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"Tinware" is a category of railroadiana that includes a broad range of containers and other metal objects that were used in railroad operations and maintenance. Examples include buckets, oilers, water cans, funnels, cups, and primitive lighting devices known as torches. While some tinware may have actually been made of tin, much of it was made of sheet steel that was painted or galvanized. A number of manufacturers made tinware for the railroad trade. Probably the most well known was the Johnson Manufacturing Company of Urbana, Ohio.
In today's railroadiana market, tinware tends to be the rather low on the totem pole of prestige and price, at least compared to other categories like lanterns, china, and brass locks. Partly this reflects the fact that tinware pieces are generally plain and utilitarian in appearance. They were generally used by employees in the gritty, grimy, day-to-day tasks that were necessary to run a railroad, and most surviving tinware reflects years of hard use. However, some particularly interesting tinware items can be found, and many are marked for specific railroads, either with initials or logos. As railroadiana prices continue to escalate, some tinware pieces are going for higher prices than ever.
Following is an extract of 20 or so pages of the Master Mechanics Assoc. 1916 standards and specifications for tinware in PDF Format, courtesy of RJMc and Google Books which scanned the original document.
Shown below a some common and rare tinware items. Click on the images for larger versions.