The Edwards Railway Motor Car Company was first founded in 1921 by Harry P. Edwards to construct and sell lightweight self-propelled rail cars for use on branch lines. The company was in business until 1942, at which time the plant was sold to the Rogers Aircraft Co. and retooled for the manufacture of aircraft parts for the war effort.
The company was re-founded in 1997 by Steven Torrico to manufacture and sell lightweight self-propelled rail cars based on the company’s original designs. In recent years Edwards has branched out and now offers vintage-style electric streetcars and restoration services for any type of historic rail car.
The following are some of the projects now in progress at the Edwards firm from their location in Mount Dora, Florida.
J.G. Brill Model-55 Gas-Mechanical Combination Car
As the car arrived to Edwards it had no engine or transmission. The body work had been done, interior trim work completed and new windows installed. The car was without a top floor, engine, transmission, radiator, functioning brakes, seats and controls.
Edwards sold the car to the Black River & Western in the spring of 2003. Restoration continued until October 2003. As the car was not needed in New Jersey until May 2004, it went into service on the Mount Dora & Lake Eustis Railway. This allowed Edwards to thoroughly “shake-down” the car under loaded circumstances.
A Chevy 396 240 h.p. gas engine and Chevy Turbo 400 three-speed automatic transmission have been installed. The original Brill power truck (front) contains the original gear box for transmission of power to both axles of the front truck. The final drive gear box has a high/low feature, as well as forward and reverse. Originally the car had a gas engine and torque converter to supply power to the final drive gear box. With the application of the automatic transmission, the motorman simply puts the automatic transmission in drive or neutral as needed. Forward and reverse is engaged with the original gear box.
Restoration included installing the top floor and fabricating new reversible seats. Partitions were fabricated from scratch as well as the front engine hood (inside baggage compartment) and control panels for the front and rear. This car has controls on both ends for double end operation. The interior wood trim is of Mahogany and has been refinished.
While in service on the Mount Dora & Lake Eustis Railway the M-55 has proven to be a very reliable performer. On one special excursion this car operated a total of 156 miles in one day without any problems, delay, or overheating, averaging 25 miles per hour on most of the run. The car consumed 36 gallons of gasoline to cover the 156 miles. At current fuel prices, an average fuel cost of .39 cents per mile can be anticipated in service.
Birmingham & Southeastern No. 500 Restoration
In 1999 Mr. Kershaw discovered that the Edwards firm was reborn and relocated in Mount Dora, Florida. The No. 500 made its way to Edwards for a complete restoration.
When we first saw the car in Montgomery it was in two pieces; the body was separate from the chassis. In the early days of Edwards this was the common construction practice. The car frame was built separately from the chassis and then the two were bolted together. We also found the entire front section of the car frame was gone, as well as the rear platform and steps.
When we first saw the chassis it had been modified with the an old school bus seat welded to the forward section of the frame. The original engine had been replaced with a Chevy 350 gas-engine, and the school bus seat allowed the Kershaw mechanics to drive the chassis around their manufacturing plant.
The two sections of the car were shipped to Edwards separately by highway trucks. The first action taken was to assess the chassis, remove the school bus seat, and make any necessary repairs. On the car frame all the old rotted wood was removed carefully to use for patterns and then the frame was sandblasted and primed.
A new front section and rear platform and steps were fabricated from old photographs and original Edwards drawings.
The No. 500 is an Edwards Model-10 design with seating for 20 passengers. Historically, the ERC Model-10 was built in a variety of lengths seating as few as 15 or as many as 30. The Nevada State Railroad Museum has an original ERC Model-10 operating at their museum in Carson City, Nevada.
No. 500 has been shipped from Edwards to Historic Spencer Shops for operation in the "Rail Days" event before going home to Mongomery.
M-201 Conversion for Dining Car Service
In 1997 the car was converted to a gas-mechanical rail car for use on the tourist line in Mount Dora, Florida.
Until the summer of 2003 the M-201 was outfitted with walkover seats for 48 passengers. The owner of the M-201 contracted with the Edwards Company to completely refurbish the car and convert it into a dining car.
The car received a new canvas roof, air conditioning, all new windows and doors, carpeting, new partitions with art glass to create a pantry and steward's compartment, tables, a reworked power truck and a new paint job. The baggage compartment was converted into the galley with the addition of counters and specially-designed shelving. Also, generators were installed to supply 110 volt electricity for A/C and galley equipment.
In October 2003 the newly revamped M-201 emerged as the Orange Blossom Dinner Train, able to accommodate 30 passengers seated at tables.
This “doodlebug diner” is a perfect example of how the lightweight self-propelled rail car is easily adaptable for dining car and lounge service on a tourist line or short line railroad.
Southern Traction No. 305
The car eventually made its way to the Granbury Mobile Home Park where it became part of a residence. A few years ago the car was discovered by Andy Nold, a noted Texas streetcar and Interurban historian, who notified the City of Corsicana of its existence. Fortunately it did not take the City long to make arrangements for the purchase and removal of the car. The car was removed from Granbury Mobile Home Park in March 2002 and brought to Corsicana to await restoration.
Texas Electric aficionado Ron Maxfield had been involved in the car's recovery and has become the Project Manager for No. 305 working closely with the Edwards Company to bring the car back to its original factory-delivered appearance. Built in 1913, the car will become the oldest traction car in Texas restored to its original condition (the very oldest, a 1908 car in Fort Worth, was brought back to its 1920's appearance).
Public Works Director Ron Lynch notes that the restoration cost will be paid out of the city's hotel/motel tax fund. Use of this money is restricted to projects directly related to tourism and it cannot be used for ordinary services such as street repair.
In October 2003 the No. 305 was shipped from Corsicana to the Edwards Rail Car Company. The first task at hand was to undo the modifications made to the car in 1932 as part of a "modernization" program intended to make the old cars look sleek and modern. Sheet metal was added to create a semi-streamlined effect by covering the arched upper sash windows. The baggage door that used to be on the front right side of the car, directly behind the motorman's compartment, was removed.
The motorman's compartment was removed, controls were moved to the front center and the motorman's window became a doorway with steps to create a front entrance (as originally built the No. 305 had only a rear entrance for passengers).
The No. 305 project at Edwards is being facilitated by General Forman Mike Johns, Lead Carpenter Rick Hansen and Refinisher/Painter Terry Noyes along with much help from Texas Electric experts Ron Maxfield, John Meyers and Lee Lavell. Also lending help with the acquisition of various parts are John Landrum, Chief Operating Officer of McKinney Avenue Transit Authority, Harry Nichols, and Andy Nold of Street Railway Associates (SRA).
McKinney Avenue Transit Authority No. 754
Phase One of the restoration is now complete. This included stripping the car of the roof and floor (to be replaced), removing all interior wood components for refinishing, and sand blasting and priming the car body.
It is anticipated that Phase Two of this project will begin this spring with a completion date and return to service in Dallas in November of 2004.
West Virginia Central No. M-3
The car has seating for 48 and is powered by a John Deer diesel engine. The trucks were manufactured for Edwards by Irwin Car & Equipment, Irwin, PA from original Edwards drawings.
The interior of the car is outfitted in oak and with walkover reversible seats. The M-3 has a control stand on both ends of the car for double end operation.