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Free Lecture on 19th Century Railway Car Builders of York

Slide in the Lecture “19th Century Railway Car Builders of York” by S. H. Smith
Slide in the Lecture “19th Century Railway Car Builders of York” by S. H. Smith

On Saturday June 8th 2013 at 10:30 a.m. in the Historical Society Museum, 250 East Market Street, York, PA, I’ll be giving a free lecture on 19th Century Railway Car Builders of York.  This talk is part of the Second Saturdays series of lectures at the York County Heritage Trust.

Spearheading York’s industrial rise, local railcar manufacturers shipped product all over the United States and exported to foreign countries.  During the industry’s heyday of the 1870s and 1880s, discover how the area’s railcar makers influenced the route of the Peach Bottom Railway, the predecessor to the well-known Ma & Pa Railroad.  As this sample slide indicates, I’ll also touch on the impact of the Civil War on York’s Railcar building business.

The first York built rail cars were produced in 1847; by 1852 there were three York rail car manufacturers.  The York Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1856 noted:

Over 1,000 cars of different capacities were turned out, by these three factories during the past year. … Who will say that York is not the place for building cars?


The quote by Maj. Gen’l Jubal Early in my slide, points out the reason that the car (i.e. railcar) shops were not burnt to the ground during the confederate occupation of York in June 1863.  Maj. Gen’l Early issued the address containing this quote on Monday evening and ordered that it be printed.  It appeared in the Tuesday morning June 30th 1863 edition of The York Gazette.  Early’s remarks follow, with the lead-in comments appearing in the newspaper.

Last evening General Early visited the Rail Road property and machine shops in this borough, in company with the Chief Burgess and other citizens to see what should be destroyed, but upon their urgent request abstained from burning them because their destruction would have endangered the safety of the town.  General Early immediately issued the following address to the people and ordered it to be printed:

YORK, PA., June 30th, 1863
To the Citizens of York:

I have abstained from burning the railroad buildings and car shops in your town, because after examination I am satisfied the safety of the town would be endangered; and acting in the spirit of humanity which has ever characterized my government and its military authorities, I do not desire to involve the innocent in the same punishment with the guilty.  Had I applied the torch without regard to consequences, I would have pursued a course that would have been fully vindicated as an act of just retaliation for the many authorized acts of barbarity perpetrated by your own army upon our soil.  But we do not war on women and children and I trust the treatment you have met at the hands of my soldiers will open your eyes to the monstrous iniquity of the war waged by your government upon the people of the Confederate States, and that you will make an effort to shake off the revolting tyranny under which it is apparent to all you are yourselves groaning.

Maj. Gen’l C.S.A.

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