Coach No. 278Coach No. 278, today, under the museum's new protective roof at the Allegany County Fair Grounds.
Coach No. 278.
Someof the museum displays inside Coach 278.
Living in a Rail CarFamily visits car at Allegany County Fair they once lived in... Above—Charlotte Demick Brass, of Orlando, FL and her younger brother Dick Demick of Cuba, toured the restored railroad car they once called home at the Allegany County fairgrounds. (Kathern Ross Photo, Wellsville Daily Reporter)
By Kathryn Ross, Wellsville Daily Reporter, July 17, 2008
ANGELICA—They knew every patch in the wooden floor and every inch of the railroad car they called home as children.
Railroad car 278 is part of the popular Pittsburg Shawmut and Northern Railroad Co, Historical Society exhibit on the Allegany County Fair grounds. Wednesday, as children were climbing around the engine pretending to be cannonballing down the railroad track, an older couple were seated in one of the two railroad cars, which along with another car, caboose, engine and depot make up the exhibit. They were recalling their youth, when they, their parents and four siblings lived in the car just after World War II and into the ‘60s.
“Dad used to joke about our $25 house,” said Charlotte Demick Brass the middle daughter of Charles and Norma Demick and who grew up in Angelica.
She and her youngest brother Dick Demick attended the fair Wednesday and made a special effort to tour their old home, railroad car.
Bob Sanders, a member of the historical society which now owns the car, explained a little of the background.
The Pittsburg, Shawmut and Northern Railroad Co. operated throughout World War II, but ceased operation on April 1, 1947. It was one of the largest Class 1 railroads to close at that time after hauling coal from St. Marys, PA to Wayland, NY during the war years. It stretched over about 200 miles of track, and in reality was also one of the smallest Class 1 railroads to develop and run through the oil boon years. It had shop in Angelica.
As the end neared the company stripped metal from most of its cars and was burning the wooden cars, most were former passenger coaches which had been converted by the railroad into sleeping quarters for the gandy dancers who maintained the tracks, he said.
“In 1946 a storm wreaked havoc on Angelica causing much damage and tearing the roof off the two-story home at 84 Brooklyn Street belonging to the Demicks who suddenly had four boys and two girls without a roof over their heads.
Mr. Demick knew they were burning the wooden railroad coachs down at the shop by he railroad tracks, so he bought one for $25,” Sanders said.
Charlotte and Dick were very small children at the time, and their new home looked gigantic to them.
Wednesday as they looked around the restored car, they said they realized how small it had been.
Their father covered up windows, lowered the ceiling and put up walls which divided the car into a living room, kitchen and bedroom. Eventually a structure was added that allowed for more bedroom area and indoor bathroom facilities.
Explaining the odd round and square patches on the wooden floor, Dick Demick explained there were holes in the flooring which were part of its use as a railroad car. “Daddy mostly used the tops and bottoms of soup cans and nailed all around them with roofing nails to patch the holes.”
Both recalled where the television set was located and that linoleum covered the floors and the walls were papered and painted, but argued about the etched clerestory windows in the top of the car.
Charlotte maintained boards had replaced them.
Dick declared the windows were there, but were covered up with boards, and later proved it after finding a photograph in the gallery of phots showing the restoration and pointed it out to his sister.
“Daddy just covered up most of the windows to preserve the glass. We only had six or so windows,” he said.
Windows now line the sides since the historical society restored it to its original state.
In the early ‘60s aluminum siding was placed on the car. “It was just like living in a trailer,” Dick Demick said.
Looking around the car Wednesday, Charlotte said “I’ve been trying to visualize everythings like it was. It’s a little strange and hard to believe we all grew up here. It seemed so big then, but it was so small.”
While all the children grew up in the railroad car, and left home and settling in other states, “Daddy must have lived here until 1971 or ‘72, Charlotte said.
Only one of their four siblings, Charles Jr., Don, Bob and Alice (now deceased) stayed in Angelica. Charlotte lives in Orlando, FL and Dick lives in Cuba.
According to Sanders, Don Demick donated the car to the PS&N historical society in the early ‘80s and members of the society worked to restore the circa late 1800’s coach it to its original state. One of the remaining original wooded window frames is being used as a frame for memorabilia.
“This is one of our most popular exhibits,” he said.
Taking another look around at the restored clerestory windows, wall paneling, wooden floor and velvet seating, Dick Demick said, “What they’ve done with it is awesome.”