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Fritz-Rumer-Cooke Co., Inc.

By Ben Swope

        Railroads and industries have been contracting trackwork and structure construction from the inception of railroading. An early railroad contractor who is still working in this field is Columbus, Ohio based Fritz-Rumer-Cooke Co.
        Established in the year 1879, and incorporated in 1911, Fritz-Rumer-Cooke has over the years performed track and structural work for every railroad in the Columbus area, and nearly all the many industry tracks in the surrounding areas.
        To put FRC’s history in prospective, in 1879, Edison demonstrated his first successful electric light bulb, Delaware, Ohio’s own Rutherford B. Hayes was the 19th U.S. President (1877-1881), and this establishment date was a mere 10-years after the competition of the first transcontinental railroad.
        Early on, FRC did mostly bridge structure work, either of wood trestle, steel, poured concrete or cut stone. In fact, the company once owned a limestone quarry in Morrow County, Ohio, specifically to produce stone blocks for their bridge work. The quarry was served by the Eastern Branch of the T&OC RR, shipping the heavy blocks to various work sites.
        Over the years, FRC aided in the 1927 construction and expansion of the C&O mainline from Waverly to Columbus, Ohio.
        In 1930, the company was contracted with the PRR in the Grogan Yard expansion, constructing the Fields, Essex and Cleveland Ave underpass structures. These underpasses are still in place, now carrying Norfolk Southern double track mainline over these streets.
        FRC also had a hand in the major N&W Columbus area grade crossing elimination program of the early 1930’s.
        Records show in 1928, the company was contracted to construct concrete coal bunkers for The Ohio State University’s McCracken power plant. FRC and OSU records do not show if the company worked on OSU’s rail spurs, connecting the campus to the C&O RR, but one would surmise this would have occurred.
        Fritz-Rumer-Cooke long held property on Woodrow Ave within the Columbus south side. Used as a tool and supply yard, this property was served by the T&OC’s Western Branch. The railroad‘s June 30, 1918 validation maps shows a single spur track labeled as “Fritz-Rumer-Cooke-Grant” ownership.
        For about 50 years, FRC’s offices were within the Columbus Union Station complex until the station’s closure in the 1970’s. Also within this station complex were several major railroad offices, where on some occasions, project bid packages were hand delivered just down the hall to the proper railroad officials.
        As Union Station closed, FRC acquired a pair of railroad passenger cars for use as company offices, being placed in the Woodrow Ave tool yard location. The railcars were an ex-EL dining car (#747), and an ex-NYC baggage car. FRC wasn’t the only railroad related industry in Columbus to have a passenger car as an office. Many may remember Silcott Railway Equipment’s office car. Interestingly, Silcott once stored locomotives on FRC’s tool yard spurs. FRC and Silcott still maintains a friendly business relationship.
        As the company grew larger it was pressed for additional office space, in late 2014 FRC moved their offices from the aging railcars next door to the old Federal Glass office building. Used longer as offices than active railcars, the railcars were found to be surplus. Components off the old EL diner car have been donated to the Erie Lackawanna Dining Car Preservation Society, aiding to restore sister car #741. Many years after active rail service was cut off to FRC’s tool yard, in 2016 the NYC baggage car was trucked off the property to ride the rails once again on the Zanesville & Western Scenic RR.
        Today, operated by the fifth generation of the Cooke family, along with about 50 dedicated employees, Fritz-Rumer-Cooke still maintains contracts with several major Class-I, regional, shortline and scenic railroads, along with many municipalities and industries with rail systems located in several States reaching well beyond Ohio.