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Auto-Railer: 1935

Auto-Railer: 1935

        ANNAPOLIS, Md., June 26, 1935 (AP) -- Negotiations have been started by the Evans Products Co. of Detroit for the purchase of the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Railway, which was recently sold at auction here. The company manufactures buses and trucks that operate either on rails or on the highway, and it is understood the concern plans to operate 100 passenger and freight units between Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis. ... The "auto railer" consists of front and rear steel pilot railroad wheels attached to a conventional type of bus or truck. The pilot wheels are raised for operation over highways but can be let down when the vehicle reaches the tracks. The vehicle runs on its own tires over the rails with the pilot wheels guiding it along the track.

1935. Washington, D.C., or vicinity. "Streamline Bus and Car, Evans Motor." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Washington and Old Dominion

The Washington and Old Dominion obtained one of the Evan units from the defunct Arlington and Fairfax and converted it to a maintenance vehicle.

Are any extant?

If so, what a novel and attractive project for a guest house/lake/mountain house conversion.

Gramps' Job

That Washington, D.C. job may have been on the Arlington & Fairfax trolley line, which replaced its electric cars with Evans Autorailers. I think they wanted to drive them across the Potomic River without using the D.C. streetcar tracks. One of those later wound up on the Chicago, South Shore & South Bend RR in 1955, with a platform on the roof for working on the overhead wires in East Chicago, Ind.

Gramps' good job

I knew my grandfather worked for a company called Evans so I emailed my dad this link. here was his reply:

"Yes, this is the same Evans Products. More than that, your grandpa spent a couple of his years at that time driving one of these for the Company when we lived in Detroit. He would be gone for weeks at a time. First, he worked in a small city, Paris, Illinois, and later was transferred to Washington, DC. It always sounded like a good idea to me. It was equipped with both railway wheels and rubber tires, with a mechanism to lower the rubber tires or raise the railway wheels, so they could use the seldom-used rail lines like street-car tracks. Of course the rail lines fought them and tried to scare the public about potential collisions. In the end, the politicians voted against it ... but your grandpa was part of it."

Alas, he's not in the photo, but what a pleasure to see a glimpse of his world. Thanks, Shorpy!

C-Span connection

Evans Products was founded by John Steptoe Evans, whose grandson John D. Evans was a co-founder of C-Span.

Evans Products started out building wood products; first, a wooden block that allowed easy loading of autos on railcars, then cedar separators for the plates in a car battery. John S. Evans set a record in 1928 by flying around the world in 28 days.

Modern Traveler

Everyone has done such a good job on the history of auto-railer that I am left to guess at the signage behind the gentlemen. TRIAL “Modern Traveler” ROAD RAIL COACH BODY? Love the Art Deco font.

[SUPERIOR "Modern Traveler." Also: CHEVROLET CHASSIS, TIMKEN AXLES / GOODRICH & UNITED STATES TIRES. The "Modern Traveler" was a streamlined bus body made by Superior Motor Coach Co. of Lima, Ohio. - Dave]

1935 fashion

Broad lapels, rolled up trousers, hats and no belly fat!

[Those are real cuffs. -tterrace]

Not a Bump in a Carload

Fairmont Railway Motors (now Harsco Rail) is often given credit for coming up with the road-rail technology that created "hi-railers" (they spell it "HY-RAIL") in the 1940s, but the various versions of the Evans product had already been in production for years. The car-like one below was known as the M2.


Their largest Auto-Railer (below) was only one of over a dozen diverse products they made for the war effort during WWII.



Evans Auto-railer in action

I recalled seeing an old clip of this machine in action, and here it is. I believe that the scenes were taken along the Grand Trunk Western Jackson Subdivision which ran from Pontiac to Jackson, MI. The branch was abandoned in 1975.

Kickin' the Tires

Sir, I advise you NOT to kick THAT tire.


Presumably you can retract the wheels and drive off the tracks when a real train comes along too.

Let me be

You can stand there all day and have your picture taken, for all I care, but this headlight is really something interesting.

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