RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 13 . . PeachBottom . . Part 4
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 4 of Chapter 13 . . . PeachBottom. 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 13 . . . PEACHBOTTOM . . . Part 4
Dan was among a big contingent from the Billmeyer & Smalls’ shops that witnessed the ceremonial driving of the first spike as the Peach Bottom Railway commenced tracklaying. Near Broad Street in York, at 8:00 o’clock in the morning on Monday April 20th, 1874, Gus Boyd drove the first spike; the initial anchor of the first rail. Gus is the 16-year-old son of Stephen Boyd, the railway President.
As with the Denver & Rio Grande, the initial railcars that the Peach Bottom Railway needed were for railway construction purposes. Billmeyer & Smalls delivered the first lot of four narrow gauge flat cars on May 6th. These cars were 25 feet in length, 6-1/2 feet in width and could carry 8 tons each. These flat cars weighed about 3-1/2 tons each.
A few days later a brand new locomotive was delivered. Before long it was pulling these flat cars, on the newly installed rails. The first Peach Bottom Railway locomotive had been built in Pittsburgh by Porter-Bell & Company and was named the Rufus Wiley, in honor of a railway director who had recently died.
After supper, several times a week, Dan and George saddled up their horses and rode to survey the progress of tracklaying. They always stopped at David Small’s place before returning home; he was anxious for the railway to start operation.
Tracklaying progress was good. In early June the railway placed an order on Billmeyer & Smalls for four gondola cars, complete with the optional removable tops and seats. These cars would be used for weekend passenger excursions. The railway was targeting to start these excursions on Saturday July 4th.
David Small immediately pushed this order to the head of the queue. Billmeyer and Smalls completed the cars June 17th, even though the requested delivery date was July 1st. They parked these cars on the edge of their property, nearest to the Peach Bottom Railway tracks, hoping to entice excursions to start a week or two early; no such luck.
Dan and George rode on the first excursion run on July 4th. Passengers raved at the scenic route through the Mill Creek valley. Tracklaying had been completed to a point near Yoe. The railway had a large area mowed in the meadow along the creek prior to Yoe, where riders could picnic during the day and return on a later train. A swimming pool and park evolved at this location, where in coming years, Dan spent many a Sunday following church.
The Peach Bottom Railway opened to Red Lion by August, to Felton by October, and to Muddy Creek Forks by Christmas, 1874. Even though Billmeyer & Smalls continued to get orders from this railway for freight cars, gondola cars and flat cars, David Small lamented that they did not get the order for the passenger cars.
A big celebration occurred at the Billmeyer house in December, 1874. Charles Billmeyer had been granted a United States Patent on improvements to car trucks, making the cars ride better. Charles followed this patent by another one issued in January, 1875, for improvements in car-couplings. Billmeyer & Smalls wasted no time touting the patented features in their cars.
In early 1875, Charles Billmeyer showed Dan the plans for an elaborate first class passenger car that would be presented to the directors of the Peach Bottom Railway. Dan felt honored that Charles wanted his impressions and suggestions.
On May 17th, Billmeyer & Smalls received the order for the railways’ No. 3 passenger car. A few days later an order was received for the railways’ No. 4 car, which was a combination passenger and baggage car.
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