Car Builder - American Car and Foundry Co.

The Detroit branch of the great manufacturing institution, the American Car & Foundry Company, was comprised of what was formerly known as the Peninsular Car Company, located at Ferry and Russell streets, the Michigan Car Company, the Detroit Car Wheel Company and Detroit Pipe & Foundry Company, located at Michigan and Clark Avenues, and the Baugh Steam Forge, located on the river at the foot of Clark Avenue. 

In 1884, the Peninsular Car Company purchased twenty-five acres of land at Ferry and Russell Streets, erected buildings and installed first-class equipment. 

All of these properties were merged into the Michigan-Peninsular Car Company in September, 1892, and in March, 1899, the company was acquired by the American Car & Foundry Company with other plants located in Chicago, St. Louis, Buffalo and other cities.  The plants in Detroit were designated as the Peninsular Department, Michigan Department and the Forge Department. 

Then it was only necessary to arrange for the construction of wooden cars.  When the demand for steel cars made it apparent that eventually the wooden car would give way to cars of steel construction, large shops were erected at this plant and equipped with machinery adapted to this work.  The buildings alone covered about twenty acres and the total acreage occupied was fifty-two. 

There were also foundries at this plant in which wheels and castings for cars were turned out.  The Michigan Department, at Michigan and Clark avenues, occupied thirty-nine acres.  The forge Department occupied nine acres on the Detroit River. 

Statistics of the state department of labor show that in 1919 there were 2,423 people employed at the Detroit plants of this company.  The company's general offices were in St. Louis, Missouri.  Representative Detroit capitalists who were formerly identified with the car building industry in Detroit were:  Col. Frank J. Hecker, C. L. Freer, James McGregor, James McMillan, John S. Newberry, Christian H. Buhl, Theodore D. Buhl, Russell A. Alger, James F. Joy, and William C. McMillan. 

The car business reached its high water mark in 1907, when it employed over 9,000 men and had a production valued at $28,000,000.  The two big freight car plants were then building 100 cars a day.  During the First World War, the immense plant of the American Car & Foundry was given over to the making of munitions and when fully organized was turning out war materials in tremendous quantities.  [HWC]


The following sources are utilized in this website. [SOURCE-YEAR-MMDD-PG]:

  • [AAB| = All Aboard!, by Willis Dunbar, Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids ©1969.
  • [AAN] = Alpena Argus newspaper.
  • [AARQJ] = American Association of Railroads Quiz Jr. pamphlet. © 1956
  • [AATHA] = Ann Arbor Railroad Technical and Historical Association newsletter "The Double A"
  • [AB] = Information provided at Michigan History Conference from Andrew Bailey, Port Huron, MI

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