The Beginnings

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The Ralston Steel Car Co. - The Beginning

        When the Ralston Steel Car Co. took possession of the Rarig complex on the east side of Columbus they had solved some of their problems, but not all. They had a manufacturing plant in Columbus, where their customers were located; it had railroad service, the PRR/B&O RR as well as the T&OC RR; it had interurban service from both Gahanna and Columbus for their workers and it had some buildings for starting their new business.
        Their problems included the need to hire a skilled work force, the need for new tools and machines (the Rarig equipment was not going to be useful for manufacturing railroad cars), the need for larger and more buildings, and their cash flow was zero. Who knows what other problems Mr. Ralston was working.
        Their first money making business niche was retrofitting wooden freight cars with steel underframes. Later they started to build their patented drop bottom gondola cars. Within two years they started to expand their facilities and with that they were off and running.
        This series of drawings and pictures illustrates the very beginnings of that eastside enterprise.
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An 1896 artist's view of the Rarig Engineering and Equipment Company plant located in Rarig,Ohio on the PRR/B&O RR as well as the Columbus, Sandusky and Hocking Railroad.Rarig, Ohio was east of Columbus and would soon become part of Columbus.  This drawing was copied from an early original 1895 drawing.  The Rarig Co. had been in business since 1858, but this facility was built in 1895.  Drawing courtesy of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

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This drawing from 1903 is much closer to the actual Rarig Engineering Company facility as built.  It consisted of three buildings. The main building was 650 foot long by 130 feet wide.  The center section had 38 foot ceilings and was 50 feet wide. A 20 ton crane ran the entire length of the building.  The building was divided into four separate departments: machine and erecting department, smithing department,foundry department, and boiler, bridge and structural iron department.  Attached to the main building is the electric generating and power building.  The next building was the pattern shop and storage building which was 257 feet long by 52 1/2 feet wide.  The third building was the office.

        "The Rarig Co. built Corliss steam engines for mill, factory and electrical services; engines for blast furnaces and rolling mill service; engines for mine hoisting and ventilating; air compressor and waterworks pumping engines; tubular steam boilers; steel self supporting chimneys; water towers and stand pipes; structural iron work; highway and railroad bridges and iron substructures. The works are specially fitted with tools for the building of mortar and gun carriages and other government work." - Columbus Citizen 1/30/1903
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A drawing of the facility shortly after Ralston Steel Car Company purchased it from the Rarig Engineering and Equipment Company in 1905.  It looks like the artist made the drawing as the Ralston officials wished it to be rather than as it was.  The five story head house did not have seven tracks entering it but rather three.  In fact the head house and its attached structure would eventually be replaced by the Ralston Co.  The small building just inside the gate was the office.  The Columbus, New Albany and Johnston interurban railroad constructed in 1901 can can be seen in the lower left.

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This is an early photo of the Ralston facility possibly taken 1905-06.  The new Forge Shop is under construction just to the right and behind the tall head house.  An electric car in the lower left is Columbus Railway Power & Light Co. car 324 on the New Albany and Johnstown Traction line.The switch for the CNA&J interurban car barn can be seen on the left of the photo.

The PRR Panhandle/B&O RR shared route is on the south side of the Ralston property.  The tall head house with its attached long shop building sits on the Ralston's southern property boundary.  The camera is pointing south, southwest. The dirt road next to the railroad tracks is Rarig Ave.

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A view of the Ralston Co. from the PRR/B&O RR right-of-way.  The tall building and shops behind it will be replaced over time with the new 1410 feet long Punch, Shear Fitting and Erection shop.  The camera is pointing west toward downtown Columbus, Ohio.  The company wasted no time in painting their name on the fence.

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This photo taken from a publication shows the west end of the facility before Ralston has made any changes to the property.  The camera is looking toward the southeast.  Courtesy of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.