, renumbered to UP 2714
1889 6 51'-6" wooden Chair UP 513-518  
1898 1 72'-6" wooden Diner UP 706 renumbered to UP 308, rebuilt to UP Parlor 3200
1899 3 60' wooden Coach OSL 130-132 renumbered to OSL 25-27, renumbered to OSL 611-613.
1899 5 60' wooden Chair OSL 223-227 renumbered to OSL1314-1318
1899 3 71'-8" wooden Buffett OSL 250-252 rebuilt to OSL Baggage Passenger 290-292, renumbered to OSL 2806-2808
1899 1 71'-11" wooden Buffett ORR&N 301 renumbered to OWRR&N 586, renumbered to OWRR&N 2903
1906 13 60' wooden Coach OSL 155-167 renumbered to OSL 50-62, renumbered to OSL 636-648.
1909 1 72' wooden Diner UP 321  
Total 53      

Ohio Falls Car Manufacturing Company

The Ohio Falls Car Manufacturing Company was organized on June 1, 1864, in the last years of the Civil War, to furnish railroad freight cars to the rapidly expanding northern railroads. The factory was located at Jeffersonville, Indiana, just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky.

The company believed in standardization, and an 1868 advertisement showed that the company stated they had cars on hand ready for immediate delivery. They maintained 10 of each type of car ready for lettering and delivery in 24 hours. They maintained another 120 cars framed up, and could deliver these completed at a rate of from 12 to 20 per week. They had a stock of streetcars ready for lettering, and passenger car bodies ready for trucks and interior trimmings of the buyer's choice. They guaranteed high quality and fast delivery.

The company's shops burned to the ground in 1872, but although new buildings replaced those that were lost to the fire, the financial panic of 1873 severely reduced the railroads' buying of new cars. The shops were closed for more than two years. In 1876 the company was reorganized as the Ohio Falls Car Manufacturing Company. It built most types of railroad cars, including electric street cars, and passenger cars for the rapidly growing market of narrow gauge railroads. By 1888, Ohio Falls was one of the largest and most profitable of the car builders. By 1892 it employed more than 2,300, and its sales soon reached $3 million worth of cars annually. In 1899, the Ohio Falls Car Manufacturing Company was one of the 13 independent car builders that merged to form the American Car & Foundry Company.

The following comes from the December 1893 issue of Railroad Car Journal:

The Ohio Falls Car Company was recently reorganized as the The Ohio Falls Car Manufacturing Co., and its capital stock increased from $600,000 to $1,000,000.

The new board of directors consists of Jacob L. Sueyser, of Jeffersonville, President; M. E. Duncan, of New York. First Vice-President and General Manager; Dallas B. Pratt, of New York, Second Vice President; J D. Stuart, of New York, Secretary and Treasurer; Thomas L. Barrett, Ada Cox, John Smith, and J. Matherton, of Louisville; Samuel C. Taggart, of Jeffersonville.

Maitland, Phelps & Co., of New York, conducted the negotiations for the reorganization. Evans, Coate & Beaman, of New York, were selected as counsel.

The company owns sixty-two acres in Clarksville, on which are fifty-two brick buildings. the value of the entire properties of the company has been appraised at $1,866.803.

The stockholders of the old company have taken in part payment for the plant $500,000 of the preferred stock and all of the common stock of the new corporation. The preferred stock will be entitled to 8 per cent gold dividends.

The new company has acquired and taken over as of the date of July 1, 1892, the property and business of the old company, manufacturers of passenger, parlor, and freight cars of every description. The company owns in fee simple about 62 acres of land in Clarksville, immediately adjoining Jeffersonville, Ind., a city of some 13,000 inhabitants, directly opposite Louisville, Kentucky. The buildings, 70 in number-51 of which being built of stone and brick, with iron and slate roofs are of the most substantial character and uniform architecture, and especially constructed for the requirements of the business.

The machinery is of the most approved type, and is maintained in a high state of efficiency. The capacity of the works is 5 passenger cars per week and 25 freight cars per day, employing 1,500 to 2,000 men, with an annual output approaching three million dollars in value. A very complete fire system protects the property by means of hydrants and automatic sprinklers, connecting with the public water works or Jeffersonville, thereby securing minimum rates of insurance, with blanket policies covering entire property.

Under special legislation, Clarksville cannot be embraced within the limits of Jeffersonville, and the company thus enjoys immunity from city taxation. The old company produces 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 feet of oak and poplar lumber yearly at its own band sawmill. The logs are brought down the Ohio River and stored for Winter cutting, effecting large saving, and insuring uninterrupted supply. Located near iron and timber fields, supplies are acquired on exceptionally favorable comparative basis.

The company builds cars for a large number of the railroads of this country, among others the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, Vanderbilt systems, Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company, Mackey lines, Central Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia, New York, Lake Erie and Western Railway, Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Chicago and Northwestern, New York, Ontario and Western, New York, Susquehanna and Western, Pittsburgh and Western, Wheeling and Lake Erie.

The Pennsylvania, and the Ohio and Mississippi Railway Companies connect directly with the yards of the company, and over the tracks of these two roads, connections are made with seven other railway companies.

(See also: Ohio Falls Car Manufacturing Co. at Mid-Continent Railway Museum

A preliminary review of available Union Pacific records show that UP and its subsidiaries bought the following wooden cars from Ohio Falls Car Manufacturing Co.

Date Qty. Type Series Notes
1906 1 Baggage & Passenger OSL 558 renumbered to OSL 2805

St. Charles Car Company

Founded in 1873, with the first car being built in 1874. The company's name was shortened to St. Charles Car Company about 1880. The company first built transit cars for street railways, the in 1886, St. Charles began building passenger cars for steam railroads. Within a few years employment had risen to 1,800. 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.

St. Charles Car Company built at least nine full-sized passenger cars for Union Pacific.

(See also: Wikipedia article for St. Charles Car Company.)

St. Louis Car Company

The St. Louis Car Company was founded April 4, 1887 at St. Louis, Missouri for the explicit purpose of building streetcars. A 48,370 square foot building was built, measuring 150 feet long and three stories high. The first floor was the mill, the second the erecting area, and the third floor was the paint shop and metal-working area. The floors were connected by elevators large enough to hold an entire streetcar, which were much smaller in those early days. The plant's location at 3023 North Broadway was just a few blocks from the Mississippi River. The building was completed and work building cars began by August 1887. The first cars were shipped in October 1887.

By 1889, more than 400 streetcars were being built per year, and in 1890, a new building was added. By 1892, it was reported that St. Louis Car was building more than 100 streetcars per month.

In 1897, more capacity was added when St. Louis Car bought Union Car Company, and their new factory on 16 acres of land in Baden, Missouri, about five miles north of the original factory in St. Louis. With the purchase of the Union Car Company's land in Baden, St. Louis Car began to build a huge, modern car building facility. The center of attention was a huge erecting shop 300 feet by 624 feet, with 40 parallel tracks connected by a 60-foot transfer table running its full length. Its size reportedly made it possible to manufacture 300 cars at the same time. In 1902 an additional erecting shop was completed, measuring 100 feet by 563 feet.

In April 1903, St. Louis Car purchased competitor Laclede Car Company, one of four competing car companies in the St. Louis area. Of the other two companies, American Car Company purchased the Brownell Car Company in 1900, and in 1902 the American company was purchased by J. G. Brill Company.

As part of its expansion stemming from the favorable publicity following the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, the St. Louis Car Company began offering full sized railroad cars. These large cars were built at the Baden plant, from 1904 through late 1907 and early 1908. Financial troubles forced St. Louis Car Co. to examine its markets, and the manufacture of full-size cars for the steam roads was curtailed due to the high cost of engineering and production. The company chose to focus it efforts on its core business of building transit cars (cars for street railways, elevated railways, and subways). A 1978 book about St. Louis Car Co. stated that a total of 137 cars were built for the mainline steam railroads. (see "The History of St. Louis Car Company" by Andrew Young and Eugene Provenzo, page 75; more research is needed)

Available records show that UP and its subsidiaries bought the following 90 wooden cars from St. Louis Car Company.

Qty. Type Original
1904 11 Chair SPLA&SL 307-317 LA&SL 4312-4322
1905 8 Mail SPLA&SL 80-87 LA&SL 4562, 4648-4653, 4751-4753 (8 cars)
1905 10 Baggage SPLA&SL 153-162 LA&SL 4454-4459, 4463-4465
1905 10 Coach SPLA&SL 514-523 LA&SL 4128-4136
1905 8 Coach ORR&N 132-139 OWRR&N 243-250 / OWRR&N 838-845
1907 10 Coach ORR&N 145-154 OWRR&N 256-265 / OWRR&N 851-860
1907 15 Coach UP 518 (2nd), 519 (2nd), 523 (2nd), 528 (2nd),
565-574, 577 (2nd)
UP 518, 519, 523, 528, 565-574, 577
1907 5 Coach OSL 170-174 OSL 64-68 / OSL 649-653
1908 3 Baggage & Mail ORR&N 20-22 OWRR&N 40-42 / OWRR&N 2410-2412
1908 5 Coach OSL 231-235 OSL 1322-1326
1908 5 Baggage & Mail OSL 519-523 OSL 2311-2313 (3 cars)
Total 90      

Wason Manufacturing Company

Started by Thomas W. Wason and his brother Charles in 1848 in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the location of the defunct Springfield Car & Engine Company. Charles left in 1851 to start his own enterprise in Cleveland, and Thomas expanded the company after taking in new investors. By the time of Thomas' death in 1870, Wason Car Company was one of the largest manufacturers of railroad freight cars and passenger cars. Few railroad cars were built after about 1900, with the focus being on street trolleys and electric rail cars. The company was sold to Brill in 1906. Brill continued to build street railway cars at the same location until the plant was closed in 1932. (White, page 655)

(Read more about Wason Manufacturing at Mid-Continent Railway Museum)