Northeast Philadelphia’s Budd Company Pioneered Modern Transit with Innovative Steel Use

The Budd Company factory
Image via Wikipedia.

Despite Pittsburgh having the official nickname “The Steel City,” it’s Philadelphia that is responsible for the steel that is used in modern transit nationwide, writes Avi Wolfman-Arent for Billy Penn at WHYY.

The Budd Company, a Philadelphia-based firm founded by Edward Gowen Budd, played a critical role in the incorporation of steel used in trains, planes, and other forms of automobile transportation. 

A draftsman and engineer, Budd was a pioneer who helped develop new steel pulley systems and foresaw steel-bodied vessels as being the future of transit.

In 1912, he developed the first all-steel automobile body. About 20 years later, he introduced the first stainless steel airplane. 

Budd also had a hand in the train business, as he helped develop the stainless steel “Zephyr” trains, and introduced the Rail Diesel Car, which caught on both locally and worldwide. 

In Philadelphia, the Rail Diesel Car was the model that was produced for the Market-Frankford El from the 1960s through the 1990s. 

Despite running into challenges in the latter part of the 20th century, Budd made his mark and his foresight on the importance of steel use continues to be felt more than a century later. 

Learn more about how Philadelphia was the breeding ground for how steel is used in Billy Penn at WHYY.


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