RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 8 . . Rebels . . Part 5
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 5 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 5
Initially the people of Columbia and even the soldiers stood and gazed in wonder at the sight before them. The river bridge, that was such an integral part of the community, was on fire. The state of wonder did not last long; a shift in the wind direction suddenly had the flames racing across the bridge towards Columbia.
Citizens and soldiers grabbed axes, bags of dirt and buckets. The carpenters and bridge builders, that had rigged the bridge to blow-up a section or two to prevent the Rebels from crossing, joined the fray.
They rushed into the covered bridge in an attempt to create a fire brake several spans out onto the river. Two hand-pump fire engines pulled water from the Susquehanna River and soaked the initial span of the covered river bridge. Their goal was not so much saving a few spans of the bridge; it was preventing the rapidly approaching flames from reaching the buildings in Columbia.
At the first appearance that flames were headed to Columbia, George Small began to rebuild steam in “The Susquehanna.” As the flames got closer, Dan and George could feel the heat while they stood on top of a railcar in the Billmeyer & Small train.
The train began to roll just as the flames jumped the span containing the hastily created fire brake. The immense flames jumped the fire brake, as if it was not there. The intense heat turned the water soaked first span into a cloud of steam.
The cloud of steam and the continuing dousing of the span lessened the height of the flames on that critical span resting on the eastern shore of the Susquehanna River. The flames successfully leaped onto only one building near the exit of the river bridge; consuming it.
The people of Wrightsville were not as fortunate. A change of wind direction resulted in many riverfront homes and businesses catching fire.
George Small only pulled the train a short distance away from the bridge. Still standing on top of a railcar, George Billmeyer pointed across the river and commented to Dan, “It looks like all of Dad’s lumberyards and sawmill are burning. He isn’t going like that.”
Upon returning home days later, George and Dan learned that the Rebel troops actually pitched in to help the citizens of Wrightsville fight the fires in the homes and a few of the businesses. However the sawmill, lumberyards and a foundry were among the group of businesses the Rebel’s did not lift a finger to save. They also learned that the column of smoke and reddish glow cast high into the night sky by the burning bridge was clearly visible in the City of York.
Johnny arrived at the railcar, seated on a wagon with another man. He yelled up to the boys, “I bought that hay, that you asked for. And here’s something for you to eat.” He held up a sack as the other man backed up the wagon to the railcar door. The boys did the transfer, fed and watered the horses and returned to the top of the railcar to have a bite to eat in the glow of the burning bridge.
There was a continual stream of still burning timbers that had dropped from the bridge, floating down the Susquehanna River. Scattered clouds reflected the bridge flames back down upon the river and town. The boys were far from alone, gawking at the sight before them.
Go to Part 6