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Billmeyer & Small as Central Theme in RAILCAR GOLD

Ad for Billmeyer & Small Company in 1884 Poor’s Railroad Manual (Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania)

Billmeyer & Small will be the Central Theme in the historical novel RAILCAR GOLD.  Every Thursday a new installment for this novel will be posted on YorksPast.  RAILCAR GOLD will be a historically accurate multi-generational fictional tale of hidden treasure primarily set in York County, Pennsylvania during the latter half of the Nineteenth Century.  The post each Wednesday will provide historical background associated with each installment of the story.


I selected Billmeyer & Small as the Central Theme because of a connection to my grandfather, Luther S. Smith.  Luther was born and brought up in East Prospect within Lower Windsor Township.  He was a borderline orphan; his Mon died when he was 12 years old and his Dad died 3-weeks following his 21st birthday.

Luther S. Smith moved to the City of York, boarding with an uncle, in hopes of landing a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad.  He initially had odd jobs painting and got married to Iva Gilbert; whose family had moved from East Prospect to the City of York about the same time as Luther.

Luther got a full time carpentry and painting job at Billmeyer & Small by the time his son Paul was born.  He did eventually get the job working for the Pennsylvania Railroad; starting August 1, 1901, however was put out of service for 10-months after working for the railroad only 3-months.

That had to be a difficult time for Luther, his son Paul was only 1-year old, he had purchased a house and his wife was pregnant with their second child.  Luther S. Smith had to be thankful for getting another job at Billmeyer & Small during those 10-months.  This was a time period when Billmeyer & Small’s railcar business was very much in decline; only producing replacement parts for railcars.  Although, they still had a thriving lumber manufacturing part of the business.

I’ll like to think that I’m repaying a debt to Billmeyer & Small for helping my grandfather get through difficult times.  That is why I have selected Billmeyer & Small as the Central Theme in the historical novel RAILCAR GOLD.

On September 1, 1902 Luther S. Smith was back with the Pennsylvania Railroad and worked there as a carpenter and eventually a foreman carpenter on bridges until retiring December 27, 1943.  Which brings me to another connection with Billmeyer & Small.

The Pennsylvania Railroad had their carpenters move an old Billmeyer & Small building from their former plant along North Duke Street to use as a Train-mans Bunk-house at North Duke and Arch Streets.  When this bunk-house was slated to be tore down in 1930, Luther purchased and recycled the material to build a bungalow on leased land along the Susquehanna River upriver from Accomac.

The Bungalow IVA-LU (late 1940s, Collection of S. H. Smith)

This picture shows the bungalow as viewed from the edge of the Susquehanna River.  The unpaved river road is out of sight; it is located behind the tall grass, just a few feet in front of the bungalow.  See this post for pictures of the IVA-LU during winter.  All the bungalows had names attached to them; ours was the IVA-LU, named for my grandparents Iva & Luther Smith.  I definitely have many good memories of times at that bungalow.  Dad told me that he always regretted not asking his father for more details about the Billmeyer & Small origins of the material used to build the bungalow.  Specifically was this material from the building that his Dad worked in when he was an employee of their company?

Go to this post for an index of everything on YorksPast about 19th Century Rail Car Builders of York, Pennsylvania.  Check back often, as the posts on this subject expand to include all manufacturers.

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