Railroad Police Badges

Railroad police used a special style of badge. Unlike cap badges (see badge page) that were used by most railroad occupations, railroad police badges were similar to those used by civil law enforcement. This reflected the fact that railroad police were (and are) bona fide law enforcement officers, as defined under state laws. Many railroad police badges have a "star" or "shield" shape and are generally marked for the railroads on which they were used. Like other railroad badges, railroad police badges are very popular as collectibles and relatively easy to produce, so they have become particularly susceptible to counterfeiting. Modern reproductions have been made by the thousands, and many if not most of these are not clearly marked as reproductions. Therefore, collectors need to be especially careful and knowledgeable to avoid being duped.

Here are some especially nice railroad police badges, all but one of which are definitely authentic. Note that most of these show evidence of wear and patina, which would be expected after years of hard service. Unless otherwise noted, these badges are from the collection of Bill Kajdzik who generously provided the digital scans (Thanks, Bill!).

A "Special Agent" 6-sided star badge from the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. A Police badge from the Wabash Railway. A Detective badge from the New York Central Railroad.
A Bridge Guard badge from the Great Northern Railway. Click for a larger view. A Special Police badge from the Great Northern Railway. A Watchman badge from the Great Northern Railway.
A badge marked for both the Washington State Police badge and the Great Northern Railway. See comments. A Police badge from the Oregon Shortline Railroad. A Special Agent badge from the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
A Detective badge possibly from the Montana, Wyoming & Southern Railroad. A Police Chief badge from the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway. A Special Deputy badge from the Oregon, Washington Railroad & Navigation Company.
A patrolman's badge from the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway.  The "Rock Island" issued many different designs of badges over the years, from large Chicago Police Style "pie plates" to these small six pointed ball tip stars.  Because of the patina on the front of this badge and the tarnish on the back, it's probably authentic. Phil O'Keefe collection.    A Special Watchman Badge from the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.  It has no number and was probably issued to special employees hired to assist railroad policemen during times of war. Although the badge is shiny on the front, the back is tarnished and old looking, so it's probably the genuine article.  It is hallmarked “J P Cooke Co. Mfr’s Omaha."  Phil O'Keefe collection.   A large Chicago Police Style "pie plate" badge of the type used by the Illinois Central Railroad's Special Agent Division from the 1920's to the late 1960's.  The 3 1/2" diameter badge has applied copper numerals and an Illinois State seal in the center.  Phil O'Keefe, who provided this photo notes that although it is hallmarked "The C.H. Hansen Co. - Chicago", there is the possibility that it may be a modern remake struck from the original tooling. Phil O'Keefe collection. 

 

Comments. We received the following comment in December, 2007 regarding the Washington State Police badge shown above, third row, far left.

First of all, there was never a "Washington State Police". In 1921 there was the "highway police" but in 1931, it was officially named the "state patrol". In the 70's I was a local police officer in rural Washington and a part-time U.P. watchman working on an anti-theft detail in Wenatchee, WA. I was given a badge that read "Special State Police" with a Washington State seal and the initials "UPRR" on the bottom, much like the badge your site has. Now to the history: RR police received a special commission from the governor and the whole affair was somewhat lax. No training was required nor was a ID or badge issued, only a commissioning letter. (I never had a "commission" as a RR cop as I had my local police commission which was good throughout the state). RR cops often carried two badges. An official one from the RR in their wallets and the "state police" badge which they showed people.The "state police" badges were acquired locally and while not officially approved by the state or the RR, no one cared. The feeling was that the "state police" wording carried more authority and in fact, they were de facto "special state police". In the late 90's the legislators addressed the RR police law, which previously consisted of only one short paragraph. Now it is a whole chapter of of laws and administrative codes. This had two results: Only BNSF, UPRR and one small RR kept their police, and the railroad police were now regulated, accountable and expected to be professionals by virtue of their mandatory attendance of the police academy, etc. Finally, the law states quite clearly that the badges will now have the wording "railroad police" with the company name on it and worn in plain view or displayed to the public upon request.

Thanks to the collectors who sent us these images as well as those who provided
corrections or comments.