As might be suspected, in the early days, a car factory having been located in a small town without a railroad, they did not at the outset have enough cars to build to keep the shops fully occupied, so the Company added agricultural implements to their line of manufacture, making circular horse powers, arranged so that the horses walked around the inside of a wooden ring. They also made plows, corn shellers, grain drills and threshing machines.
In 1852 Rufus Dutton and A. E. Stevens (the father of J. H. Stevens and the grandfather of A. J. Stevens) bought from the Car Company their agricultural department with the privilege of continuing the manufacture in the car shops, their shops being located on the third floor of the main brick building of the works.
About 1855 the Car Company built for Mr. Dutton four hundred McCormick reapers for McCormick of Chicago, the present “Reaper King.”
The Company also built the Owens Horse Rake, which was patented by Ben Owens, who for many years was an employee of the Blacksmith Shop and who was the father of B. F. Owens, at one time Foreman of the Blacksmith Shop.
The Agricultural Department also bought out the Atkins Self Rake, and after A. E. Stevens left the Company in 1854, the Company seemed to make such a large success and promised so much for the future, that Rufus Dutton and others withdrew from the Car Shop grounds and built what is now our Annex Plant, but the crash of 1857 made it a failure, and Rufus Dutton gave up and went back east. William Davis took the Annex Plant from Dutton and continued the manufacturing of threshing machines and other agricultural implements. Davis was a wealthy farmer and owned a four hundred acre farm on the Brandt pike, and built the twenty-two room house on this farm on the northwest corner of the Brandt pike and the Smithville road, which was later occupied by Jacob Seybold. Davis sold out this business to Mr. Pitts, and the shop was known as the Pitts Thresher works, and Pitts street, which runs parallel with the north side of the canal, takes its name from Mr. Pitts.
Mr. Davis then built the old buildings of what is now the Corbin Screw Corporation, for manufacturing flax machinery, and later invented the taper core gimlet pointed screw and manufactured them under the name of the Davis Screw Company, which in after years and at the present time is the Dayton factory of The Corbin Screw Corporation.
In the late fifties, John Robinson’s circus had their winter quarters during two winters, in the large grounds east of the screw factory.
Mr. A. E. Stevens and his son, J. H. Stevens, were away from Dayton from 1854 to 1859, but upon their return in 1859, Mr. A. E. Stevens became connected with the Car Works as bookkeeper. About this time the Company had moved their office from the second floor of the main three story brick building and were occupying a one story frame office building that stood about where the present Blacksmith Shop Office is now located.
In the early days there were no machine tools in the Blacksmith Shop except a foot vise that held the bolts while being headed by the hammers of the smith and his helper.
In the Wheel Foundry the wheels were handled by a hand swing crane, the overhead power cranes not being installed until after Henry A. Billings became Foreman of the Foundry.
There was a wooden building parallel with the canal near Keowee street that had a water wheel in it, and which had been used as a saw mill. Afterwards the only flooring and matching machine in use in the works up to that time, was put into service in the spring of 1864. Up to that time all lumber to be matched was hauled to a planing mill down town.
In the lower floor of the three-story brick building was the wood machinery for the entire shops, except some little machinery on the two floors above which were the Cabinet Shops. The Iron Machine Shop also occupied a portion of the first floor.
Tradition says that where the main plant is now located was once the channel of Mad River, and this would seem to be substantiated by the many evidences found when excavations are necessary. In the early days the ground surface of the main plant was some five or six feet lower than the present surface level, and the low ground was gradually filled in to its present level as was also the land now occupied as a lumber years between the C. H. & D. R. R. tracks and the Phillips corner on First street.
When the Passenger and Paint Shop was a frame building where the present Body Shop M-1 is located, the cars were hauled out of the shop on hand trucks by a large force of men, and turned around on the present Big Four track, which at that time was our only railroad connection.
Mr. James H. Stevens remembers when cars were taken down the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad tracks to the canal, where the present Big Four Freight Depot is located, and the track cribbed down to the edge of the water, and the cars loaded on canal boats.
In connection is told an amusing incident which occurred about this time. After a hard day’s work loading cars, the men were invited to have “something” and the men, with one exception, took “one thing and another” (a term used by Henry Borghardt in the Council investigation in connection with the Natural Gas Franchise a few years ago) with the exception of James Hanley, the father of Edward W. Hanley. Mr. Hanley, being a temperate man in all habits, did not care for “one thing and another,” and when his turn came to be asked what he would have, said he believed he would take a bar of soap.
The little frame pattern storage shed that was moved to make room for the Power House, was the last of the buildings that were standing in 1863.
The first sleeping car built in the shops was for a Mr. Payne, who was at the shops for more than a year inventing details and perfecting them as the cars were being built. Later the Company built many sleeping cars for George M. Pullman before the Pullman Works were established.
The common way of building cars in the early days was the “cut and try” plan, and when Mr. C. C. James said he could make a drawing of a passenger car truck that could be worked to in every particular, he was hardly believed.
The sills for freight cars in the early days were all oak, and even for some of the passenger cars, and as there was no machinery to dress the freight car sills, they were framed by hand and the cross timbers and other pieces were boxed in when the sills were oversize part of their length, as most of them were. They were mortised and tenoned by the use of a hand boring machine and carried to the Freight Shop by hand.
There is a photograph in the office, taken in 1870, which shows a group of freight car builders, one of whom is sitting astride the hand boring machine above referred to.
A Daniels planer in the three story brick shop, with two bits revolving in a horizontal plane, did the sizing of the short timber.
The wheels were pressed onto the axles by a power screw press.
The only dry kiln in the early days was a little brick affair about 18x20” located where Fischer’s kiln now is, and the oak for freight cars were also dried in it.
In those days the cars were often built to odd sizes of lumber on hand, and when the order came from the same road, the sizes, it was hoped were done away with, would have to be bought, as the Company did try in those days to build cars twice alike for the same road, but generally the Car Company set the style of the cars, and the railroads took their advice.
The first steam engine put into the works was an experimental saw mill engine of about 15 H. P., and used to drive the foundry fans. This engine was not a success, and was replaced by a horizontal engine of about the same capacity, and which was purchased from John Brownell for $250.00. Mr. Brownell afterwards related that he made the engine give the power required by moving the safety valve weight out so far as to carry a much higher boiler pressure than should have been carried.
Back in the fifties, before the war, and before the revenue tax was put on whiskey, the scion of one of the old Dayton families would come out to the corner of Keowee and Monument avenue, and with a cart with a jug of whiskey and a keg of beer and set up a bar in the hollow stump of an old sycamore tree which was about seven feet in diameter. This stump was located about where the Iron Yard Punch House was located until removed a short time since.
Caleb Parker contended for wooden trucks long after the diamond pattern truck came into use, as he thought the old New England idea of a wooden wheel piece with cast iron jaws was the best, but Mr. Tenney argued that in a wreck the railroad men had to depend on the iron trucks to haul the wooden trucks home, and the diamond truck was adopted.
The elder Mr. Barney always wore a high silk hat. This hat became famous as a barometer of Mr. Barney's temperament for the day. In his walks through the shops, if his hat was pushed back on his head, he was in good humor, but if the hat was pulled down on his forehead, it was well to be on the lookout for breakers ahead.
When the firm was Barney, Parker & Company, Mr. Charles Chamberlain was the bookkeeper for the company. In those days Mr. Barney drove a little white horse hitched to a spring wagon, and every day Mr. Barney, with Mr. Parker and Mr. Chamberlain, might be seen driving to and from the works in this spring wagon. Upon the arrival of the party at the works, the little white horse was unhitched from the spring wagon and was then hitched o a cart and was made to do cart duty until time came to be hitched again to the spring wagon to haul the trio home.
Back in the fifties Mr. Chiles was a tasteful dresser. His hair was black and he wore a full black beard. It was his custom to wear a white beaver high hat and a blue swallow-tail coat embellished with brass buttons.
In the early days the Company had its full share of trouble and at time had to arrange with the groceries to accept orders in favor of their employees, and tradition says that these orders would not buy as good potatoes as could be gotten for cash.
When the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad (now part of the Baltimore & Ohio) failed, they were owning the Car Company for a good many cars, but the Company managed to catch their cars as they came into the junction near Cincinnati, and brought them back to Dayton and stored their yards full of them.
The elder Mr. Barney spent a great deal of time traveling in the South, sometimes traveling at night for a week at a time without the advantages of a sleeping car, and sold a good many cars there for which the payment was due when the war broke out, and the Confederate Government gave orders that all debts due northern creditors should be paid to the government.
Traditions say that at this time the Company sold out temporarily to Mr. E. Thresher, taking his notes for the whole works, and when creditors came to press their claims, they were offered Mr. Thresher’s notes, and thus time was gained until they could recover themselves.
During the war the Company had a contract for a lot of box cars for the Bellefontaine Line and were accumulating material to go on with them when “Yankee” Smith (James E. Smith, Superintendent of United States Military Railroads, five foot gauge) stepped in and asked the Car Company to build these cars for the Government, and this the Company refused to do. “Yankee” Smith quickly informed them that if they did not build the cars for the Government, he would seize the works and build them himself. So the cars were built for the Government as constantly advancing prices until the price of the last of the cars was $1,250.00 each, for a wooden box car, eight feet wide by twenty-eight feet long, and seven feet high, carrying ten tons, with a cast-iron draw-bar, wooden trucks and wood bolster, and without air brakes or other specialties.
When the Government cars were completed, prices had greatly advanced and when the Company asked the Bellfontaine Railroad for the increased price, they were met with a refusal, on the grounds that the Company had used the materials which had been intended for their cars on the Government cars and had made a large profit, getting the benefit of the advanced prices, and therefore they were entitled to their cars at the original price, and the matter was finally adjusted in that way.
January 1st, 1864, was known as the “Cold New Years” and no effort was made to do business, but on January 2nd they tried to work a little, but had to give up at noon. Mr. Childs and James Stevens sawed cord wood by water power to get fuel to keep the shops warm until noon, when the water in the canal became so frozen that the water wheel could not be operated.
For years the signal for starting to work was the sound from the Foundry Cinder Mill, which began when Mike Burns let the water in the main wheel.
A large part of oak lumber was received by canal and pine lumber was also received from Toledo by canal.
About 1866 Mr. E. E. Barney bought out the interest of Woodsum and Tenney, then bought the Pitts Thresher & Engine works, which finally became the Woodsum Machine Company, and which still later became the Car Works Annex Plant.
The west Lumber Yard was purchased from the heirs of Mr. Tenney, the consideration being $4,000,000, or about $800.00 per acre.
Business continued to increase, and compelled the installing of the first Wright engine, of about 350 H. P. in the west Cabinet Shop and which was known as the “Murphy engine.”
For many years the sides of passenger cars were wide poplar panels, and a great deal of trouble was experienced because of shrinkage, so the elder Mr. Barney ordered that the lumber should come from the dry kiln so hot that it could only be handled with gloves.
The elder Mr. Barney always insisted that brick should be wet before laying them into walls, and when in after years it was necessary to tear down any of his walls, the wisdom of his idea was apparent, as it was almost impossible to get the bricks apart without breaking them.
In September, 1866, the breaking of the levee near the Erie Railroad Mad River bridge, caused the shops to be flood-ed and the water was ten feet deep on the old machine shop floor, and Mr. James Stevens related that his tin dinner bucket was floated off the top of the safe in the old frame office. John McBride relates that when the men were next paid after the flood, the paper money was still wet from the safe having been submerged by the flood.
Of about three million feet of lumber, there was hardly ten per cent that was not thrown down and a great deal of it was carried into the streets, and no doubt some of it reached the Gulf of Mexico.
The flood damaged all the shops and machinery on the first floors and the Dayton and Michigan Railroad was out of business for a week, and part of the shops did not run for three weeks, and for more than two years after the flood, the planers struck fire out of the sand that had settled into the lumber during the flood.
Sometime later the only serious fire of the early days occurred when the Wheel Foundry and a large part of the roof of the Gray Iron Foundry burned. This occasioned quite a delay, though Mr. E. E. Barney made a record in getting the special roof timbers to replace the part of the Wheel Foundry roof that carried the wheel cranes.
After Mr. H. A. Billings came in 1869, remembering his experience in 1849 in washing gold in California, he persuaded Mr. E. J. Barney to allow him to wash a wheel barrow load of dust and iron as it came from the Cinder Mill, getting fifty-nine pounds of iron from it, and it was not very long after he had installed the Washery, that the accounts showed that he had reclaimed four hundred tons. This Washery remained in daily use until the present electric separator was installed a few years since.
In the early days the Company made their own coke for the Foundry, having a coke oven back of the Foundry, near the present location of the Brass Foundry.
An inquisitive Yankee, wishing to ascertain who was the car builder of the Company, on asking where Mr. Barney learned to build cars, was answered, “In the school room.” When asked where Mr. Parker learned to build cars, was answered, “In the bank.” When asked where Mr. Thresher learned to build cars, was answered, “In the pulpit.”
After the present office building was erected, and the Drawing room installed on the second floor, the draughtsmen were not as considerate as they might have been of those working in the Office below, and annoyed the Office by unnecessary noise through the floor. Mr. Barney caused a sign to be painted and put over the door in the Drawing Room reading:-
“Remember! There is One above-but many below.”
This sign may yet be seen in the Drawing Room, where it has remained all these years.
In 1870 or 1871 Epizootic was epidemic among the horses in Dayton, and the Car Company lost a number of mules and were compelled to do their teaming, hauling and pulling of cars with oxen, of which they had several yokes.
The Company employed night watchmen from the earliest times. At one time William Holohan was the watchman and lived in the dwelling heretofore referred to as being located near the west end of the present No. 1 Brick Paint Shop M-10. Holohan gave a dance at his house one Saturday night and Mr. E. E. Barney, who was paying a visit to the works out of regular hours, found no watchman on duty, but instead, Billy was enjoying the festal occasion at his home. Billy was discharged.
Jimmy Holohan, brother to Billy, above referred to, drove the first horse the Company owned for about twenty years, and when Jimmy Holohan died, Mr. E. E. Barney had his old horse hitched to a buggy and the old horse led the funeral procession to the cemetery.
William Turner worked in the Bolt Room in the early days, and acted as watchman on Sunday. He lived in a house that stood where the Monument avenue Sill Shed is now located. When Mr. Turner died, the men in the shop took up a collection to hire a band to play in the funeral procession. Mr. E. E. Barney learned of this, he had the money which had been collected, returned to the men, and paid for the band out of his own pocket.
When Mr. Walbridge was Foreman of the Foundry, and during a time when few cars were being built, large piles of castings were being stacked up at the Foundry every day. Finally one day Preserved Smith came along and inquired what all these castings were for. He was told they were for stock. Mr. Smith walked away without a word, but returned in a short time with Mr. E. E. Barney, and it soon developed that the Foundry was running daily and piling up castings for stock, when there were no cars to build. Mr. Walbridge then severed his connection with the Company.
About 1870 William Emonin was directed by Henry Gunckle, who had charge of the Wood Machinery Department, to haul a lot of finished lumber out of the Body Shop cellar to the dump, which was located near the present Brass Foundry. William continued to haul daily until he had a pile as big as a house, when one day Preserved Smith happened along and upon inquiring the meaning of the pile, was told Mr. Gunckle had ordered the lumber to the scrap pile, and upon investigation it was found there was yet about as much more in the cellar as had already been hauled out. This was all kinds of passenger car framing that had been gotten out wrong at various times, and had been ordered to the cull pile. This terminated Mr. Gunckle’s service with the Company.
For many years William Emonin drove a donkey cart around the works, and in the course of years, a warm attachment sprang up between Bill and his donkey. One day Bill was doing some hauling to the Passenger Shop, which was located where the present Body Shop M-1 is now located, and tied the donkey to a large cast-iron wire-rope wheel which was leaning against the building. While Bill was inside the building, the donkey in some way pulled the iron wheel over on itself, breaking one of its legs. Upon learning of the accident, Mr. E. E. Barney sent for Mr. French, Foreman of the Blacksmith Shop, to bring a smith with a sledge. Mr. French came over with Jake Widener, who said he could kill the donkey. So Jake poised the sledge in the air ready to strike the donkey’s forehead and quickly put him out of his misery, but just as Jake struck, the donkey jerked his head up and received the force of the blow on the end of his nose. Three times this was repeated, each time the donkey receiving the blow on the nose, when Mr. Barney said it was brutal to torture the beast in that way. Then Jake said he would fix him, and took off his leather apron and tied it over the donkey’s head, blindfolding his eyes. Then Jake prepared to execute him, but from some intuition that must be peculiar to donkeys, just as Jake stuck, the donkey again jerked its head up and again received the blow on the end of the nose. By this time the donkey was suffering more from the intended relief than from the broken leg, and Mr. Barney said it would do now, and sent Jake back to the Smith Shop, and having procured one of the night watchmen’s revolvers, called for volunteers to shoot the donkey. A young man from the Mill was found who was a good shot, and he succeeded in killing the donkey, thus ending the tragedy.
In the early days before the Baker Hot Water Heater came into use, the cars were heated by stoves, and there was no occasion for a pipe department.
When Pullman sleepers were being built in the shop, and after the Baker heater came into use, Pullman would send the lamps, trimmings, Baker heater, and such parts, and they were put into the cars here, Pullman sending men here to put the heater pipes in the cars. About this time the Company built twelve sleeping cars for the Southern Pacific Company, and the Baker heaters were put in by steam fitters from the city. Later on, the Company did their own heater piping, this work being in charge of John Tesseyman, Foreman of the Machine Shop, and the pipes were put in the cars by James McEntee, one of the carpenters in the Finishing Shop. In 1881 the Company established the Pipe Shop, with Christ Hettinger in charge, but one cold winter night after the shop had worked overtime to complete a sleeper for shipment, and the car was out on the track for shipment, Hettinger neglected to keep a fire in the heater, and the pipes froze up, and the next morning, when a fire was started in the heater, the expansion drums exploded, doing great damage to the car, and Hettinger’s successor was appointed.
Previous to 1881, when the Pipe and Tin Shops were established, the tin work was contracted for with outside firms, Buvinger Bros., Bretch & Evans, and Evans & Davis doing this work for a number of years.
When Thomas A. Bissell resigned as Superintendent and severed his connection with the Company in July, 1886, he became manager of the Buffalo Works of the Wagner Palace Car Co., and he, immediately upon taking charge of the Wagner Works, began to draw upon our force of men to manage the departments in the Wagner Shops. Within a few months after leaving here, he had taken James Fortain, Foreman of the Finishing Shop, Frank Mettille, Foreman of the Tin Shop, Allen Selby, Foreman of the Body Shop, Anthony Jaeger, Foreman of the Cabinet Shop, Chester Baker, Storekeeper, and our Chief Ornamenter and embossed glass man from the Paint Department, and Chas. W. Fisher, Chief Draughtsman, but to the credit of our own men it must be said, that other than the slight annoyance caused by these men summarily leaving, no handicap nor inconvenience was experienced, and their places were at once filled from the ranks and if anything, better filled than before they had been theretofore.
As is well known, both of the founders of the Car Works, Mr. E. E. Barney and Mr. E. Thresher, were staunch churchmen, being members of the Baptist Church, and it was but natural that many of their early employees were selected from that denomination. But this was not always the case, as is shown by an amusing anecdote told of two foremen, French, of the Blacksmith Shop and Leland, of the Machine Shop. It was when Bessemer steel was first coming into prominence and Mr. Leland had been discussing with the elder Mr. Barney the merits of Bessemer steel and the economy in its use. Mr. Barney gave no decision, but told Mr. Leland to go over to the Blacksmith Shop and talk with Mr. French about it. Mr. French was a progressive man and was a great reader and kept to himself well informed on the progress of the times. When Mr. Leland began to discuss the merits of Bessemer steel, Mr. French, who was very deaf, replied, “Hey! What’s that you say? Use Bessemer Steel? No, sir, we don’t want any Bessemer steel around here. It’s no good. It’s like you Baptists, it’s only half converted.” It is needless to say Bessemer steel was not adopted for general use at that time.
This work ought not be closed without reference to two prominent citizens of Dayton, who in their early years started their careers in the Car Works.
Oscar M. Gottschall, who has been a distinguished member of the Dayton Bar for forty-five years, entered the employ of the Car Works in 1857 as a painter on freight cars. After serving in that department a short time, he went into the Foundry to learn the molder’s trade. Mr. Gottschall left the employ of the Company in 1859, and took up study of law. He relates that after he had been admitted to the Bar, and had paid for the painting of his shingle, he had ten cents left in his pocket. About this time the elder Mr. Barney met him with the question, “Oscar, couldn’t you use a little money?” to which Mr. Gottschall replied that he thought he could, with the result that Mr. Barney loaned him $100.00, which helped to tide him over until he could get a start in his profession.
John Gottschall, the father of O. M. Gottschall, was an employee of the Car Works from the time it started in 1849, until Rufus Dutton built the present Annex Plant.
In connection with Oscar Gottschall’s term in the Car Works, an amusing incident is related of the James boys. In those days Joseph C. James was learning the machinist’s trade in the Machine Shop and Charles W. James was learning the pattern maker’s trade in the Pattern Room. About this time John Robinson’s circus was showing on the commons on the northwest corner of First and Main streets, where the Bimm residence now stands. Joe and Charlie played hooky from work that afternoon and determined to go to the circus on the sly, their father being a very strict churchman, who did not believe in circuses. But when the boys arrived at the big tent, they discovered they only had a quarter between them, and the price for admission was twenty-five cents for one good sized boy. They were then in a predicament, and it seemed they were doomed to disappointment, until Charlie hit upon a scheme to beat the ticket taker at the door of the big tent. “I’ll tell you what we’ll do, Joe,” said Charlie, “I’ll buy a ticket with the quarter and go in and see the first half of the show, and them come out and get a check and you can take the check and get in and see the last half of the show.” This settled the dilemma satisfactorily for the time being. As agreed, Charlie went in to see the show, and Joe remained outside watching other boys of his acquaintance, who were more fortunate in the possession of quarters, go into the tent in large numbers. But Joe was patient and waited and waited for Charlie to come out, but Charlie, once inside the tent, forgot all about his agreement with Joe and forgot to come out, and Joe, after waiting patiently on the outside until half the afternoon had slipped by, went crying out to the Car Works to see his father, in fear and trembling, but, arriving at the shop the first man he saw was not his father, as he feared, but Oscar Gottschall. Oscar asked Joe what he was crying about, and Joe proceeded to give a graphic description of his sad plight, between his sobs, and Oscar, who had once been a boy himself, handed Joe a quarter and told him to stop his crying and go to the circus. Joe was happy and went to the evening performance when all the big folks go, and Joe has been happy ever since.
Another prominent citizen of Dayton, Mr. Edward W. Hanley, now Secretary and Treasurer of The Dayton Gas & Fuel Company, and prominent in business and political affairs, commenced his career by learning the core maker’s trade in the Car Works Foundry.
A characteristic letter from Mr. Hanley, of which a copy is given below, graphically describes his connection with the Car Works:
Dayton, Ohio March 27th, 1908
Dear Mr. Kittredge:-
At your request, I am sending you a photograph of a graduate of the Barney & Smith business and manual training institute.
For your information, I started to work in the Foundry of the Car Works in 1872, at 14 years of age. I helped the regular molders and made cores in the higher grades. I made the first green sand cores for stake irons, and incidentally shoveled sand, mixed facing, and occasionally rested up in a physical flirtation with the casting rattlers, and in the pleasant and muscle developing pastime of dislocating pig iron.
I served a course of three years in this department, and at 17 years of age was promoted to a position across the street in the old Planing Mill, where the summer sun kept the under-graduates in a continuous stew six months in the year, and where it was so cold in winter that icicles grew in german soup, and the frost completely covered the old iron steam pipes every minute in the day. My experience in this section of the institute, covering the gentle embracement of oak and yellow pine sills and stringers, and dodging the wire rope that carried power across the street. The musical noises of this department were numerous and of infinite variety, ranging from the deep resonant bass of the big planer, to the soft staccato of the rip saw. My memory holds this entrancing music firmly and fondly through the storms and sunshine of the intervening years.
I remained actively on duty in this noisy, cold and dusty old Mill, for nearly four years, voluntarily quitting my job in the winter of 1879, to accept a new assignment as janitor of Wilt’s Commercial College, where I remained for five months, working out my tuition in services, and then I went out into the great wide world.
Very Truly Yours,
(signed) E. W. Hanley.
Return to “A History of the Barney & Smith Car Company” Home Page