RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 21 . . Weddings . . Part 4
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 4 of Chapter 21 . . . Weddings. 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 21 . . . WEDDINGS . . . Part 4
By the beginning of February 1885, the bulk of the major bugs had been worked out on the full-scale version of the concept for improving freight transfer efficiency between narrow gauge and standard gauge railways. Billmeyer & Small Company sent out invitations to key directors of several narrow gauge railways from across the country for a private unveiling.
The directors met in York, Pennsylvania during early-March. The directors’ politely complimented George Billmeyer and John Small for coming up with a clever concept, although unexpectedly stated that transfer efficiency alone is only a small part in solving the narrow gauge dilemma. Even though the narrow gauge miles in service had increased to a new high of 11,330-miles during 1884, some of the directors were beginning to look at the underlying details; just like John Small had done months ago.
They noted only 571-miles of narrow gauge railway were built in 1884, compared to the building of 3,353-miles of standard gauge track. Contrasted to the boom years, in the late 1870s, when the mileage of narrow gauge built represented 35% of all railroad mileage built each year, in 1884 narrow gauge mileage built had dropped to less than 15% of all railroad mileage built.
One of the directors had been keeping track of the narrow gauge mileage that had been converted to standard gauge track. He stated, “By the end of 1884, 1,150-miles of narrow gauge track has been converted to standard gauge. Sure, the transfer inefficiency was initially touted as the major cause. And if it had remained the major cause, your concept for improving freight transfer efficiency could have had a chance for success. However the unforeseen escalation of the ongoing maintenance cost associated with narrow gauge railways has quickly grown to become the overriding cause of the narrow gauge dilemma.”
The late 1870s boom-times in building narrow gauge railways resulted from huge initial savings in building a narrow gauge infrastructure versus a standard gauge railway; savings of substantially more than 50% were common. For many rural communities, going the narrow gauge route was the only way financing could be arranged to attain a railway.
Narrow gauge railway construction practices included light grading of narrow roadbeds and a larger number of lightweight wooden trestles across minor gullies and creeks; compared to greater use of expensive fills and culverts with standard gauge track construction. Narrow gauges’ light construction would have been fine for the originally envisioned use; however that turned out not to be the case.
To exacerbate the case, in recent years the manufacturers of narrow gauge locomotives pursued a path of convergence to standard gauge locomotive design practices. The narrow gauge locomotives produced in the past several years are heavier and inflict much greater wear and tear on narrow gauge track, trestles and bridges.
George Billmeyer and John Small were told that many of the narrow gauge railways, now considering conversion to standard gauge, will make the change because narrow gauge track, trestle and bridge maintenance costs have already exceeded like costs of standard gauge railways; and continue to climb.
The visit by the narrow gauge directors burst the bubble for the Billmeyer & Small freight transfer concept. In a few weeks Billmeyer & Small had a small private exploratory showing for selected standard gauge railway directors, before shelving the idea entirely.
Emma Billmeyer was busy planning the April wedding of Becky and Dan. Becky selected Mary Billmeyer to be her Maid of Honor. Becky and Mary had been friends for a number of years; that friendship was the reason that Becky was always hanging around the Billmeyer House and the reason that Emma told Dan he should date Becky.
Dan arrived in York as a 9-year-old runaway orphan in 1860. He was befriended by Charles Billmeyer and has always been appreciative of everything the Billmeyer family did for him. There was never any doubt Dan would select George Billmeyer to be his Best Man.
Go to Part 5