The Ralston Steel Car Co.


 Home > Ralston



Ralston Co. History From Newspaper Articles

The Manufacturing Facility - Beginnings Expansion - Scenes

Freight cars by decade - 1906 - 1910 - 1920 - 1930 - 1940

Freight Cars by Railroad - click here

        For forty-eight years the Ralston Steel Car Co. was a fixture on the eastside of Columbus, Ohio.  It purchased its facilities from the  Rarig Engineering Co. in 1905, and was bounded on the west by Cassady  Ave, the south by the Pennsylvania Railroad/Baltimore and Ohio Railroad shared trackage and on the north by Fourth Street.  The original purchase was 10 acres which would grow to about 24 acres over the  years.

        Joseph S. Ralston and Anton Becker, both of Chicago, were entering the freight car business at a prime time.  They had Becker's patents for a 50-ton flush-floor drop-bottom general purpose gondola car which the coal hauling railroads hungered for.  The railroads' problem, that Ralston's would be solving, was the hauling of coal in fixed bottom gondolas.  When they arrived at the coal docks men, many men, with shovels and wheelbarrows would descend on the trains and laboriously unload the coal.  With Ralston's gondola the bottom pans would drop down and the coal would pour out.  The Ralston Co. would be able to turn out these special cars at a rate of 40 per day once their new plant was properly equipped.

        Another advance in railroad technology would work toward Ralston's advantage.  The railroads were developing steam locomotives that could haul heaver trains.  They had also started to purchase freight cars with steel underframes rather than the old  style wood underframes.  The older wood underframe cars aged faster than the steel cars which weakened them.  When a new heaver freight train was made up of a mixture of steel and wooden underframe cars the trouble started.  Usually the weakness showed up in emergency stops which sometimes caused the older wooden cars to be crushed. One of Ralston's very first commercial activities involved installing steel underframes in all wooden cars.

        The Ralston Co. was a big success expanding rapidly in its first eight years.  Like most manufacturing concerns the 1930's were difficult.  That low point ended with the build up to World War II.  After the war the business held up for a time, but the railroads eventually fell onto hard times and by 1953 the Ralston Co. couldn't continue as a freight car manufacturer or make a go of it repairing freight cars.  The company declared bankruptcy and the facility evolved into a warehouse service.  Several of the old Ralston building are still in use including the 1410 foot Punch, Shear Fitting and Erection shop building as a warehouse.  The Columbus, New Albany and Johnstown interurban car barn is also still standing and can be seen from the Rarig Avenue gate. 

        This section of the web site will tell the story of the Ralston Company through photos, newspaper articles and narrative.  All photos, unless specifically noted, are from the DAK collection.