Mike Hand Books

Ontario Industrial Histories

Tag: old factories

Tudhope Carriages and Cars

James Tudhope was an aggressive industrialist, building a thriving carriage business from that originally founded by his father in 1874. By 1902, the Tudhope Carriage Co. Ltd. factory occupied a full three city blocks in the downtown area of Orillia.  A separate company, Tudhope Anderson Co. Ltd. was formed, and used part of the existing factory to produce a line of wagons and farm equipment marketed under the name TACO.  In 1907, Tudhope entered the burgeoning car business, building a high wheeled automobile that looked more like a Phaeton carriage than a car. (A mint condition Tudhope automobile can still be seen in the Oshawa Car museum.) This venture died when the plant burned down in 1909.

tudhope car

Tudhope Motor Buggy

The plant, with a carriage capacity of 25,000 units a year was rebuilt without delay, helped by a $50,000 interest free loan from the city. Although his love was carriages, and he had organised a new company under the name of Carriage Factories Ltd., Tudhope wanted to get back into the car business. He made a deal with the US manufacturer to build the Everett 30 car under license. This car, built by the Tudhope Motor Co., turned out to have design flaws in the rear axle and by 1913 the subsidiary was in bankruptcy.

tudhope everitt

Everitt Car

His Carriage Factory company had been merged with three other Ontario carriage manufacturers as Tudhope pursued his dream of a carriage building empire, but the rapidly growing auto business was overtaking him, despite his attempts to be a part of it. Striving to stay alive in the disappearing carriage business, he built bodies for auto makers along with all-weather tops to keep his factories busy. As car manufacturers began building their own covered bodies, Tudhope’s business slowed down, and in 1924, he sold his dream of an empire, Carriage Factories Ltd., to the Cockshutt Plow Co. who merged it into their Canada Carriage and Body Ltd. subsidiary in Brantford.

Four year later, his farm equipment and wagon building business, TACO, was sold and reorganised under the name of OTACO Ltd, and a huge new foundry, ( now part of Kubota) was built in the outskirts of Orillia.  The OTACO name continued to exist until 2007 as an auto seat manufacturer in an Orillia suburb.

tudhope, cars, carriages.

Factory Chimney in Orillia

James Tudhope died in 1936, and despite his ventures into car building, never learned to drive one. His name lives on in Orillia in a downtown park, and for many years towered over the city in white letters on the high brick chimney at the remaining part of his down town factory. In 2000, the chimney was taken down due to deterioration into an unsafe condition.

Southworks

southworks

Southworks factory 1910

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the Southworks factory store outlet mall in Cambridge, Ontario. These fine old stone buildings stand out among many in the old part of Cambridge, formerly known as Galt, around the banks of the Grand River which flows majestically through the city. On the north side of the buildings, an old steel press mounted on a raised concrete platform provides some insight into the history of these buildings.

The Goldie McCulloch Company founded their business in 1859 and operated on this site for 120 years, the factory closing in 1980. From these buildings emerged huge steam engines, boilers and power plants, woodworking machinery, safes and vaults, water turbines and gasoline engines. As the company grew, the additions were always built with stone to maintain uniform appearance, including the square building between the factory and the river used mainly as a storage warehouse. As a result, we have today the wonderful old buildings forming the outlet mall. When they ran out of space for expansion, a new factory, the Northworks, was built on Hespeler Road. However this factory, now Babcock and Wilcox, was a more modern construction and did not have the timeless appearance of the Southworks.

Inside, as you walk through some of the stores in the south building, the remains of old lineshafts and pulleys can be seen at the roof level.

Lineshaft still visible above

The many machine tools used in the factory to make the engine parts were driven by belts running from these shafts which obtained their power from huge steam engines in each building. In between the two main buildings are the remains of the power house where the steam for the engines and for heating the factory was generated.

Southworks foundry 1900

The west half of this building housed the foundry, where the workers spent their days on a sand covered floor building the moulds into which the molten iron would be poured to cast the engine parts.

Today, it is difficult for the visitor to imagine the buildings as a noisy thriving manufacturing operation with over 200 workers toiling under conditions that would be considered less than acceptable in the modern world.

Change continues. Unfortunately, today’s retailing environment has made it difficult to stay profitable and the Southworks Mall, falling victim, was closed mid 2017. It is now in process of being transformed into housing units and I suspect the remaining line-shafts will fall victim also to this change.

 

 

Factory Working Conditions

Over the last century, great steps forward have been made in the working conditions in factories. In the latter part of the 1800’s, safety concerns were virtually non existent with hazards like high speed belts and pulleys all over the place, no ear, hand or eye protection and poor heating in winter. In one of my books, From Wagon to Trailer, I recount an interview with a man who started work in the factory in the early 1930’s when conditions still did not seem to have improved too much. He told of a man fatally injured when his coat got caught in a line shaft driving the belt pulleys and was spun round and round until the drive could be shut off. And of the painters who worked all day over large paint tanks dipping the finished product with no fumes protection.

Working conditions

Belt driven machines

In the mid twentieth century a well-known novel writer, Thomas B Costain, wrote about a young man growing up in an industrial city in his book “Son of a Hundred Kings”. It is well accepted that the city he based it on was Brantford and the young man’s experiences when first working at a foundry, also accepted as that of the Buck Stove Company, described graphically the conditions under which they worked in the latter part of the 1800’s.

Even in the 1940’s, when I served a five year engineering apprenticeship with a large engine manufacturer, many of the working conditions encountered would be totally unacceptable today. One machine on which I worked doing finish machining on compressor crankshafts, required a constant stream of cutting oil to run on to the workpiece. At the end of the shift, the full height leather apron I had to wear would be soaked in oil to the extent that every night, it was cleaned with trichlorethylene to remove the oil before the next day’s use.

In the forge adjacent to that machine shop, so much soot covered the windows,lights and floor that it was very difficult to see what was going on until one’s eyes adjusted to the dim light. Minimal eye protection was used and hearing protection was zero.

working conditions

Forge department – 1940’s

Even in a relatively clean place, as in this 1880 factory building steam engines, most times the work area would be so crowded that it became hazardous.

working conditions

Engine assembly shop – 1880

Today, health and worker legislation is such that one could no longer find such conditions in most of the advanced nations. In contrast, one factory that I recently wrote about had some of the best working conditions that I have ever seen, and I have been through hundreds of plants in my time. The plant was fully air conditioned, most of the machinery was computer controlled, and the walls and floors one could literally eat off. No, this was not an electronics manufacturer, but a company machining metals and making special assembly machines and tools.

A big step from the “good old days”.

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