An Original Model 20 built by Edwards Railway Motor Car Company, 1940.
(Edwards Rail Car, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



Edwards Rail Car Company was located in the small town of Sanford, North Carolina, specializing in the manufacture of self-propelled rail cars.



Harry P. Edwards began building passenger railway equipment in 1917 and formed the Edwards Railway Motor Car Company in 1921. 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 and Western Railway, a short line running from Sanford to Lillington, N.C., was running an 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 Railway.

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.

In 1929 Edwards exported two Model 20 units to Argentina, for Ferrocarriles del Estado meter gauge lines. Both, named CM 1 and CM 2 went to Córdoba hills between Alta Córdoba and Capilla del Monte. Service last till 1937 when they were replaced by new streamlined trains built by Ganz of Hungary.

Both units were transferred to Santa Fe province, joining Maciel station with Puerto Gaboto a port on Parana River, that were first spanish colonial setting in Argentina as Fort Santi Spiritu. Service was ended in 1966 and units were cut for scrap several years later. There are many pictures of these units in service, I do not know how to share them.

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 22-year period to nineteen different countries in the Western Hemisphere. Only a handful of Edwards cars have survived today.


This Edwards Model-21 streamlined railcar was originally a demonstrator built in 1935.

It was sold to the U.S. Navy in 1938 after some modifications, and began service with the Alaska Railroad in 1948.

It was retired in April 1954 and met the scrapper's torch in late 1959.

(W. Lenheim Collection)


Edwards Rail Car Company Overview

Type: Subsidiary
Industry: Rail transport
Founded: 1897
Defunct: 2008
Headquarters: Sanford, North Carolina
Area served; Worldwide
Products: Locomotives, High-speed trains, Intercity and commuter trains, Trams, People movers, Signaling systems