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York Car Works of Billmeyer & Small

Drawing of The York Car Works of Billmeyer & Small appearing as part of a full-page-408 ad in Asher & Adams’ New Columbian Railroad Atlas of 1879 (Boston Public Library)

This drawing of The York Car Works of Billmeyer & Small appears as part of a full-page-408 ad in Asher & Adams’ New Columbian Railroad Atlas of 1879.  The view is as if one were hovering over the railroad station, or currently hovering over Sovereign Bank Stadium, and looking southeast.

The street at the lower right is North Duke Street.  The street on the lower edge and to the left is North Street.  The York Car Works encompassed most of a city block between North Duke Street and North Queen Street.  Read on for more details about The York Car Works of Billmeyer & Small.


Asher & Adams’ New Columbian Railroad Atlas of 1879 is very large format; about 18 by 24 inch pages.  To get a lot of written material into the Billmeyer & Small ad, the text is very small.  Small text coupled with the ad being reduced to 8-1/2 by 11 in all copies I have seen, renders the text on copies virtually impossible to read.

The written material in this ad essentially reads as if someone interviewed Billmeyer & Small on the state of their business in 1879.  On Wednesdays, in four parts, I’ll post a transcript of the text from the original of the 1879 ad.

Part 1 Text from Billmeyer & Small full-page-408 ad in Asher & Adams’ New Columbian Railroad Atlas of 1879

The York Car Works were established in 1852 by the firm of Billmeyer & Small, for the purpose of manufacturing first-class Passenger and Freight Cars and Railway Rolling Stock of every description.  In the very beginning the Works were successful and year by year the business grew, until in 1876 it had reached such proportions that it was deemed advisable to form a joint stock company, and the Billmeyer & Small Company was promptly organized and inherited the business and prestige of the good name which the old firm had fairly won.  The Works were at once enlarged and have since been added to, until they now comprise one of the most extensive and most completely equipped establishments of the kind in the United States—having a capacity of two hundred Freight and six Passenger Cars per month.

The location is a peculiarly favorable one.  The Pennsylvania Railroad and the Northern Central Railway run close to the Works, affording direct connection with all the Railroads of the country, which enables the Company to secure the lowest rates of freight on all raw material received by them and to promptly deliver their cars by rail to all parts of the United States and the Canadas, or to ship them to foreign parts, the distance to Baltimore being but 50 miles; to Philadelphia, 90 miles; and to New York, 180 miles.

The Billmeyer & Small Company are pioneer and leading builders of Narrow Gauge Railroad Cars in the United States, they having up to October 1, 1878, furnished over 2,000 Narrow Gauge Freight and Passenger Cars to forty-seven (47) Narrow Gauge Roads operating in the following named States and Territories, viz: Alabama, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, (Territory).  Also to Cuba and Costa Rica, to Central and South America, and to Mexico.  Some of these cars have been running upwards of seven years, many of them from five to seven years; they have been tested under all the unfavorable conditions to which cars in use can be subjected and every car has given satisfaction.

Go to this post for an index of everything on YorksPast about 19th Century Rail Car Builders of York, Pennsylvania.  Check back often, as the posts on this subject expand to include all manufacturers.

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