By Jeff Livingston, Historian
Originally published in the Akahele I Ke Ka'aahi July Aug 2010 Vol.40 No. 4
We all are aware that the first passenger and freight cars ordered in 1889 by the then new OR&L came from Carter Brothers of California. But what happened next?
A railroad can't operate with only one boxcar and eight platform cars for freight. Apparently the OR&L built and re-built a few cars in 1890, adding three stock cars and three boxcars to the roster. Of the original eight "platform" cars from Carter only four were listed in 1890, which leads one to assume that the other four cars were used to build the new box and stock cars. The remaining two additions were likely built from parts ordered from the mainland.
During Mac Simpson's research for his book Honolulu Trolley Days he, or somebody, researching the J.G. Brill archives at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania came upon a J.G. Brill builder's photo of what appeared to be a flat car with OR&L markings.
Bob Paoa wound up with the Xerox copy, which was duly filed in the "What the Heck?" folder. After waiting an appropriate amount of time, Bob sprung it on me as he is wont to do. (Remember the Lualualei rail fire truck?)
Since I couldn't go to Pennsylvania, I expended a portion of the Historian's budget for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to do the research for me.
Mr. Lee Arnold, Senior Director of the Library and Collections, and his staff conducted a detailed review of the J.G. Brill order books covering the years 1890 through and including 1910. Their research uncovered not one but six orders for J.G. Brill freight equipment placed through C. Brewer, Boston, for the OR&L in January 1891.
The boxcar "Diamond Pattern" trucks with Lodbell wheels were of 15-ton capacity while the "wrecking car" trucks were of 25-ton capacity. It is believed that this additional capacity, and likely a heavier built frame, is what differentiated this "wrecking car body" from a regular flatcar.
It is also believed that the five boxcar bodies were used as shipping crates for the remainder of the items ordered.
After a further expenditure from the budget, Ms. Dana M. Lamparello, Digital Collections Archivist, provided digital copies of the two J.G. Brill builder's photos associated with these orders and permission to use them in an issue of the Akahele.
Up until now we were completely unaware of these cars and much has been added to our body of knowledge thanks to the staff of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. We still need to determine the length and width of this equipment, and we have no numbers associated with them or the Carter cars as yet. But it's still progress.