Two Railcar Manufacturers were in the City of York during the Civil War; plus Origins of the Empire Car Works
During the Rebel occupation of the City of York during two days in June of 1863, Confederate Major General Jubal Early addressed the townspeople, “I have abstained from burning the railroad buildings and car shops in your town because after examination, I am satisfied the safety of the town would be endangered.” I have noted the locations of two railcar shops on an 1860 map; both are within three blocks of centre square.
I have already written extensively about Billmeyer & Small; most of these posts are indexed here. The railcar manufacturing operations of Billmeyer & Small received overwhelmingly more press coverage than their competitors Ilgenfritz & White; which is odd, since Ilgenfritz & White was the larger and more senior railcar manufacturer in York. I guess it helped having relatives of Charles Billmeyer and David E. Small in positions of authority at the local newspapers.
In this post I’ll trace the origins of Ilgenfritz & White, on up through the establishment of Empire Car Works from these foundations.
Related posts include:
- Michael Schall’s Empire Car Works; plus his Family
- #29 Keystone Farm Machine Company in York; in the Factory Buildings that formerly housed the Empire Car Works
- INDEX of RAILCAR Related Posts
George W. Ilgenfritz started manufacturing railcars in York during 1849; this grew out of an agricultural machinery business he started in 1845. In 1852 Thomas White partnered with George and by 1856 they are producing 350 to 400 railcars and 40 threshing machines per year. By 1856 Ilgenfritz & White also operated an even larger (500 feet long) railcar factory in Belair City, four miles below Wheeling, West Virginia; this being a factory Thomas White was already affiliated with prior to partnering with Ilgenfritz. The following is the top part of their ad in the 1856 York Business Directory.
During the Civil War, Ilgenfritz & White had substantial contracts with the U.S. Government for military railcars. They produced these military railcars at their factories in York, Belair City and in railcar manufacturing operations they established in Glen Rock, York County. Conversely, during the Civil War, their competitors in York, Billmeyer & Small, were still the smaller railcar manufacturing operation.
I was questioned, “then why is the York Car Works of Billmeyer & Small shown on the 1860 Map along North Queen Street, while Ilgenfritz & White is not shown along North Beaver Street?” If you look closer at the 1860 Map under the Business Directory, one sees that Ilgenfritz & White is listed under Car Manufacturers; I’ve pasted this listing at the appropriate place on the 1860 Map.
Also on this 1860 Map, I’ve noted that Ilgenfritz & White evolves into Empire Car Works; first in the original factory on the east side of North Beaver Street and then in 1873 moving to a new larger factory on the west side of North Beaver Street. At the end of the Civil War, Michael Schall buys out Thomas White’s part of the York County businesses and the company is renamed Ilgenfritz & Schall. The company name is soon changed the final time to Empire Car Works.
During the 19th Century, railcars were predominately build of wood. An Oil Tank Car built by Empire Car Works was one of the exceptions. With the success of the first oil well just prior to the Civil War (Drake Oil Well in Northwest Pennsylvania), an oil tank car was touted as more economical than transporting oil in barrels in boxcars. George W. Ilgenfritz & Michael Schall received a United States Patent for their Oil Tank Car design on July 7th 1868.
Empire Car Works did very little advertising compared to considerable advertising by the York Car Works of Billmeyer & Small. The exception is with the Oil Tank Car; the earliest advertisement I’ve discovered for Empire Car Works is this 1870 ad in the U.S. Mining Register.
In looking at this ad, it does appear that Michael Schall, with top billing, has taken full control of Empire Car Works by 1870. My post on Monday will examine Michael Schall’s Empire Car Works. I’ll also look at his family; some of them figure into my Countdown of Top 50 York County Factories at the end of 19th CenturyReading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts