RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 19 . . Sustainable . . 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 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 2
The narrow gauge movement was born out of the notion that the smaller engine and smaller railcars had efficiency advantages. In addition, smaller tracks allowed tighter curves, less expensive construction grading and lighter bridges as opposed to those on standard gauge railways. The end result, many communities across the United States obtained rail service only because a lower cost narrow gauge railway was at the limit of the finances that could be raised to build a railroad passing through these communities.
With railroad engines becoming more efficient and more powerful, the weight carrying efficiency advantage of the narrow gauge railroads had become insignificant. Initially the cost of cargo transfers were inconsequential, owing to relaxed schedules and a large force of cheap labor. However now, the growing expense to execute cargo transfers, at a faster pace due to increased competition, between narrow and standard gauge railways had become the Achilles heal of the narrow gauge movement.
George Billmeyer decided to evaluate the various devices being used to improve the cargo transfer efficiency. George thought maybe one of these devices would be a good product for Billmeyer & Small Company to manufacture.
The cargo transported in gondola or hopper cars was easily transferred by means of an elevated track and letting gravity move the bulk cargo from narrow gauge car to standard gauge car; or vice versa. Various systems were used to lift a car body in the air sufficiently high enough to allow an exchange of car trucks from narrow gauge trucks to standard gauge trucks; or vice versa. A truck being the set of railway wheels the car body sat upon.
The exchange of car trucks worked good for narrow gauge car bodies; however standard gauge car bodies on narrow gauge trucks presented a host of problems. The standard gauge cars became top-heavy and only safely suitable for low speed travel when operating on narrow gauge trucks. Even so, the ballast under narrow gauge tracks and supports on narrow gauge bridges had to be bolstered to safely move standard gauge car bodies on narrow gauge trucks.
Some standard gauge railway locations that had a high concentration of narrow gauge railway connections, installed a third rail on their standard gauge railroads. The third rail for narrow gauge resulted in switching nightmares for third rail tracks.
George and Emma Billmeyer planned a trip to Europe to understand how European railways were handling the gauge differences; after all that is where the narrow gauge movement got its start. Before they left for Europe, the first of the major narrow gauge railroads in the United States completed a conversion to standard gauge track.
That railroad was the Philadelphia & Atlantic City Railway; which had a special place in the hearts of George and Emma Billmeyer. The Philadelphia & Atlantic City Railway had its beginnings when it purchased the seven miles of narrow gauge track that wound through the 1876 Centennial Exposition grounds in Philadelphia. The P&AC Railway also purchased three magnificent buildings from the Exposition and used them as their principal train stations. The Atlantic City depot of the P&AC Railway was located at Atlantic and Missouri Avenues, with an extension down Mississippi Avenue to the beach for excursions.
Several times a year, George and Emma Billmeyer rented a cottage along the beach in Atlantic City. They always looked forward to traveling on the Philadelphia & Atlantic City Railway; it brought back wonderful memories of when George proposed to Emma at the Centennial Exposition.
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