RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 14 . . Centennial . . Part 6
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 6 of Chapter 14 . . . Centennial. 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 14 . . . CENTENNIAL . . . Part 6
In the early morning darkness of Saturday September 16th, 1876, three monster trains, containing 120 railroad cars, pulled into York, Pennsylvania. They occupied one of the double tracked rails of the Northern Central Railroad, stretching all the way from West Princess Street and continuing a great distance into Spring Garden Township along Kings Mill Road.
The Centennial Edition of P. T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth was in town for the day. Sunrise witnessed giant tents making their way to Penn Common. By the time the street parade was underway at 9:00 O’clock in the morning, all the tents were erected.
Following the parade, George Billmeyer, John Small, Henry Small and Dan walked, as a group, along this long line of circus rail cars. There took turns throwing out observations about the design and construction of the cars. They picked out nine unique car types.
Why the attraction? This was the largest gathering of all steel rail cars they had ever seen.
The vast majority of rail car manufacturers, in the country, were still producing cars of wooden construction in 1876. Sure, they’d seen specialty steel cars here and there, but never three trains, end to end, containing such a variety of cars.
The discussion eventually turned to thoughts about whether the steel rail car would ever overtake the wooden rail car. The group consensus was that steel rail cars would never be able to be made as economical as wooden rail cars; therefore Billmeyer & Small’s business was safe.
The Centennial Edition of P. T. Barnum’s Circus was huge; it was the first to entertain in the three-ring format. Dan got dizzy looking back and forth at everything going on in the three rings, all at once.
The festivities were topped off with a magnificent fireworks display, and then the tents came down, the railroad cars were loaded and after midnight the trains left for the circus to repeat their daily routine on Sunday in Richmond, Virginia.
John M. Brosius of Richmond, Virginia, invented an ingenious car truck, during 1876. Car trucks comprise the wheel set upon which rail car bodies sit. Mr. Brosius selected Billmeyer & Small Company as the pioneering manufacturer of his invention.
Each axle under this car truck is severed from wheel to wheel. The inner ends of the axles each work in a box and are independent of each other. The result in running around a curve is that each wheel will run the exact length of the track and thus prevent slipping. With the elimination of wheel slippage and axle twisting, the safety factor in preventing derailments is significantly improved. The trade publication American Railroad Journal reported:
There is at the present time, at the office of Henry Small, Esq., on Duke street, the model of an invention which is destined to produce a revolution in railroad travel, making a bigger rate of speed attainable without risk, avoiding all friction from the impingement of car wheels on the outer rail in curves, saving the consequent wear of the rails, and accomplishing more work with less motive power.
Plans are in place to do a full speed test run on the Peach Bottom Railway between York and Red Lion on October 2nd. This curvy section of track provided a good test bed for many railroad innovations that came out of the York Car Works. The October 10th issue of the York Gazette described the test:
Test of a Patent Car Truck—Last week a test was made on the P. B. R. W., of Brosius’ patent car truck, which has already been described in our columns. These trucks were placed under the car “Bangor” on the road, and a special train with this car attached, drawn by engine No. 1, and in charge of Mr. Z. K. Loucks, was run down the road as far as Red Lion. In going down the train ran six miles in ten minutes, and made the trip in 67 minutes. The firm who built the track was represented on the train by Messrs. Henry Small and Geo. S. Billmeyer. The experiment proved a perfect success. The centre boxes in which the inner ends of the severed axles run kept perfect cool, and the boxes outside were not heated. The new invention bids fair to be a grand success.
The six-month run of the International Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia ended November 10th, 1876. The Charles Billmeyer Grand Pavilion proved to be an enormous business success for Billmeyer & Small Company.
Go to Chapter 15, Part 1