Passenger Cars of the South Park

The Bowers-Dure Cars

Being a dissertation on why they looked like they did.

The so-called Bowers-Dure cars have long been a source of fascination to fans of the Denver, South Park & Pacific. Their distinctive platform roofs make them immediately recognizable. Their small arched single-pane windows continued to make them recognizable even after the roofs had been remodeled. Who would question that the 1927 (or is it 1936?) photo of C&S coach #51 shows a Bowers-Dure car? How did the South Park come to have these cars, and who built them, and why are they so unique?

The story of how it came to have them is told under HISTORY on the COACHES #16, #17, #22 AND #24 page. The story of the obscure company that built them is told on the BOWERS, DURE & COMPANY page. The purpose of this page is to try to suggest why these unique little cars (35'-0") looked like they did.

If you cant figure it out, see last line on page. (No, we're not going to make it easy for you by giving you a link!)

During the period of 1871 to 1886 there were three car-building firms located in Wilmington, Delaware: Jackson & Sharp, Harlan & Hollingsworth, and Bowers, Dure & Co. Almost everyone interested in railroads is familiar with the name Jackson & Sharp. Some will have heard of Harlan & Hollingsworth. But who ever heard of Bowers, Dure & Co.? For some time those seeking information on these cars speculated that the name might be Bowers, Deere & Co., thinking that the handwritten “u” in Dure on company records might be a squished “ee”, or possibly trying unconsciously to make a connection with machinery maker John Deere. But Bowers, Dure & Co. was real. Simply the smallest and shortest-lived of the three.

At that time, Wilmington lay between Philadelphia and Baltimore (it probably still does), and the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad was an important connection between the big cities. Sleeping cars had long-ago been invented. (The first known was running in 1838, twenty years before George Pullman invented it.) And that's where our chronology picks up. See what you can make of these facts:

1838 The first sleeping car to be noted in contemporary accounts runs on the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore (PW&B). It is so successful that a second is put into service.
1844 PW&B rebuilds the two sleepers into day coaches.
1851 Thomas Wesley Bowers becomes Master Car Builder of PW&B.
1859 PW&B again enters the sleeping car field with two coaches remodeled as sleepers.
1862 The T.T. Woodruff and the Knight Sleeping Car companies unite to form the Central Transportation Company at Philadelphia.
1863 PW&B decides to give up its own sleepers and contracts with Central Transportation Company (Woodruff) to supply them.
1866 Woodruff inaugurates its first Silver Palace Cars (below).

Woodruff Sleeper "Empire"
(1) Woodruff standard gauge Silver Palace Car Empire. Jackson & Sharp, Wilmington, Delaware, 1869.

1867 Woodruff is contesting with Pullman for a contract with the Central Pacific. It built a sample car (below). The CP decides to go its own way, but apparently licenses the Sliver Palace name and design. Cars are built by two of the three Wilmington car builders: Harlan & Hollingsworth and Jackson & Sharp.
Woodruff's Silver Palace Sleeping Car for the Central Pacific.
(2) Woodruff's Silver Palace Sleeping Car (standard gauge) for the Central Pacific. Harlan & Hollingsworth, Wilmington, Delaware, 1869.

1871 T. Wesley Bowers, “onetime employee” of the PW&B, testifies for Woodruff in a suit against him by Pullman, to the effect that the two sleeping cars existed and had been rebuilt into day coaches by the PW&B in 1844.
1871 Jackson & Sharp turns out the first narrow gauge car built in this country. It is for the D&RG, and is appropriately named Denver (below).

Denver & Rio Grande Coach Denver.

(3) Denver & Rio Grande narrow gauge Coach Denver. Jackson & Sharp, Wilmington, Delaware, 1871.

1871 Bowers, Dure & Co. is founded by Thomas W. Bowers & Henry Dure. (Bowers had been Master Car Builder for the PW&B Railroad for 20 years.)
1872 Bowers, Dure & Co. builds four narrow gauge coaches and two coach-baggage cars for the ATSF. (Some say they were all coaches, but that's another story.) What would such a car look like?
1875 Harlan & Hollingsworth is building First Class coaches like America for narrow gauge railroads (below).

Narrow Gauge Car by Harlan & Hollingsworth, 1875

(4) Narrow gauge car design by Harlan & Hollingsworth, Wilmington, Delaware, 1875.

1880 The South Park leases/buys six narrow gauge Bowers, Dure & Co. cars from the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe. Guess what they looked like (below)!

Bowers-Dure Coach at Nathrop, 1884.

(5) DSP&P coach #17—built by Bowers, Dure & Company—near Hortense, about 1883. This Wm. H. Jackson photo can be found at Chappell-46(u), Digerness2-288(d), Ferrell/C&S-17(u) and Ferrell/SoPk-67.

NOTES on photos.

Photo #1 can be found at White/Passenger-218.
Photo #2 can be found at White/Passenger-220.
Photo #3 can be found at White/Passenger-33 and at Beebe-43.
Photo #4 can be found at White/Passenger-34.
Photo #5 is a highly-enlarged detail of a photo by Joseph Collier. It can be found at Digerness2-286 and Kindig-41.

For those who either couldn’t, wouldn’t, or don’t enjoy, putting two and two together (or found our meanderings too convoluted to follow) —

The Bowers-Dure coaches were designed and built in 1872 according to the then-standard practice of scaling down narrow gauge cars from standard gauge practice. This “practice” was followed by the three Wilmington, Delaware, car builders, which included platform roofs of the hooded profile that was apparently developed by Woodruff. By 1880, when the Bowers-Dure coaches were acquired by the South Park, they were quite “primitive” alongside current equipment. (Or as they say now in the interior decorating field, “retro!”)

31 July 2006

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