To view General Motors as just a car and truck maker is to overlook important chapters in its history — and some crucial turning points for the U.S. aviation and railroad industries.
GM's interest in railroads dates from 1930, when the company purchased Winton Engine Co. and Electro-Motive Engineering Co., both of Cleveland. Electro-Motive designed and sold gasoline-electric rail cars that were powered by Winton engines.
The dawn of the Depression may have seemed an odd time for a company, even one as successful as GM, to invest outside its core business. But as longtime CEO Alfred Sloan noted in his memoir, the company never doubted that Winton was a "good buy."
"For one thing, we were not at this point certain about the future of the U.S. automobile market, which had not been expanding during the late 1920s," Sloan wrote in My Years with General Motors. "Consequently, we had a natural interest in any enterprise within our scope that offered us a reasonable opportunity to diversify."