RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 16 . . Founders . . 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 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 5
In selling railcars to the Peach Bottom Railway, David E. Small knew they were extremely slow in paying their debts. Therefore he was not overly surprised in hearing that The Allentown Iron and Rolling Mill Company took them to court over the longstanding debt on the iron rail used to build the narrow gauge railway between York and Delta.
It did surprise many in York County that the Chester County Court ordered Sheriff Hoopes to seize the Peach Bottom Railway and to sell it at the courthouse in West Chester. The September 28th, 1881 issue of the York Daily reported on the Sheriff Sale:
On Thursday, Sheriff Hoopes sold in the Court House at West Chester, the Peach Bottom Railway. It was bought by Charles W. Leavitt for $100. It is said the purchase was made for the bondholders. The sale disposes of the equity of redemption as far as the Middle Division is concerned. The purchaser has the right to pay off the mortgage debt, and assume control of the road, after it has passed out of the hands of the receiver, which will not be for the present.
The Peach Bottom Railway was chartered as a single company and operated as two divisions. The Eastern Division operated east of the Susquehanna River and the Middle Division operated west of the river; between York and Delta, as of 1881. The original intent of the chartered railway company was to connect the two divisions via a Susquehanna River bridge at Peach Bottom. The actions of The Allentown Iron and Rolling Mill Company lawsuit and the aftermath, effectively severed connections between the two divisions and created two separate railway companies.
On December 20th, 1881, the receiver of the Middle Division put it up for sale to purchasers willing to pay off the mortgage debt. John H. Small, Charles R. McConkey and W. G. Ross put up $5000 on the day of the sale for the right to pay off the mortgage debt and assume control of the railway on behalf of the bondholders.
At an organizational meeting on March 1st, 1882, the name of the railroad was officially changed to the York and Peach Bottom Railway Company. David E. Small was happy that Billmeyer & Small Company could be of some assistance in getting the York and Peach Bottom Railway out of financial trouble; besides, it kept alive his vision of the “showcase narrow gauge railway.”
George Billmeyer had been working with an inventor of a suspension truck, of which Billmeyer & Small was a licensee. With this suspension truck, a car, traveling over a short curve at speed, remains square on the track, as though it were on a straight track. Many manufacturers of standard gauge cars had already applied the suspension truck to their railcars; however with the space restrictions of slender narrow gauge cars no narrow gauge railcar manufacturer had been successful in that application.
Billmeyer & Small offered their assistance in developing the suspension truck for narrow gauge railcars in exchange for an exclusive license for a period of time. The curvy section of the York and Peach Bottom Railway Company, just south of York, proved the ideal test bed to successfully fine tune the design for narrow gauge railcars.
Through the assistance that Billmeyer & Small provided in financially helping the railway, running next to their Spring Garden Car Works, they were afforded the luxury of increased access to conduct development tests on the railway. Most of these tests were conducted using the York & Peach Bottom engine #1 and an excursion car that became their development lab on wheels.
The York & Peach Bottom Railway was always featured with narrow gauge customer guests of Billmeyer & Small. John H. Small always liked to take the customers for a short ride on Billmeyer & Small coaches and George S. Billmeyer always proudly show off their development lab on wheels.
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