Dedicated to the people and projects of AVRO Canada & Orenda Engines Limited
The following information is from an unpublished manuscript prepared by Andrew Merrilees in 1963 - the complete manusript was originally available on Ian Cranstone's site at http://infoweb.magi.com/~lamontc/builders0.html but that site no longer exists.
This company was incorporated in November 1909 for the purpose of amalgamating the businesses of:
For the previous histories of each of the above three firms, see elsewhere in this volume.
Mr. Nathaniel Curry of the Rhodes Curry Co., Ltd., who became president of the new company, made the following statement at the company's inauguration:
"The Dominion Car & Foundry Co. is located at Montreal. Its works were erected less than three years ago, and are equipped with the most up-to-date machinery for the construction of steel cars; also for the manufacture of bolsters, brake beams and other railway specialties.
"The Canada Car Co. is located about a mile from the Dominion Car & Foundry Co. This plant was erected less than five years ago, and is equipped with the most up-to-date machinery for the manufacture of wood passenger and freight cars, including wheel foundry, grey iron foundry, forging shops and machine shops.
"The Rhodes Curry Co. plant is located at Amherst, N.S., the geographical centre of the Maritime provinces. This plant started the manufacture of cars in a small way 17 years ago, but has grown to be a large concern. It is equipped for the manufacture of wood passenger and freight cars with a wheel foundry, grey iron foundry, forging and machine shops; also rolling mills, malleable iron foundry and axle shop.
"This company also owns 20,000 acres of timber lands, and operates saw mills and planing mills with branches at Halifax and Sydney.
"The Dominion Car & Foundry Co. has a capacity of 30 steel freight cars a day, and also capacity for the manufacture of bolsters, brake beams, and other specialties for 100 cars per day.
"The Canada Car Co. has a capacity for the manufacture of 100 passenger cars a year, and 25 freight cars a day.
"The Rhodes Curry Co. has a capacity for the manufacture of 60 passenger cars a year and 20 freight cars per day. Rolling mill capacity, 20 tons per day of bar iron and steel. Axle shop capacity 200 axles per day. Malleable iron foundry, 20 tons of finished malleable castings a day.
"The present capacity of these combined works is sufficient to take care of the Canadian railways for several years to come. The combined capacity of all other car companies in Canada is probably not over 100 cars a day.
"The net earnings of these three companies for the past two years have averaged $1,000,000 per year. This period has been a very dull one for car builders, and business was obtained under keen competition, with plants running at only half capacity. The savings in buying, selling, freight, administration and manufacture with these three concerns combined should add at least 40% to the net earnings without charging any more for the output. In my opinion the replacement value of these properties is over $7,500,000."
The Canadian Car & Foundry Co.'s net liquid assets at commencement of business were $2,229,025.02. The directors of the new company were: President, Nathaniel Curry, previously president Rhodes Curry Co.; Vice-President, W.W. Butler, previously vice-president, Dominion Car & Foundry, Co.; N.S. Raeder, previously General Manager, Canada Car Co.; W. Max Aitken (now Lord Beaverbrook), G.E. Drummond, Thomas J. Drummond, Herbert S. Holt and J. Redmond of Montreal, and I.H. Benn, London, England.
Mr. Curry at this time moved from Amherst to Montreal, where the company's head office was located. Mr. Butler took charge of sales, and Mr. Raeder of manufacturing.
The largest car-building operation Canada was ever to know was now in operation. In 1910, Mr. Curry, its president, said in an interview: "So great is the railway development in the Dominion that the output of cars from the works of the various Canadian concerns this year will exceed that of any preceding year by fully 50%.
"During the present year we will turn out 12,000 cars, even if we should book no further orders. Of this number, 4,000 have already been delivered. The value of the Canadian Car & Foundry Co.'s output from its three plants amount to $1,200,000 per month."
The company's report for the year ended September 30, 1911, showed profits of $1,007,137.58 which, after deducting 7% dividend on preference stock ($385,000) left a surplus of $622,137.58. Out of this, a common stock dividend of 4% was then declared, leaving a surplus of $467,137.58 out of the year's earnings, which was almost $23,000 greater than for the previous year.
The gross sales for the year were over $12,500,000, being a considerable increase over the previous year. At the close of the fiscal year the unfilled orders on the books amounted to over $5,000,000. On November 20th they amounted to $10,000,000.
Shortly after the organization of the company, it became apparent that facilities would have to be arranged for the production of steel castings which were entering more and more largely into the products. Early in 1911 it was found possible to secure the properties of the Montreal Steel Works Limited at Longue Pointe, Montreal, and the Ontario Iron & Steel Co., Ltd. at Welland, Ontario, the former being the largest producers of steel castings in Canada, and the latter having both a steel foundry and a rolling mill.
These two companies were reorganized as Canadian Steel Foundries Limited, a company formed by Canadian Car & Foundry Co. to take them over.
At a somewhat later date, the company acquired the plant and business of the Pratt & Letchworth Co., Ltd., Brantford, Ontario, and built a new car plant at Fort William, Ontario, which operated first in the closing years of the First World War, both in car-building and shipbuilding. In the Second World War it was to build aircraft and later motor buses and coaches.
At the period immediately following the amalgamation however, the Dominion plant engaged exclusively in steel car production; all wood car work, including the finishing of wood parts of steel cars built at Dominion, being done at Turcot or Amherst.
As we have seen, production facilities at all plants were large and modern, and kept pace with the times in both the wood and steel car fields.
In the years since their inception, the company may be said to have been the largest single factor in passenger car production in Canada, and also in electric street car production. In neither of these fields however, did they approach their pre-eminence in freight car manufacturing.
Producing at three, and later at two points, the company probably enjoyed a higher volume in cars produced on an average annual basis than any other Canadian builder either contemporary or previous.
The earliest passenger cars produced by this company continued designs instituted as early as 1906 and produced by various constituents to the merger. These were all-wood cars for the Grand Trunk and Grand Trunk Pacific with vestibules and double windows having arched upper sash. Credit for the design must go to the Pullman Company however, whose cars were in use on most Grand Trunk trains, and whose thinking on equipment design greatly influenced the Grand Trunk car department.
Canadian Northern passenger car orders also came in 1910, when ten sleepers, five baggage and four dining cars were built for that road. Intercolonial passenger cars were first built in 1912 and Canadian Pacific passenger cars in 1913, when 15 wooden tourist cars and 20 wooden baggage cars were built.
From the standpoint of passenger car production for major Canadian railways, the writer's researches show that Canadian Car & Foundry Co. built:
28 cars for the Intercolonial
The first steel tank cars built in Canada were constructed at this plant; also the first steel frame box cars, and the first steel twin pocket hopper cars.
Owing to the policy of the Canadian Pacific, which favoured building their own cars in their own shops, few orders were received from the C.P.R. until about 1920, when a change in this policy came about and the C.P.R. Angus shops ceased building cars in volume. Angus Shops still hung on to the perogative of finishing the interiors of C.P.R. passenger cars however, and all through the 1920s only had the "frames" of passenger cars built by outside firms such as Canadian Car. These were delivered to Angus in skeleton condition, and finished there.
Though Canadian Car built hundreds of passenger cars, they were seldom called upon to furnish a design for any of them, and nearly all their production for major roads seems to have been designed by the customers rather than by the builders. It is not therefore possible to point to a "Canadian Car" appearance in passenger rolling stock.
This statement is not so true in the field of electric street cars, of which the company built about 1,100 in its lifetime. Principal buyers of these were the Canadian cities of Montreal, Toronto, Regina, Calgary and Vancouver, and the Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. As is common practice elsewhere, frequently the designs furnished on large orders, or variations of these designs, were furnished to smaller cities on smaller orders.
Passenger car production continued right up until just before the plant closed in 1961, and among the last such units produced were several Budd R.D.C. cars, on which the company had secured the Canadian manufacturing license. It also built the frames for six palatial Canadian National business cars constructed in 1959, which were completed and outfitted at the CN's Point St. Charles shops.
The all-time boom year for passenger car production was however, not many years ago, but in 1954, when a total of 218 steel coaches were constructed for the Canadian National, concurrent with a heavy volume of freight car work. So heavy was the demand for new passenger equipment in that year, that an additional order for 141 sleepers, diners and parlour cars had to be placed with Pullman-Standard in the United States.
About 1957 control of the Canadian Car Co., Limited or "Can-Car", as it had by then become known, passed to A.V. Roe Canada Limited, a branch of the large British aircraft concern of the same name, which was seeking to diversify its interests.
A short time thereafter, A.V. Roe also acquired control of Dominion Steel & Coal Corporation, which is the parent company of Eastern Car Company Limited, of Trenton, N.S., a large freight car building plant whose history dates from 1912.
Then commenced an unusual situation in which two rival car building plants having a common ownership fought each other for business in a market already seriously constricted by tightened railway purchasing budgets.
The obvious solution was to close one plant and the decision fell against the largest of the two -- Can-Car. The remaining plant, Eastern Car Company Limited is close to the Corporation's steel producing centre, Sydney, and is also part of an industrial complex owned by the Corporation in and around New Glasgow, N.S.
Thus, one of the strongest firms in the industry has, by an accident of fate, been eliminated, at least from railway car building activity. And this is all the more galling when one considers that some $21 millions were expended on improvements to its magnificent Montreal plant just two years before the last car was produced in it.
The company, which is now a division of Hawker Siddeley (Canada) Ltd., a large British aircraft concern and holding company which has taken over A.V. Roe, also ceased producing motor buses and coaches at its Fort William plant in April 1962.
Its Amherst plant, after being only on sporadic production since 1919, was finally closed entirely in 1931, and is now the rolling mill division of Enamel & Heating Products Ltd., Sackville, N.B.
The Pratt & Letchworth division at Brantford, Ontario, which was never a car building facility, was closed after the Second World War, and the plant razed.
The Welland division was sold soon after its acquisition, to Page-Hershey Tubes Ltd., who are now operating on its location. No cars were ever produced at this division, it being a rolling mill and foundry plant exclusively.
The Longue Point foundry is still being operated under the name of Canadian Steel Foundries Limited, which is a unit of the Hawker Siddeley organization.
The Turcot plant was closed and sold in 1958, and the new owner has sublet parts of it to a wide variety of industries.
The main, or Dominion plant of the company at Ville St. Pierre, Montreal, is now used temporarily for storage purposes by outside firms, and is for sale. The last cars were produced in it in 1961. These were tank cars for the company's subsidiary, Canadian General Transit Co., which has now moved its operations to a new shop of its own at Riviere des Prairies, near Montreal.