Lead by William Kenny Bixby, of Missouri Car and Foundry, the American Car and Foundry Company (AC&F, which was later shortened to ACF) was founded in 1899, with a capital investment of $60,000 and the merger of Murray, Dougal & Company's Milton Car Works (which was established in 1864 and had delivered one of the world's first tank cars, an Amos Densmore design that was comprised of a pair of wood stave barrels that were mounted on a flatcar) and twelve other railcar manufacturers.
Expanding into the automotive industry through its acquisition of St Louis based Carter Carburetor, ACF became further diversified through its purchases of Fageol Motors Co, the Hall-Scott Motor Car Company, and J. G. Brill Company.
Established as a tank car leasing company, Shippers Car Line was acquired by ACF in 1927.
During both World Wars, ACF manufactured a very diverse range of military products such as aircraft tail assemblies, ammunition, armor plating, artillery gun mounts, artillery shells, cloth shrinking machines and rollers, field kitchens, hospital cars. pack saddles, submarine chasers, tanks, and wooden tent pegs.
So diversified by 1954, the company name was changed to ACF Industries, Inc., which better reflected the corporation's various interests.
The last passenger car produced by ACF was manufactured in 1959.
In 1985, ACF established Jackson Manufacturing, a fabrication, machining, and railcar parts supplier.
In order to produce hopper car outlets and components for the firm's pressure differential hopper cars, in 1988, ACF acquired an aluminum foundry called Corbitt Manufacturing.
A diversified steel casting foundry called Southwest Steel Casting, a manufacturer of construction, mining, and oil field products, who also supplied car body castings to ACF, was acquired by the latter in 1989.
In 1994, through the acquisition of the railcar component manufacturing and maintenance units of ACF, American Railcar Industries, Inc. (ARI) was established.
Located in Paragould, Arkansas, in 1995, ARI opened its first major railcar assembly plant.
In Marmaduke, Arkansas, ARI opened a second, tank car assembly facility in 1999.
In order to increase its alternative sources for couplers, heavy castings, and yokes, ARI acquired a one-third stake in ACF's Ohio Castings.
In 2006, the year that ARI went public on NASDAQ, further expanding its railcar sub assembly and small components production capabilities, the corporation purchased Custom Steel Inc.
With a joint venture axle and manufacturing facility in Paragould, Arkansas, 2009 saw the launch of Axis, LLC.
Railcar leasing operations focused on hopper and tank cars were established by ARI in 2011.
Further expanding its railcar service capabilities, ARI opened a new repair facility in Brookhaven, Mississippi, in 2014.