How New Hope’s Steam Locomotive Inspired A Grandfather’s Tale

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct author William G. Bentrim’s name.

Many residents are inspired by Bucks County’s rich history and beautiful scenery. Recently, William G. Bentrim of Hilltown reached out to me with a personal offering.

“I read your column and I appreciate it,” he began. “I taught history for a few years and I’m a bit of a fan. Your recent column (published August 30) showing one of the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad steam locomotives inspired this missive.

“After 10 years in education, 10 years in a convenience store and 25 years in the operation of an IT company that I founded, I retired. I started writing children’s books.

“Years ago I wrote ‘Hardy Belch and the Golden Train’. Hardy is my 12 year old protagonist with a 240 pound telepathic dog. A golden train leaving New Hope was hijacked a while 150 years old and hidden in the swamp of None Such Farm in Buckingham. Hardy and his friend struggled to find a way to keep the farm out of foreclosure. So begins the story. It’s entirely fictional but historical in parts. My grandchildren enjoyed it and maybe yours too.

“Thank you for your always interesting columns in The Intelligencer. A loyal reader.

LaVO Mailbag:Readers share their stories of ‘Pauline Perils’, Nurse Nelson from polio and the Lenape tribes of Bucks

William emailed me a copy of his delicious book about the gold train and two engineers who intended to hijack it. Here’s a taste:

“The single, innocuous boxcar he and Jake were pulling at Port Richmond, just north of Philadelphia, was full of cash – buckets and buckets of Reading Railroad payroll cash! It was his responsibility to discreetly transfer the $2,000,000 in gold from the New York bank to the Philadelphia bank. Well, for once he was going to be irresponsible. All they had to do was rob the train!

“As the train rolled through the misty mist, Matt reminded Jake of the plan. They were slowing down as they passed Buckingham Mountain. On the right was the spur that led to the marsh. Twenty years earlier, the railway had planned to extend the track to Doylestown. Construction was going well until they reached the swamp. After dumping hundreds of tons of fill in the swamp, it still wouldn’t support the weight of the track. Months of work literally sank into the ground. The railroad finally gave up and put a gate at the entrance to the spur, locked the switch and forgot about the spur. Well, Matt hadn’t forgot the spur…”

Cover of children's book written by William G. Benrim of Hilltown for his grandchildren.

Bentrim developed his fiction around facts. None Such Farm on York Road is one of them. The name is believed to derive from an English king’s favorite game-laden forests known as None Such Park in Britain.

In 1926 Elizabeth and William H. Yerkes Jr. moved from Upper Southampton to Buckingham as sharecroppers on the 217-acre farm. Six years later they bought it and its three-storey Victorian farmhouse where they raised four children.

The family survived the hardships of the Great Depression thanks to a kind banker who allowed the Yerkes to delay mortgage payments until they were able.

William III and John Yerkes, their two sons, eventually took over the farm which produced sweet corn. In 1978 the two established a thriving seasonal farmers’ market on York Road (route 263) opposite the farm.

Twenty years later, they and their families have entered into an alliance with the county government to preserve the farm. It’s extremely beautiful, backing onto the north slope of Buckingham Mountain. But does the farm contain a swamp?

In fact, it is. Sort of. On my recent visit, Jon Yerkes, pointed out the wooded wetlands out back, but it’s not such a swamp. Jon, however, expressed his delight at the golden train story.

None Such Farm Market is on Old York Road in Buckingham, opposite the farm and Buckingham Mountain.

Furlong by another name

Newtown’s John McKenney reacted to ‘The Strange Case of Furlong’ (published August 23). Furlong is just south of None Such Farm. Reading the column convinced McKenney that he was mistaken about the origin of the village’s name.

“Years ago I had a friend who lived in Furlong,” John explained. “One day he invited me to his house and gave me instructions on how to get there. ‘First head (north) towards Doylestown on Rt. 413. When you get to Buckingham, turn left on York Road. Go down about two or three miles. Be very careful, it’s a small town and you might miss it because when you get there, you won’t be there ‘FUR-LONG’.

The curious case of Furlong:How a village in Bucks County got its name

“It was the origin of the town’s name to me until your article appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times.”

Furrows like these at Furlong define much of the village.

For those who missed the column, Furlong is a reference to the 660 foot length of a farm’s plowed furrow. The term dates back to medieval England. Many years ago, after the US Post Office refused to recognize the village as the preferred ‘Bushington’, the Postmaster of Doylestown suggested ‘Furlong’ because of all the plowed fields. It’s stuck.

Sources include a history of None Such Farm on the web at www.nonesuchfarm.com. “Harry Belch and the Golden Train” by William G. Bentrim and others from the series are available at local bookstores and on Amazon.com.

Carl LaVO, author of six books including two volumes of Bucks County Adventures, can be reached at [email protected] His adventure books are available at bookstores in Doylestown and Lahaska.

Jose P. Rogers