The Magor Car Corporation

by Edward S. Kaminski

Full Text of Several Reviews:

Review from Model Railroader, Vol. 68, No. 6, June, 2001, p. 45.

"The Magor Car Corporation, by Edward S. Kaminski is an illustrated history of the twentieth century American car builder known for its innovative freight cars and side dump cars. The 200-page 8-1/2" x 11" hardcover book is filled with black-and-white builder's photos, a few color photos, and drawings.It's published by Signature Press."

Review from The Lexington Quarterly, June, 2002, pp. 8, 9.

"The Magor Car Corp., located in Clifton N.J., was active in railroad freight car construction between 1899 and 1973. During those years they produced approximately 95,000 cars. The greater number were industrial style cars; mine, dump and sugar cars. A large number went to export customers. U.S. main line roads were served as well, with Magor producing a variety of general service cars that feature caboose and air dump cars. In its last decades the firm specialized in aluminum body cars, notably covered hoppers such as the well-known Big Johns of the Southern Railway.

"This volume is nicely produced and abundantly illustrated. Picture reproduction is excellent and a great variety of views are shown--cars from a very small form wheel tip car to a 250 ton capacity, 24 wheel gun car are included. There are also advertisements and pages reproduced from early Magor catalogues and a few views of the plants, plus a picture or two of Basil Magor posed next to one of his iron and steel creations. Detailed captions accompany the illustrations.

"But this is a book long on photos and short on text. The corporate history of Magor is compressed into little more than a dozen pages. Its officers are named but never explained. Who was Basil Magor? Why did he enter the railroad car business? Where was he born or educated? Why did he go to Canada in 1911 to open a second car plant? These and many similar questions are ignored by the author. He explains a lack of original records and the unresponsive nature of the Library of Congress which failed to respond to his call for help. Every historian can complain about the lack of documentation, but historical research is not a passive venture. It requires digging and long hours reading through trade journals and newspapers. It is amazing what can be found in back issues of the RAILWAY AGE or the NEW YORK TIMES or Moody's Industrial Manual. The TIMES for example published obituaries for both Basil and Robert Magor that explain the careers of these two car building brothers. A search of the NEW YORK TIMES index of obituaries required no more than a few minutes.

"At the same time we must thank Mr. Kaminski for his contributions to the history of railroad car building. Little has been published in this very specialized area of industrial history and any new volume about this arcane subject is surely welcome. I also expect that most rail enthusiasts and model builders will be very satisfied with this volume. But for members of the Lexington Group, I doubt many will find the present volume very satisfactory."

-- John H. White

Review from Railroad Model Craftsman magazine, August, 2001, p. 28.

"Magor Car Corporation is best known for the dump cars that were a signature product. There is much more to the story of this little known car builder. This book tells the fascinating story of Magor and its products. There is much that is of interest to modelers and historians, including many photographs, Magor catalog pages, and a chapter devoted to drawings of Magor cars. The challenge the author faced in writing this book was locating historical information and photographic documentation for a car builder that has been out of business for many years. Fortunately, a chance meeting between a friend of the author, Tom Callan, and Elmer Danbrowney, who had been Magor's purchasing manager, led the author to a large amount of material.

"The first chapter is a brief history of the Magor Car Corporation. The evolution of the company and its products are described and illustrated by photographs and advertisements. There are a number of interesting photos and drawings of the Magor manufacturing plant over the years. Several interior photos provide an interesting look at early twentieth century manufacturing. The advertisements from different eras illustrate the changes that took place in Magor's product line.

"The second chapter describes the export railcars that Magor built over the years. Many of the illustrations are "general specification" diagrams that include a photograph, give dimensions and include a brief description of the type of construction. It's interesting to note that Magor used steel for the car underframes even in its earliest cars. The cars described in this chapter are very varied in size and intended use. Some of these are very small compared with typical U.S. Class I freight cars while others are typical of the Class I cars being built when they were produced. Although perhaps a slight exaggeration, it is almost true that no two of the cars in this chapter are alike.

"Magor decided to market cars for the U.S. market after building 1,000 composite gondolas for the USRA during World War I. The third chapter describes these cars, along with a few earlier domestic cars. Numerous company and in-service photos illustrate the cars that Magor built for the U.S. market during the 1930s and later. Most of these cars are typical U.S. freight car designs for the period of their construction. Starting in 1960 Magor repositioned itself by phasing out export cars and concentrating on the U.S. market. The coverage of this final period in Magor's history is especially good. In 1959 and 1960 Magor built three orders of aluminum covered hoppers for the Southern Railway. Magor became a leading producer of this car type, and many examples are shown in the third chapter. There are company and in-service photos of these unusual cars, as well as drawings in chapter seven.

"Dump cars are one of Magor's best known products. Magor built these cars throughout its existence, and the designs changed remarkably little over the years. Chapter four is devoted to these cars. The dump car types and construction details are illustrated by general specification diagrams, photographs and company advertisements. There are many photos that show how these cars operate. These are supplemented by a large number of drawings in chapter seven.

"In the early years, Magor produced most of the components used in the rail cars it built. As time went on, and these components became more specialized, Magor purchased them from outside suppliers. The fifth chapter includes interesting photos of underframes, trucks, couplers, trailer hitches and other specialty parts. Since Magor sold to both the domestic and foreign markets, a wide variety of couplers is illustrated. The photos in this chapter are very useful to the modeler because they show car components that are usually difficult or impossible to see in freight car photographs.

"The sixth chapter gives the complete Magor Car Corporation production list for the years 1925 to 1968. The size is given for each order. The predominance of small orders is striking as is the dlversity of customers. This list also shows that, although about 35% of Magor's production was for the domestic market, most of this production went to a small group of loyal U.S. customer railroads.

"The final chapter is especially useful to modelers. There are sixteen pages of drawings and illustrations that again illustrate the diversity of Magor products. The air dump cars are especially well covered and there is more than enough information to build a model of one of these fascinating cars."

-- Larry Kline

Review from Trains magazine, July, 2001, p. 76.

"Located in Clifton, N.J., Magor Car Corp. was a significant railcar builder from its founding in 1899 until its closing in 1973. Magor primarily focused on the export market, and it supplied cars for U.S. military duty on overseas railroads in both world wars, as well as during the Korean War. As this comprehensive and impressively illustrated book reveals, Magor also had an extensive line of domestic car designs that included cabooses, boxcars, and side-dump hopper cars.

"Although other builders had investigated the use of aluminum for railcars, Magor was the first to place an aluminum-bodied covered hopper in service, and ultimately the company built riearly 5000 aluminum freight cars between 1959 and 1973, when declining demand for new rail cars, coupled with the rising cost of aluminum, led then-owner Fruehauf to close the company."

-- anon.

Review from Model Railroad News, Vol. 8, No. 5, May, 2002, p. 32.

"Following his earlier Signature Press work on the world famous car builder American Car & Foundry, Edward Kaminski has now given us a very interesting look in the opposite direction--a small and relatively unknown car builder, the Magor Car Corporation. Founded in the early part of the last century in New Jersey, Magor grew to be a mid-sized supplier of rolling stock for the foreign export markets. Later, using the knowledge gained from previous years, Magor developed into a niche maker of unique cars for the industrial and domestic railway market. While Magor (pronounced may-gor) was never a major player in the U.S. carbuilding industry, many folks are aware of their output merely because they made some of the more interesting looking equipment that you tend to remember fondly.

"The publisher, Signature Press, has in the last few years become known for their expanding line of high quality railroad books on new topics. This book is in the standard Quarto format we are familiar with for most railroad books, and it is nicely bound in brown cloth with gold imprinting on the spine. Page layout and presentation is about what we have come to expect in railroad books: a short introductory text for each chapter, followed by pages of pictures with concise captions.

"There is luckily precious little of the actual drab corporat e history included, this book being focused more as a photodocumentation of the firm's output. The photo reproduction is quite well done, and most of the pictures are crisply printed, except for the fact that a few of the images are reproduced from old catalog pages, which themselves were never very good to begin with. Seeing as many of these images are totally new and unique, I can live with the less than perfect reproduction to see something of much greater overall interest. At an average price of just about twenty cents a picture, I'm not going to complain too much.

"The book is generally laid out by chronological era within each chapter, starting with the inception of the firm and its earliest exports, then following through to the final years and some of their more experimental designs. Since so much of their output was industrial and overseas equipment, I was thrilled to see page after page of dump cars, tank cars, log cars, and all manner of rolling stock for different users such as sugar cane plantations.

"Additionally, Magor did a large amount of business supplying cars to the military railroa!d efforts in both World Wars, so many of the pictures of rolling stock have a distinctly European design flair. Four wheel cars abound, and spoked wheels (always a neat appearance in my mind) show on many of the cars. For anyone tired of what seems to be an endless stream of nearly identical steel freight cars so common on current day railroads, this book is a welcome respite. It won't necessarily appeal to everyone, but those who like this topic will heartily enjoy the book.

"Being of an industrial and narrow gauge mindset myself, I thoroughly enjoyed chapter two on the export cars, and chapter four on dump cars. The export cars vary across a wide range of unique cars suited to a particular industry, such as rack cars for sugar cane haulage, tank cars for oil companies, or gondolas and hoppers for mining concerns. Also included are a few shots of passenger cars ordered by whatever firm was buying the industrial freight cars, which shows that Magor did not solely supply freight cars, but offered a full line of cars as required by a customer's needs. Since Magor was located only a short distance from the port area of New York City, it meant cars were able to be shipped overseas at prices well below any inland located maker since transport of the finished car to the port was not really an issue.

"Chapter four is on dump cars--those ubiquitous unsung heroes of mechanized transport--which built this country's infrastructure and its railroads, and were once as common as dump trucks are today. The fifty-odd pictures carry the reader from the early four wheel industrial cars, up to more modern eight wheel stock for use in heavy mining or maintenance-of-way use. Images show cars both closed and in the dumped position, and there are several pictures of the cars' frames or bodies for further detail reference. Air dump cars finish off the chapter, many styles of which can still be seen in use today.

"While the export market was a big source of revenue for Magor, domestic sales were still prevalent, and chapter three has all the roads we recognize and grow misty-eyed over. Here, the influence of the major roads' purchasing departments shows up, and many of the cars would not warrant a second glance if you did not know they were from a niche car builder. Steel cabooses for the MoPac or C & 0, wood cabooses for the Lehigh & New England, all share space with hoppers for the Norfolk & Western or Great Northern, or boxcars for the Bangor & Aroostook or Penn Central.

"An aspect one might overlook is that since a car builder made its own cars, it should follow that the builder made its own line of car parts. While this is not always the case, chapter five shows a range of the individual pieces of car hardware one could obtain directly from Magor if one needed to build or rebuild a car. Arch bar trucks, complete underbodies, cast wheels, various types of couplers, and any number of associated hardware parts were available from the firm. These are shown in several catalog pages. Since Magor was later bought by and folded into the Fruehauf Corporation, trailer hitches for intermodal cars are also a part of later production.

"The book closes with a complete listing of all the cars built from 1925 to their closure, some 60,000 cars in all; anything from four wheel narrow gauge flat cars bought in pairs, up to an order for 1,200 standard gauge hoppers for the Southern Railway, to many cabooses for use on eastern or southeastern roads. This breadth of coverage in the market is not unique per se, but it does show that Magor was certainly not just another typical small car builder. To complement this listing, there is then a section of plans and drawings of fifteen to twenty common cars, several of which may be of use to modelers--in fact, there is one narrow gauge coach that just begs to be modeled in On3O.

"With the current level of intense interest in the history of freight cars growing, and the high quality of this new book, I can't see that Signature Press has anything but a winner here. Both Signature and author Kaminski are to be congratulated on a title that will certainly take its rightful place on the bookshelves of any devoted fan of the lowly railcar."

-- Jeff Saxton