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Welcome to our Question & Answer Bulletin Board -- a bulletin board for collectors and anyone else to post questions about railroadiana. It is moderated (all volunteer) but is not staffed by "experts". Rather it relies on everyone to share what they know. Any question or reply about railroadiana is welcome except the following:

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Latest 25 Questions:

 Q2830 What kind of Pyle Light is this?  Can you please tell me what kind of light this? Thank you guys.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, October 24, 2014 by JP   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q2829 Button ID Needed  Hello! I have thoroughly searched your website and many others and am at a loss to identify the rail line associated with a button in my collection. It has the letters C,V & I on it and was made by the Hoole Mfg Co, 46 Bond St, NY. One source I spent a lot of time in was 'The Official Railway Guide: North American Freight Service Edition' published in 1882 and available on Google Books. Hoole Mfg. Co. has advertisements throughout the book and there are numerous lists of railroads in operation at that time and also railroads under construction. This is an amazing resource and so fantastic that it is freely available to all! I believe that the railroad is most likely to be from a central or western New York line because that is where the bulk of buttons are from that I purchased in an estate lot. I have tried every combination of the letters on the button in my search: CV&I, VC&I, CI&V, IC&V, VI&C, IV&C and have come up empty-handed. Perhaps someone could help out with identifying this. Any information you could provide would be extremely appreciated. This has become a mystery that I cannot solve! Thank you so much.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, October 24, 2014 by Holly from Oswego, NY    Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. While I know nothing about buttons,I looked at your button and I think it's marked with an E, U & I - not C,V, & I. Try searching those combinations and see if you have any luck.  Posted Friday, October 24, 2014 by wdpdepot

A. I did a little searching myself and if it is "UI&E" it would be "UTICA, ITHACA & ELMIRA" which would fit the central or western NY locale you mentioned.  Posted Friday, October 24, 2014 by wdpdepot

A. Many thanks, wdpdepot!!! It absolutely must be Utica, Ithaca & Elmira Railway. I had wondered if that might be a stylized "U" instead of a "V". I must be blind as a bat, I never saw the center line of the letter "E". How wonderful to have my mystery solved! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Posted Friday, October 24, 2014 by HCV

A.  Don VanCourt listed this little jewel in Volume 1 of his Transportation Uniform Buttons as # 1/29 under the Utica ID. He dates the die as being ordered from Waterbury in 1882 and the line being reorganized into the Elmira Cortland & Northern in 1884. They also had a similar button with a C E & N monogram so you might watch for it in your other buttons.  Posted Friday, October 24, 2014 by MG

 Q2828 Lock ID Needed  Picked up a lock at the Double Tollgate Fleamarket near Winchester VA. No 48 Lock, Pat Sept 24th 1912 (on back) Adlake (on hinged keyhole cover) P I & P (on hasp) [Pee Eye and Pee] 'Fraim' inside Keystone symbol [on key which fits lock and operates] I am presuming it is a railroad lock. Is that right? What railroad is this? Thanks,  Posted Sunday, October 19, 2014 by Brian   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A.  I can't find any PI&P listed in any of the RR name guides or lists. Are you sure that the second letter is an eye and not an ell? If it is an "L" that might stand for Public light and Power which may not have been a railroad or interurban line, just a utility company. Send in a photo of the key pattern and perhaps someone with the guide book that shows them can identify it.  Posted Thursday, October 23, 2014 by KM

A. I also can not find any listing that would come out as "P.I. & P." in any national lists. However Bill Edson's Railroad Names does have the Potomac, Fredericksburg, & Piedmont, the "P. efF. & P." and it was located in the central Virginia area not too far from Winchester. It started out as a narrow guage in the 1800's and ran as the PF&P until 1925. Then it was absorbed into the Orange and Alexandria which had a very complicated history after that, but the actual railroad which started as the PF&P probably continued to operate for quite some time. Most Adlake switch locks from that general era have a two digit year date code stamped under the keyhole cover; does your lock have a date code?  Posted Thursday, October 23, 2014 by RJMc

A. Wow! Thanks for the responses. I will email pics in a moment and if they are not good quality can send again. Indeed there are numbers under the keyhole cover which I missed! They are 4 [space] 21. (At least there appears to be a space between the 4 and 21. I looked very closely at the stamp on the hasp and (hoping it would magically change to RF&P...Richmond Fredericksburg and Potomac) and now Potomac Fredericksburg and Piedmont, still see them at PI&P. (: Watch for the pics in a bit. And if they are not good, or upside down, my apologies, I will send again. Link 1  Posted Saturday, October 25, 2014 by Brian

 Q2827 Bell ID Needed  Hello everyone. I was wondering if anyone might have any information at all about this bell's possible origin? All I know is my grandfather retired from the B&O and Chessie system railroad in 1979. His father before him was a trackback. There are raised numbers on the bell: 280574 and engraved numbers: 300 23 close by. It is brass and heavy. If anyone could help it would be greatly appreciated for he was a good man and treasure all his railroad goodies he left me. Thanks   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, October 13, 2014 by CF   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A.  It is very difficult to identify what locomotive a bell came from unless the railroad marked it somehow when they removed the bell during maintenance on the engine. Those markings may be small numbers stamped into the bell with a steel stamp, or paint markings and this bell has obviously been refinished. One thing which may help with the ID is to know what size the bell is, can you measure it across the mouth of the bell and let us know? It is hard to tell from the photo, but if the bell is only 12 inches across I am thinking that it may have come from a diesel and the finial nut and rope pull were machined and added to it after it was removed from the locomotive. If it was given to your grandfather at retirement in 1979 that would also make sense.  Posted Tuesday, October 14, 2014 by KM

 Q2826 PA RR Lamp  Looking for info about the lamp as pictured. It has a PRR log/symbol above the maker's name which seems to be Carbutt's ..... Lantern. I can't make out the complete name, sorry. It is 8.5 inches square and 21 inches high and contains its burner, red and amber panes of glass, and one damaged foot. It also seems to have been over- painted slightly at some point. Anything you can tell me about this lamp would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, October 13, 2014 by JP   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Not railroad, it is a Carbutts Dry Plate lantern, aka a darkroom lantern used by photographers. That may be a keystone stenciled on it but it is not a PRR emblem. See the link for some other ones that have come up at auction. Some of the clues that it is a darkroom lantern are the yellow and red lenses and the shield which flips down to black out the flame without extinguishing it. The red light does not affect film exposure during developing. It was patented in 1882.  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Tuesday, October 14, 2014 by KM

A.  Other darkroom lantern questions in the Archives are numbers 167,522,641,1027 and 1396. Posted Tuesday, October 14, 2014 by KM

A.  John Carbutt was an early pioneer of dry plate photography and later on color photography. He competed with George Eastman. His Keystone Dry Plate Works was located in Philadelphia and that is probably what the wording in the keystone emblem on your lantern says. He also photographed the Grand Trunk Railway in Canada from 1853 to 1859. His photos and glass plates for Magic Lantern slides are well known for their high quality. See the link for a short history of John Carbutt which is posted on the Historic Camera website. Link 1  Posted Wednesday, October 15, 2014 by KM

 Q2825 Handlan Lamp  I collect lamps. I found this lamp yesterday at a flea market. I love it. I just can't find anything about it. I have a couple Dietz climax lamps. They look a little like this one. Any info would be great. Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, October 12, 2014 by Jason    Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Appears to be a Handlan #208 Square Station Platform Lamp. These had a fluted glass reflector and used a #2 burner. Posted Monday, October 13, 2014 by JFR

A. I'm still looking for information and a pic of what the glass flutted reflector and font looks like. I am restoring one and would like to see pics or find parts, seems like there is no information on this lamp on the web. I have been on the web for a solid week. Please help if anyone can. Posted Saturday, October 25, 2014 by Jason

 Q2824 Railroad Collections  Can you tell me in your opinion and what you’ve experienced is the most collected of the railroads, not items in general but railroads themselves as to regions too? For example: Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, B&O, North Pacific, Carson & Colorado? And maybe that same question for the West Coast if it is different?  Posted Friday, October 10, 2014 by railroadmanskid   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This is one that could erupt into a full blown turf war. Giants like Union Pacific and Pennsy have been perennial favorites for generations; beautiful and unique steam motive power historically added to their allure, combined with the fact that they spanned nearly half a continent each. There was also a vast amount of memorabilia to collect from large roads; anything from paper advertising items to surplus hardware. Unfortunately, as time marches on fewer and fewer current railfans, especially younger fans, know much about the Pennsylvania since, until the Norfolk Southern Heritage Locomotives, the Pennsy name has faded into history (..hoping to spark some conversation on that one!). Whereas the UP has become nearly a household name due to their size and their world famous Steam Program. -- Back in the day, railroads were a lot like sports teams in their appeal to fans; you tended to be highly partial to your hometown railroad, and in multi road towns (like Omaha, where I grew up) you tended to be a fan of the one that ran through your back yard or the one your uncle or your dad worked for (and literally everyone back then had a relative or a neighbor that worked for a railroad). If you moved to another part of town or another state, you tended to keep your loyalty to your old favorite hometown railroad. Boys and grown men alike were known to get into arguments about "who's railroad" was better, generously slandering the flaws of their opponents favorite road. -- Larger roads spanned longer distances and became the "local favorite" for many people along their lines. They also, by their size, produced more collectable material; for example Dietz Vesta lanterns marked for the New Your Central are extremely common because the road had so many thousands of them. They aren't considered very "collectible" and fetch relatively low prices when offered for sale, but thousands of collectors have one, ..so you could say they are one of the most collected of railroad lanterns! -- On the other hand, small local roads such as the Colorado & Southern or the Denver South Park have a small but very dedicated group of collectors and any time a genuine marked article comes around, those items are highly prized and often sell for thousands of dollars. ---- Gentlemen, your comments please. ---- ....Red Beard Posted Saturday, October 11, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. In the simplest terms, I've noticed after 25 years in the hobby that the two "transcontinental roads"- the Union Pacific in the U.S and the Canadian Pacific in Canada tend to fetch prices 10% to 20% more than other roads just because of how famous they are. We were all taught from an early age that these were the roads that tied together vast areas to create nations, and the photos of "Promontory" and "the last spike" in our history text books are equally famous. It's not a fixed rule that these two roads are the most famous and fetch the highest prices, but you can be assured that if you operate an antique store and you have items from these roads for sale- keys, locks, lanterns, these items WILL SELL, and often very quickly. When I started my collection, I started by collecting items from these two roads probably because they were so familiar to me and famous. Later I began to seek items from the smaller regional roads in my area. I think most collectors have something from the two big transcontinental roads UP and CP. Happy collecting! Steve B. Posted Saturday, October 11, 2014 by Steve B.

 Q2823 VRR Marking  Did the Virginian ever use the letters 'VRR'? I know the 'VGN' letters were used. Thanks…..  Posted Wednesday, October 8, 2014 by Bill   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. VRR is usually for Vandalia RR http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vandalia_Railroad_%281905%E2%80%9317%29 VRR is a possibility for the Virginian Ry, just not as nearly as likely as Vandalia RR. Posted Thursday, October 9, 2014 by JFR

A. There are many other possibilities; just one example of many, there were (and still are) several 'Valley RR's'. Posted Friday, October 10, 2014 by RJMc

A. Hi Bill, I live in Bluefield about 12 miles from the Main VGN shops and yard in Princeton. I have collected for over 40 years. I have had in the past several tall globe lanterns from the VGN marked "V RY". I have never seen a short globe lantern marked as such. I have seen tall globe lanterns marked VGN, VGN RY, and VIRGINIAN RY as well. If you have a lantern from an area close to the VGN line I would bet it was from the VGN if it is tall globe. Hope this helps. GaryP Posted Friday, October 17, 2014 by GaryP

 Q2822 Adlake Kero Lantern  I have an Adlake Kero Lantern that is marked with a K on the globe and it has a 400 on the metal that holds the wick, It has marking on the bottom and top of the lantern and it also has NYCS pressed or stamped, not sure of the term, in the metal above the globe. Is it a fake? I cannot seem to find any other one exactly like this.  Posted Wednesday, October 8, 2014 by LS   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Seems to be an authentic and common Adlake Kero lantern for the New York Central Railroad. Posted Wednesday, October 8, 2014 by JP

A. Hi, I am an NYCS collector and this is most definitely authentic. This one has a Kopp (K in the circle) globe rather than a Corning globe, both of which were used by most railroads. As the previous response stated, these are very common - usually a few on Ebay at any given time. Posted Thursday, October 9, 2014 by WDP

 Q2821 Unusual RR Lantern Marking  I recently added a beat-up short globe lantern with a red fresnel globe to my collection. The railroad markings are interesting and wanted to see if anyone has information and if my theory is sound. It is marked C.M. G.T.P. & P.R.P. Grand Trunk Pacific with P.R.P. (?) Is it possible that the P.R.P. stands for Prince Rupert Port? I have read that the visionary Charles Melville Hays was a dreamer and political mover who got the GTP going and dreamed of a huge port at the town he founded; Prince Rupert. Unfortunately he died on the Titanic and the railroad later floundered without him. Maybe, in his visionary ways, a premature marking of property to include Prince Rupert Port was done on early equipment? Is it possible that the C.M. represents Charles Melville Hays? The problem with my theory is the short globe lantern may not fit that time frame. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks  Posted Tuesday, October 7, 2014 by EL   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A.  The lettering of a short globe CMStP&P RR lantern would closely match the lettering and spacing on your lantern. Is it possible the condition of the lantern has obscured the original stamping? It may be a Milwaukee Road. Posted Tuesday, October 7, 2014 by MG

A. Although stamping is unusually small it is G.T.P. & P.R.P. Posted Wednesday, October 8, 2014 by EL

 Q2820 W&LE Globe Markings?  I have a W. & L. E. R.R. lantern made by Adlake Reliable. The globe is etched with 'W. & L. E. R.R.' and also has B. & O. R.R. cast into the globe. And, the globe also has the CNX logo cast on it. Is it common to have more than one railroad name marked on a globe? Could W. & L. E. R.R. have purchased surplus globes from B. & O. R.R. for their own use? The globe is quite thick and heavy and is about 5 1/2 inches high. Thanks for any help.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, October 6, 2014 by BA   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The B&O did own part of the W&LE which was later swapped with the Van Swerigens for the BR&P. I'm not sure of the timeframe, but these companies were connected at some point. I just don't how that would specifically explain the globe, (which I'm going to guess as being legit).  Posted Wednesday, October 8, 2014 by JFR

 Q2819 UP RR Badge  I have been researching this badge and cannot find any info about it. I was told by a long time RR Police Badge collector that UP did use this title but in 30 yrs of collecting he has not seen one like it. I was curious about the age and what the initials WTC at the bottom stand for? Any help would be greatly appreciated!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, October 3, 2014 by CR   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. All of the letters (except "Police") appear to be hand stamped and are uneven. The letters UP RR, which I think are probably the most important marking on the badge, are separated to each side, and would be hard to make out for someone standing several feet away. And I question an official UP railroad Policeman also being a "Special Agent" AND "Private Detective", plus the mysterious W.T.C at the bottom. No maker's mark. No wear to speak of - if any. Unfortunately, I question the authenticity of this badge. Search the word "badge" on Q&A section of this site, and you'll see several questions dealing with police badges, and the amounts of fake, repro, and fantasy badges that have invaded this collecting field. Posted Sunday, October 5, 2014 by DA

A. It does have wear but hard to see in pics. I have quite a few badges in my collection that have very minimal wear to them as well but are authentic. Most of the wear on this one is right above where it says Police in the center. It is almost smooth on the high spot above, the pic does not show that very well. So far 3 long time RR Badge collectors I have shown it to all say good. The third offered me 500 for it but I declined. Still researching it as its a keeper.  Posted Sunday, October 5, 2014 by CR

A. Forgot, the title Special Agen Private Detective was a title they used so there is no concern there for me. I thoght it an odd title until I found they did use that. Still researching. Will let you know what I find. After searching online for 2 weeks I cannot find another one like it anywhere in a search of photos or on worthpoint that goes back a few years on sold items. If it were a fake fantasy or repro badge then surely they made more than one.  Posted Sunday, October 5, 2014 by CR

 Q2818 Old N&W Switch Lamp  I have an old Peter Gray lamp that says Boston Gray on the top and has a plate with N&W RR written on it. Do you know about the time period of this lamp? It has a light bulb in it and is wired for 120ac. Put a new light bulb in and a plug and it works! I wonder if it was originally kerosene. It mounts on a post but also has a metal bucket style handle on the top. It's painted black but I would like to restore it. It has two green and two red lenses. But when I plug it in they all shine red. Seems odd to me. Thanks in advance, Bryan Harless Signal maintainer Norfolk southern  Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2014 by BH, NS Signal Maintainer   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Bryan; ..Please send in a photo. Take one with your cell phone if you have to. I suggest taking those lenses out to see what is going on with the red color coming through the green lenses. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. I submitted 3 photos to the admin this morning hopefully they will post them soon. Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2014 by BH

A. Here are the photos.... Link 1  Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014 by BH

A. Bryan, very cool lamp. It is a "later" model Gray-Boston lamp, but I cant give you a date any closer than 1940s to 1950s; ..and that's a guess based on appearance. It looks like there are some spot welds on the dishes around the lenses. Spot welding, though an 1880s technology, didn't see widespread use in industry until the 1930s --- Here's why those lenses look RED; ..they are reflectors and not meant to transmit light from within the lamp! The red color is coming from the barely translucent backing on the lenses, probably either a pink or gray color I'm guessing. -- I have no idea how the lamp got wired for electricity; but here's a guess. It may have been wired for electrical use while still in railroad service; many were. Some lamps were wired with the small bayonet base lamps (much like automotive tail lights), However; some were wired for standard screw in base lamps of either low voltage or even 110v. Railroads have always opted for durability. The low voltage wiring in locomotives and cabooses was very heavy duty; at least as durable as what you'd put in a house, so often low voltage railroad light fixtures are mistaken for 110v applications as they used the very same sort of hardware. Either way the screw in base of the lamp would have been the same as a modern incandescent bulb you'd use at home. If that were the case, the lamp likely would have been once again converted by the railroad by inserting the reflectors in place of clear colored glass optical lenses and then no longer used as a lit lamp, though retaining the electrical wiring. .. The other possibility is that a previous non-railroad owner decided to light it with an electric bulb. -- OR is it a small screw in base like a Christmas tree light?? -- If a small screw in base, it is a post-railroad application. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Yes I should have realized they were reflectors, but it is definately 120vac. I put a plug on it and a new bulb in and it lights. I know most everything these days on the rr is 12v dc with switches being 24v or 110 ac in rare cases. But as far as the lamp goes it has been very professionally outfitted with a white round base with a regular house bulb. It is definately not a hack job. I would like to find some old glass lenses though. So your saying it was originally kerosene more than likely? Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014 by BH

A. Hmmm, after a closer look I don't know about it being kerosene originally. The sliding side door could be for kero or electric. The question is whether or not the lamp originally had a smoke stack on it. Many roads took old kerosene lamps and electrified them just as they were; ..problem was that lots of bugs got into them, just like a porch light. Because of that many roads removed the smoke stack portion of the upper lamp body and welded the original stack cap back on the body to seal it closed. Lamp manufacturers apparently also did something similar; omitting the stack segment and welding the cap on the top of the body at the time of production; hard to say at this late date. -- Regarding the 120v. socket: Railroads USED 120v sockets and plugs and wiring in steam locos and cabooses AND in lamp conversions!! ...they were, however using low volt incandescent lamps in those standard 120v sockets! GE and Sylvania made low volt light bulbs that were otherwise identical in every way to standard 120 volt household ones, same size, same threaded base; ..just low voltage filament inside. ---- ....Red Beard Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Dear BS, You have a rather common, N&W, originally electric switch lamp. It was never Kerosene. This is the only type of lamp made by Peter Gray that the N&W used as far as I have found in 40 years of collecting. The N&W usually used Adlake cannonball electric switch lamps in the yards after they abandoned kerosene Armspear Lamps. These Peter Gray lamps show up in the "smaller" yard locations. Larger yards like Bluefield and Roanoke used Adlake. It was originally fitted with glass red and green lenses, hence the lense hoods. The N&W at the very end of usage put reflectors in some. A good photo of this lamp in use can be found in the book "N&W in the Appalachains: published by Trains Magazine along side a Z steam loco in Norton, VA. Also the same lamp is depicted in a Winston Link photo in several of his photo books and one is in color at night. Hope ths info helps and hope you find lenses and enjoy the lamp!!! GaryP P.S. These were operated on 24Volts D.C. A 110 Volt bulb will work safely as the wiring and socket are rated at that. Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014 by GaryP

A. For finding some glass lenses, Ebay is an excellent resource. Larry & Doris Krise also sell lenses and other lantern parts.  Link 1  Posted Thursday, October 2, 2014 by JP

 Q2816 Lamp/Lantern ID Needed  I have search and searched and cannot find information on the use of this lantern. It would be great if you folks would take a look at it and see if you can identify the use. Thank you for any information you can give.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, September 21, 2014 by KW   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A.  To save anyonee else the time on this, using Control+ to expand the photo I think the tag on it says Adams and Westlake Company, Makers, Chicago.  Posted Monday, September 22, 2014 by KM

A. KW, I notice on the bottom what appears to be holes to accept a switchlamp fork used by some southwestern railroads. Is this possibly an early switchlamp? Only a guess. Gary Posted Monday, September 22, 2014 by GaryP

A.  Checking in "The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Railroad Lighting-Volume Two-The Railroad Signal Lamp" pages 76 and 77 there are some similar switch lamps from around 1890, but not exactly like this lamp. The lenses and vent holes are different. Your lamp is all braass, and has 4 bulleye clear lenses, a switch lamp should have some colored lenses and usually was made of steel. Bullseye lenses and brass construction make me wonder if this was a marine lamp?  Posted Monday, September 22, 2014 by KM

A. Thanks for the information on the lantern. Sorry I did not give the information on the tag and yes, it is Adams and Westlake. It's a great lantern and I would like to find out more about it. Is there anywhere I could check on the marine lanterns? Your help is appreciated. Posted Saturday, October 4, 2014 by kw

 Q2815 Odd B&O Item  I am not sure what this item is. It has an odd shape. It is made of thick copper and is approximately 8 inches long. Any help would be appreciated!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, September 21, 2014 by Atlas   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Perhaps a milk can ID plate identifying the farmer so the empty can could be returned after shipment of the milk. Posted Monday, September 22, 2014 by JFR

A.  This is a tag from a milk can, O. B. Streaker was probably the dairy farmer and the tag identified him as the owner so that when the can was empty it could be returned to him. Searching Streaker and Sykesville leads to Oscar Streaker, and there is a street named "Streaker" in Sykesville, MD. Also see Q 2554,2303,2207 and 1192 in the Archives for other questions about milk can tags. Posted Monday, September 22, 2014 by KM

A. Alot of times when the old milk cans are thrown out, being brass or copper, these tags are the only part that survive.  Posted Monday, September 22, 2014 by DA

A. To clarify DA's answer just a little: the milk cans themselves were made of galvanized or tin-plated steel. They were banged around a lot, and when the plating wore off they started to rust and then leak and got thrown out. But the copper or brass tags did not rust and may be the only part that survived after the entire rest of the can went back to nature. Posted Thursday, October 23, 2014 by RJMc

 Q2814 Age of Lock?  I just got this Lackawanna lock made by Yale at a flea market. I have similar locks from the B&O and NY,NH&H RR. This particular one had a key hole cover (removed by a previous owner) while the B&O and NH ones do not. Does anyone know the approximate age of these locks? Thanks in advance for any information anyone can give.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, September 15, 2014 by JN   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. These were used as Signal locks, mostly for doors on signal equipment. I believe that they were from the late 50's. Most did not have the spring loaded cover on the bottom. A lot of the ones that did, were removed by the signal maintainers as they would bind up and be difficult to open in bad weather. Most were made by Yale or Corbin lock Companies. RLN Posted Monday, September 29, 2014 by RLM

 Q2813 Unusual Handlan Lantern  Hello! Can anyone help with information on a Handlan Lantern? It is nickel plated and stands 10 1/2 in. tall excluding the bail. I'm curious as to how this lantern was used because even though it has a lot of conductor lantern traits it seems like more a functional display type lantern. There is a Handlan Lantern #112 that is shown as a railroad lantern in their 1918 catalog and hung on a elongated wall mounted hanger. The wall hanger bracket held the top of the bail with a hook and right around where the burner would be there was a spring loaded clamp that held the lantern body. What would be the purpose of such a hanger? emergency use? outdoor lighting? This lantern seems similar to a #112 but because of the fat top on the dome I think it is from a much later time period.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, September 13, 2014 by DF   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The kind of mount you describe, with the spring clip around the base of the lantern, was commonly used on fire apparatus, where the lanterns normally stayed mounted to the vehicle and had to be protected from banging around when the apparatus was enroute. Since each fire company would have very few such lanterns (relative to RR employees) they would typically invest in a lot fancier equipment. See Dietz 'Fire King' lanterns for examples.  Posted Saturday, September 13, 2014 by RJMc

A. Thank you! RJMc for your information. One other question. Around what year was this Lantern made? I'm not quite sure but I think Handlan Lanterns started with a flat top smoke dome in the 1940's Posted Sunday, September 14, 2014 by DF

A.  See Q2368 in the Archives which is about an Edward Miller fire department lantern. The photo in Link 1 shows the lantern and some of the apparatus mounting bracket. The fire apparatus manufacturers usually made their own brackets,Seagrave brackets had a small hasp on them so that a tiny padlock could be used to keep the lantern secured. Link 1  Posted Monday, September 15, 2014 by KM

 Q2812 Presentation/Conductors Lanterns  Regarding presentation/ conductors lanterns I am wondering if anyone out there can tell me (estimate) what percentage of them were given as retirement gifts or awards VS actually used in service on the railroad, and also why there are so few of these lanterns in existence in general? Research tells me that many of them were used in passenger car service as they were more attractive looking than the standard lantern which as we all know didn't have as nice an appearance when compared to the conductors lanterns, even when brand new. The fancier passenger trains in those days were elegant to say the least, and the brass and nickeled conductor's lanterns fit right in. What surprises me though is how few of them are out there to be bought and how few you would see in a typical collection. Even advanced collectors have very few of these. So the question remains, if there are so few of those type of lanterns out there how likely is it that it was used in 'actual service' given that there were so many passenger trains, and many would have 1st class coaches? If I were to guess, I'd say that most were used in actual service, and the reason why there are so few of these lanterns in general is that they were used almost a century ago and many of them didn't survive to be in today's collections. Am I right???  Posted Wednesday, September 10, 2014 by Steve B.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. In most earlier periods, if a conductor had a presentation-quality lantern, he had purchased it himself. I doubt that any RR company ever issued that quality of item for daily use; just too expensive. Replacement parts were available, so these would never wear out to the point of being discarded. Those circumstances made them instant 'family heirlooms' and many still reside on family mantles today. Even allowing for retirement or award presentatons, compared to the common hand lanterns very few ever existed. In addition, electric flashlights became commonly available after 1900 so there was absolutely no reason to have a kerosene lantern to do the conductor's work inside a first-class passenger train which also had electric lights by then. In contrast, the common kerosene hand lanterns were inexpensive (they are just stamped tin, after all)and they WERE issued by the companies, and they bought them and handed them out by the case (12 or 24 lanterns at a time)as they were lost, damaged, and wore out. And they were used by larger numbers and more kinds of employees, and issued for use at stations, towers, shops, maintenance gangs, etc etc so there were vastly greater numbers of them to begin with. And they continued to be used even up to the 1960's (Penn Central bought, issued and used kerosene hand lanterns at towers and crossing shanties, for example)so the supply of them continued to be renewed, where for presentation lanterns it was only the retirement and award use that continued much beyond 1900.  Posted Thursday, September 11, 2014 by RJMc

A. Thanks for your reply RJMc, I never really considered that a conductor would buy his own lantern, just to have a nicer one than the railroad provided, and it never occurred to me that there was electric lighting or flashlights for use. It does make sense then that overall, few of these were produced as compared to the standard tin lanterns. Interestingly, I saw an old ad for Conductor's lanterns and the price was $6.50 ea. I used a inflation calculator to see what that would mean in today's world in 2014 compared to 1914, which was $140. Even in 'the old days' those lanterns were expensive, and I can see why any railroad would rather settle for the standard 'tin lantern' to give to it's employees. I think I have an even greater appreciation now for the two CT Ham conductor's lanterns I own, one brass and one nickel plated. Thanks again and happy collecting! Steve B. Posted Thursday, September 11, 2014 by Steve B.

 Q2811 What is it?  I'm just trying to figure out what something is. The UPRR museum told me they don't have time to identify something and suggested you as one place to check. My parents own property that was a railyard until the 1930s. This was found on the property. I think it is a speaker of some kind. Each end is stamped 'Racon Electric Co. New York'. Just trying to figure out what it is other than 'some kind of speaker.' Thank you.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, September 8, 2014 by JS   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This is a 'Yard Speaker'. These were used for many years before it became economical to give every individual employee a hand-held 'walkie talkie' two way radio, and/or to put a radio on every switch engine -- such as they now have. The speakers were placed at strategic locations all around major yards, such as 'hump' classification yards. The yardmasters were usually located in two, three, or more story glass-enclosed offices where they could observe and direct operations. They talked over the loudspeaker system to direct engine crews and/or ground employees as to which cars were supposed to go into which tracks, for one example. I believe in many cases the speaker could also act as a microphone, so the ground worker could go to the speaker and talk back (always politely, of course!) to the yardmaster to inquire about uncertainties or confirm instructions. In some early (probably 1950's or so) operations, the yardmaster would talk out using the speaker system, and the employees were given 'talk only' portable radios to answer back when needed. Since two way radio prices have dropped dramatically, and the costs of maintaining hard-wired speaker networks have increased dramatically, essentially every RR locomotive has a train radio, and every operating employee and most maintenance employees now have and use a walkie-talkie, including in yards and on the road both.  Posted Monday, September 8, 2014 by RJMc

A. I have to say, I'm surprised and disappointed by the Museum's response, though they did send you to the right place. -- You might want to resend the photo to them along with this information. They need to be able to answer questions like yours. -- JS, would you be willing to tell us where the property is and which yard that was? -- What you have is a two-way Yard Speaker / Microphone. These were placed throughout the yard on poles about seven feet high. They were push-button operated (early 20th century technology). When switchmen needed to ask the yardmaster a question about a specific car or cut of cars, the switchman would push the button which would beep the speaker in the yardmaster's office and show which speaker in the yard the switchman was using; the yardmaster would answer on his desk speaker and the two would talk with each other. At the end of the conversation, the yardmaster would push a button shutting off the yard speaker. (no need to listen to all that noise all day) The yardmaster could also initiate a conversation by activating any given yard speaker with a beep and calling out to the crew. These speakers were a tremendous innovation as before their time, switchmen needed to run back and forth to the yardmaster's office anytime they had a question regarding the switching list they were working off of. -- Prior to switching cars, a yard clerk would go out in the yard and write down a list of all the cars (initials and numbers) on a track. The yardmaster would go through the waybills for those cars and see where they were going and then mark up the clerks list of cars, showing the switchmen which track they were to switch each car to; this then became the switch list. In this process, cars were grouped together that were going to the same destination; they would then be made up into trains. -- (Occasionally the yard clerk would need to ask the yardmaster something as well, and I used these a few times when I worked on the U.P. in Council Bluffs in the 1970s.) -- To the best of my knowledge, some of these are still in use on pars of the U.P. ---- ....Red Beard  Posted Monday, September 8, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. It was a lumber yard that the trains went through. Many of the buildings are still standing and most of the track on the property is still there, buried under years of dirt and gravel. It's located at 40th and Lake St in Omaha, Nebraska. It used to be part of the Western Laminates, Lumber complex. We were told they stopped using it for trains in the 1930s. But it's always possible people were wrong. We've owned the property since the late 90s.  Posted Monday, September 8, 2014 by JS

A. JS, thanks for getting back to me with that additional information. -- Now this is getting interesting! -- Your property was on the old Missouri Pacific Belt Line, (Google: Omaha Belt Line Railroad) The Belt Line served many industries in that part of town, including the old Red "D" Mix concrete plant there on 46th between California and Capitol; some of which is still there. There was a concrete bridge at 46th where the Belt Line went over Dodge street. -- the Belt line was in service into the 1970s, ..maybe early '80s.. An industry like a lumber yard would have received most, if not all, of its materials by rail back in the day. As freight traffic shifted more and more to trucks, industries were able to locate anywhere and were no longer tied to being near a rail line. The 1930s would be much too early a date for that though. --See Q2404 for a little history on this -- Because of the bulk and weight, many building products still move by rail however. Lumber and drywall board are still key components that are shipped on center beam flatcars in the trains we see today. I would bet that the complex you describe got materials by rail nearly to the end of the belt lines service OR until the lumber yard went out of business and another industry took over the property; one that didn't receive materials by rail. See how much history you can come up with concerning prior owners of the land. -- It's not unusual for still active industrial tracks to sink into the dirt to the point where the ties are buried and the rail head is nearly at surface level with the ground; so the track being buried is not an indication of decades having passed since its use. In fact, at a lumber yard, having tracks buried nearly to the rail head makes them much easier to cross and less of a hazard. Also, the industry owns the tracks on its property and therefore has to pay someone to remove them if they are no longer in use; a very expensive process. Burying already sunken rails under a few truck loads of dirt and gravel would be a much cheaper option. -- A lumber yard would have had several switches and tracks running through it, -BUT- it would not require the type of speaker you found and there would be no yard office or yardmaster; just a few sidings that the MoP (Missouri Pacific) crew would have switched cars in and out of. The industry would have been switched at most a few times a week, maybe less. --- Here's My GUESS; Many industries used to use two way speakers to communicate from the office to the work floor or to out buildings. Much like you hear "wet clean-up in aisle seven" at the grocery store today. Many lumber yards had speakers out in the back of the yard so the office could call for materials to be brought up front, or just to check and see if something was in stock. Probably one of two scenarios; either the lumber company bought the speaker from the railroad when they sold off surplus materials. (the UP was known for bringing in no longer needed materials from all over the system, and auctioning them off at the Omaha Annex building) ...or someone "liberated" the speaker out of a UP rail yard one night and put it to use there at lumber company! (lots of things like that did happen) ---- ....Red Beard Posted Tuesday, September 9, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

 Q2810 Smoking/Drink Stands  Hello today I picked up a couple smoke drink stands from a sale. One nearly complete and the other missing the ashtray. The kids of the man's estate that was being sold said that he worked for Santa Fe here in Topeka. When I asked the seller what he thought they were from the kids thought they might have came out of a train car but that he didn't know for sure. I was curious if anyone has seen these In a Santa Fe or maybe an Amtrak car? By comparison to online photos I would imagine these to be much later than what I have seen. I would guess 70s or 80s. It's a chrome base with a solid painted wood top. I appreciate any help in placing it in a time frame and maybe a rail road. Thanks much.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, September 5, 2014 by NG   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Follow-up: I went back the next day and found a circular top that I overlooked and also a couple rectangle table tops of the same material and hard rubber edges. I'm starting to wonder if this guy possibly got these as they were throwing them out as leftovers. They all seen new and unused and a couple of bases are missing interior welds like they weren't yet finished. Thanks for any help.  Link 1  Posted Monday, September 8, 2014 by NG

A. Topeka was the major passenger car shop on the Santa Fe system. When Amtrak started up in the early 1970's they quickly acquired and built up their own Beech Grove Shops at Indianapolis. But well into the 1980's (at least) Amtrak had so much work (converting hundreds of prior-RR cars into the 'Heritage Fleet') that they continued to contract with the Santa Fe Topeka Shops for a lot of passenger car repairs and rebuilds. This kind of smoking/drink stand was commonly used on Amtrak lounge cars. So there were quite a few of these stands involved. I clearly recall riding in the lounge car on the Amtrak Broadway Limited one afternoon. The well-dressed gentleman across from me tried to set his (thin aluminum)can of Coca-Cola into the indent in the top; whereupon it fell straight thru and began to spray Coke onto his well-shined shoes. Those holes are just a little too big for the newer cans! The older style of all-stainless smoking/drink stands had another shelf under the top, so nothing would thru like that.  Posted Monday, September 8, 2014 by RJMc

A. Thank you very much RGM for the reply and all that information. I had a feeling it was probably Amtrak because it didn't look too old. I didn't know Amtrak contracted with the Topeka shops but that makes perfect sense how these ended up in a Santa Fe employees estate. The holders hold a modern can of coke today but just by the skin of its teeth. It was a terrible design just asking for messes haha. Thanks again for your help and information  Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2014 by NG

 Q2809 Lantern Question  I have an old railroad lantern with the markings Eug. Halard const***,(the rest is under a rivet) then paris 17 rue Richard Lenoir. And on the front is SNCF. It is a kerosene lantern made of brass and the dome part or chimney is steal or tin. I was wondering what company made it and what year it was from and exactly what type of lantern it is,is it a conductors lantern, inspectors lantern...? Thank you in advance for any and all information you can provide me on this it is greatly appreciated. Sincerely,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, September 2, 2014 by Stormy   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. It's an acetylene hand lamp of the French National Railway (SNCF), made by Eugene Halard at the Paris address shown, probably sometime between 1938 and 1960. (SNCF was formed when the French railways were nationalised in 1938.) These lamps were used for signalling and general lighting purposes, in the same way as "globe" lanterns in N. America.  Posted Wednesday, September 3, 2014 by JAJ

 Q2808 Headlamps  Can someone please help me with information on these headlamps? Thanks   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, August 30, 2014 by Clinton   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A.  Here's some crude French to English tranlation for starters. Brevetes means patented, SGDG has something to do with French patents. You might try to do a search through the French patent office website, although I tried and information was only available if I had the patent date and not just the name that the patent was granted to Ferblantier is tinsmith, lampiste is lamplighter. Maison Chatel Jeune Faucon made marine lanterns, I was able to find one shown at Collector's Weekly website but no information on it. That makes sense though. look at those anchors that are on the tag. These do look like French locomotive headlamps that sit on the pilot beam. See Q 1045 and 1153 in the Archives for other questions about lamps from France. Posted Monday, September 1, 2014 by KM

A.  Brevetes SGDG is close to "Patents Aplied For", SGDG translates to Sans Guarantee Du Government. Posted Monday, September 1, 2014 by KM

A. These are a pair of French locomotive headlamps, quite early examples and, assuming that there are no railway initials stamped on them, possibly from minor lines. In spite of some "wear & tear", to be expected, since they are well over 100 years old, they are very attractive and historic lamps.  Posted Monday, September 1, 2014 by JAJ

 Q2807 Bell Question  I have a bell that I believe is from a locomotive but need some help identifying it. It weighs about 60 lbs is marked on the top with this serial # 732418 then the Pennsylvania keystone symbol and then the letter C. The bell was bought in Pennsylvania. It is just the bell with nothing else. Thank you for any help!  Posted Monday, August 25, 2014 by Bill   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q2806 PRR Marker Light  The PRR had the claw footed marker lamps early 1900's. The tops of these have numbers. I have seen some of the bases with numbers running top to bottom. I also saw some of the bases with no numbers. Why is this?  Posted Saturday, August 23, 2014 by TW   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q2805 Signal Green / Kelly Green Globes  Why would a railroad use a Kelly Green Globe instead of the usual Signal Green Globe? Both have a difference under a kerosene flame. What was the significance of this if there is an answer? Thank You.  Posted Saturday, August 16, 2014 by Keith   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hi Keith; can you say a little more about where you have seen Kelly Green globes so we can more specifically answer your question. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Sunday, August 17, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Red Beard, Look on this website under "Globe Basics". It shows both colors side by side. Also on this website under globe markings 5 3/8 inch globes, it lists that PRR as using a Kelly green globe. Under lanterns, a Kettle Valley Adlake Reliable with a Kelly green globe. I also have globes of both colors in 5 3/8 inches along with a Handlan marked 4 1/2 inch kelly green globe. Books do not mention this. I always wondered if this had to do with outdoor weather and surrounding vegetation involving color refraction with the color spectrum so it would not be mistaken for blue. Thank you Keith Posted Sunday, August 17, 2014 by Keith

A. Keith: Great question! -- Thanks for the clarification about them being tall globes. -- SEE: Questions 1730, 1891, & 2020, for some additional discussion on Green Globes. -- Over the centuries, creating colored glass has been an art and mystery full of closely guarded secrets. It wasn't until the early 1900s when Corning Glass invested quite a bit of time, money and scientific investigation into producing colored glass of standardized color and reasonable clarity, that standardized signal colors were made available for railroad signaling. This was the birth of what we now call "Signal Green". Signal Green itself has changed a bit over the years too; becoming a little lighter and clearer (less murky) so it would transmit more light, making the lantern light brighter. -- The document I quote in Q1730, a history of the Corning Glass company, states that in the late 1800s, Corning was producing 32 different shades of green glass for railroad signaling. This was because different railroads had, independently, chosen various shades of green for their own "standard color". -- "Signal Green" was introduced in about 1905. As the short globe lanterns didn't come into existence until, ..what?, the 1920s I think; there are no legitimate short globes in "Kelly Green / Grass Green" colors, as those shades of green were phased out, railroad by railroad, in just a few years after the introduction of the standardized "Signal Green" color; well before the production of the first short globe lanterns. -- Tall Globes are a whole other story. Tall globes were produced in all of the above mentioned 32 different shades of green, and likely a few additional shades of green as well. As tall globe lanterns survived past the introduction of "Signal Green", some globes for those lanterns were produced in the new "Signal Green" color. The darker and "greener" shades of green globes were made prior to the nationwide adoption of Signal Green. The old shades of green that you mention were gone by about 1914 on all American railroads as all American railroads had adopted the new standard colors from Corning by that time.. --- to clear up a misconception about "Signal Green"; the blue-green color was NOT produced to appear "Green" with a kerosene flame. It was carefully chosen to be easily identifiable at as great a distance as possible and still remain the same perceived color at that distance. -- The "Kelly Green / Grass Green" colors of the 1800s tended to be murky, not visible at any great distance and many shades tended to separate and appear yellowish at a distance, literally changing color as you got farther and farther away from the lantern or lamp. "Signal Green" could be seen and identified at a good distance and still retained the same perceived color hue whether close up or far away. ---- .... Red Beard  Posted Monday, August 18, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Red Beard, Thank you very much for all the information. I will take note of all this for reference. About six months ago I found the patent information on the signal green color and cannot locate it again. I remember it was invented by a professor at Cambridge or Cornell University around 1906-08. It also stated why this particular color was chosen in order to get as true a green as possible with a kerosene flame. The signal green even differed between manufacturers. Adlake used a dark blue green or teal color whereas Handlans color is more of a green blue or jade green. I will look up the information you gave and try to find that patent information. Thank you Keith Posted Wednesday, August 20, 2014 by Keith

A. Hey Keith, I think you will enjoy this government document on "Color Designations For Lights" ---- .... Red Beard Link 1  Posted Friday, August 22, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Note to responders: If you type a web link in, make sure that the full URL is used, including the prefacing "http://" or "https://" . When this part is left off, the server assumes a local path which results in a "404" error -- "not Found". Thanks. Posted Friday, August 22, 2014 by Web Editor

A. Red beard, Link 1 works fine. The article is very interesting in that it divides colors into chromatic separation and how the eye sees the chromatics. Purple is interesting in that railroads never had a true purple. It was always a cobalt that allowed red to mix with the blue in spots creating the purplish color as observed chromatically by the human eye. I saved the article on my permanent screen for reference. Thank you very much. Keith Posted Saturday, August 23, 2014 by Keith

A. Hello Keith and Red Beard,What I found most interesting about this document was the fact that now we know that there were indeed 2 different signal colors-blue and purple.Everyone seemed to call blue lenses,kerosene purple,which was not correct at all.Interestingly enough,I have seen numerous Corning and Kopp signal lenses and roundels,with inspection tags stating AAR Tested PURPLE but never a tag stating AAR Tested BLUE.I worked with this signal glassware for decades and this is my observation.How about you other collectors out there ? Comments ?  Posted Sunday, August 24, 2014 by DJB

A. DJB, That's true you usually only see tags saying, Tested purple, or Tested Lunar White. Most others will say, AAR Tested along with the government number. . Some of the purple and lunar white will have this imprinted on the edge of the glass also. Now........into chromatics. Cobalt when viewed with a light containing blue itself will show a pinkish cast. This allows red wave length absorbsipn, makes the flame appear white and only then allows the color blue to be seen with the eye. On the purple tested this pink color in the glass is left out allowing the red wave length to go thru, mix with the blue and allow that pinkish blue to go thru allowing the eye to see a purplish glow. Red plus Blue = Purple. That is on of the reasons you never see other stickers with, Tested Red, Blue, etc. They already conform to the government specifications and will have the number written below AAR Tested. I have also seen kerosene pink, lunar blue ...........and it seems no one can define these odd or made up colors either. Thank you Keith  Posted Sunday, August 24, 2014 by Keith

A. Hold on to your hats, guys! ...read this Link (LINK 1) ...LOTS more on signal COLOR!! ---- ....Red Beard Link 1  Posted Tuesday, September 2, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. ALSO: ..check out his "Signal" page (LINK 1){ http://www.railroadsignals.us/ } and click on the various signal types for some pretty detailed information (Semaphore, Searchlight, ..etc) ---- ....Red Beard Link 1  Posted Tuesday, September 2, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider