A Tall Phlatt Tale:

Badwater and Lonetree Railroad & Navigation Company
A young but eager apprentice Phinneas T. Phlatt at age of 16 years - 1867

The railroading world has many legends: Jones, Henry, Crocker, Pool, Vanderbilt. One of the lesser known, but just important legends is that of Phinneas T. Phlatt, Master Mechanic of the Badwater and Lonetree Railroad & Navigation Company deep in the woods of West Virginia. It was Phinneas’ job to maintain and even build the railroad’s rolling stock and locomotives in the primitive conditions of the 1870s West Virginia Wilderness. Money was scarce, supplies non-existent and tools were mostly rudimentary, yet Phlatt kept the machines running. His talents were revered throughout the lumbering and mining communities that dotted the Appalachians. Businessmen dealing with anything mechanical knew they could depend upon Phlatt.

Yet he wouldn’t be famous if it weren’t for his Petunia, his beloved wife of over four decades. Due to unknown medical conditions, or an appetite unusual for deep-woods habitation, Petunia was - shall we say - a large woman. No record exists today of her true tonnage. Not because they didn’t try to determine it, rather, according to rumor, no facilities existed that could give an accurate reading. As you might surmise, transportation for Petunia was a problem. Horses weren’t an option. Carriages weren’t strong enough. Roads and paths provided some relief, but Phinneas wanted more for his Petunia.

B & L R.R. & Navigation Co.'s Master Mechanic, Phinneas T. Phlatt - 1875

 

Railroads seemed like the obvious answer, but in those primitive post-Civil War days trains consisted of either passenger cars (which were unable to accommodate Petunia’s girth) or freight cars built specially for hauling lumber or coal (neither would be sufficiently appropriate for hauling the woman). Phlatt knew railroads held the key to providing Petunia a means of getting around... but limited funds, limited materials and a corporate directive that all railroad cars built in the shops must be used for company business presented Phlatt with difficulties. However, he wasn’t Master Mechanic for nuthin’. Soon he devised a car thatwas simply a rolling platform. Upon that platform the trainmen could put whatever they needed to carry. This greatly expanded the versatility of the railroad. One minute the car had "gondola" like sides, making it easy to carry coal or gravel... then next minute it had "stakes" on the sides, making it easy to carry lumber... but perhaps most importantly, the greatest feature of the car was the large throne-like chair Phinneas adapted to fit squarely in the middle of the car With this development, he not only created a revenue producing for the railroads, he also had devised a way for Petunia to move about the countryside in grace and comfort.

Petunia & Phinneas T. Phlatt's home and workshop - 1878

Give it a click for a closer look...

 

The locals were naturally impressed, and quickly dubbed it the "Phlatt Car." It was the envy of railroad men throughout the backwoods of West Virginia. The design was widely copied by other railroads of the area, and eventually by just about every railroad in the country. Because of the simple, flat surface -- and perhaps also because of patent considerations - it is easy to see why other railroads adopted the more humble "flat car" as opposed to "Phlatt car." Phlatt’s invention, from deep in the woods of 1873 West Virginia still serves railroads around the country to this very day, and Plum Cove Studios is proud to produce this exceptional addition to your trainset... and is equally proud to give credit where credit is due: to Phinneas T. Phlatt.

Phinneas T. Phlatt - 1906

At the height of his railroading career,
Phinneas bears a striking family resemblance to his future generations

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