RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 12 . . Narrow . . Part 2
RAILCAR GOLD is a historically accurate multi-generational fictional tale of hidden treasure, primarily set in York County, Pennsylvania during the latter half of the Nineteenth Century. This is Part 2 of Chapter 12 . . . Narrow. A new part will be posted every Thursday. Recent chapters stand alone, starting here; however new readers may want to start at the beginning.
CHAPTER 12 . . . NARROW . . . Part 2
There was suddenly talk of many more new railways all around the country; most were planning to go the narrow gauge route. Narrow gauge fever was swiftly spreading across the United States.
Dan continued to raise questions about this sudden interest in narrow gauge railways. He asked George, “If narrow gauge is so great, why wasn’t it done much earlier?”
George explained, “The early standard gauge railways were all built to match the earliest, somewhat arbitrary, 4 feet, 8-1/2 inches rail spacing. With very few exceptions, this gauge has been adhered to ever since; in both the Old World and in this country. After some very early sparing with those that favored using an even broader 7-foot gauge, no one ever questioned the standard gauge, until a decade ago in Britain. Why was this gauge chosen as standard? Is this 4 feet, 8-1/2 inches rail spacing the most economical spacing?”
Dan inquired, “What caused these questions to finally be asked?” George gave the details, “Many of the early railroads went between big towns. There were always well-to-do people in these towns; who had the big money to finance building railroads to their towns. A decade ago in Britain, many smaller towns questioned why the railroads Parliament had authorized were not being built. The answer boiled down to not enough money was available to support building all these railroads to so many smaller towns.”
George continued, “There were a few narrow gauge railways within the British Empire; the first one in nearby Wales. People started to study the costs associated with these railways. They were astonished how much less costly it was to build and operate a narrow gauge railway compared to a standard gauge railway.
Dan concluded, “So it all boils down to money.” George corrected, “Actually a lack of money was ultimately the reason people questioned; why are we building very expensive railroads that have been set up as the standard, using the somewhat arbitrary, 4 feet, 8-1/2 inches rail spacing? Wouldn’t a narrower rail spacing spread limited-funds much further to build narrow gauge railways to the many smaller towns and rural areas that are clamoring for rail service?”
George explained some of his findings on the subject of railcars. “In Britain’s venture into narrow gauge railways, for the width of railcars, they tended to be very conservative. They went by a rule that in no case should the width of the car exceed double the gauge of the railway. On the contrary I found plenty of examples in other countries where this rule was exceeded, with no adverse effects. Britain also typically utilized short, four-wheeled narrow gauge railcars”
George indicated, “David Small vehemently made the decision, our narrow gauge railcars are going to be built on the American plan, of placing a long body on swinging trucks. David pounded his fist on the table stating, ‘we’d be the laughing stock if we revived a custom that had long become obsolete in America. Our railcars are going to be eight-wheeled!’ ‘Agreed,’ was Dad’s sole response.”
Dan noted, “The Billmeyer & Small plans that I’ve seen for Narrow Gauge Flat Cars and Box Cars are all 6-feet wide. That holds to the rule that in no case should the width of the car exceed double the gauge of the railway. Who made that decision? George indicated, “I favored 7-feet width. David wanted 6-1/2 feet. Dad wanted 6-feet, until we gain some experience. David quickly sided with Dad.”
George boasted, “Even so, our narrow gauge Flat Cars will carry three times their weight in payload and the Box Cars will carry two times their weight in payload. Standard gauge Flat Cars and Box Cars can only carry slightly over one time their weight in payload. When these facts come out, you can expect to see many more people jumping on the narrow gauge bandwagon.”
Go to Part 3