History Continued The Winton Motor Car Company, Cleveland Ohio

Completed in 1904, The Winton Motor Carriage Factory employed between 800 and 1,000 people and produced about 840 vehicles its first year. At the center of the grounds stood a two-story building with offices on the first floor and a drafting room and fire-proof vault on the second. Along the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern tracks stood the boiler house and, in a separate building, the engine room and experimental shop. City water mains supplied two coal-fired boilers with water through a feed water heater and two reverse feed pumps. Steam moved from the boilers to engines which pumped the steam through the plant's radiator system and to the glue pots, enameling ovens, and dryer ovens. A vacuum pump in the boiler house returned the water to a cistern.

The engine room contained two, 200-horsepower and one, 100-horsepower Skinner automatic high-speed engines. These were directly connected to two, 100-kilowatt and two, 33-kilowatt Western Electric direct-current generators which supplied power to the plant's incandescent and arc lights- A seven-panel white-marble Western Electric switchboard controlled the entire system. The experimental shop for the testing of new designs stood, partitioned off, at one end of the 150-foot by 40-foot powerhouse.

In addition to the boiler room, the 300-foot by 80-foot boiler house contained a coal bin and gas house, which produced gas for the foundry's forges and annealing ovens by spraying gasoline through heated air and storing it in adjacent tanks. Next to the gas house stood a 125-foot by 80-foot tin shop and sheet metal department. The pipes, radiators, and sheet metal produced there went to an adjacent polishing room for finishing. A blacksmith shop and foundry occupied the rest of the building. It contained seven forges, an 800-pound steam hammer, several gas-heated core hardening and annealing ovens, and a case hardening furnace. Next to the ovens stood a row of 20 gas-fired retorts for melting the metal used in the castings.

Across the central rail siding from the boiler house and foundry stood a 300-foot by 100-foot machine shop. It employed about 200 people and contained machinery "of the most modern style." A raw materials and parts storage area stood at one end while a tool room, wheel assembly, and tire storage department occupied the other end of the shop.

The foundry and machine shop buildings stood perpendicular to two assembly buildings at the south end of the site. The building closest to the machine shop was 230 feet long and 100 feet wide. The parallel building was 237 feet long and 100 feet wide. These two buildings contained component assembly areas along their side aisles and chassis assembly along their central crane ways. Two-man teams built each chassis, which took between 15 and 18 hours to complete.

An electric traveling crane placed the completed chassis on a cart. Workers then pulled the engine and frame to a nearby testing area where a drive chain ran each motor for six hours at different speeds. The cart carried the chassis to a running gear department, also within the assembly buildings, where workers attached the axles, wheels, and steering gears to the chassis over grease pits.

With a temporary body mounted on each chassis, inspectors gave it a 15-mile run along a 7/8 mile board track that encircled the plant. The track had steep grades and gravel bogs to simulate road conditions. The inspectors then delivered the finished chassis to the body and woodworking building at the north end of the site. That building stood 200 feet long and 168 feet wide. It had a central 200-foot by 80-foot clerestory space and side aisles containing machinery. It also had, like Winton's first factory, a second floor used for the storage of lumber. Steam-heated dry kilns stood at the south end of the building. A 25-horsepower motor on the second floor operated a system of blowers that transferred sawdust into an exterior hopper. At the center of the body department stood a glue room, partitioned off from the main space. It contained veneering presses and steam heated glue pots.

After attaching the body to the chassis, workers moved the automobile to the painting building, 400 feet long and 100 feet wide. Each body received from 15 to 17 coats of paint, a process which required from 24 to 26 separate operations and took 27 days to complete. The painting building contained a 150-foot by 30-foot rough varnish room and a 300-foot by 30-foot finish varnish room along one side of the structure.


Adjacent to the painting building stood a 200-foot by 50-foot building containing the trimming and shipping departments. The trimming department, which employed women, had a cutting and sewing room and a leather upholstering room. Women made the leather seats and canopy top and men attached them to the automobile before returning it to the painting building for a final coat. If destined for a local salesroom, the automobile went to a finishing room where men attached the hood, horn, lamps, and other accessories. If destined for other cities, the automobile went to the shipping department where men covered the vehicle in muslin and secured it in a wooden box. A standard railroad car held three boxes.

A separate one-story service and repair building stood at the south end of the site along Madison Avenue. The 200-foot by 125-foot structure contained a machine shop, an assembly department, a woodworking shop, a paint and varnish department, an upholstery department, and a stock room with parts for all back models of the Winton automobile.

In 1904, The Winton Motor Carriage Company claimed to have "the largest plant ... in the world devoted exclusively to automobile manufacture." That last phrase provided an important qualification, for the Olds plant in Lansing, Michigan was larger, although it produced marine engines as well as cars. Nevertheless, the Winton factory attracted much attention and comment, standing as a culmination of the manufacturing methods and plant designs developed during the Cleveland automobile industry's first stage.

Winton' made few changes in its plant until 1909, when the company began a major plant expansion. The factory's production rate had increased to 1,200 cars per year, with employment averaging at 1,500 people. In March 1909, The Winton Motor Carriage Company added a 45-foot by 23-foot polishing room to the existing foundry building, and in the summer of that year, it built a wooden shed-roof between the two assembly buildings.

In the summer of 1910, Winton replaced its earlier repair building with a three-story structure designed by Samuel W. Watterson. Built at a cost of $50,000, the structure had brick bearing walls, packed wooden floors, steel beams and columns on the first two floors, and timber construction on the third. The roof had a slight pitch with a central skylight along the gable ridge. In the fall of 1910, The Winton Motor Carriage Company completed a $6,000, 150-foot by 80-foot foundry behind its new repair building. James W. Crisford, the foundry's architect, repeated the plant format of a single-story brick building encompassing a central clerestory space. Crisford's foundry differed in its use of steel columns, steel king-post roof trusses, and steel knee braces. At about the same time, Edward Richardson's new firm, Richardson and Watts, designed a 700-foot by 25-foot, two-story addition to the machine shop and painting building. Immediately adjacent to Berea Road, the building had double-hung windows, stone lintels, and brick buttresses defining each steel-framed bay. Although undocumented, this addition probably contained materials and parts storage, previously housed within the machine shop proper.

The only other major building constructed during this period was a single-story brick, steel, and reinforced concrete pattern vault located between the new foundry and repair buildings. Supervised by J. F. Weidig, the building was 40 feet long and 30 feet wide. In 1913, Weidig added a 28-foot extension to the vault using the same materials.

Although Winton made only minor changes to its plant after 1913, the company continued to prosper throughout World War I, building 2,339 automobiles in 1915. That year, the company reorganized, changing its name to The Winton Motor Car Company. Meanwhile, Alexander Winton had begun experimenting with diesel and gasoline marine engines. In 1911, he built three, 40-cycle 150-horse-power engines for his yacht, La Belle. The following year, he founded the Winton Gasoline Engine and Manufacturing Company. In 1913, he constructed the first American-built diesel engine.

After World War I, Winton's marine engine company thrived while his automobile company declined. The post-war recession in 1920 left the Winton Motor Car Company operating at a 30% production capacity.

In October, 1921, a committee of creditors began supervising the company's operations. Producing only 690 vehicles in 1922, The Winton Motor Car Company officially ceased operations on February 11, 1924, selling its plant in July of that year. Alexander Winton continued to operate his marine engine works until 1930, when General Motors purchased it and renamed it The Cleveland Diesel Engine Division. That division ceased production in 1961.

The Winton factory had a series of owners after 1924, most of whom divided the large plant into smaller rental units. These later owners demolished the body and woodworking building at the north end of the property as well as the power house along the rail siding. Minor alterations such as the blocking-in and replacement of windows and the addition of a new truck dock have also occurred. In 1978, the smoke stack, with the name Winton still legible on its side, came down.

Many historians have cited Winton's continued production of high-priced automobiles as a reason for the company's failure. Yet, the company's post-war conservatism, reflected in its uninspired advertising and its single model production line as well as in its maintenance of stationary assembly methods within an antiquated factory, must have contributed to its decline. For its last ten years, The Winton Motor Car Company attempted to rest upon its earlier laurels. In the automobile industry, that was a sure road to failure.