RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 19 . . Sustainable . . 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 19 . . . Sustainable. 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 19 . . . SUSTAINABLE . . . Part 1
David E. Small proudly kept a chart where he tracked the overall United States narrow gauge track mileage-in-service, by year. When David died, John Small kept the chart on the wall of his office, however paid little attention to it.
In the fall of 1884, after the Railroad Journal published an article containing track-mileage figures for 1883, John decided to resume tabulating and charting the narrow gauge mileage. John added the 10,905-mile-total to go with the year ‘1883’ David had previously penciled in.
The tabulation started in 1871, and by the end of 1871, there were 97 narrow gauge miles in service. John Small copied the tabulation onto a sheet of paper, because he wanted to compare the narrow gauge data to overall track data in the article:
Year Narrow Gauge Miles-in-Service at Year End
- 1871 97
- 1872 419
- 1873 701
- 1874 1,118
- 1875 1,474
- 1876 2,030
- 1877 2,824
- 1878 3,651
- 1879 4,799
- 1880 6,200
- 1881 7,703
- 1882 9,900
- 1883 10,905
At first glance, John Small was impressed, breaking 10,000-miles, however he was curious and started to run some additional calculations using other numbers in the Railroad Journal article. He though the calculation of Narrow Gauge miles built, as a percentage of All Railway miles built was enlightening. That percentage climbed steadily, reaching 35% in 1878. However that percentage had been on the decline ever since; until the past year, in 1883, with just 18% of All Railway miles, built as Narrow Gauge.
Without reaching, exceeding and sustaining 50% of All Railway miles, built as Narrow Gauge, John Small realized the days of the narrow gauge movement might be numbered. He discussed his findings with George Billmeyer. George told John, “Like you, I’ve had several narrow gauge committees extend an invitation for me to join, however I have not accepted any, as of yet. My growing concern is over all the cargo transfer difficulties I’ve been hearing about where narrow and standard gauge railroads intersect.”
John Small and George Billmeyer made a strategic decision and decided not to join any of the narrow gauge committees that David had served on since their inception. Instead they would predominantly focus on increasing the already substantial standard gauge railcar business that Billmeyer & Small enjoyed, plus increasing the emphasis on their lumber business to make up for a narrow gauge railcar order shortfall that was bound to happen.
They knew it would be hard to sustain the nearly 700-employee workforce that they directed; however both John and George had proactive ideas to keep all of the Billmeyer & Small buildings producing product.
Go to Part 2