By Cindy Ladage Note: This feature is in the Feb. TT&C 2015 issue.
The Batavia Body Company model at the Batavia Depot Museum is believed to have been used by salesmen to tout the virtues of the refrigerated trucks.
The Batavia Body Co. trucks were used by a variety of clients to haul food.
A refurbished depot is home to the Batavia Depot Museum in Batavia, Ill.
A visit to the Batavia Depot Museum in Batavia, Ill., will reveal much more than train history. Visitors will also uncover wonderful agricultural and transportation history that combines the story of the Newton Wagon Works, the Batavia Body Company, Emerson-Brantingham Company and the American Gage and Machine Company of Elgin, Ill. This history is represented at the museum by a wagon from the Newton Wagon Works and a salesman’s sample of a Batavia Body Company truck, which sold refrigerated truck bodies. The museum is located in a refurbished Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad depot that dates from 1854. The approximately 3-foot-long Batavia Body Company truck was donated to the museum by the family of a former Batavia Body Company employee. Believed to be from the 1940s, the truck is pictured with a baseball team in a photograph from that era. This interesting truck signifies one company’s history merging with another. Before the Batavia Body Company was making refrigerated truck bodies, it was a wagon company.
Newton Wagon Works The Batavia Body Company began in 1852 as the Newton Wagon Works in Alexander, N.Y. The company was founded by Levi Newton in 1838. Newton started as a cabinet-maker, then moved onto woodworking and wagon making. After a fire destroyed his factory in 1854, Newton decided to move his family to Batavia where wagons had sold well over the years. The company was the first major industry established in Batavia. The Newtons built a shop along the Fox River to make farm wagons which became a successful endeavor. They made 72 wagons the first year, and by 1887, it was one of the largest farm wagon companies in the United States, making 5,000 farm wagons a year. An article by David Snead at www.wheelsthatwonthewest.com/Pages/The_Making_Newton_Wagon.html states, “By 1860 and the outbreak of the Civil War, the Newton shops employed 50 men and also included a foundry. Period accounts indicate that Newton wagons were a ‘familiar sight among the teamsters of the prairie and plains.’ At the same time that Newton’s heavy wagons were receiving so much praise, he was being equally lauded for his lighter wagons and carriage work.”
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