RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 17 . . Production . . 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 17 . . . Production. 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 17 . . . PRODUCTION . . . Part 1
John Small and George Billmeyer met the train carrying the Journal reporter at the Wrightsville Depot. They wanted to start the Billmeyer & Small production capabilities tour by emphasizing that all the wood in all their railcars is processed from raw logs at their own Susquehanna Steam Saw Mills; situated along the Susquehanna River in Wrightsville. In the carriage ride to the sawmill, George showed the reporter a recent clipping from the June 9, 1882 issue of the York Daily:
Seven Thousand Dollars for Three Rafts of Timber.
John H. Small, Esq., yesterday purchased at Marietta, from Ramadell and Duffy, three immense timber rafts for the Billmeyer & Small Company. The timber is of remarkably fine quality and is acknowledged to be the best that ever came down the river. The rafts contain about 27,000 cubic feet of white pine, for which the handsome sum of $7,000 was paid.
Standing on the canal bank, next to the sawmill, John explained, “All these logs, tied up and floating in the river and in the canal, next to waters edge, originate as timber harvested in the forests of Northern Pennsylvania. The logs are tied together into small rafts on creeks near the logging camps and floated down stream. As the creeks reach the Branches of the Susquehanna River, the small rafts are lashed together to form immense timber rafts. Many of these vast timber rafts are floated down the Susquehanna River covering a distance of more than one hundred and fifty miles.”
George points to the men on the logs, “We call those men, log wranglers. In our younger days, many of us tried to master that skill; however few succeeded. I think my record for time on a log barely reached half a minute. Look how those wranglers gracefully guide the logs in the canal to the jack slip.”
John continued inside the sawmill, picking up a production sheet, “Every afternoon, the mill foreman gets a production schedule for the following day. All the lumber cuts, to keep both Car Works well stocked and operating smoothly, take priority; however we have enough excess sawmill capacity so that we have plenty of time, later in the day, to produce for our lumber business and to build lumber inventory. The saw operators have been trained to keep an eye out for characteristics in logs that the company prefers to use in our best passenger coaches. Having our own extensive sawmill, operated by our own employees, allows Billmeyer & Small to consistently build the highest quality railcars.”
The Billmeyer & Small private car was at the end of the next train into York. The Journal reporter was anxious to see the new Car Works, however John Small and George Billmeyer planned a build up to revealing the Spring Garden Car Works as the final gem in the production capabilities tour.
Besides both Car Works, Billmeyer & Small Company had several supporting production operations throughout York. John and George decided to show off their Specialty Works; housed in the Billmeyer & Small building on the southwest corner of South Queen and East King Streets.
Operations in this building tended to produce very low volume, but highly profitable items that went into special order coaches. The Specialty Works was the only supporting production operation lavishly done; primarily as a showplace for their best customers. Logically it made sense to include it on the production capabilities tour for the Journal reporter.
Go to Part 2