FAQs {Frequently Asked Questions}

Here are answers to some frequently-asked questions sent to this website regarding values, prices, ownership, help finding something, fakes, railroad initials, and bells. Please keep in mind that this is a non-commercial website run by volunteers on our own time, and there are some things that we just can't do.

Q. What is my item worth?

A. This is probably the most common question, but unfortunately we are unable to appraise items due to liability issues, not having "experts" on hand to cover all railroadiana categories, and the difficulty of judging items based on photos and/or descriptions. Some general advice on determining value: (1) look for similar items on online auctions like Ebay. The number of online collectors is large enough that fair market values are usually achieved; (2) consult price guides. (3) seek out professional appraisers in your area; (4) attend railroadiana shows in your area and/or seek out knowledgeable collectors. Given the rapidly changing nature of railroadiana values, even experienced collectors have trouble determining values. Due to the amount of email received on this topic, we can't answer any questions asking for values.

Q. How much is [something shown on this website]?

A. Nothing on this website is for sale.

Q. Who is the owner of [something shown on this website]? Can you give me the email address of this person? Can you forward my message to this person?

A. We have a strict policy against providing any contact information for items on this website. Some rare items are shown here only because the owners trust us to respect their privacy. That includes forwarding messages.

Q. Can you help me find [some item] or part?

We don't have an "inside track" on any railroadiana and can only suggest the usual sources: internet auctions and railroadiana shows. We just don't have the resources to help others find stuff and can't answer emails on this topic. All the parts sources that we know of are listed on a separate Parts and Restoration Page.

Q. Is my item real or a fake?

A. Sorry but we can't judge the authenticity of your specific item due to liability and other reasons. We publish general information on fakes and reproductions on our Fakes pages. This information is offered in "good faith" and represents the best that we can offer, but it is accompanied by a strong disclaimer. See FAQs about Fakes.

Q. Is my item a "railroad" item?

A. The most common way of identifying an item as having been used or owned by a railroad is to note railroad initials, markings, or exclusive characteristics. See Markings. In the case of initials, even this can be questionable when several railroads used the same initials. In the absence of railroad markings, the best that can be said in most instances is that something is "railroad style", meaning that an item is similar in basic characteristics to other items of known railroad origin. For example, many "railroad style" lanterns were used in other industrial operations, so style alone is no guarantee of railroad use or ownership. In the case of some china patterns that were known to have been used exclusively by a given railroad, authenticity may be established on this basis.

Q. My item has initials on it. What do they stand for?

A. Sometimes this can be a difficult question to answer. If the initials have "RR" or "Ry", then collectors consult several standard references, particular Edson and Gross (see book list page). for good guesses. You can also look up initials in our searchable railroad names database. The absence of "RR" or "Ry" may mean than initials represent a non-railroad company; however, some interurban and traction (streetcar) operations did not use "RR" or "Ry" in their names, so this must be also taken into account.

Q. Can you tell me the railroad and locomotive that used my locomotive bell?

A. All information that we have on bells is listed on our bells page. Generally speaking, there are rarely markings on bells, especially cast markings, that can be used to trace a bell's history.