RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 8 . . Rebels . . Part 3
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 3 of Chapter 8 . . . Rebels. A new part will be posted every Thursday. This chapter stands alone, starting here; however new readers may want to start at the beginning.
CHAPTER 8 . . . REBELS . . . Part 3
The Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge toll collector was known to be very strict, so Johnny went up to see if he would allow use of their own horses to pull railcars across the mile-long Susquehanna River Covered Bridge. Dan and George did not wait for an answer; they unloaded the harnesses and made the necessary hitch adjustments to pull railcars.
The activity of Dan and George soon attracted a crowd. George boasted what they intended to do, in order to prevent confiscation of their horses by Union officials at the Columbia side of the bridge.
George should have kept his mouth shut. By the time Johnny returned, several additional volunteer horse-teams had already gathered around the railcars.
Johnny was upset, “Such a bull-headed toll collector, he is only going to allow their own mule-teams to pull railcars across the bridge. He has not received official word about the Rebels capturing Hanover Junction, therefore he is treating it as just a rumor and is in no hurry to get the railcars across the bridge.”
An impasse existed until the Northern Central Railway locomotive “The Susquehanna” steamed into Wrightsville pulling carloads of civilian volunteers and convalescent soldiers from the Army Hospital in York. Johnny was a good friend of George Small, the engineer of “The Susquehanna.” Johnny told George of their plans and of the toll collector’s insistence it was only a rumor that the rebels have captured Hanover Junction.
As Johnny approached, Dan asked, “Did you tell George Small to show the toll collector the indentations on his engine tender where rebels bullets had bounded off?” Johnny exclaimed, “George Small does not take No from anybody. I’d say hitch up your horses to a railcar and be ready to move out.”
Johnny went down the line of railcars, telling the owner of each horse-team that had gathered, “George Small is pleading our case. You know George, I’d say hitch up your horses to a railcar and be ready to move out.”
Sure enough, it was not long before the whole line of horse-team pulled railcars was waved onto the bridge. While driving the four-horse-team onto the bridge, Dan heard George Small tell the toll collector, “My fireman is making preparations right now to take my engine across the bridge.” The response of the toll collector, “Engines are not allowed on the bridge!”
As the railcar exited the bridge in Columbia, Johnny hopped out of the car and instructed Dan, “Pull the railcar to a good staging place; near switches. Don’t get boxed in. My instructions are to try and keep all the Billmeyer & Small railcars together.” Johnny then ran off, trying to track down the locations of their other railcars in the Columbia rail yard.
Dan found a good spot, the last railcar that would fit into a siding; so he would be the first one out. George asked Dan, “Do you care to bet that George Small gets his engine across the bridge?” Dan answered, “From what I’ve seen, I’d never bet against that Engineer.”
And so it was, the first locomotive that ever crossed over the Susquehanna River on the covered bridge between Wrightsville and Columbia was “The Susquehanna.” In order to do this, the fire in the firebox was banked up and the large smokestack was removed onto a small gondola car to provide the necessary height clearance. A team of ten mules pulled the locomotive across the bridge.
Go to Part 4