Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Pay Car

The N. Y. P. and N. railroad paycar this week distributed the largest sum of money in Delmar that has been placed in circulation here since last summer.  The brakemen who worked a full month, drew over $100 each, the firemen a somewhat larger sum, and the engineers about $165 to $185 each,  The conductors also drew an average of about $160 each.  The present month payroll will also be large.

Above from the Morning News 20 Jul 1912

Payday, Oh what a day! it came once a month and everyone was paid in cash.  Usually dressed in their Sunday best the men collected their money and joined their family to walk around town paying the grocery bill, telephone bill, gas and electric bills and other obligations.  Others headed for the local bootlegger.  Whichever way it went Payday was a big day in Delmar as it was in the other towns where the paycar showed up.

Note none of the photos are of Delmar or the PRR. 

When railroads were built their rail yards were often in isolated places, such as Delmar, that did not have banking facilities so a check would have been useless to their employees.  They paid in cash.  As you may recall Delmar did not have a bank until 1899. 

The paycar sometime was run as a separate special extra train all by itself or it was worked into a regular train that had an extended stop.  The paycar employees were very efficient and could handle 300 employees an hour.  Running the paycar and paying in cash called for a great deal of detail.  In advance of payday each man’s pay had to broken into the proper denomination of currency and coin then totaled up for all employees and withdrawal from the bank the payroll in the correct denominations.  The railroad made sure the highest denomination of currency was twenty dollars anything higher than that and the employee might not be able to cash it.  

The paycar was usually based on a Pullman car and had an anteroom or office with a counter where three men could line up to collect their pay. 

Image of layout

Depending on the railroad and the individual paycar the car could have a kitchen gallery and sleeping bunks in it for the pay employees.  The car would have three men, plus a cook, and a special officer (railroad police). Both the paymaster and the Special Officer were armed.  

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