RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 16 . . Founders . . 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 16 . . . Founders. 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 16 . . . FOUNDERS . . . Part 2
Billmeyer & Small Company had accepted railcar orders, based upon first production within the Spring Garden Car Works occurring by mid-May, 1881. Construction of the new car works was on schedule until the first of several setbacks hit.
The first delay resulted from a labor dispute against John Rupp, who had the bricklaying contract. The April 13th, 1881 issue of the Evening Dispatch reported as follows:
Work on Billmeyer & Small’s new car shops has been delayed for several days past by the action of the bricklayers. On Saturday night the bricklayers determined that they would not work for less than $1.75 per day, being an advance of from forty to sixty cents. Mr. John Rupp had taken the contract of the brick work, and the increased price demanded by the workmen would have caused him a loss of about eight dollars per day.
Upon conferring with his employers they objected to paying him the advance and the contract was canceled. The work, however, was continued under the management of the carpenter, the advance being granted to the bricklayers. The latter then refused to work without a boss bricklayer, even at the advance. A number of them will go to work today, however, and the delay will only be temporary.
John Small and George Billmeyer conferred with David E. Small about giving up some railcar orders to their cross-town rival Empire Car Works, should any additional setbacks occur. The decision was reluctantly made to immediately transfer several end-of-May-delivery orders to the Empire Car Works. A week later, the construction picture, on the Spring Garden Car Works, again looked rosy; as reported in the April 22nd, 1881 issue of the York Daily:
The work on Messrs. Billmeyer & Small Co.’s extensive new car shops, just east of York, is rapidly progressing. Mr. M. M. Little is the superintendent, and under his direction the work is being done thoroughly. He has twenty-seven bricklayers employed, with the usual complement of tenders, and states that he has no trouble to secure as many workmen as he needs. The blacksmith and machine shop building—which is a large structure—will be ready for the roof this week.
Just when there appeared to be a chance at opening the Spring Garden Car Works by the end of May, only two weeks late, a construction accident pushed completion into June or July. The mishap was reported in the May 10th, 1881 issue of the York Daily:
Yesterday morning, as the workmen at Messrs. Billmeyer & Small Co.’s new car shops, near Freystown were hoisting one of the massive arched girders to put it in place, the rope broke, and the whole arrangement, girder and all, fell to the ground with a crash. In the descent, the girder grazed and considerably bruised the arm of Mr. John Plank, bricklayer, who made a narrow escape from death. The gable end of the building was knocked down, and the scaffolding, &c., in the vicinity, were materially disarranged.
George Billmeyer and John Small were thankful that no one was killed or seriously injured in the accident, however it was a dark day at the company. They knew many more orders would have to be transferred to Michael Schall’s Empire Car Works.
Michael Schall gladly accept any and all orders. In 1879, Schall had expanded his car building operations into Dauphin County, when he purchased a boarded up Middletown plant and converted it into the Middletown Car Works. Arthur King, the manager of Schall’s Empire Car Works plant in York, was brought in as a partner.
The Middletown Car Works struggled to operate at barely half capacity. That did not deter Michael Schall from further expansion. In 1881, Schall was in the midst of establishing yet another car building factory in Dauphin.
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