RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 12 . . Narrow . . Part 5
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 5 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 5
After shipping the final batch of narrow gauge cars to complete the order for the Denver & Rio Grande Rail Way, a front-page article in the York Daily was the cause of many rousing conversations in the factory and offices of Billmeyer & Small. The article appeared in the July 21st, 1871 issue of the newspaper:
NARROW GAUGE CARS—A number of passenger coaches for a narrow gauge railroad from Denver, Colorado, to El Paso, Mexico, have been just built at Wilmington, Del. They are described as follows:
These are the first “narrow gauge” passenger cars ever built in the United States, and are splendid specimens of American workmanship. They are three feet gauge, 35 feet in length, 7 feet in width, and 10 feet 6 inches in height, weight 15,000 lbs., and will comfortably seat 34 passengers. Every effort has been made to keep the centre of gravity as low as practicable. The main sills are distant 27 inches from the rails, which is 18 inches less than customary on the broad [standard] gauge roads. The cars are supplied with every convenience, and, by the peculiar conformation of their tracks, are made to run with the greatest ease.
Only three weeks earlier, at several places throughout the factory, Billmeyer & Small employees had proudly posted the article from the York Daily issue of June 30, 1871. That article boasted railcar builder Billmeyer & Small of York “have secured the building of the first one hundred narrow gauge cars ever used in this country, most of which are already far on their way to The Rocky Mountains.”
The employees questioned why a York newspaper would print such an article; stating the first narrow gauge passenger cars ever built in the United States have just been built in Wilmington, Delaware. They wanted to know why Billmeyer & Small was not mentioned, having already shipped one hundred narrow gauge cars; were they not first? Dan was elected to go up to the offices and find out answers to the employees’ various questions.
Dan entered the offices, looking for George. Dan could hear a heated discussion between Charles Billmeyer and David Small in David’s office. George Billmeyer and John Small, David’s brother, both sat outside that office in the common office area.
Dan commented to George, “I guess now is not a good time to knock on David’s door. Maybe you can help. I’ve been elected to get some answers to employees’ questions about the article in the paper this morning.”
George listened to the questions. George told Dan, “I’ll pass them along, when the time is right. Now is not a good time. I suggest that you get back to the factory, now!”
Dan was shocked at George’s terseness. It was the first time he had been that way with towards him.
Rumors started circulating in the factory that something was up. The unusual heated discussion between Charles Billmeyer and David Small leaked out even before Dan returned to the factory. Dan had always been able to immediately get answers to their questions in the past; that just fueled the rumor mills. It was later that day, just before quitting time that all employees were told to gather in the main assembly building. David E. Small got up on a flat car and spoke:
I suppose everybody has seen the article in the paper this morning. The Jackson and Sharp Company, of Wilmington, Delaware, have just built a narrow gauge passenger car for the Denver and Rio Grande Railway. That does not take anything away from what you did. You build the first eight-wheeled narrow gauge railcars ever constructed in America.
I sent a telegram to General Palmer this morning. This is his reply. General Palmer apologized for not letting Billmeyer & Small quote and submit designs for narrow gauge passenger cars. He was concerned it would delay the hundred-car order we worked on. He could not tolerate any delays. General Palmer congratulated us for making all shipments ahead of schedule and is now happy to have us quote and submit designs for narrow gauge passenger cars. We have already started work on those designs, as I speak.
I’m also announcing the addition of John H. Small to the partnership. The business will take the new name, Billmeyer & Smalls, effective immediately.
That last comment had Dan concerned. Charles Billmeyer was nowhere to be seen during David Small’s address to the employees.
Go to Part 6