Fantasy "Big Logo" Railroad China

Of the different categories of fake railroad china, the type shown on this page is one of the easiest to call. It has a number of characteristics:

  • The designs are dominated by big, gaudy railroad logos applied to bone white china stock. Sometimes additional striping or ornamentation has been added. While railroads did use logos in their china patterns, the logos were less prominent and/or were artfully incorporated into a larger overall design.
  • These pieces tend to look cheap. In appearance and weight, they resemble souvenirs rather than heavy, commercial-grade ware. Real railroad china was a valuable public relations tool designed to evoke the atmosphere of a fine restaurant. Railroads spent much expense and effort in achieving an elegant table service, and shoddy-looking ware like this would never be tolerated.
  • The pieces may be butter pats, such as the examples shown here, or creamers, mustard jars, sugar jars, eggcups and other smaller shapes. We're not sure if there are larger pieces like plates or salad bowls. If so, they don't seem to be common.
  • Railroads represented in this series include the New York Central, Chicago & Northwestern, Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, Missouri-Kansas-Texas, Missouri Pacific, Union Pacific, and Pennsylvania. This is not necessarily an exhaustive list. In fact, a "Frisco" ("coonskin" logo) mustard jar in this series showed up in an internet auction in Fall, 2005, and a Kansas City Southern Lines version surfaced in early 2006.
  • Most pieces have been made in Taiwan, although there are reports of domestic production by individuals.
  • Logos are applied over the glaze rather then under the glaze. Also some pieces have crackle glazing to make them appear old -- a common "faux-antique" technique.

Strictly speaking , this china is best described as "fantasy" china rather than reproduction china, since these patterns were never used by a railroad. In other words, there was never an original pattern to reproduce.

If this china appeared at a railroadiana show, its lack of authenticity would not only be emphatically pointed out, but its very existence might be in jeopardy! However, nowadays a lot of railroadiana is bought and sold on the internet, so both buyers and sellers who are new to collecting may be unaware that it is bogus.

How can you avoid getting taken by fake railroad china? As with other areas of collecting, the usual advice about self-education and learning from other collectors is especially applicable. Collectors organizations regularly publish information on china fakes and reproductions and are well worth joining. In addition, read the two fine publications that have been written on railroad china: Dick Luckin's "Dining on Rails" and Doug McIntyre's "The Official Guide to Railroad Dining Car China". Finally, attend railroadiana shows - see Rob Hoffer's Event Calendar -- where you can examine real china sold by reputable dealers. At railroadiana shows, most dealers are generous with information and are quite eager to inform buyers on what is authentic and what is not. Fake china, like the "Big Logo" china shown here, is both bad for their business and bad for the hobby.

Notes: Thanks to Mike Brynd for supplying these images. Also thanks to Bill and Sue Knous of Railroad Memories who have generously shared their extensive knowledge of railroadiana counterfeits and to Rob Hoffer for his comments.