Edwards Rail Car Company

Edwards Rail Car Company

Edwards Rail Car Company located in Montgomery, Alabama, specializes in the manufacture of self-propelled rail cars patterned after original Edwards designs dating from the mid-1920s. Edward's also restores and manufactures other types of rail cars, including streetcars.


Harry P. Edwards began building passenger railway equipment in 1917 and formed the Edwards Railway Motor Car Company in 1921. The Edwards Railway Motor Car Company was originally located in the small town of Sanford, North Carolina. Edwards turned out over 130 cars over a two-decade span and made a name for itself among major South and Central American railways, as well as on U.S. Class 1 and short line railroads.

Formative years

In 1915 the Atlantic & Western Railroad, a short line running from Sanford to Lillington, N.C., was running a uneconomical steam passenger train which A&W General Manager Harry P. Edwards came to regard with mounting frustration. Searching for a way to stem the flow of red ink, Edwards built his first car for use on that railroad. Other cars were built in the shops of the A&W and marketed by Edwards and the Atlantic & Western Railroad.

As the word spread throughout the South about the economical rail cars built by Edwards, the demand for cars was such that in 1921 the manufacturing firm Edwards Railway Motor Car Co. was organized and in 1922 occupied its new plant along the tracks of the A&W. The short line was not only an Edwards customer, but its tracks served as a test, demonstration and development track for over twenty years of Edwards car production.


During the early 1920s, mainstays of this output was the Model-10 which had the engine mounted up in the baggage compartment, as was the fashion of most all other manufacturers. In 1926 the company started delivery of the new Model-20. What set the Model-20 apart from the Model-10 and competitor's models was the ingenious, patented, power truck design, with the motor set into the front truck frame instead of being up in the car body.

Edwards output during the 1930s was mainly export cars including the "modern" streamlined Model-21 and the streamlined version of the Model-10, with their distinctive shovel-nose, first developed by Edwards in 1935. By the late 1930s sales of railcars in the United States was at an all time low, and with the war in Europe, Edwards sold the plant and new owners re-tooled for defense production in 1940.

In 1942 the Edwards Company lost its corporate identity and ceased to exist, rail motor cars and trailers were the only Edwards products manufactured under that name. As of 1933 the company claimed rail car sales to forty-four railroads; final tally of original purchasers was close to fifty. With sales, in a twenty-two year period to nineteen different countries in the Western Hemisphere. Only a handful of Edwards cars have survived today.


Re-birth of the Edwards Company came in the fall of 1997 when Vintage Rail Consultant Steven Torrico saw and rode on his first Edwards car, an ex-CB&Q Model-25. The company was reformed to bring back into production the Edwards Rail Car for the tourist and short line railroad industry. That today, as in the past, there is a need for an economical and reliable alternatives to the cost associated with the operation and maintenance of steam locomotives and standard heavy-weight coaches.

Currernt operations

Edwards Rail Car Company today provides three primary services: production of vintage rail cars, production of streetcars, and restoration services.

Rail cars

The standard Edwards Rail Car is designed and recommended for branch line service where traffic requirements are within its capacity, for high speed operation, on roadbeds where the grades are not too severe. The standard rail car is ideally suited for passenger runs where the schedule speed does not exceed 45 miles per hour and have seating requirements for 30 to 50 passengers, express and sack mail where mail requirements do not demand a regulation mail compartment.

Three types of propulsion systems, mechanically, electrically or hydrostatic driven are available. The mechanically driven car employs the use of engine, transmission, final drive gear box with sprockets and chains to deliver power to the driving wheels. Cars equipped with electric propulsion have an engine which turns a generator for providing electricity for the traction motors. Hydrostatic propulsion employs the use of diesel engine to power a hydraulic pump which supplies pressurized fluid to two 100 H.P. hydraulic motors on the front truck, in place of the final drive gear box as per the mechanical set-up for the standard Model-20.


Edwards Rail Car Company has chosen the modified Peter Witt streetcar design to fulfill the demands of new heritage street railway systems. The Witt Design presents the pinnacle of lightweight streetcar technology and classic early 20th century styling. Steel truss wall construction, mahogany interior trim and nickel plate fixtures combine with modern, efficient traction motors and proven Master Car Builder (MCB) design trucks to offer a reliable, attractive streetcar for use on today's demanding heritage systems.

The car design has its origins with Peter Witt, the Street Railway Commissioner of Cleveland, Ohio. The commissioner specified front and center doors to allow quick loading of rush hour passengers and fare collection at the center of the car to prevent delayed starts due to passengers clogging the front entrance. Edwards offers the traditional Witt deign or without the center doors to allow for solo operation of the car.

Every newly constructed Edwards Electric Streetcar is designed and built to provide the experience of an old-fashion streetcar ride while minimizing the efforts of the shop department to keep the cars in service. Modern allowances provide for safety, ADA accessibility and comfort, while maintains the historical integrity of the car. Edwards employs no recycled parts in the construction of their cars.

Restoration services

Edwards also provides restoration services.

Edwards Rail Car has been awarded the contract to restore John Ringling's private business car, the Wisconsin. Originally built by Pullman in 1905, it was used by the Ringling family for travel with the circus. The Wisconsin will be on display at the John & Mabel Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida.

ee also

*Doodlebug (rail car)
*Railway brakes
*Railway Transport

External links

* [http://www.edwardsrailcar.com/ Edwards Rail Car Co.]

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