Jordan Spreader

Jordan Spreader

Jordan Spreader. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Jordan Spreader is a multi-purpose piece of railway equipment.

The inventor, Oswald F. Jordan, began to develop a railway spreader in the 1890s. At the time, he was superintendent of the Canada Southern and the Michigan Central Railways, living in St. Thomas, Ontario. In 1898, he left his job, moved to Chicago, and concentrated all his efforts on manufacturing his new spreader.

A spreader is the tool that shapes the gravel bed which provides the railway ties and tracks with support. The spreader manages the contour of the gravel slope, so rainwater can drain away from the tracks, thus preventing washouts. Also, it was an effective snow plow. The old spreaders were simple and not always effective. Jordan improved upon the original design, custom-building each spreader to fit the unique contour of a railroad’s right-of-way.

When Jordan died in 1910, the family asked Walter J. Riley, his associate, to run the business. “Colonel Riley” incorporated the business in 1914 and was its president until his retirement in 1960. For the next five decades, the O. F. Jordan Company produced over 1,400 spreaders.
The company was sold by the Jordan family in the early 1960s. Today the Jordan Spreader is produced by special order by Harsco Track Technologies.

You can view a Jordan Spreader at the Elgin County Railway Museum in St. Thomas, Ontario.

Inducted 2001