(Note: This article originally appeared in Vol VII, No. 2, June, 1989 issue of "Light Iron and Short Ties" which was the official publication of the now defunct Three Rivers Narrow Gauge Historical Society. It is republished with permission of the author. Some additions made by Richard Palmer for clarity. The author is a reporter for the Livingston County News and resides in Fillmore, N.Y. He has a special interest in local and railroad history and has written numerous articles on these topics. He is also an accomplished musician).


Narrow Gauge Passenger Cars of the Allegany Central and Lackawanna & Pittsburgh Railroads

By Howard W. Appell

   The three-foot narrow gauge lines of the Friendship and Olean Railroads were put down during the early hectic weeks which followed the discovery of oil in the southwestern sector of Allegany County. The Friendship Railroad was built between Bolivar and Friendship, 13 miles; and the Olean Railroad between there and Bolivar, a distance of 18 miles. They were shortly merged into the Allegany Central.

   Both lines, opened in 1881, used whatever makeshift means were available to transport freight and passengers to, from and within the oil fields. "Those were the oil boom days: baggage was piled up out of doors in the rain and snow, and no one ever thought of kicking. ...Passengers were obliged to ride on flat cars, and were glad they were alive!" Railway & Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin #92, pg.24 quoting Bolivar agent B.S. Dunn.

   In its report to Poor’s Manual of Railroads dated Sept. 30, 1881 the Friendship Railroad lists 1 locomotive, 20 platform cars, 10 coal cars, but mentions no passenger coaches. Presumably some of the flat cars were equipped with benches for accommodation of hardy passengers. Facilities for local passenger service on the Olean Railroad were similar. The late railroad historian, Clare Rogers, provided the following description:

   "The first passenger run on the Olean Railroad was from Portville to Bolivar on August 29, 1881, using two gondolas "fitted for passenger traffic." Wellsville Daily Reporter August 31, 1881. The use of 'passenger gondolas' continued; the Olean Daily Herald commented on September l5, 1881 "The open cars are somewhat airy these mornings."

   The matter was rectified a day or so later: "The temporary passenger cars in use on the Olean Railroad are now boarded up," said the Olean Daily Herald on September 16, 1881.

   The passengers on through trains between Bolivar and Bradford were provided accommodations of a more civilized type in the Kendall and Eldred or Olean, Bradford and Warren coaches. The first of the narrow gauge trains into Bolivar started to run from Bradford the first week in September, 1881, "without change of cars." (Bradford Daily Era, September 7, 1881) and so must have utilized OB&W-K&E coaches.

   During the early years of passenger operations the coaches of the affiliated OB&W and K&E lines must have been daily visitors to the part of the narrow gauge south of Richburg and Bolivar. The original Bradford/Bolivar through coach service had Kendall & Eldred trains using the rails of the rival Bradford, Richburg and Cuba (predecessor of the Bradford, Eldred & Cuba) between Eldred and the connection with the Olean RR called 'Junction'. A second through coach service, using the alternate route to Bradford via Olean and the OB&W was inaugurated in the spring of 1882 according to the Cuba Evening Review of April 6, 1882 which reported that "The A.C.Railroad authorities have made an arrangement to put on a through coach every Saturday from Richburg to Bradford, returning through from Bradford on Monday morning." By September 27, 1882 this through coach service had become a through train.

   And the same month the rival affiliation of the Bradford, Bordell & Kinzua, Rew City & Eldred and Bradford, Eldred & Cuba was linked to provide its own through service between Bolivar, Richburg and Bradford. The services of the competing Allegany Central and Kendall & Eldred were accordingly dispensed with. In an effort to maintain its direct low grade route between Bradford and the Allegany oil field, the K&E, by this time absorbed into the Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia system, arranged to have a third rail laid on the BNY&P main line between Eldred and the Allegany Central connection at White House. Thus, commencing in October of 1882 and lasting until January of 1884, the K&E ran through trains between Bradford and Richburg, using the AC from Richburg to White House, and the BNY&P from there to Eldred.

   Returning now, to the early weeks of the Allegany Central, they received some conventional passenger equipment in November of 1881. This consisted of four coaches, second hand from the Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn, and built by Gilbert, Bush & Co. of Troy, N.Y. During the winter of 1881-82 several new passenger cars were delivered, built by Bowers, Dure & Co. of Wilmington, Del. and by Billmeyer & Small of York, Pa. and by the spring of 1882 the Allegany Central passenger car roster had reached its full complement of eleven pieces.  These cars seem to have carried the road numbers 40 through 50, and at least some were named. In a Lackawanna & Pittsburgh requisition form dated Apr.10, 1886 is a record of materials purchased for the purpose of cleaning the coaches 'Angelica' and ’Olean'. The Allegany County Republican noted on Feb.l7, 1882 that the Allegany Central owned nine passenger coaches, and that each coach seated 45 passengers and was valued at $3,500.

   According to Poor’s and the reports of the New York State Railroad Commission, all eleven of the passenger cars appear to have been retained on the succeeding Lackawanna & Pittsburgh through 1884. Three pieces were disposed of by 1885 and the remaining eight remained in service with the L&P's successor, the L&SW until at least 1890. Diminished activity in the oil region, bankruptcy of the L&P and standard-gauging of the line from Angelica to Swains were factors justifying the pruning of the narrow gauge roster in 1885.

   These cars, from three-different builders, had a variety of body configurations. There was no set standard for classifying passenger car body styles and different sources were often inconsistent in the manner in which they categorized the various types.

   The Daily Herald of Oct. 20, 1881 reported the AC’s order for six passenger cars, one express and one combination car. The Republican for Feb.17, 1882 called them all 'passenger cars’. Poor’s classified them as 'passenger cars’ or ’baggage, mail and express, while the State Railroad Commission divided them into first and second class. Unfortunately, with such a variety of definitions, a precise analysis of the types of passenger cars on the Allegany Central and its successors is beyond my scope, considering the information presently available.

   Only a single photograph of passenger equipment is known to exist: it is on page 8 of Paul Pietrak's book, Pittsburg, Shawmut and Northern, showing engine No.5 pulling a short 'house-car' type of baggage car and a clerestory-roofed coach. No side door nor baggage compartment is visible on the coach.

According to the AC and L&P reports to the New York State Railroad Commission, this passenger equipment was leased until 1887, when all the cars were then indicated as owned. Clark, Post & Martin (Post, Martin & Co. by 1883) held a large financial interest in the AC at the time the cars were leased, and as they were in the railroad equipment leasing business, it seems likely that they were the owners of the cars until 1887. when the L&P took over.


1: Years later, in the Nov.28, 1894 issue of the Ceres Mail, the editor reminisced "It is safe to say that during the life of the Allegany oil field no road paid better than did the Allegany Central, for trains of half a dozen coaches were often run over the road with standing room at a premium, and many times in the history of the road it was necessary to use flatcars for the purpose of carrying passengers."

2: Lee Cory said Billmeyer and Small distinguished their first class and second class coaches primarily on the basis of the interior seating arrangement.

   First class cars were somewhat better finished, and had the seats running crosswise, with two seats on one side and one on the other in narrow (6 to 7') bodies; two seats on each side in wide (7 to 8’) car bodies. Second class cars had bench seats running lengthwise in narrow cars, and with a bench down

the middle in wide cars. They could crowd in more people, had plainer finishes and instead of conventional passenger car trucks, they used arch-bar freight type trucks.

 Scan 740List




1: These cars are all referred to as simply 'coaches' in the`Letters

of the General Suprintendent’. The AC and L&P reportedly used first

class, second class and combination passenger/baggage coaches. The

information presently available on these coaches is insufficient to

determine which cars were of which type.

2: Numbers #41 and #42 were definitely coaches, though there is no conclusive proof they were the Gilbert, Bush & Co. cars. But the numbering

is suggested by the fact that the GB&Co. coaches were the earliest

to arrive on the Allegany Central, hence the lowest numbers.

   Coaches built by Gilbert, Bush & Co.,Troy, N.Y. Between November 1881 and April 1882 eleven pieces of passenger rolling stock were acquired by

the newly organized Allegany Central RR. Eight of these were reported to have been coaches, of which five were first class and three were second class.

The `Letters of the General Superintendent' quoted below indicate that four of these coaches were obtained second-hand from the Boston, Revere

Beach and Lynn RR., and had originally been built by the Gilbert, Bush & Co. Car Works of Troy, New York.

   This was the only four-car lot of coaches of a single builder on the Allegany Central roster, so it is assumed that when the Olean Daily Herald for November 16, 1881 reported the arrival of four Allegany Central coaches, it was referring to these very cars:

"...if it was not out of our way [Mr. Barse] would show us some late arrivals in the shape of passenger coaches. It was no trouble, of course, so we walked up into the Buffalo road yard, and there found four coaches erroneously marked ‘Allegheny Central’ when they should have read ‘Allegany Central'. However "a car by any other name will roll as neat" - Shakespeare with variations - and these were good, substantial cars, Ht for anyone to ride in. They were mounted on standard gauge trucks and in one of the coaches we found Superintendent Mason, who was in good humor, notwithstanding the fact that he had been nearly all day in a vain endeavor to get the cars transferred."

   As probably the earliest acquisition to the Allegany Central passenger fleet, I would hypothesize that these cars bore road numbers 40 through 43, in a scheme which seems to have utilized the numbers 40 through 50. It is known that numbers 41 and 42 were coaches, although there is no proof that they were the Gilbert, Bush & Co. coaches.

   No. 41 is mentioned in the expense account of the Angelica Foundry & Machine Co. of Aug. 1884, where 78 cents worth of materials (nails, lumber

and nuts) were charged as expenses for ‘coach 41'. No. 42 is noted in Supt. Chapman's Nov.14, 1882 letter to J.W.Watson of the OB&W. (page 169):

"In your Oct. bill you charged coach 42 with four brake shoes and one air brake hose. I furnished Mr.Turner with six brake shoes at his request for coach 42, as he had none of that pattern." He asked if he should get some cast. I told him I would furnish the brake shoes, and the next day sent him six. The air brake hose was put on coach No. 42 by the OB&W so hose coupling could be made with hose on the OB&W coach as hose on coach 42 was too short.* Coach 42 was returned to us minus hose on one end. I will approve of bill for payment but please give us credit for 4 brake shoes 44# - $1.54 and for one hose 55 cents; total $2.09."

* Note: The OB&W coaches were built by Billmeyer and Small. Illustrations of the 'Olean' and 'Allegany' in Howard Fleming's book "Narrow Gauge Railways in America.") The fact that the OB&W mechanics did not stock the proper brake shoes to fit coach 42, plus the fact that the coupling hoses were incompatible with those on the OB&W coaches suggests that coach 42 was not built by Billmeyer and Small.

   Superintendent Chapman ordered parts for these coaches as quoted in the following:

   To Gilbert, Bush & Co., Jan.5, 1882 - "We have four coaches of your mfgr. which we bought of the Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn narrow gauge R.R.

Co. Please send six drawbars and if possible send one dozen brasses for same .... " (Page 8).

   To A. French & Co., Pittsburgh, Feb.13, 1882 - "Please express me immediately one set of coach springs of the following dimensions: 30" long, 34 11/34 10" o/a same as furnished to the Gilbert, Bush & Co. Troy Car Works, the mfgrs. of our narrow gauge coaches." (Page 28).

   In 1882 J.A.Miller, inventor of the automatic coupler bearing his name, was seeking royalties from those railroad companies putting his invention

to use. Certain coaches on the Allegany Central had Miller couplers installed, including these four built by Gilbert, Bush & Co. On May 4, 1882 Chapman responded to Miller, and inquired of Gilbert, Bush & Co.:

   To J.A. Miller, New York - "Yours of April 28th is before me in regard to the coaches. Would say that the coaches built by Gilbert, Bush & Co., were

bought by us second-hand from a Boston co. and were built some time since.    

   The coaches built by Bowers, Dure & Co. [were bought] as new and built

for this co. I have written to Bowers, Dure & Co. and to Gilbert, Bush & Co. in and to your coupler. If I find that this company (is) obliged to pay $100 per coach on a 40 mile narrow gauge road, I shall at once discontinue the use of them. I much prefer link and pin coupling for our class of road, with sharp and frequent curves. I have had one bad accident by coaches coming uncoupled .... on a road like this one with very sharp curves the cost of keeping the couplers in repair is much greater than the old style price for license." (Pages 89/90).

   To Gilbert, Bush & Co. - "We have four coaches built by you, which we bought from the Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn R.R.Co... "

Cars built by Billmeyer & Small, York, Pa. Coaches 49 and 50; Baggage Cars Nos.44, (45 and 46 ‘?) all acquired new.

Coaches: The AC operated two coaches bearing road numbers 49 and 50 which had been bought new from the Billmeyer and Small works in York.

This is verified in an order sent by Superintendent Chapman dated April 24, 1883 to the above company - "Please send us three coach pedistals (sic) for coaches nos. 49 and 50, built by you for this company. The pedistal braces are marked ‘F '_ Please ship by freight to Friendship, N .Y. (Page 269). Further record of this purchase is preserved in the form of a voucher dated May 17, 1883 in favor of Billmeyer and Small for the amount of $5.97 for "three pedestals for coaches". An attached canceled check indicates that Billmeyer and Small was reimbursed for this amount of June 16, 1883. While the voucher was issued by the Allegany Central, the check was written by the Lackawanna & Pittsburgh which had absorbed the AC through a merger on June 1, 1883.

   These coaches appear to have been in operation on the Allegany Central since January of 1882. Chapman had ordered lamp chimneys for these cars on Feb.l, 1882: (to Billmeyer and Small) "Please send us one dozen coach lamp chimneys, same as you put in coaches built for the Olean road* :`sun burner’. Also one half dozen shades for same ..." (Page 23).

   *Note: As the AC predecessor, the Olean RR does not seem to have owned any conventional passenger equipment during its 3 - 4 month life as an independent, it is likely that the reference 'Olean' road applied to the OB&W, which also had B&S coaches. (See note above).

   Baggage Cars: In the same letter in which he ordered the lamp chimneys,  Chapman asked for a price and delivery date on a new baggage can and on Feb.13, along with his request to speed up the lamp chimney order, he accepted Billmeyer and Smalls' price on the car. "I accept your figures on baggage car. Please build and forward as soon as possible. I want it painted yellow canary color No.44. Please put lamps in and be sure about the spelling of Allegany ..." (Page 29/30).

   Later Chapman letters show that the Allegany Central possessed at least two B&S baggage cars. March 16, 1882 (Page 65) - "In your bill I see that you have charged for Eames Brakes. None have been furnished. Please make correction on bill. How is the new baggage car coming on? Don't put (Eames) brakes on it. We use Westinghouse air brakes." and on Mar.21, 1882 (Page 66) - "Can you furnish us one pair of wheels on axle for the first baggage car you furnished us°?"

   Mention of a "first baggage car" implies that on March 21 the AC had at least one baggage car and another on order. It is unclear whether this "first" car was the same one referred to in the Feb.1 letter, No.44, or whether it was another car already in the possession of the Allegany Central when No.44 was ordered. It is similarly unclear whether the "new baggage car" refers to the as-yet undelivered No. 44 or whether another baggage car has been ordered after the delivery of No. 44. A third item of unclarity here is whether the erroneous bill mentioned in the letter of the 16th was for a newly-delivered baggage car No. 44, an earlier delivered baggage car, or the coaches Nos.49 and 50. The coaches would be the most logical choice, except that they appear to have been delivered, and presumably billed, in January.  

   It is unlikely that Chapman would have waited so many weeks to have informed the builders of an error in the billing. In spite of the confusion, these letters at least prove that two of the Allegany Central's three baggage cars were built by Billmeyer and Small. In fact one could interpret them as suggesting that all three were from that builder.

   Coaches built by Bowers, Dure & Co., Wilmington, Del. (Nos. 47 - 48 ?); acquired new.

When J.A. Miller requested a royalty of $100 per coach equipped with his couplers, running on the Allegany Central, Supt. Chapman wrote to builders Bowers, Dure & Co. of Wilmington, Del. on May 1, 1882. He asked "... on what terms you put the Miller coupler and platform on coaches built for this company by you ..." (Page 88); and in a letter to Miller three days later he noted that "... the coaches built by Bowers, Dure & Co. were bought new for this company." (Page 89/90).

   Of the eight coaches reported owned by the AC we know that four were built by Gilbert, Bush and Co., two by Billmeyer and Smalls, and the remaining two by Bowers, Dure & Co.

   (I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Lee Cory, who painstakingly transcribed the letters of General Superintendent W. O. Chapman from their tissue-copy script to a typewritten manuscript, and thereby made this, as well as other research on the Allegany Central much easier) - Howard Appell.

 Scan 739 Allegany Pass car

Olean, Bradford & Warren RR passenger car built by Billmyer & Smalls of York, Pennsylvania.

 Scan 746 Map Pietrak

 An 1885 map of railroads in Allegany County.

 Scan 744 Locos

(caption) Only known photo of a passenger car on the Allegany Central - from Page 8, History of the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern by Paul Pietrak.