With deep roots in the railroad industry dating back more than 100 years, Aldon Company has charted a steady course in the manufacturing and distribution of a wide variety of railroad safety and track repair tools.
Aldon was founded in 1904 by Emil W.K. Roe, a railway supply salesman who decided to quit his job and start his own business.
Roe picked a good location to start his business. Chicago was the rail hub of the country, with more tracks radiating in all directions than any other city.
In searching for a name for his new firm, Roe hit upon Aldon. It had the advantage of being at the front of the telephone book. According to family legend, the name was born when a friend of Roe’s asked if a new product had been completed. “It’s all done,” Roe replied. The name Aldon stuck, and it is a registered trademark of the company.
Until the 1950s, Aldon’s main market was the railroads. The product line was limited to rail-cutting saws, rerailers, hand car movers, and railroad car stops. In1955, seeking to diversify the product line, the company’s third president, Ralph Switzer, patented a new type of wheel chock for freight cars, one made in cast steel with replaceable steel spurs to keep the chock in place on the rail. This product line, opened up the industrial rail-using market and led to substantial growth.
The advent of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1971 increased the demand by industries for railroad safety products. In 1975, the company built a new factory and offices in Waukegan, 40 miles north of Chicago.
Products and Services
For 40 years, Aldon sold derails made by others. By 2008, our derail business had grown to the point that we decided to begin manufacturing our own. In 2010, we patented our lightweight Sabertooth® portable derail, which features tool-free installation and a safety hook that bites into the tie to keep the derail in place.
Even after 117 years in business, Aldon remains “remarkably youthful” in its desire for product innovation. We are continually surprised at the possibilities for new products that will make for safer railcar handling. We encourage our customers to suggest ideas to us.
Marketing is as important as product innovation. The Aldon website lists nearly 800 catalog numbers. Aldon supports a large national network of distributors. Even overseas, the Aldon brand is known. Our export distributor is our biggest customer.
Keys to Success
The company’s business philosophy is simple: Be fair to your employees, customers, and suppliers, and you will have their loyalty. Management continuity has something to do with a company keeping its reputation and surviving.
Aldon believes in responding promptly to customer requests. We don’t use automated answering services here. Instead, when a customer calls Aldon, they are helped by a live person.
1904: Company begins in a one-man office in Chicago’s Loop. First products were cast-iron rerailers painted black and delivered by horse-drawn wagon to the nearby railroad yards.
1904-33: Aldon is awarded five patents for railroad track repair products.
1955: Ralph Switzer, Aldon’s third president, develops a cast-steel wheel chock with replaceable rail-biting spurs and opens a new market with the industrial firms the railroads served.
1956-90: Aldon is awarded seven patents for railroad products aimed at the industrial customer who uses rail.
1970: Establishment of OSHA causes substantial growth for the company as new safety regulations require employers to provide more safety products for their railyard workers.
1976: Aldon builds a 16,000-square-foot factory and office in Waukegan, IL to handle the increased volume of business.
2008: After 40 years as a distributor of derails, Aldon begins manufacturing its own line of hinged and portable derails.
2010-13: Company receives two more patents bringing the total to 14 since its inception.
2017: Aldon introduces major product developments for derails, trailer stabilizers, and switch stand safety.
2019: Aldon introduces a new service: ASK ALDON. Our sales engineers are ready to advise customers on selection, location, installation and use of Aldon products for railyard safety. We use aerial photos of the customer's plant site to guide the discussion.
We also introduced Enhanced Blue Flag signs, using words plus pictographic images to emphasize the meaning of the words.