Railroad Two Man Handcar.
Handcars were absolutely essential to the operation of railroads during a time when railroads were the primary form of public transportation for people and goods in America, from about 1850 to 1910. There may have been handcars as early as the late 1840s but they were quite common during the American Civil War. They were a very important tool in the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. There were many thousands of them built. They were commonly assigned to a "section" of track, the section being between about 6 to 10 miles long, depending upon the traffic weight and locomotive speed experienced on the section. Each section would have a section crew that would maintain that piece of track. Each section usually had a section house which was used to store tools and the section's handcar. Roughly 130,000 miles of track had been constructed in America by 1900. Thus, considering there was a handcar assigned to at least every ten miles of that track, there would have been a minimum of 13,000 handcars operating in the United States. This number is obviously a gross underestimate because many sections were shorter than 10 miles and railroads also had spare handcars for use in unusual circumstances. Telegraph company Western Union and other rail-users had their own handcars, adding to the overall handcar population.