Railroad Fakes & Reproductions

In recent years, the railroadiana collecting hobby has becoming increasingly plagued by fakes and counterfeits. At right are links to our pages on known or suspected railroadiana fakes and reproductions. Below is our Fake Alerts board. All information is from sources judged to be knowledgeable and accurate; however we cannot guarantee complete accuracy, so please use this information as advisory only. We welcome new images and information. See Contact Us page but please see note about copyright. Also see Disclaimer and Things to Consider, About Fakes and FAQS (Frequently Asked Question) about Fakes.

Also see: Fakes Comments Page.   

Fake Alerts!

  • "Rock Island" Tools. Open end box wrences that have "Rock Island" on them are represented by some sellers in internet auctions as "railroad" wrenches when they actually are from a farm implement company in Rock Island, Illinois that made plows and later Heider tractors. A few sellers who sell these same type of wrenches represent them correctly as being a farm equipment wrench and coming from the Rock Island, Illinois company, not from the "Rock Island Railroad". Additionally, ordinary vise/anvils may be sold as "railroad anvils" in the same manner. The idea is that a "railroad anvil" will bring more money than a farm implement vise/anvil. [Thanks to KL].
  • Stop, Look & Listen Signs. Another fake sign is making the rounds on internet auctions and at flea markets. It is a cast iron oval "RR Crossing - Stop, Look & Listen" sign, only 15 inches long. Most are rusted up on the back to look old. They are recent reproductions which are selling for high prices -- over $100 in some instances -- suggesting that buyers think they are RR issue. [Thanks to DA]
  • Imported Caboose Stoves. It seems that caboose stoves marked "D&RGW" are being imported from china. See question #2538 on our Q&A Board.
  • Fake Number Plates. There have been two questionable Sandy River Number plates on [a popular auction site] lately, both sellers claiming authenticity. The original was renumbered #6 on the Sandy River & Rangley Lakes, #4 on the Kennebec Central and #9 on the Waterville, Wisscaset and Farmington. In the process the #5 and the 1891 date were milled off and newer numbers were applied This is easily verified in the pictures in the numerous books on these roads. The key factors are the number and date not being ground off as verified in many photos and the fact that the original is 10 1/8" in diameter. The owner of the original plate has lent it out over the years to have reproductions made up, and the fakes that are showing up are among the results. [Thanks to GG & RM].
  • Union Pacific "Shield" Lock. A questionable Union Pacific Railroad "Overland Shield" lock has been reported. It appears to be blackened metal, perhaps made of brass, with the familiar UP shield taking up the entire surface of one side. The shield has "UNION" over "PACIFIC" with "OVERLAND" on a diagonal. [Thanks to DA]
  • Wooden Station Signs. A couple of questionable Lehigh Valley station signs have recently come to the attention of collectors. The basic message here is that wooden station signs are easily fabricated (and weathered) so be careful of your souces. [Thanks to GD]
  • Pullman Blankets. A company called Victorian Trading Company is marketing high quality Pullman blanket reproductions -- sold as reproductions with no intent to deceive. However, there is always the possibility that one would be passed off as an authentic original at some point by a reseller. Collectors beware. [Thanks to JS]
  • Fake SP Clocks. From a member of the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society: Two different fake Southern Pacific Railroad "Colored Passenger Agent Station Clocks" are being offered for sale, one on the "world's greatest internet auction site". He states, "The obvious giveaway is the copied SP logo whch is that of the refrigerator magnet/sign logo being sold by the Ande Rooney Co. The SP rails to sunset logo was never like this. The fake aged clock dial is done very well. A lot of collectors might be burned by this no good person making these. Thought you would like to know." [Thanks to MR]
  • Reproduction Site. The following website - click here -- was brought to our attention as a source of reproduction railroad locks with full disclosure of what they are. It would be helpful to become familiar with these should a reseller later pass them off as originals. [Thanks to RJMc]
  • Fooling the Experts. Even the so called "experts" can be fooled by phony Wells Fargo items: Rick (The Spotter) Harrison from the TV show "Pawn Stars" paid $450 for a phony Wells Fargo iron strong box. Later in the show he was told that it was a fake..... -DA
  • New Reproduction Globes. A seller on the major internet auction site is selling reproduction "tall" railroad lantern globes. According to one collector, "What he states is that he is clearing out old stock. But, in his listings he states that new globes are coming soon and if anyone wants a particular road-named globe, to contact him and he may produce that name. I am sure most collectors have noticed this, butit it is always good to remind the newer collectors also. It appears that he has been selling several of the old ones." [Thanks to Gary]
  • Porter Plates From an email: Just wanted to report that I have just been had by an Ebay dealer for $280.00 for a fake porter plate exactly like the one you list on your web site (5580 is the # I think). There were other unsuspecting bidders also but I got the prize. Actually I got nothing as I sent the plate back for a refund after showing him this site and he kept the plate too! He hid behind a bad Ebay policy and Ebay would not help me with its "buyer protection" plan. ("Buyer beware we aren't gonna help you" plan.) So these things are still out there. The description of the item led me to believe it was genuine. It was a genuine fake. Oh well. Please pass this on. Thanks. gj
  • "Beware of Trains" Signs Here's a note sent to our site: "Back in the 1982-83 I did some work for a construction company doing the décor installation for the opening of TGI Fridays restaurants. The chain based out of Dallas TX included in the décor package the brass "Beware of the trains" sign for installation above the urinals in the men’s room. At that point in time all restaurants had 20-30 items common to every location like this sign. During location closings or modernization of the bathrooms these are removed and sold off. Funny thing is I have been looking to obtain one of these for my bathroom, when I found your web site. When the TGI Fridays closed by my house, I was 1 day late to purchase the sign. It was sold for $50.00 in 2008. Yes your site is correct that if this is represented as an authentic railroad item it is not. [Thanks to TGM]
  • A fake N&W Plate has been reported. According to the collector, "I believe [it] is a reproduction. Note it has raised borders and is the same as your pictured example. It is made of lightweight, non-magnetic metal painted gold." Click on the image for a larger version; Also see the image of the back of the plate. [Thanks to Bob.]
  • We received a report from a collector that new, cast-iron "Stop Look Listen" signs are being sold on the internet as originals. The collector said that he bought one at a train show for $40 knowing that it is just a nice reproduction. [Thanks to Bean]
  • Newly-made iron match safes marked for "Lehigh Valley Coal" have shown up recently on an internet auction site. They're not sold as antiques but down the road, this is a possibility. [Thanks to TW]
  • Fake Badges are showing up in internet auctions. They are shield-shaped with a hinged pin and appear to be quite well made. At least 4 different railroads are featured. They have a railroad logo in the center and say Security. There is also a PRR version that says EMT -- EMT's did not exist in 1968! [Thanks to BK]
  • Fake UP Milk Bottles may hitting the market. A collector sent the following: "Here are some scans of a milk bottle that I recently purchased and upon close observation via magnifying glass, I believe may be fake. The bottle itself is vintage (half pint bottle), however the logo does not seem to fit the period of the bottle's manufacture, it should have either Union Pacific Railroad, or with the Overland Route logo.  The logo is poorly applied, with many bubbles (the ink appears to be recent without the fading of aged print ink) A good friend of mine who is retired from Union Pacific and has worked as a chef and Maitre D on the Streamliners claims he has never seen such a bottle on the diners. He referred me to your site.  A great site for a collector such as myself of authentic UP Streamliner China and Glass ware." Click to see a closeup, another closeup, and overall view. Thanks to EY.
  • Wells Fargo fakes continue to bring big money from unknowing buyers. A fake Wells Fargo "silver ingot" marked "WF & Co - Bankers - with a bunch of "assay numbers", 39.0 Ounce" etc brought a whopping $5610 + 10% buyers premium from a telephone bidder in Arizona !!!  This ingot came with some kind of original paper receipt dated 1876 adding to its "authenticity".  But as several knowledgeable websites, including Wells Fargo Bank themselves will state, Wells Fargo & Company Express never issued any ingots, bars, or bullion with their mark.  (See Railroadiana.Org Q & A Question No 1847) These fake silver ingots that are being sold with authentic WF & Co paperwork were recently revealed in Coin World Magazine, March 2010. Other examples: (1) A doctored up double barrel shotgun was sold for $770 that had a fantasy brass plate marked" WF & Co, SF, Cal." applied to the stock. (2) A cast iron house safe type strongbox, painted up with "W.F & Co - S.F.Cal" sold for $1320 + $132 buyers premuim"; (3) Leather WF & Co SF, Cal. stagecoach toolbag was sold for $215. [Thanks to DA]
  • Fake Porter Builders Plate. A collector sent us the following: "This plate must be a recast (fake). It is a smaller (7 1/4 x 7 3/4) than the other Porters I have both diesel and steam (7 3/4 x 8 1/2"). The real plates have larger mounting holes and none of them have smooth backs like this one. I have seen about 5 others with the same serial number. I bought this off Ebay not knowing it was a fake." Thanks to JG. Click on image for larger version.
  • MOPAC (Missouri Pacific) calendars are being reproduced and are appearing in the market. See Fake MOPAC Calendars.
  • Know Your Railroad Names! Brass tags with the phrase "Southern Rio Grand Pacific" are out there. There was no railroad with this name -- it is an amalgam of several real railroad names and is obviously fabricated.
  • New Fake Corning Globes. We have received a report that someone is selling new cast "Corning style" (no extended base) globes. Examples are a "Monon Route" in an odd blue color and a FEC (Florida East Coast) in the same color. More RR names are possible.
  • Reproduction Buttons. Numerous reproduction buttons are available from Waterbury, a company that manufactured buttons for railroad uniforms and is still in business making buttons. They offer numerous railroad button reproductions. One collector sent in the following: "I have been doing a lot of looking at the Waterbury buttons. I checked the buttons which you have photos of on the "Buttons Page", and there are only four of them which Waterbury is NOT producing. I could not find the Broadway Cable, BH RR, Monpelier and Wells river, or the 42nd St Railway buttons. All the rest of them are available from Waterbury or are at least shown on the website. ... Also there is another company Historic Buttons which has a limited selection of railroad buttons, for example NKP, Frisco, and a few more.  I am surprised that no one has brought this subject up before. Apparently button collectors have known about this for some time!
  • Fake Builder's Plates. In Summer, 2009, an internet auction dealer who specializes in fake brass items such as railroad logos, sold 2 reproduction 1944 Lima Locomotive Builder's plates with the same serial number, builder No 8665, August 1944, with wording that suggests that it is authentic. This example does not even have side mounting holes but sold for close to $300. There is also a "1914" Porter shield builders plate, serial number #5580, from the same source, again, with wording suggesting authenticity. So far, he has listed 3 of them. [Thanks to DA]
  • Fake Dater Dies. New information on fake ticket validator dies has been sent in. See information on fake dater dies.
  • Fake Brass Locks. Reproduction "castback" brass locks are now commercially available from a railroad souvenir dealer. These are being honestly sold as reproductions, but of course it is possible that future resellers will represent them as genuine. See image of the advertisement showing available roadnames.
  • Beware of Etched Globes! Lantern collectors have been aware for some time of the ease of counterfeiting etched globes with do-it-yourself glass etching kits that are now available. However, it now appears that counterfeit etched globes are becoming increasingly available on the internet. One such producer answered an inquiry made by one of our website contributors with the response: "I can reproduce others if you have a pattern of an original." It seems that the Chesapeake & Ohio, Baltimore & Ohio and Western Maryland are favorite counterfeit subjects. Beware of etched globes in internet auctions and buy only from known and trusted dealers. Ask for a money-back right-of-return guarantee in the event that an etched marking seems too new or not quite right. Given how easy they are to produce, etched globes may be going the way of badges and Wells Fargo items in the level of suspiciousness associated with them.
  • Glass Clock Inserts. Glass inserts with railroad logos are being offered in internet auctions for "upgrading" ordinary antique mechanical clocks to "railroad clocks". Some auction listings state that adding such an insert will increase value by hundreds of dollars. There were legitimate "regulator style" clocks marked and used by railroads, but a generic clock altered in such a way is obviously a counterfeit.
  • Brass Railroad Logos. Recent web auctions have featured these as old brass "signs", " builders plates", "tags" etc. Consensus is that they are modern productions. Some logos represented: PRR Keystone logo; New York Central logo; Wabash "Follow The Flag" logo; L&N logo; Monon logo; Southern Pacific logo.
  • Fake"Castback" lock. A new fake, cast brass lock marked for the Colorado & Southern Railway has been produced (2007), it seems one of a series of fairly well-produced fancy locks. See our fakes lock page.
  • Cast Iron Segregation Signs. In late Summer, 2007, suspicious cast iron signs showing the way to segregated restrooms and marked with railroad initials (B&O RR and L&N RR reported so far) have shown up in internet auctions. Experienced collectors on the rrdiana@railnet list have been extremely skeptical of the authenticity of these items, one person pointing out that the type font used on these signs is very modern -- post-war (WW2). Cast iron items are extremely easy to have produced in various Asian foundries. Our website regularly gets inquiries from overseas companies asking for such business.
  • Fake "reverse painted" glass signs with new (previously unreported) road names continue to surface. A "Norfolk & Southern" version has recently surfaced.
  • New 2-Color Globe Reproductions. New two-color globes are being produced. See new web page on this.
  • Well Fargo fakes continue to be produced, an example of which is the sign shown at right.
  • Glass jars etched with various railroad logos are appearing in internet auctions. These jars appear to be new items and in at least one case was sold as a dining car item. 
  • Questionable Sealer. A collector sent pictures of a questionable wax sealer, now shown on our new "Possible Fakes" page.
  • Cast Iron B&O Banks. Watch out for cast iron banks shaped like a "roly-poly" conductor in a yellow or tan uniform and marked for the B&O Railroad. These are modern fakes but are bringing some good money in internet auctions. As far as anyone knows, there is no original item like this issued by the B&O so these are properly regarded as fantasy items, not reproductions.
  • Fake"Castback" locks. New fake, cast brass locks that have surfaced (mid 2006). Recent versions include Norfolk & Western (authentic version shown at upper right), Central Railroad of New Jersey (authentic version shown lower right), and New York, Susquehanna & Western. Two of the fake ones are shown on the Ribbonrail Fakes site. A fake PRR castback lock surfaced earlier this year, accompanied by a crudely cast key. The quality of the lock casting is poor and there are vertical striations in the brass. Similar and authentic PRR locks are shown on our locks page. Also see additional comment at the bottom of our fakes lock page.
  • Brass Items. A number of fake railroad brass items continue to be offered on the internet. One that seems new is a "Wagner Silver Palace Car Company" trolley bell. Also offered are a match safe and lamp marked "Pullman SIlver Palace Car Company, previously seen.
  • Modified A&W Kero. The following was sent in by a collector regarding a modified (faked) A&W Kero. "I bought recently at an auction a Texas and New Orleans short globe Adlake Kero lantern.  I bought the lantern for the etched red short globe and paid accordingly.  The lantern pot was stamped 3-41 so the age was correct.  I was suspicious that the top had been faked because the T&NO lettering was straight across, was also not correct for an adlake lantern of that vintage.  The top latch was also of post 1960 construction, the top actually read Adlake Kero, and the top appeared to have been soldered on to the hinge.  When I got the lantern home,  it was obvious that the lettering had been applied later, but aged on the outside of the top to look old.  There was also an aged solder spot in the top of the lantern, which  covered up a PC mating worms logo. So it appears that even short globe lanterns are not safe from fakes.  In my case I was lucky because I bought the lantern for the globe, and it fits my 250 kero just fine." 
  • New "Big Logo" China. In Spring, 2006, a new variation on the well-known, "Big Logo" fantasy china has surfaced. This is a small sugar jar with the Kansas City Southern Lines logo on the side. The logo is red on base white china. The jar with lid measures just over 2 inches tall and roughly 2 1/4 inches wide on the bottom, similar in shape to the New York Central example shown at right but with a different finial. While variations using the PRR, NYC, and other railroad logos have been around for some time, the Kansas City Southern Lines version seems to be new. See page on this type of china.
  • Timetables. Reproduction 1876 timetables from the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway have recently surfaced in internet auctions, sometimes represented as authentic. In fact, these were printed in the 1970's in quantity by the railroad itself. According to a 1975 Santa Fe Industries Annual Report, the timetable was reprinted in connection with U.S. Bicentennial programs and was available by writing the railroad. The railroad even reproduced the timetable on the cover of this Annual Report -- seen at right. Click on the thumbnail for a larger version.
  • Glass Signs. The infamous reverse-painted glass signs are showing up in quantity again (early Spring, 2006). A new "Hartford & New Haven RR" version has recently surfaced along with a "Virginian Ry". Regarding the latter, the following email was sent to this site: "Recently on [an internet auction] a Virginian Railway back-painted glass sign was sold for $330. To my 35-plus years of collecting Virginian and N&W, this is another one of the fakes. The Virginian was a cheap railroad, never spent a penny more than necessary. Every original station sign, short of Roanoke and Norfolk (which was a Union station) was wooden. Roanoke's ticket window had the words "Ticket Office" lettered in gold on frosted glass That I know for a fact, as part of it still exists." These new sign versions suggest that they're back in production so new names are likely.
  • China. China pieces are being offered that combine a variation of the Union Pacific "Streamliner" logo (real thing shown at right) with the words "Twentieth Century Limited" (a train of the New York Central Railroad). These were two different railroads! There are *many* fictional china patterns out there pretending to be authentic railroad china, and new ones appear constantly.
  • Clocks. Mechanical clocks that have had new, railroad-marked glass installed are appearing more frequently on the internet. The clocks are old but the railroad-marked glass is new. While this type of fake has been around for a long time, they're becoming more common. See clocks.
  • More Calendars. The fake calendars described below continue to appear but a particularly funny one surfaced in early 2006. It is illustrated with a Burlington diesel powered "Zephyr" streamliner, the first example of which appeared in 1934. The date on the calendar is 1910. Also new: a Santa Fe "The Chief" calendar, a 1921 Boy & Sleepy Cat Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad calendar, 1938 Chessie System that has a logo 38 years before the actual merger, and a 1944 Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Lines " Kitten Calendar" (artwork similar to original bit not identical). These calendars appear to be a large series of new productions measuring around 18" long and 9" wide (exact dimensions vary). All seem to have a wide, red colored metal band across the top of the calendar.
  • Keys. In early 2006, a collector emailed us about a variation on “the infamous NYO&W #1320” key" shown on the fake keys page. The variation was seen in an internet auction.  It is identical except the serial number 1320 has become 13208 and the word ADLAKE has been added on the side with the serial number. Images are shown at upper right. Click on the images for larger versions. Thanks to Nick Yuschak.
  • Calendars. Fake railroad calendars have recently appeared in internet auctions. They all have the same basic style and are "weathered" to look old. Among the road names seen are New York, New Haven & Hartford, New York Central, Florida East Coast, Chesapeake & Ohio, and Chicago Burlington & Quincy. There are others as well. These appear to be a part of a series based on "Americana" themes which include but are not limited to railroads. Consensus among the rrdiana.nshore group -- which includes very experienced collectors -- is that these are all fake.
  • Locks. Fake locks like the one shown at right are continuing to hit the market. One marked for the Pennsylvania Railroad recently surfaced. This particular one has a small brass plate with the railroad marking attached to the body, although others like the one at right have the railroad marking engraved on the body. Click on image for larger version.
  • Brass signs with railroad themes are being imported into the United States. One example says "Beware of the Trains". See pictures under brass items on our Other Fakes page.
  • Firearms. See new comment on fake railroad firearms.
  • China. A "Frisco" mustard jar similar to the "big logo" fantasy china recently showed up on an internet auction.
  • Baggage Tags. Bogus baggage tags have appeared recently on the internet. Two are marked "Southern Rio Grande Pacific L69" and "Great Northern Railroad 247" but there are other railroad-related markings as well. The tags are shaped like the Union Pacific shield and looked newly minted.
  • China. A questionable L&N "spongeware" pitcher has surfaced. More.
  • Milk Bottles. Yet more fake milk bottles have appeared -- this time with fantasy logos or non-authentic illustrations. Seen so far: Northern Pacific, Canadian Pacific, Burlington Route and Santa Fe. Reported previously are fake milk bottles with the following road names: Kansas City Southern, Sante Fe, Frisco, Rock Island, Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Missouri Pacific, and Atlantic Coast Line.
  • W.T. Kirkman's lantern site has a great new page on fake lanterns covering a number of fake RR lanterns.
  • Glassware. New, railroad-marked (etched) glassware is being sold in internet auctions. The seller (also producer) openly advertises using high-quality, unmarked stock made by Libby and adding etched markings. So there is no intent to deceive. Of course the worry is what happens in the future when others try to pass this off as authentic. Seen so far: Cotton Belt (logo) pitcher and glass set; Rock Island (logo) decanter and glass set; Southern Pacific Lines (sunset logo) bank; Baltimore & Ohio and Electro-Motive Corporation (logos) tall glass mugs.Suspicious "Jim Crow" signs marked for southern railroads like the NC&StL have been showing up in internet auctions. These are similar but not identical to what is shown on our signs page. As always, buyer beware.

Thanks to everyone who has provided information on fakes, especially members of the railnet collectors list!

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