Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ralston Steel Car Company

Joseph Ralston
A look at the 1910 Census shows that a number of the residents in and around Woodland Park were employees of the "steel car company".

The Ralston Steel Car Company started in 1905 from the roots of the Rarig Engineering Company. The plant was located between Fourth Street and the railroad tracks east of Cassady Avenue. Rarig was once a small town going by it's own name. The plant was served by the interurban lines, making an easy commute for workers.

Joseph Stevenson Ralston invented a flush-floor drop-bottom gondola rail car which allowed the automatic unloading of coal and ballast (hopper) cars. Prior to this, cars were unloaded by hand shoveling! In the beginning the plant could turn out 10 cars per day, averaged about 20-25, but sometimes made as many as 40 cars per day. Between 1905 and 1910 over 10,000 cars were built.
Ralston drop gondola car. Made in Columbus.
The invention neatly coincided with an increase in power of steam locomotives which made wooden framed cars obsolete. The increase in the power of the engines required steel framed cars. The steel rail car business took off. The plant expanded in 1907 and by 1910 was manufacturing a wide variety of rail cars.

Anton Becker
Early officers and directors of the company included, in addition to Mr. Ralston, Col. J.D. Elliston, vice president; Willis G. Bowland, secretary-treasurer; Charles F. Johnson, Anton Becker, Stanley S. Culver, Edward N. Higgins, Edmund A. Cole, W.S. Courtright, Charles H. Boardman, C.C. Higgins, Joseph Schonthal and Alfred Brenholtz.

In Precinct K in the 1910 Census, some of the people who worked for the steel car company were:
Anton Becker was 3rd vice president and lived at 1388 East Long Street
John Tessyman was a general manager and lived at 1573 East Long Street
Edward S. Olner was secretary and treasurer and lived at 1600 East Long Street
Ralph B. Judd was store keeper and lived at 204 Parkwood Avenue
Loftis R. Ford was an assistant superintendent and lived at 1421 East Long Street
John L. Connors was a sales manager and lived at 1536 Menlo Place
Robert Weaver was chief engineer and lived at 1515 Clifton Avenue
Charles O. Rea was an agent and lived at 1508 Hawthorne Street
William H. Greenhow, WWI veteran,
worked for Ralston form 1919-1945.
He lived at 154 N. Monroe Avenue
Edwin Bidner was a laborer and lived at 1528 Clifton Avenue
Marcus Alexander was a foreman and lived at 1546 Granville Street and 1560 Granville Street.
William Wicks was a clerk and lived at 1584 Greenway Avenue
Enos U. Newlon was a manager and lived at 1582 Greenway Avenue

Ralston's own home at 3312 East Broad Street in Bexley was built in 1910. He died at age 55 on September 11, 1920 of Bright's disease. A native Canadian, he was buried in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

The Ralston Company was hit hard by the depression, had a brief resurgence during World Wat II and then business fell off again and Ralston closed in 1953. Several of the old plant buildings are still standing and the Columbus, New Albany and Johnstown interurban car barn can be seen from Rarig Avenue.

More information can be found at