Keebler’s Bumper

It lies half buried and forgotten, covered in decades’ worth of shifting stamp sands and scattering debris at the head of the Quincy Smelter’s dock. In its current state it appears to be nothing more then a hefty iron block supported by several equally formidable iron posts, but the clues to its true purpose lie buried several feet below the debris. If you dug down deep enough you’d come across an old railroad line on which the brawny piece of equipment seen above is actually attached.

This is what’s known as a buffer stop, or more commonly in the US as a bumper post. Its purpose was to ensure train cars did not roll off the end of the track, and were usually installed at the end of short dead end length of track. This particular bumper post was manufactured by the Mechanical Manufacturing Co. of Chicago, which was a general purpose machine shop that manufactured various mechanical items for a variety of clients. Nationally, however, the company was best known for its bumper stops which could be found along railroads all across the country. If you were in need of a bumper post in the US at the turn of the century, it was the Mechanical Manufacturing Co. that you turned to.

This particular bumper was named the “Durable”, and was designed in 1919 by the unfortunately named Elmer Keebler. The Mechanical Manufacturing Co. sold two types of bumpers, this being the “economy” model. The company’s flagship model was known as the “Ellis”, a true and tested design that first came to market around 1885 and is considered the first of its type to be patented in the US. Thought marketed as an economy model, the Durable was really just a more modern and efficient design.

While the real-life model seen at the Quincy Smelter is far too buried to get a good feel for its design, the original patent application luckily gives a much better view of the bumper in all its iron glory. While the older Ellis model utilized a combination of wood and iron components, the Durable opted for a much simpler and cleaner design the in the end proved far superior to its older sibling. By the 1950’s very few of the older Ellis models would still be in use, and the Durable style would become the industry standard.

Discuss…

  1. Not to be a jerk but in this case “foot-pounds” are a measure of energy not force.
    Great eye for details and good research anyway tho. – Thanks for putting it up

  2. Thanks for the correction! Yet another reason I switched out of engineering in college…

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