RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 15 . . Export . . Part 1
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 1 of Chapter 15 . . . Export. 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 15 . . . EXPORT . . . Part 1
Billmeyer & Small Company obtained orders from several foreign railroads as a result of contacts made during the International Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Shipments to a railroad in Spain led to an inquiry from the Spanish Government for a special railcar; it was to be bullet-proof.
George Billmeyer showed Dan the draft of the proposal for the bullet-proof military railcar. Dan offered a suggestion that was ultimately added to the proposal and may have been the reason Billmeyer & Small got the order outright.
Dan suggested to George, “You show the car covered with iron and steel plate; painted the requested uniform color. However with the painter’s skills of our paint department, the car could be made to appear as a normal passenger car from all but close distance. The car design would have to be altered only a very little to add the necessary passenger car trim. There will be no windows, however we’ll use paint to give the appearance of windows.”
The Spanish Government’s specification for the bullet-proof railcar essentially mirrored the Billmeyer & Small proposal with only a few cosmetic changes. The York Car Works was soon buzzing with activity on their first venture into steel “passenger” railcar manufacturing.
This York-built bullet-proof car received nice press coverage in the local newspapers. Billmeyer & Small Company also got national coverage in the June/July, 1877, issue of Railway Age:
A Bullet-Proof Passenger Car
The Billmeyer & Small Company, of York, Pa., have just completed a steel-clad bullet-proof military passenger car for the Spanish government, for use in the rebellious provinces of Cuba, which a local paper thus describes:
“Upon entering the large work-room on the second floor of the extensive shops, we saw before us what appeared to be an elegant passenger car—nothing peculiar about it except the beauty and taste with which it was finished. Upon closer inspection, however, we discovered that the car was in itself a steel-clad fort on wheels, a rifle battery with embrasures. The steel sides, which are pierced with loop holes for musketry and which take the place of windows, have been so cunningly planned by the painter’s skill, to resemble the decorated ground glass sometimes used in cars, as to deceive the unwary at a little distance.”
“Above the windows, in cardinal red letters, referring, as our readers will see, to the use to which this car is to be put, is the lettering, shaded with carmine and scarlet—“A. M. Ferro Carril Militar,” and beneath the window, in an ornamental lozenge, on one side, the name of “Martinez Campos,” and on the other side—“Jovellar.” The platforms and trucks are painted a beautiful chocolate color, and in painting the body, miles of narrow striping have been used. The car is 31 feet long, 8 feet wide, of the usual height, and is mounted on the Pennsylvania Railroad standard passenger car truck. Its weight is about 24,000 pounds.”
“A partition divides the car into two portions, and through the half open separating door we see the glittering interior in its full length. The chairs are on pivots. The trimming is rich and ornate; paneled head lining of light buff and violet, woodwork of polished maple, walnut and cherry, here and there the delicately wrought Spanish arms.”
“The firm, under whose general supervision it was built, and whose car-building work has tongues of praise for them in almost every part of the civilized globe, consists of the following gentlemen under the firm of Billmeyer & Small Co.: D. E. Small, president; John H. Small, vice-president; George S. Billmeyer, secretary; and Henry Small, treasurer. Colonel Sanchiz, of the Spanish Army, visited York, to inspect the car, and, after careful examination, accepted it, and pronounced it perfect for the purposes intended and in accordance with the specification furnished by him.”
With all the 3/8-inch thick iron and steel plate used in constructing the bullet-proof car, it weighted considerably more than the weight of a normal passenger car. Billmeyer & Small sent a workman with the car in its journey to Cuba. This was partly to insure the riggers were not deceived into thinking they were lifting a normal “passenger” car on and off the ocean steamer.
Go to Part 2