Carlisle & Finch Electric Trains, Part 2
Posted On: 12/21/2017 - 12:07pm, Posted By: David Conzett, Curator of History Objects & Fine Art
If you'd like to get caught up with Part 1 of this story, please click here.
Carlisle & Finch continued to produce trolleys, mining locomotives and a variety of railway accessories, but no new designs appeared for nearly two years (1897 – 1899). During the summer of 1899 the company released the battery operated No.19 Electric Automobile and, no doubt influenced by the naval engagements of the Spanish American War, the twenty four inch long No. 20 Electric Torpedo Boat.
In September 1899 the company created what is today often considered the first true electric train, one that looked like an actual steam locomotive – the No. 4 Electric Locomotive & Tender. Early No. 4 engines and tenders were made of tin with the cab, window and boiler details simulated on an attached lithographed paper label; early engine cabs were numbered 683. Second and third Model No. 4 engines had a nickel-plated boiler, embossed boiler bands and painted details; engine cabs were embossed 171. Later period engines retained the embossed details, but the nickel-plated boiler was eliminated in favor of an overall, and more realistic, black paint scheme; the cabs were stamped 131. With the exception of the engine number, paint and embossed details, the engines remained largely unchanged from 1899-1905. A smaller version of the No. 4 engine, the No. 20 Switch Engine, was released in 1904.
The No. 4 Electric Locomotive and Tender, while sold separately, were also available in freight and passenger sets. Early No. 4 freight sets (1899-1903) consisted of a flat car and a boxcar; the little red caboose did not appear until 1903. Like the early engine and tender, the first freight cars were made of tin with details printed on color lithographed paper labels; later cars, with embossed (stamped) details, were painted. C&F freight cars would eventually include a cattle car, gondola car, tank car and a motorized crane mounted on a flatcar. The No. 32 passenger set was composed of a baggage car and two brass coaches; later coaches were made of nickel-plated tin and painted tin.
Carlisle & Finch ad, Scientific American, October 25, 1902 showing the No. 4 Engine & Tender
No. 4 Freight and No. 32 Passenger sets, as well as their many related accessories, were among the most popular of all C&F products. Carlisle & Finch received the following letter from a boy in Indianapolis, Indiana in early 1900:
January 16, 1900
The Carlisle & Finch Co., Cincinnati, O.
I have received the train and am much pleased with it, and tell you it is all you claim and more. I am going to buy more track and lay out a railroad, and I think I will have two or three bridges, and keep on adding more until I have the largest toy railroad in Indianapolis.
Master Fernor S. Cannon
In early 1900 Carlisle & Finch moved their growing business to a five-story building at 228-231 East Clifton Avenue. While C&F faced serious competition from several other electric train manufacturers, including Lionel, Smith & White, and Howard Manufacturing Co., the company continued to design high quality products and remained competitive in the rapidly growing toy industry. With the production of the No. 45 Locomotive, a detailed twenty-eight inch long steam engine and tender in 1903, C&F introduced their largest and most impressive electric train. While not a true scale model by today’s standards, the No. 45 was an accurate depiction of the Atlantic-Type locomotive then in use by the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad; it is still considered one of the most authentic and handsome models of the period. The No. 45 locomotive had a nickel-plated boiler and rooftop with black painted accents; the engine’s hand rails, piping and drive rods were made of brass. A powerful six-pole electric motor with heavy spur gears created a smooth operation and high speed. Large-scale tinplate freight and passenger cars, similar to those of the No. 4 sets, were manufactured for use with the No. 45 locomotive.
Carlisle & Finch ad, Electrical Review, November 28, 1903 showing the No. 45 Atlantic Type Locomotive
A smaller version of the No. 45 Atlantic, the No. 34 Locomotive, was introduced in 1908. Early No. 34 engines had a nickel-plated boiler, simulated boiler bands and brass handrails. Later No.34 engines and tenders were painted in an overall black paint scheme with gold details and lettering.
Carlisle & Finch Company E. Clifton Avenue Workshop with baskets of electric trains, ca. 1905
The manufacturing of electric trains by Carlisle & Finch ceased almost as quickly as it had begun. With the approach of the First World War in 1914, the company received the first of several lucrative government contracts for the production of marine search and signal lamps for the U.S. Navy and Merchant Marine. Electric train production ended in 1915 and never resumed.
In the immediate postwar years C&F continued to manufacture marine searchlights, as well as electric fans, radio headphones, electric clothes dryers and other household goods for the growing consumer market. Morton Carlisle sold his entire interest in the business to Robert Finch in August 1926, but the company name remained unchanged. The company seriously considered reentering the electric train market in the early 1930s, and several prototype model trains were created, but production was never resumed. C&F’s reluctance to enter the electric train business was no doubt influenced by the depression of the 1930s as well as the strong competition from Lionel, American Flyer and other toy manufacturers. During World War II Carlisle & Finch, once again, manufactured signal and searchlights for the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine - and further established their position as a leader in searchlight technology.
In 1950 C&F moved from the five-story factory it had occupied for more than fifty years on Clifton Avenue to a more modern facility at 4562 West Mitchell. When the move from Clifton was nearly completed, a fire totally destroyed the old factory—barrels and boxes of early C&F tinplate trains and catalogs that had yet to be moved to the new address were consumed in the blaze.
Today, the Carlisle & Finch Company is directed by the third and fourth generations of the Finch family, the grandson and great grandsons of founder Robert S. Finch. C&F continues to manufacture high intensity signal and search lights for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Prison System and the International Commercial Marine Industry.
Cincinnati Museum Center is fortunate to have a few examples of Carlisle & Finch model trains: the No. 3 Coal Mining Locomotive, the No. 4 Freight Set and the No. 4 Passenger Set. CMC is actively collecting Carlisle & Finch toys and trains. If you have a Carlisle & Finch product that you would like to donate or if you would like to support the acquisition of C&F electric trains, please contact David Conzett, Curator, CMC History Collections (513) 287-7063.