Ralston Steel Car Company
The Ralston Steel Car Company operated in Columbus, Ohio, from 1905-1953. The company began by modifying wood freight cars to add steel underframes. Later it manufactured its own line of all-steel rail cars.
Joseph S. Ralston and Anton Becker founded the Ralston Steel Car Company in 1905 by purchasing the plant of the Rarig Engineering Company on the east side of Columbus. Becker had just patented a drop-bottom gondola car which would allow the automatic unloading of coal and ballast cars (hopper cars). Prior to this invention, cars were unloaded by hand shoveling. An example of a Ralston-built drop gondola can be seen here.
With the increase in power of steam locomotives, the old wood freight cars could not take the strain, and demand for Ralston's all-steel cars exploded. By 1907 expansion of the Rarig facility began with the construction of a 1,400-foot (430 m) long Punch, Shear Fitting and Erection Shop. By 1910, a wide variety of cars were being produced.
Depression, War Surge, and Decline
During the Great Depression, orders fell off precipitously. However, the build-up to World War II in the late 1930s revived the concern, and workers were called back to work. Employment reached 700 by the summer of 1940, and was producing 25 to 30 cars per day, and as many as 40 per day was possible.
After the war, however, demand for new freight cars plunged, since so many had been built during the war. Ralston was unable to ride out the slowdown and shut its doors in 1953.
- "Ralston Made First Railroad Gondolas to Order." Columbus Citizen. May 25, 1949.
- "Ralston Steel Car Co gives employment to 700 Columbus Workers." Columbus Evening Dispatch. August 18, 1940.
- ColumbusRailroads.com. The Ralston Steel Car Company (extensive history and photos)