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Welcome to our Question & Answer Bulletin Board -- a bulletin board for collectors and anyone else to post questions about railroadiana and related history. Please note that we do not deal with contemporary railroading. This board 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:

  • No questions about what something is worth -- see About Values. Also, no questions or replies selling or looking for items, parts or services. This includes offers. We've been advised that questions about current internet auctions may pose a liability issue, so we have to be careful here also.

Email questions to Most questions are actually posted within a day or so. While an image to go along with the question is optional, it is strongly recommended and will help others find an answer. Email the image(s) as an attachment, but it must be YOUR OWN IMAGE. Re-posting a photo from Ebay is a copyright violation. Also see our Frequently Asked Questions or FAQs page and our Contact Us page for questions that we cannot reply to.

Latest 50 Questions:

 Q3430 Gaithersburg Show Date  Does anyone happened to know the 2018 Gaithersburg fall show date? Thank you.  Posted Thursday, February 22, 2018 by RR Gal   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. GBurg ia always the 1st Sunday in November, this year the 4th Posted Thursday, February 22, 2018 by COD

A. Thank you so much!!! Posted Friday, February 23, 2018 by -RR Gal :)

 Q3429 Santa Fe Clock Question  I saw a Santa fe railroad clock go up for auction the other day. Upon arriving at the auction and looking closely at it I was starting to question its authenticity. On it it says 'colored passenger agent' 'atlas life building' 'Tulsa Ok'. After looking at its face I thought it looked kinda like a single printed graphic. Looking inside the clock I did not see any evidence of a Santa fe time inspector label. My question is: has anyone seen these clocks before? Were ticket agents segregated? Was there an agent in the atlas life building in Tulsa? I'm sorry this is the only picture I have. When I saw it in person I didn't think to take any more. It was smaller than the common Seth Thomas regulators I see on occasion and the bottom came to a point rather than the flat bottom of the regulators I usually see. It was by another maker as well but I can't remember who. Thank you for any info.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, February 19, 2018 by Nick   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The fakers never rest.................always trying to come up with that "new".... "just discovered" piece that makes even the experienced collector stop for a moment and scratch their heads........although this is a pretty blatant fantasy. The question about these phonies has already been answered on this very website under Railroad Fakes & Reproductions - "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" Posted Monday, February 19, 2018 by DA

A. Any time there is a reference to "Whites" or "Coloreds" it should raise a red flag. I have no idea whether this clock is legit or not, but I have to suggest that fake "railroad" clocks may well be like fake "railroad" china. Enterprising scammers take a 50-cent plate from the flea market, re-fire it with a railroad decal and try to pass it off for $big bucks onto unsuspecting buyers.  Posted Monday, February 19, 2018 by JMS

A. PS, the fake SP Clocks were discussed on a Clock & Watch Collector's website and the comments were dated 2013 Posted Monday, February 19, 2018 by DA

A. Thank you for the info and confirming what I feared. This was the one reason I made the hour drive was to get this clock but upon arriving and looking at it I wasn't excited at all and just had that gut feeling that this was most likely a fake. It ended up going for 900 dollars. If I was excited about it I would of made a play for it but I can sleep better now knowing that I made the right choice. thanks for the help.  Posted Monday, February 19, 2018 by Nick

A. RAILROAD CLOCKS --I decided to do a little looking around regarding RR Clocks, and I went on the "Live Auctioneers" Website, which is one of the biggest internet auction bidding sites in the country, where you can enter a bid at a Live auction. I did a search for the term "railroad clock", and didn't come up with too many current listings, but when I searched SOLD items, I was astounded. There is one auction house in Denver, that in the last five years, has sold several different versions of a large pendulum clock with "Railway Certified Time" in gold on the glass. Three of these clocks are marked with the Santa Fe logo, and say Denver. One large ornate clock that had the same Santa Fe logo sold for $4000. This same auction house has sold about 10-20 "Railroad" clocks with different gold leaf markings on the glass, and just about all of them went in the $1000 + range. And unfortunately, just about EVERY railroad "marked" clock on the Live Auctioneers website was a PHONY!!!!! Several different railroads were represented. I invite anyone interested in this subject to check it out. You have to register to see the Sold items, but the education is well worth you time.......................... Link 1  Link 2  Posted Wednesday, February 21, 2018 by DA

 Q3428 Steam Whistle Info Needed  I was wondering if you can give me any info on this steam whistle. Much Appreciated,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2018 by Donna   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Steam whistles came in many shapes and sizes, and such whistles were also used on compressed air. This one appears to be about 12 or 14 inches tall, altho it is hard to be sure from just these pix. If this guess is correct, this whistle is too small for most locomotive service, but these were commonly used on steam farm traction engines and other uses such as around boiler rooms in factories. On compressed air, they were used on some interurban cars before air horns became more popular. But they all looked pretty much alike.  Posted Monday, February 19, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3427 Switch Lock Info Needed  I am a historical fiction writer. I am asking for helping in understanding what a switch lock was used for in the period of 1920s to 1930s. I am assuming the locks secured the switches. To what were the locks attached? Every time a switch was changed, did it require a switchman to unlock it? Did multiple crewmen on a train have access to the switch lock keys? Thanks,  Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2018 by Laurie L.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. A switch stand has a lever that is connected to the rails. When the lever is moved the track switch changes direction. To prevent unauthorized people from changing the switch and possibly causing a wreck, the lever on the switch stand is locked in place by a switch lock. To throw the switch the lock has to be unlocked and removed. Theoretically, the switch stand is supposed to be locked after it is thrown. However,if a switch is going to be thrown several times within a few minutes the trainman may just put the lock back on but not lock it. (That prevents the switch from changing due to the weight of the train.) The switch lock is usually attached to the switch stand by a chain to prevent the lock from being removed and getting lost. Most railroad workers on train duty carried switch keys if their job called for it. The key was the property of the worker, who was responsible for it. A lost key could mean serious consequences for both the railroad and the employee. Switch locks are very much still in use today in various forms. As a side note, most switch locks on any railroad or division uses the same key. This way an employee only has to carry one key even though he may encounter dozens of locks during the day. That is another reason losing a key was a serious issue. Posted Thursday, February 15, 2018 by JN

A. Yes, all of the above. But one note, the switch key is 'ALWAYS' the property of the RR, but may be assigned to a specific employee. That way the RR always has the ability to demand the return of the key when the employee leaves the service of the company. Since all operating employees were equipped with the keys, switch padlocks were also used on lineside telephone boxes, manually-thrown derails, industry plant gates, and things like electrical switch boxes to control grade crossing signals or controls at interlockings where tracks crossed an employees in the field needed to control them. As to whether a switch had to be unlocked every time, the answer is 'sometimes'. Main line switches, beginning early in the 20th century, could be remote-controlled from a lineside tower using air power, mechanical power, or electric motors. Such remote-controlled switches were usually electrically locked and could be thrown without manual intervention on the ground, although they were often also secured with a switchlock in case the automation didn't work right. In yards and terminals where many persons were present and many hand-thrown switches were being operated all the time, each switch was usually not padlocked, but the levers were latched down to secure the switch points in position for trains to pass.  Posted Thursday, February 15, 2018 by RJM

A. Thank you both. This information is so helpful. The community of railroaders is amazing.  Posted Thursday, February 15, 2018 by Laurie L.

A. You're welcome...To be more clear about one detail: a "switchman" usually worked in a yard or terminal. In the 1920's a train moving over the RR between those places would usually be crewed with an engineer, a fireman, a head brakeman riding the engine, and a conductor and rear brakeman (also called 'flagman')riding the caboose or the passenger cars. Each of those employees would usually be issued and carry one or more switchkeys. Usually it would be the head or rear brakeman who would leave the train to throw any switches needed in the course of the trip to accomplish entering sidings to meet other trains or for switching of industries, etc, enroute.  Posted Thursday, February 15, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3426 Dressel Lamp Info Wanted  I'm looking for help identifying what this lamp came off of. I’m thinking tail lamp? One red lens with two clear. Only markings on the lamp is a brass badge that says Dressel Arlington NJ USA. The only thing I can find similar in design comes up on the internet if you search for 'Belson Chicago Square Railroad Lantern Lamp'. Thank you for any help.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, February 11, 2018 by TB   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q3425 Lamp Info Needed  I would like to know just exactly what I have here. I've looked around and can't seem to find one exactly like this, and I have two of them. It has Armstrong [Armspear?] writing on it and it has the number 120 on the stand. It also has a tag that has a lot of date's on it but it's very hard to read. Can you help me with this issue? Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2018 by Mike A   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The bases, which have the tapered socket to receive the top of a switch stand rod, give them away immediately as switch target lamps.  Posted Wednesday, February 7, 2018 by RJMc

A. A nice pair of Armspear Railroad switch lamps. Posted Wednesday, February 7, 2018 by LF

 Q3424 Help with Keys  I found these keys in a box among my husband’s items and am wondering. There are several keys that look like they could be railroad keys, but they are unmarked. Also, there are several SP Co. keys. Four of them are all CS-4S, but a couple of them look a little different. One has a number on it, and one looks like it could be fake, as it is rough and the color seems off. Can you help? Thank you.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2018 by MW   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The SP keys are basic Southern Pacific switch keys. The lower two have more of what switch collectors call pocket wear from use. The SP did serial number their keys for a while when issued out to employees but later ones weren't numbered. The upper two keys are basically unused but legit. The left row of unmarked keys are basically just keys for old padlocks from who knows where. Although some people who list unmarked keys on the 'largest online auction' claim many unmarked hollow barrel keys to be switch keys, don't believe them. Hope this helps. Posted Monday, February 12, 2018 by Jim

A. Thank you! That helps a lot. Posted Monday, February 12, 2018 by Mary

 Q3423 Marta Torino Lamp  What a wonderful website! This was exactly what I have been searching for recently.....though sadly, I still am unable to locate ANY information about this 'Marta Torino' oil lamp. The person that I acquired it from wasn't able to tell me anything about it. The name sounds Italian - the style is quite similar to WWII German Carbide Railroad Lamps. I would very much appreciate any information that you might be able to provide! Thank you,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2018 by Gil   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I searched around and found several ebay listings for Marta Torino lamps and lanterns, but not an exact match. The listings say they are from Italy and paint is usually military green, from WWI - WWII era. Good luck - hope that will be enough of a lead to pursue to find out more about this company.  Posted Saturday, February 17, 2018 by JMS

 Q3422 B.& M. Item  I came across something that I have not encountered before. Furthermore, for RR items, my reference library is essentially non-existent and I couldn't really find anything on the internet about it. I was hoping that some of those that participate in your site might be able to shed some light. The item is marked 'B.&M.R.R. (Boston and Maine) Limit Gauge'. I'm pretty sure it was basically a measure to ensure that rails were properly distanced from each other. It appears to be made of ash. It clearly has a place to hold it. It was clearly used. It was found in NH. As a trade sign collector, I must admit I was attracted to the graphics though I have over the years owned a number of RR related items as well. Thanks in advance for any additional information which anyone can provide.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, January 31, 2018 by Bob   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The dimensions don't look right for track (although maybe for guard rail spacing....). It may also be for wheel sets, to make sure that the wheels are properly spaced after they are pressed onto the axle. The contours look about right for wheel flanges. Since the back-to-back spacing of wheels is set purely by how far they are pressed on, it is important to check that spacing before a wheelset leaves the wheel shop.  Posted Wednesday, January 31, 2018 by RJMc

A. Thanks! Points well taken. Bob  Posted Wednesday, January 31, 2018 by Bob

A. If I were to take an educated guess, I would say a wheel gauge would be the correct assumption. It is a really cool item. Posted Friday, February 2, 2018 by JN

A. Thanks! Bob. Posted Monday, February 5, 2018 by Bob

 Q3421 Michigan Midland Railroad  I am trying to find information on the Michigan Midland railroad. I do know that it operated from 1870 until 1873 when it became the Michigan Midland and Canada railroad, but other then that I am striking out. Does anyone out there have any information on this railroad?  Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2018 by Specor3333   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The book "Michigan Railroads & Railroad Companies" By Graydon M. Meints which is available for purchase on the web as an E-Book says the Michigan Midland Rail Road (note space) was incorporated May 19, 1870 chartered to own 102 miles of line from St. Clair to Lansing. The charter was amended Dec. 28, 1971, to Michigan Midland Railroad (no space) to own 200 miles, St. Clair to mouth of Black Lake, Holland. Sold Nov. 12, 1873, to Michigan Midland and Canada, which up to that time had been in business only one year and had only 15 miles of track in the St. Clair area. By 1873 the line was completed St. Clair to Ridgeway. In 1882 the MM&C line was leased to and operated by Canada Southern until being sold at foreclosure to the St. Clair and Western. (end of material from the book.) The Canada Southern was a New York Central subsidiary.  Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2018 by RJMc

A. Of course the above needs correction to: "charter was amended Dec. 28, EIGHTEEN 71"; not 1971. The above info is almost everything in the listed reference book about that MMRR.  Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2018 by RJMc

A. As a side note, I notice that there are 2 Michigan Midland & Canada Railroad stock certificates available on Ebay Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2018 by JN

A. Thanks - You gave me a little bit more to add to the puzzle, mainly a good starting point and a good ending point. Something I could not find on my own.  Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2018 by S.P.

 Q3420 Adlake Lantern  I have had this lantern since about 1962 or so. It was given to me by a railroad man (I was about six years old at the time) at the depot in Sidney, MT. The depot served the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific. This is an N.P.R.Y lantern from 3-42. I used to hang around the stock yard and got to know a couple of the caboose guys. I have a couple of questions about it, but let me start by saying that I have no plans for the lantern other than to use it. Not selling or restoring. It works pretty well, even though the packing and wick are original, or at least circa 1962. I have used it infrequently over the years but plan on using it more for camping in the future. Since I have had it it has always been painted black. It may have been given a fresh coat of paint when I got it, who knows? Six year olds don't pay much attention to that sort of stuff. I notice that most of the lanterns pictured on your website are not painted. Were these lanterns used like that, or were they all painted? If they were painted, were they all black? Are these lanterns plated steel? If so, is that plating durable? Thanks,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, January 22, 2018 by Tom S.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Railroad lanterns belonged to railroaders. It was their responsibility. Some guys would mark their lanterns so they could identify theirs. Some guys may have painted the whole thing. Sometimes railroads painted them anyway. Most, however, were not painted. Lanterns are usually tin. They are very durable. Again, plating was an option. Since you use the lantern keep it as is. I will point out though, that if you do not use it, you should remove the packing (batting) from the tank. The material (cotton waste) absorbs moisture and rots out the tank. As I said though, since you use the lantern and keep it filled, that will not be an issue. You can still remove the batting if you wish, anyway, and it will not affect the operation of the lantern. Posted Monday, January 22, 2018 by JN

A. Thanks, JN, I appreciate the information. Fortunately the burner is in really good condition. Tom Posted Monday, January 22, 2018 by Tom

 Q3419 BR&P Lantern  Any info on this lantern would be greatly appreciated. Belonged to my Grandfather. Defiance Lantern with BR&P stamped on top. Globe is etched PRR and probably not original.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, January 22, 2018 by AC   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. BR&P is the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh. The line later became part of the B&O. The PRR also served Buffalo. Maybe someone raided a supply cabinet somewhere when they broke their lantern globe broke.  Posted Monday, January 22, 2018 by JN

A. The BR&P went southwest from Buffalo and Rochester to the Pittsburg area. The PRR also operated just about everywhere in that territory, so not at all unlikely that consumable parts like lantern globes would get traded around, either during employee's regular service on the RR's or afterward.  Posted Wednesday, January 24, 2018 by RJMc

A. Defiance is a fabulous maker to find ! The twisted wire models are scarce, as the wires tend to be very fragile. What a fine family heirloom to keep and treasure.  Posted Sunday, January 28, 2018 by JMS

 Q3418 S.J.S.Y.Co. Globe Marking   I recently purchased a lantern and can’t find what the globe marking means. The frame is a Marked Frisco system frame, Handlan Buck. The globe is acid etched 'S.J.S.Y.Co.' Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.  Posted Sunday, January 21, 2018 by Jerry F   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. For starters, the “S.Y.” in a marking like this often refers to Stock Yard, so one guess would be something like "St. Joseph Stock Yard Co.”. Someone may have a more definitive answer.  Posted Sunday, January 21, 2018 by Web Editor

 Q3417 Plate ID Needed  I am from Guatemala city. At the railroad museum we have a plate number 57710 Baldwin Locomotive Works April 1924, and we like to know the locomotive that used it. Many thanks if you can send us some information and pictures. Best Regards,  Posted Friday, January 19, 2018 by Mario N   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. My Baldwin records indicate 57710 was a 3' gauge 35 HP Gasoline 0-4-0 built for the United Fruit Co. perhaps unit marking was F6 Posted Friday, January 19, 2018 by COD

A. many thanks must be that one track gauge in guatemala is 3 feets Link 1  Link 2  Posted Saturday, January 20, 2018 by Mario

 Q3416 CPR Markers  I just bought a matching pair of CPR Piper marker lanterns. I’m wondering if you can help with two things: (1): What is the best way to strip and 'de-rust' the lanterns before a new coat of paint? I’ve read about a lye bath possibly working, but the lamps look tin to me, so I don’t know how well that would work. (2): The lamps came with plastic lenses - are these original to the lamps? They are stamped 'HLP', but plastic seems odd. Thanks, I appreciate any advice you have to give!!! Thanks so much for your help! I’m really looking forward to getting these things back to their former glory!! Cheers,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, January 19, 2018 by Brett R   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This works for me although I'm sure some will violently disagree. Regular paint stripper to remove the paint. Then a good washing with soap and water to remove the stripper. Dry then "rust remover" (Naval Jelly) found in Lowes/Home Depot applied with a paint brush. Followed by a steel wool rub. Once the rust is gone, wash/dry again then primer and a spray can of Black satin paint. All my switch lamps have glass Kopp or Corning glass lens but they're not Piper lamps.. Posted Saturday, January 20, 2018 by LF

A. If you will enter the word "Stimsonite" into the 'search by word or phrase' box to the left of the text here, it will bring up many prior Q's discussing the use of plastic lenses, including specifically on Piper lamps on the Canadian roads. Plastic lenses seem to have been put on some lamps direct from the factory and as early as 1950, so yours may well be original.  Posted Saturday, January 20, 2018 by RJMc

A. Likewise, I've never had any ill effects from using regular paint striper along with techniques described above. Also, like LF, I am sure some people will shudder at the suggestion. Posted Saturday, January 20, 2018 by TE

A. Regular glass lenses in these lamps would be unlikely to be affected by the kinds of chemicals being discussed here. However,strong paint strippers (Strypeeze, etc.) which contain very strong solvents might fog or even dissolve plastic lenses, so I would be very careful and either remove the plastic lenses entirely, or possibly test a very small area before exposing the main surfaces of the plastic lenses to such strong chemical agents. Posted Sunday, January 21, 2018 by RJMc

A. Hi Brett, ..well I'm the one constant voice on here against repainting things; I think vehement might be a better term for my resistance to repainting though. – Those are in good shape, but have lost quite a bit of paint.-- LF has some good ideas on stripping it down. I certainly wouldn't use the lye bath. They are in too good of a shape for that. -- RJMc's caution about taking the lenses out is a MUST! – Those are original lenses. Most PIPER lamps that show up for sale have Original 'HLP' marked plastic lenses in them; so, keep those in as good a shape as you can. Alcohol is a good cleaner for plastic lenses. Many of the Piper markers I see still have a shiny finish to them. Try using gloss black on them. None of the satin or matte paints I've ever seen look authentic. All lamps started out with a gloss finish.--- Here's something I've never mentioned before: Start with a nice high gloss finish, like Rustolium, that has dried and cured for a few months. If you have access to an actual paint sprayer, not an air brush, give the painted parts (NOT those plastic lenses, though) a quick light dust with lacquer thinner only. You want the spray to be so light that it evaporates a half second after it hits the lamp. Give it one shot, and after that completely dries, maybe one more. (too much lacquer thinner or having it set wet on the lamp will curdle and peal the new paint, so you want just enough to etch the very surface) That will give your gloss finish a very accurate "fogged" look for a lamp that has been out in the elements for about a decade. – Do PRACTICE on a few painted tin cans first and see what results you can get. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Sunday, January 21, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Thank you very much for all the information you guys! I've gone ahead and chemically stripped them as suggested, and after some rust removal, they are starting to come along. Fortunately I have access to an automotive paint booth and corresponding high grade paint, so I have high hopes for the final product. I'll post some pictures when I'm done :) Thanks again!!! Cheers.  Posted Saturday, February 3, 2018 by Brett R

A. Hi Brett, please read the Link 1 article. -- It looks like those lamps are made of pre-galvanized sheet steel. Handlan, in the last years, did this too. Galvanized metal does not hold paint well, especially over time. -- older lamps were hot dipped in terne metal and painted with Gilsonite paint, which stuck to the terne for decades. -- The Link article addresses this. (I'm also pasting the URL here, as long links tend to fail in the Link feature on this page) (LINK: This is a case where you might want to lightly bead blast the lamp prior to painting it. ---- ....Red Beard Link 1  Posted Monday, February 5, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

 Q3415 Lantern/Lamp Info?  I found this lantern and can't find anything about it. It has a Adams & Westlake tage. I was wondering if you can help me?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, January 15, 2018 by MK   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Adams and Westlake used this basic square body with the 'cookie cutter' creased round top between 1880 and 1899 to serve many different purposes. Possibilities include semaphore lamps (does it have a smaller lens or opening to the rear?); tail end lights, station lights and marine-related lights such as drawbridge markers. Another possibility is a theater footlight. The formed wire hanger and the pedestal on your light are unusual, but it is hard to tell how they were used without some dimensions. More pix would help, particularly of the burner.  Posted Monday, January 15, 2018 by RJMc

A. It has the same lens on the back side. The burner slides in and out. I can email you more pictures  Link 1  Posted Monday, January 15, 2018 by Matthew

 Q3414 RR China?  I am trying to identify a piece of china that I have had for sometime. It was in with some railroadiana that my father-in law had. Thanks in advance for any help.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, January 13, 2018 by David B   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This is almost certainly from the Palmer House Hotel, a downtown Chicago, IL, landmark for decades. It is now operated as a part of the Hilton chain. What makes it "railroadiana" is the fact that the Palmer House meeting rooms and auditoriums have hosted thousands of RR-industry meetings over those same decades, such as stockholder and professional association meetings. The Link is an article about the hotel; in one of the pix showing deHavilland specialty china you can clearly see the logo.  Link 1  Posted Sunday, January 14, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3413 ATSF Lamp Info?  Does anyone have any info on this lamp? It came from the Santa Fe RR pass. rear car and is stamped 'right'. I need to know what color the lenses were and what the front and side lenses reference. Also the back holder - what purpose it served? The manufacturer's tag is missing so the make is unknown. Any help is appreciated.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, January 4, 2018 by Paul   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The oval missing tag shape suggests an oval brass Adams and Westlake tag was once on this lamp. If by "back holder" you mean the bracket this lamp would presumably rotate on (if it does), it fits into a corresponding tapered holder that would be on the RIGHT side of whatever car, caboose, or engine this lamp was designed for.  Posted Friday, January 5, 2018 by JEM

A. No not the bracket but the round item with the cover that rotates.I was thinking that was for extra lens Thank you for your reply Posted Friday, January 5, 2018 by Paul

A. Hi Paul – What you have is an Adlake #85 “Acme Engine Classification Lamp” - See LINK 1 below - JEM is correct that the oval mark on the side of the lamp would have been where the original Adlake tag would have been. The oval Adlake tag stopped being used somewhere around the 1920s and some collectors claim that they didn't exist, but they certainly did. If not otherwise marked as to ownership, some collectors confuse oval imprints, like the one on the side of your lamp as having been from a missing New York Central Lines emblem, which was applied to early NYC lamps, and was of a similar size and shape. Your lamp though is clearly a unique Adlake design and clearly marked Santa Fe on the shoulder of the lamp. – Who told you that it came off of passenger car? That is possible, though unlikely. – Let's start with what it is and was intended for; As a Classification (class) Lamp, and by Santa Fe practices, it would have been mounted on the side of the smoke box, with the lenses facing forward and to the side. (Some roads mounted class lamps on the front of the smoke box) If the train the engine was pulling was a scheduled train, the class lamps would not be lit. If the train were an “extra” (non-scheduled)train, the class lamps would be lit with clear lenses, called “white” in the rule books. If the train was a scheduled train running in two or more sections (done when there were more cars than one train could handle) the LAST section would have unlit class lamps, thus indicating that section as the last section of the scheduled train, and all preceding sections would run with lit class lamps showing a green light to the front and side, indicating that additional sections were following. - Yours is an early design lamp. It came with clear optical, or “Fresnel”, lenses which focused the lamp light into a strong beam of light. The clear lens was mounted in the hinged frame, which your photo shows in the open position. To change the color indication to green, a colored glass disk was inserted behind the clear optical lens, and the frame around the clear lens held the color disk in place. These colored glass disks were stored in the “back holder” you mention. This “holder” looks like another lens opening, but with a rotating cover or door on it. As engines frequently needed to travel backwards down the line, red glass disks were also stored in this holder. When traveling down the line in reverse (a backing movement), the class lamps could be used as Marker Lamps, protecting the rear end of the movement. (when backing, the front end of the engine was actually the rear end of the train from an operational perspective.) When backing, the class lamps (now acting as Marker Lamps) were fitted with colored glass disks displaying red to the rear of the MOVEMENT (the physical front of the engine), and green to the sides. The colored glass disks allowed the class lamp to serve several functions, simply by using different colors, or no color, behind the clear (white) optical lenses. – Now, as to your lamp's use as a Marker Lamp on the last car of a passenger train; it is entirely possible that your lamp could have been used as a marker in passenger train service, as described above, fitted with green and red glass inserts. The Santa Fe certainly had an abundance of actual marker lamps, but lamps like yours were pressed into service as train markers when a terminal was short on markers. As markers were removed and serviced at depots and caboose tracks, and then placed on the next train leaving town, a location could run out if more trains that day were leaving than coming in. This would be especially true in passenger service as passenger cars did not carry markers with them, as cabooses did. – Then, finally to the question about being marked “Right”. Back to the original intended purpose of the lamp as a Class Lamp, with two lenses, mounted in the lamp body at 90° apart; if you took your lamp and hung it on the Left side of the engine, the lens intended to face forward would then be facing backwards, and the colored filter holder would be facing the front of the engine. Thus, you needed to have one configuration for the right side of the engine (yours) and another configured for the Left side. (just like the the turn signal assembly on a modern automobile; they're not interchangeable) Hope this is of some help! ---- .... Red Beard Link 1  Posted Friday, January 5, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A.  OOPS! – I misspoke, Santa Fe used RED and YELLOW in their Marker Lamps; so there would have also been a YELLOW color disk in there. Santa Fe markers were Red to the rear and Yellow to the sides. So, your lamp would have carried green, red and yellow color disks. ---- …. Red Beard  Posted Friday, January 5, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Hi Red Beard thanks for your reply. This is very good info. I got this from a man that worked for the SanteFe in LaJunta, CO.He is the one that told me it came off of a passenger car, but your info seems better to me after studying on it.I have read about these being used on steam loco.but didn't know I had this one until your reply. Would you know where I might find those disks.I really appreciate you taking time to reply on this. thanks Paul Posted Sunday, January 7, 2018 by Paul

A. Paul, you're very welcome. Glad to pass some of this accumulated knowledge on where it's needed. That is a really great piece, and in good shape for its age. Your first project is to find the right clear Fresnel lenses for the lamp. A number of older class lamps had 5-1/2 inch diameter clear lenses. Those are almost impossible to find. There are some 5-1/2 inch lenses around that are from the interior of signals, but they have the Fresnel steps on the front of the lens, and I can't say if I've ever seen a clear one. I hope they are a more common size, such as 4-1/2, 5 inch or 5-3/8 inch. (judging by their size compared to the lamp body, they may be 4-1/2 inch) Clear lenses show up on eBay from time to time; you just have to search constantly under "railroad lens". As to the color filters, you are going to need to figure out the diameter needed. The color filter drops into that half circle rim on the back of the hinged lens holder, and is usually a slightly different diameter than the Fresnel lens. Use a kids school compass and draw several circles and cut them out of light cardboard, like a cereal box, until you get a slightly loose fit, and measure it. You may find some on eBay that will work. If not take that cardboard disk to a stained glass studio and have them show you some quality colored glass close to lens colors and have them cut some filters for you. Hate to say it, but that may be the closest you can get, depending on the size needed. (that's a pretty old lamp) -- Now as to the passenger car aspect; it occurred to me that it might have been used on an observation car or a business car, as those did carry their own markers with them. The fact that your lamp would have had those clear lenses in it (and its left side mate) would have made the lamps really stand out and look sharp, so it's possible that an official may have snagged those for use on his business car because of the unique appearance. It's one of those questions we'll never know. That car body bracket laying on the table behind the lamp is correct for the style of mounting foot on your lamp (again, old), BUT, it is a corner mount bracket, that would have been mounted to the corner of a passenger car or a caboose. Your lamp would have needed a bracket that was mounted flat on the side of the car. A corner mount bracket with your lamp would have the lenses pointing off at a 45° angle, not straight back; so again, who knows. -- Please do write back and let us all know how your project goes! ---- .... Red Beard Posted Sunday, January 7, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Hi Red Beard again I say thanks, you have been very helpful. If I am able to obtain any more info or locate disks & lens I will be happy to report back. Here hoping I can complete my project. Paul Posted Monday, January 8, 2018 by Paul

 Q3412 Kelly Lantern Information Needed  I’m looking for information on this Kelly Lantern. I have a friend who thinks it may not all be authentic for starters. But I think it is. Here is what we do know: The lantern is marked on the bottom Kelly & Co Rochester. There are no markings on the red globe that I could find but does have some bubbles and looks like an original globe to the lantern because it fits snugly against the vertical wires; there is no space in between. The bell base is marked on the bottom with: Kelly & Co, Rochester and it is stamped inward not raised. There is another marking on the top of bell bottom but I can't make it out and I wasn't successful taking a picture either. Unfortunately someone a long time ago decided to paint this beautiful lantern with black paint which now is showing signs of deteriorating, meaning rust has appeared. Also someone tied two wire pieces on the top and bottom of where the globe is held in because some of the wires holding the globe encased have come loose. The bottom part kinda unscrews and is not hinged. The wick is two round tubes and there is no way to adjust the wick. When holding a magnet to it, it sticks everywhere except on the top piece. I don't want to cause more harm than good by trying to removing the paint but I suspect the top to be brass, and if you knew what you were doing you could remove the paint. The lantern stands 11 in. tall not including the handle which is 6 in. The red globe is approx. 5 1/2 in. long and approx 19 in. around in the fullest part, and there are a few scratches and air bubbles seen on the globe. Any help you could offer is appreciated!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, January 4, 2018 by EJ   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Get a can of paint remover at Wal Mart or some other store and remove the paint. Very easy to do, just follow instructions on the can. Won't harm the lantern in any way. The loose wires can be soldered or brazed back on. I have no information as to Kelly Lanterns. Posted Thursday, January 4, 2018 by LF

A. That the globe fits snugly against the guard wires without any space inbetween suggests to me that the globe isn't original. I've never seen a lantern where the guards actually touch the globe. They are meant to protect the globe from impact...but how can they do that if there's no buffer? Posted Thursday, January 4, 2018 by JP

A. Yes I hear what you are saying about being a buffer. That would be logical. Some one on another site showed me what a Kelly globe is shaped like by showing me a picture. But here is what I can't figure out. I looked at it again and the vertical wires are welded on top & bottom. As it is there is no way to get the globe out? So how was it ever exchanged? Is there anywhere that I could find more info that anyone knows about? I've searched online for Kelly lamps and there are almost non existent. Thanks! Posted Friday, January 12, 2018 by EJ

 Q3411 Safety Globes  When did they first start marking globes with 'Safety First'?  Posted Wednesday, January 3, 2018 by DRN   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This is a difficult question to answer with any precision, because markings on globes were purely optional to the purchasers; no markings were required at all, and any markings the purchaser ordered probably increased the cost. Lettering molded into the globes, usually the RR initials, began well before removable globes came into style (med-1800's), and the manufacturers were no doubt pleased to add anything the RR's wanted (at slight extra cost, of course). See the Link for the first pic which showed up on a quick search, from a 1918 Handlan publication about globes in the Archives section of this website, showing a "Safety First" globe. (Alco at: But the practice probably goes much further back on individual RR's.  Link 1  Posted Saturday, January 6, 2018 by RJMc

A. It's easier to answer where the slogan 'Safety First' came from, and when. The Link is to a PowerPoint presentation given at NASA; it claims that the slogan was originated and made popular about 1911 by the first director of the newly created Federal Bureau of Mines, Joseph Austin Holmes. The purpose of the Bureau was to try to reduce the terrible casualties then occurring in the mines. (The presentation also shows how the Bureau set up a special train for mine rescues, used for safety training at field sites when not at emergencies.) Of course the RR's and the mining industries are very closely related so the slogan no doubt moved rapidly into the RR industry, probably also driven by the Federal control of the RR's during WW I. Link: Link 1  Posted Saturday, January 6, 2018 by RJMc

A. Some further looking (see link, which is about British safety practices) credits the US C&NW RR as initiating the 'Safety First' movement. "In 1910,Ralph Richards initiated “Safety First” on the Chicago and North Western Railway, a movement that spread rapidly across the U.S. railroad system and ushered in a new safety culture....three years after its introduction in 1910,“Safety First” had spread over approximately 70% of U.S. railroad mileage." The Link notes that by 1913 the British Great Western Ry had a full-scale "Safety First" promotional campaign in effect systemwide. So it looks like the RR's were first on this, in 1910, and the mines followed after. But the speed with which the 'new culture' was adopted, worldwide, makes clear that society was ready for that message.  Link 1  Posted Saturday, January 6, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3410 B&O China Questions  Any idea of the time frame and rarity of this B&O plate? Secondly, regarding the sample red/white and black/white B&O china [shown on this website], any idea how many they made? In other words, any chance any would come up for sale anywhere? Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, January 2, 2018 by Stephen P   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This is the B&O "Capitol Gold" pattern. It isn't exactly rare, but finding a piece with the gold fully intact is hard. Gold cannot be glazed over so it has to lie on top of the glaze. As a result the gold gets scraped off by utensils or even scrubbing too hard. Your is a very nice specimen. It does predate the popular Centenary Blue, being made around 1910. As for the samples, I don't know how many were made, but searching Ebay does bring up a piece on occasion. I believe I saw one in Nov. Posted Thursday, January 4, 2018 by JN

A. Thanks!! Posted Thursday, January 4, 2018 by Steve

A. The B&O’s Black and Gold Pattern (also referred to at Capitol Pattern) is very interesting. It was used from around 1900 to 1957. Early pieces were made by O.P.Co. and were back stamped Chandlee and Sons which went out of business in 1913. Note: the top marked B&O logo found on the Chandlee pieces is noticeably larger than later variations. Other manufactures include Syracuse, Sterling, Shenango, Warwick, and Scammmel’s Lamberton. Because of a fairly long run with so many different manufactures there are many variations for collectors to seek out. The plate pictured is fairly common example of the pattern and is date coded 6-24 (June 1924). The pink, black and green sample plates are extraordinarily hard to find and are usually very expensive when ever they do turn up. I have been going to the Gaithersburg Show since 1979. Over the years I’ve seen a couple of them at the show but not many. The last time I know of one selling was November 2, 2017 when both a black one and a pink went across the block at Richard Opfer Auctioneering near Baltimore Maryland. Hope this helps.  Posted Thursday, January 18, 2018 by Ex Sou Ry

 Q3409 Chessie Tray  Is this Chessie tray real or a novelty? If real, any info?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, January 2, 2018 by Stephen P   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I would feel safe in saying that this was probably made by the B&O Museum gift shop as a novelty item. Posted Thursday, January 4, 2018 by JN

A. Thanks! Posted Thursday, January 4, 2018 by Steve

 Q3408 Dietz Vestas in Europe  I am a lantern collector in Europe, The Netherlands to be precise. Recently I came across this set of Dietz Vesta NY lanterns, marked 4 - 45. Special is that they are unused. Since there is no US railroad over here the most obvious, I can assume, is that they where used by the US army during WW2. Is this correct? and is there evidence of? Which army group did use this type of lantern and for what specific purpose, if any? Many thanks for any help!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, December 29, 2017 by Wim   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The date on them is 1945. Did the U.S. military ever operate your railroads? The US Military was involved with many railroad operations overseas and the Dietz Vesta was one of the most popular and reliable lanterns ever made for US railroads. Posted Saturday, December 30, 2017 by JN

A. The US Army did use the Dietz Vesta and not necessarily for Railroad use. Probably more to light up a tent at night. Many have a globe marked "US" and some are stamped "Ord Dept US Army". Just because yours are unmarked doesn't mean they aren't US Army issue. I think your correct in assuming they are WWII US Army lanterns. Posted Saturday, December 30, 2017 by LF

A. See prior question numbers 2690, 2402, 1946, 1665, and 740 for some of the earlier discussions about US Army lanterns and 1945 Dietz Vestas in particular. Just put the Q no. in the "By Question Number" search box, on the left of the text box, and hit 'Go' to see the extensive prior info. I don't think we know how many of these the US Gov't bought, but it was many, many, many!) Posted Saturday, December 30, 2017 by RJMc

 Q3407 Brass Lantern W/O Markings  I have been trying to find information on this brass lantern. There are no marking anywhere. Can any one identify this lantern? Lantern is 18 in. tall overall, 10 3/4 in. tall without handle.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, December 27, 2017 by MB   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hobson's "Lanterns That Lit Our World" shows an Adlake model, "The Queen", made from 1875 to 1910, that appears identical to the parts you have remaining. This includes the overall body shape, the closed bottom, the bail shape, the way the bail is fastened, and the round punched vent holes in top and bottom. LTLOW ALSO shows a Steam Gage and Lantern Co. model, one of the 'Conductor's' series, made (or at least sold) from 1881 to 1887, also substantially identical. Then there is the Dietz 'No. 3 Conductor's', identical except for no 'topknot' on top, made from 1888 to 1920. It is quite likely that other manufacturers produced and/or sold very similar models. And, since the lantern manufacturers at this time also traded ideas, designs, parts and even completed lantern stock, back and forth it is extremely difficult to pin down the actual manufacturer.  Posted Friday, December 29, 2017 by RJMc

 Q3406 Key Info?  Looking at a key with MM FAIYARD on the front. Trying to verify that it really is a Michigan Midland key, but I can't find anything in the state of Michigan that would be identified as FAIYARD. I am almost sure it is a yard ID, but what does the FAI stand for?  Posted Wednesday, December 13, 2017 by Specor   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. A picture or at least a description of key would be helpful. Is it a brass hollow barrel typical RR switch lock key? Maybe just a replacement door key with locksmith's name stamped on it. Maker's mark, serial number? Posted Friday, December 15, 2017 by DC

A. Here are photos... Link 1  Posted Sunday, December 17, 2017 by Specor

 Q3405 Lock Question  I bought this lock a few months ago… don't have much in it. Wondering if it is Baltimore and Annapolis RR or Bangor and Aroostook… or if it is fake all together? Very clean, shows some basic wear but nothing much. No manufacturer stamp. Thanks   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2017 by TP   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. There's also Boston and Albany, which used that name widely before the New York Central System consolidations of the nineteen-teens and twenties, and probably many more 'B&A's, and really no way to tell.  Posted Thursday, December 14, 2017 by RJMc

A. Yes, that's why I asked. I thought maybe the key or initials might be of some clue to someone here. Way too many B&As out there... LOL! Posted Thursday, December 14, 2017 by TP

 Q3404 LE&DRR Key  A friend recently purchased a Lake Erie and Detroit River RR key, and we can not find out any information on this railroad except the fact that it did exist. Do you have any information on this railroad. Mainly looking for dates, but more information would be appreciated. Thanks.  Posted Monday, December 11, 2017 by Steve   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Running a web search turned up the 20 minute YouTube video in Link 1, all about the LE&D which is related to the London and Port Stanley in Ontario. The video gives the dates as 1894 to 1903 for the LE&D company name. Link 1  Posted Monday, December 11, 2017 by RJMc

A. Once again, the Link above may not work. Try: or as it is re-entered in the Link below. Link 1  Posted Monday, December 11, 2017 by RJMc

A. The YouTube video above is a very professionally made historical documentary. It is not only a GREAT reference work, with plenty of facts, figures and photographs of people, trains,and ships (including RR car ferries) but very entertaining to watch. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in the the history of the Great Lakes area and Lake Erie in particular. Thanks very much for the question that helps us to find it. (One of the reasons info on the LE&DR seems hard to find: the references we usually check, such as Bill Edson's RR Names book, are all based on US Interstate Commerce Commission data, which does not include Canadian roads. I am not aware of a similar reference for Canada, which would be handy.)  Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2017 by RJMc

A. The Link is to another good historical reference article all about the LE&D RR printed in the Canadian RR Historical Assoc. bulletin for 1972. If the Link doesn't work, try:[take out everything between brackets]/9e03663108f1e3baa22d4d3c325adedef715df5d/original/lake-erie-detroit-river-ry-crha-241-feb-72-jack-lombard-friends.pdf? The article clarifies that prior to 1894, the company was the Lake Erie, Essex, and Detroit River. After 1904 it was leased and then absorbed by the Pere Marquette which went into C&O. Link 1  Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2017 by RJMc

A. A much more direct link to the Canadian Railroad Historical Assoc. magazine is below. The article on the LE&DR starts on page 12; the link downloads the entire magazine as a .pdf so it is quite large and slow to download..... Link 1  Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2017 by RJMc

 Q3403 Locomotive Plate?  I came across this plate at the estate of a Santa Fe employee. It looks like a smaller builders plate maybe about 7 inches. Was this maybe a plate off of the actual motor of the locomotive or some other piece of small equipment in the railyard? Thanks for any help.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, December 10, 2017 by Nick G   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I believe that it is off a EMD 710 diesel locomotive. Posted Monday, December 11, 2017 by Ex Sou Ry

A. Off locomotive or just the engine? 710 engines were also used on tug boats. Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2017 by DC

A. If this were off a locomotive the plate would show the construction number and wheel arrangement. This is most likely off an engine block which could have been used in anything. Posted Sunday, December 17, 2017 by JN

 Q3402 Monon Key?  I believe this key marked with an 'M' may be a Monon signal key that fits the cast Slaymaker type locks, but don't have the lock to test. Can any one confirm or identify? Thanks in advance.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, December 10, 2017 by RO   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I believe this is a MoPac key for one of the section tool house locks. See link for example. Link 1  Posted Sunday, December 17, 2017 by JW

A. Thanks JW. I have the MoPac Section 1,2 and 3 locks and numbered matching keys. The key does not work any of the locks or match any of the key cuts. It does work an Illinois Central signal lock of this type but I don't believe it's correct. Posted Tuesday, December 19, 2017 by RO

A. Hi, Sorry for the late reply. The "M" keys were the Masters that woukd open the 1, 2, 3, etc's. This was only designed to fit the locks of one RR, not every Slaymaker made, etc. That's why it won't fit your MoPac lock. Posted Sunday, January 28, 2018 by spladiv

 Q3401 Reproduction Badge?  I have a badge which I am almost positive is a novelty type conductor badge. A friend of mine purchased it at a public auction and it was presented as authentic. The badge appears to be a production, die cut piece. I would appreciate any feedback on whether or not this is a reproduction, as I am no expert.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, December 10, 2017 by David   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. You are correct............. Posted Monday, December 11, 2017 by JM

A. Badge is indeed a souvenir shop fake. It is most likely not a reproduction, but a fantasy badge design not based on any real badge. These type of badges show up on that world famous auction web site all the time - often listed as "new".  Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2017 by JEM

 Q3400 Adlake Switch Lamp Information Needed  I have what I think is a very old Adlake switch lamp. On the outside of the door is a brass oval tag reading 'THE ADAMS & WESTLAKE COMPANY MAKERS CHICAGO'. There are two green and two red lenses, and they are held in by the soldered in shields - they are not removable. Each lens is about 6-1/4 inches in diameter and the red ones are flashed(!) on the outside and clear on the inside. Most of the lamp weight is in the glass, as the metal gauge is somewhat thin compared to more modern switch lamps. The lamp body is 8-1/4 inch square and about 9 inches tall. The round top has no markings. To fit properly, the kerosene tank should be about 5 inches in diameter. The lamp has a wood base I added as it is really tippy. I have never seen anything quite like this, including in 'The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Railroad Lighting', so any information would be appreciated. Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, December 8, 2017 by JM   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This might be for nautical use; when permanently mounted to a pier or bridge the environment would not be as rough as on a switch stand. And I think the nautical side continued to use the square bodies much later than the RR's did, which might account for the more modern round top. Is there any kind of mounting base/fixture underneath the lamp? Posted Sunday, December 10, 2017 by RJMc

A. Hi - thanks for the insight. The mounting base post underneath is about 2" x 1-3/4", and it is about 2-1/2" long; it has a slight taper. The post is hollow, so it could fit over an appropriate sized rod, or into a tapered hole, which would give it much more stability. Actually the mounting base "top" is 5 x 5 inches and held by six rivets to the underside of the body. The body sheet metal is so thin it flexes and "pops" when the base moves. I hope this helps.  Posted Monday, December 11, 2017 by JM

A. Lamp mystery probably solved! The 1907 A & W catalog on this web site has a page showing Bridge Lamps - see Link 1. The No. 101 Bridge Lamp has a tapered mounting base post just like my lamp. A & W brags about a heavy steel body on their lamp, which mine most certainly does not have, so mine might be earlier(?). I found my lamp in Duluth, MN so perhaps it was used on a Northern Pacific Railroad bridge there. Thanks again to RJMc for pointing me in the right direction.  Link 1  Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2017 by JM

 Q3399 Button Info?  I found a button, backmark is 'rosenfeld bros balt', front is 'C & S'. I’m trying to find some background information on it. Any help would be appreciated. It was found in a warehouse in Baltimore. Thanks.  Posted Thursday, December 7, 2017 by Shane   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The largest RR using "C&S" initials, by far, was the Colorado and Southern. It has a long history, was several hundred miles long and is now part of BNSF. The much less-common C&S and much closer to B"Mo was the Chambersburg and Shippensburg Interurban RR (see link)in southern Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, there is almost no way to tell which "C&S" it is, unless you have the exact history of an item.  Link 1  Posted Thursday, December 7, 2017 by RJMc

A. A photo of the front would really help. Posted Friday, December 8, 2017 by da

A. Further checking in the Trolley and Interban Directory shows the City and Suburban Railway ran 97 miles(almost 100 miles!!) of streetcar lines in the Baltimore metro area between 1890 and 1900. That C&S was absorbed into the United Railways which ran the B'Mo streetcar network in the 1900's. They must have had quite a few crews, and lots of uniform buttons, to run a network that big. There were also City and Suburban (street) RR's in other cities and states, such as Georgia, which also probably used 'C&S' buttons.  Posted Sunday, December 10, 2017 by RJMc

 Q3398 Switch Lantern Door  How to open the door on a four sided switch lantern? It seems to slide up.  Posted Thursday, December 7, 2017 by Noellacluney   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The switch lantern doors do stick. For my stickers, I would oil the sliding parts - not with WD-40, which is not really a lubricating oil, but use something like motor oil or 3 in 1 oil. Let it soak a bit. Then I would gently tap with my plastic hammer on the door lip from underneath. If it doesn't move the door, tap harder. If you don't have a plastic non-marring hammer, use a piece of wood between the door lip and your steel hammer.  Posted Thursday, December 7, 2017 by JEM

A. I like to use a product called PB BLASTER which is both a penetrant and lubricant. It widely available at most all hardware and automotive stores. It works quite fast at room temperature and then you can go to the next step of gently tapping on the door ledge or grip. This product works really great on your railroad locks as well.Give it a try. DJB Posted Friday, December 8, 2017 by DJB

A. The above are good idea -- I do -Strongly Suggest- that you take the lens out of the door first. Lenses break easily during these "projects" ---- .... Red Beard Posted Friday, December 8, 2017 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

 Q3397 Cast Iron Signs  I’ve been collecting railroadiana for a couple of years now, but recently came across a handful of cast iron signs that I haven't come across before. They are pictured on the image. I was hoping that someone may be able to enlighten me as to their possible age and what exactly the 'Begin CTC' one and the 'A' one were used for. Thanks in advance for any and all insight. Take care.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, December 7, 2017 by Jeff   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. CTC stands for Centralized Traffic Control. Under CTC, a dispatcher or control operator (who may be quite far away)operates the switches and signals and authorizes trains to move by remote control. The signal indications and the operating rules are different when CTC is in force, so the sign notifies the operating crews they are entering CTC territory, to use the appropriate rules, and to communicate with the appropriate control operator regarding any issues. CTC became fairly common beginning in the late 1940's and is now widespread around North America. The "A" sign was probably used on a signal mast; having the A plate changes the response the crews must make at that signal. The 'Impaired Clearance' sign is interesting in that most U.S. RR's say 'Close Clearance' in those circumstances.  Posted Thursday, December 7, 2017 by RJMc

A. Awesome. Much obliged for the insight. I'm also somewhat curious about the railroad crossing sign. You can see the embossing on the bottom that reads WC 2722. I could be wrong, but I was thinking that it may be a fairly early version. All of these signs came from a man who worked on the Southern Pacific Lines as a caboose conductor for over 40 years, including the impaired clearance sign. He collected some in the yards on the job and the others were found at various Railroadiana shows. All have various markings on the backside as well. Once again, thank you for taking the time to respond. Posted Friday, December 8, 2017 by jberry

A. The "A" was indeed on a signal mast and indicates an Absolute signal. Posted Sunday, December 10, 2017 by rrsignalman

 Q3396 Number Plate ID?  A fake is a fake, but.... I picked up what I'm 199% sure is a steam number plate that's a fake, but once up on the man cave wall, it won't matter. What I seek assistance with is what is it a fake of? Foremost, the construction is ALUMINUM; on the back is an artist mark of intertwined letters 'VAP' and in Sharpie the date Dec. 6, 1996; and most important of all it cost me a big ole 5 BUCKS. The front is a red field with a gold border and the road number #1087. I had actually hoped to back into it with a preserved locomotive but alas no luck. I was misunderstanding when I got it that it was Louisville and Nashville. I am also relatively sure that the seller had clue one. Since I picked it up in Louisville, Kentucky I started searching roads of the region (Southern, C&O, B&O, PM, NYC). Nothing seemed to fit. I tried a blind web search by road number and on E-bay past sells and also a web search on preserved locomotives, hoping against hope that this was someone's x-x-x in their local city park. Besides someone (person or club) went to great care to reproduce this), so due diligence on my part is a wonderful way to pay homage. Can anyone offer assistance?  Posted Friday, November 24, 2017 by GM   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Can you post a picture? Sometimes these items are made as fund raisers to help with a restoration. You can also go to and look up preserved steam locomotives in Kentucky to see if any locomotive preserved in that state has that number. (I checked and did not see any with that number preserved in KY) You could go state by state to look for that number. Usually there won't be too many of a give road number (other than #1) so you may find only 1 or 2 with that number. Then you can research each locomotive with that number. Link 1  Posted Friday, November 24, 2017 by JN

A. If someone will confirm, I seem to have stumbled into the answer with thanks to Richard Prince's book on Southern Railway Locomotives: 4-6-0 Baldwin class of 1903 drawing (22-F-B). No data on retirement or scrapping. Maybe your group can illuminate and add to this discovery. Or perhaps offer a completely different option as I don't claim to be a subject expert. I can safely guess, I hope by the location found that it NOT a copy from the Russian Imperial Railway or such, so something local to Louisville is reasonably close. However close ONLY counts in horseshoes and Hand Grenades.  Posted Monday, November 27, 2017 by GM

A. Here's a picture. I hope this helps (1 1/4 in. x 8 in. x 21 in.) Link 1  Posted Tuesday, November 28, 2017 by GM

A. Hi, I think I found your answer. Queensland Railroad (Australia) just restored British built(1950) 4-6-0 1089. The video here shows the locomotive with the number plate on the smokebox side that looks exactly like yours.The locomotive is gorgeous and there are several videos on YouTube. It would not surprise me if repro number boards were made as a fund raiser or souvenir. Link 1  Posted Wednesday, November 29, 2017 by JN

A. Hi, I just realized I checked engine for an engine 1089, not 1087. My mistake. There are models of Southern 1087 in HO scale. I don't find any record of any 4-6-0 #1087 being preserved. Sorry for the mix up.  Posted Wednesday, November 29, 2017 by JN

A. This looks similar in style to a Canadian Pacific steam number plate #1087 would correspond to a D class 4-6-0 I know these have been reproduced and not sure if 1087 still exists Posted Thursday, December 14, 2017 by Robert Hedgecock

 Q3395 Caboose Lamp?   Many years ago I acquired the attached lamp that was sold as a 'caboose lamp'. There is a red lens which would be facing rearward. The back side has a 5 in. clear lens. What would it be used for and where would it be mounted? Holes in the back side would appear to be for mounting on a flat surface.  [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, November 24, 2017 by TC   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. These fixtures were used and re-used in many different applications (and even in different industries), but so far I can't see a place on a caboose that would make use of all the features on this light. Your light could have been mounted on the rear of a steam locomotive tender on a flat plate projecting above the top of the tender deck. If mounted that way, the red main lens facing rear would serve as a marker for when the engine was running light -- without a train; the larger white lens would shine to the front (through a hole in the mounting plate) to light the deck where the water hatches open; the smaller white lens facing down would light the ladder on the back of the tender, and the smaller red lens remains unexplained -- it might have been clear originally?? Although the smaller red lens doesn't look like it was replaced. This is all guessing so far; hopefully someone has seen these in use and can advise. The Links are to pix of engines with lights mounted much as described above, but without some of the features.  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Friday, November 24, 2017 by RJMc

A. I didn't mention that the lamp was "new - old stock" i.e. unused. I don't think anything has been changed. I think the tender light might be reasonable. e-bay has a similar lamp w/ red and no back or bottom lights. This lamp was similar to the UP 844 tender lamp link. Thank you for the response. Posted Saturday, November 25, 2017 by TC

A. Fixtures similar to this, but with a single red lens, were used on the front of steam locomotives on RR's such as the DL&W, apparently as markers for when the engine was backing up. That application had no need for the pass-thru or down-facing lenses.  Posted Sunday, November 26, 2017 by RJMc

A. A further check: if the bulb is the one which came with the fixture, see if it is a 32 Volt bulb ( and DON'T try to light it with 120 Volts!!). The bulb should be labelled on the top. Despite the unusual voltage, the bulbs were generally the same size and had the same, interchangeable screw bases (this is called the Edison base) as regular building or household bulbs. Most steam locomotive electrical systems were 32 Volt and ran off steam-driven generators, with no batteries; they only needed power when the engine was operating. Most cabooses, when they had electrical systems at all, were 12 volt systems and ran off wheel-driven generators backed up with storage batteries, since work continued in the caboose whether it was rolling or not. This also allowed some use of automotive technology.  Posted Friday, December 1, 2017 by RJMc

 Q3394 N&W Name Change  When did the N&W (Norfolk & Western) go from 'RR' to 'Ry'?  Posted Wednesday, November 22, 2017 by Ex Sou Ry   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. According to the Link, which has a lot more detailed history, "The Norfolk & Western Railway was established through a reorganization of the bankrupt Norfolk and Western Railroad in 1896..."  Link 1  Posted Wednesday, November 22, 2017 by RJMc

A. The Link above doesn't seem to work; here is the URL:  Posted Wednesday, November 22, 2017 by RJMc

 Q3393 RR Locks?  Can you tell me if either of these two locks are RR locks? Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, November 13, 2017 by Mark   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. No,they are not. Not even RR type. Posted Monday, November 13, 2017 by DC

A. A railroad worker may have used one or both of your locks personally, but without actual railroad markings on them or other documentable provenance, there is no way to claim they are "railroad locks" (were used by a railroad). Check out the link I am posting, it is a tremendous resource on almost every kind of antique padlock.  Link 1  Posted Sunday, November 19, 2017 by jms

 Q3392 Headlight Reflector?  I was told this was a reflector for a Train front light .. I can't find anything like this anywhere . Hopefully you can help me . Its stamped Matisse Bros. I do know the made reflectors in the 1920's for headlights , but this is all I know .. Its 14.5 inches in diameter and made of uranium glass & copper. Thank you so much for any information.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, November 13, 2017 by RP   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This is an appropriate size for a RR headlight reflector, and the shape is about right. RR's did use "Golden Glow" (a trade name) reflectors which would have performed very much as this one would. The Link is to an article about the use of uranium glass and other similar types of glass in Japan and Asia. However, we have to note that in the early 20th century many kinds of vehicles and ships used large reflector headlamps and spotlights, prior to the adoption of sealed beam lamps, so its difficult to confirm specifically RR use.  Link 1  Posted Monday, November 13, 2017 by RJMc

 Q3391 L&N Lock  A friend of mine has a L&N lock that has the number 136 on the top. The place for the key is on the bottom and is flat. I was wondering if you had any information regarding this lock and if possible a picture of key for it?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, November 8, 2017 by Rita H   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. That world renowned auction site has a similar L&N lock for sale (made by Miller) even as we speak (11/11/2017). See Link 1. The seller describes it as "pancake" lock and others describe it as a push key lock, because the key needs to be pushed in against levers to open the lock. The key would be obviously flat and have "fingers" of various lengths on the end. If six fingers it would be a six lever type lock - five fingers, a five lever lock, etc. See Link 2 for a picture of a six lever pancake lock with a key.  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Saturday, November 11, 2017 by JEM

 Q3390 Lamp ID Needed  Can you help Identify this red and beveled clear glass signal lantern with badger oil wick inside?  [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, November 8, 2017 by Martin   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q3389 Keys  I have two keys I believe are railroad keys from my grandfather. Are these railroad keys and where could I find more info? They have numbers on the other side. thanks,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, October 30, 2017 by Kathy   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hi! These are railroad switch keys. They opened the locks on track switches so trains could go into sidings. MO.P is Missouri Pacific. The STL & SW is St. Louis & Southwestern, otherwise known as "The Cotton Belt". The numbers could have been employee numbers, since a key was assigned to a worker who was responsible for it for their entire career. Posted Monday, October 30, 2017 by JN

A. I forget to mention that each of these keys would work many locks over many miles of track. In other words, 100 locks would work with the 1 key, rather than a worker having to carry 100 keys for 100 different locks. Posted Monday, October 30, 2017 by JN

A. Just curious, but does anyone know what type of key the brass/steel SSW key is on the right? Over the years, I've seen several of these made the same way, but in different railroad names.  Posted Wednesday, November 1, 2017 by BK

A. Its a switch key. The lock it fits takes a solid barrel key instead of the usual hollow barrel key. Posted Monday, November 6, 2017 by DA

A. There is an identical key shown on p.347 of the Knous "2011 and Beyond" price guide, confirming it is from the St Louis & Southwestern, and giving it a value of $50-$60 . NOTE this key, like the one in the book, has a steel bow and a brass barrel. Realize that "value" is a "price guide estimate." Depending on its worth to an individual it may sell for more or less. If these were my grandfather's keys with a family heritage I am not sure I would accept any price for them. The link I'm providing is to the Railroad Memories auction site, you can check there to find similar key auction results if you like.  Link 1  Posted Sunday, November 19, 2017 by jms

 Q3388 AT&SF Bell  This bell is 18 plus inches; weighs about 80 lbs. I believe it to be brass or bronze but cannot find any info on it. Please help.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, October 29, 2017 by PN   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Railroad companies would give away as presentation pieces bells, whistles, builders plates, number plates, lanterns and other artifacts to employees who were retiring. They also did this for churches, valued customers or enthusiastic boosters (railfans) along the line. When the railroads were phasing out steam locomotives this tradition accelerated to the point where surplus material was also sold to the public at events or thru museum gift shop catalogs. What you have here appears to be an old steam locomotive bell that was presented in 1961. This would fit the end of steam time period outlined above. The bell pictured has a nice age patina and if it were mine I would NOT clean or polish it. I guess we have all seen enough antiques TV programs were a piece is appraised for what seems to be a nice chunk of change. Then the appraiser says something along the lines of it would be worth ten times as much if you hadn’t refinished it. At that point the owner’s smile fades.  Posted Sunday, October 29, 2017 by Ex Sou Ry

A. Bells aren't furniture or coins. There more like silver tea sets. I think professional type polishing would probably enhance its appeal and value to perspective buyers. In the end it's owners choice. See Link 1 Link 1  Posted Monday, October 30, 2017 by LF

A. Locomotive numbers were often stamped into items such as bells, whistles, etc., and other removable parts down to siderods, for example, to keep track of the various pieces when engines were stripped down for major overhauls. (NOTE: This is never a GUARANTEE of where things came from, since things moved all around RR properties all the time, and things often got re-stamped.) But assuming the stamping refers to ATSF Steam Locomotive #4075, checking various ATSF rosters shows the 4060 series were 2-8-2 "Mikado" types built in the 1920's and scrapped in the mid 1950's See Link 1 for pic of 4100 and description. An even better pic, this one of the 4076, is at Link 2. Note the bell on these engines is on top of the boiler, directly behind the stack. I am intrigued by how the 'ceremonial' Santa Fe logo and lettering is attached to your bell. Are the brass letters individually brazed on, or was the whole logo and legend applied as a single piece? The RR having gone to all the trouble, this bell was obviously presented with a great deal of ceremony, as described in the other answers, and there are likely to be news accounts and possibly pix of that event if you can narrow down the locale where it resided.  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Monday, October 30, 2017 by RJMc

A. The Santa Fe Historical Society (Link 1) may be able to give you more info. about the bell. And as to press accounts of donations, the Santa Fe RR employee magazine for 1961 would very likely have covered a donation event such as we are describing, likely with pix. Knowing the year of the donation should really help narrow the search quickly.  Link 1  Posted Monday, October 30, 2017 by RJMc

 Q3387 Polishing a Locomotive Bell?  I have what I think is a locomotive bell. Would it be worth the time to polish it or do collectors like it with patina? Thank you.  Posted Saturday, October 28, 2017 by HDK   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This is almost entirely an 'owners preference' issue; it was that way when the bells were on the locomotives as well -- a matter of taste. If you don't plan to be the owner for very long, I would bear in mind that the patina can be made to go away fairly quickly, but is almost impossible to restore if someone wants it back. Posted Saturday, October 28, 2017 by RJMc

A. If it were mine I would NOT clean or polish it. I guess we have all seen enough antiques TV programs were a piece is appraised for what seems to be a nice chunk of change. Then the appraiser says something along the lines of it would be worth ten times as much if you hadn’t refinished it. At that point the owner’s smile fades. Posted Sunday, October 29, 2017 by Ex Sou Ry

 Q3386 Builders Plate Info?  If someone could help me identify what this plate came from, I would greatly appreciate it! I ran across this plate mounted with a old locomotive picture and can't seem to find anything about it online. It measures 8.5 inches by 6.5 inches and weighs about 4 lbs. Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, October 26, 2017 by CA   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I don’t believe that this is a builders plate. More than likely just a house number. Posted Sunday, October 29, 2017 by Ex Sou Ry

A. Research on the web tells me that J. Drummond & Sons had a 7 acre fabric mill complex in Bradford U.K. They may have had their own locomotive to move freight around. Does the writing on train print give any clue? Four digits does seem more like an address than a single locomotive. Posted Sunday, October 29, 2017 by DC

A. J. Drummond's Mill, in Lumb Lane, Bradford, Yorkshire, England, was one of the largest cloth mills in the area. It contained hundreds of looms and other machines, each of which carried a numbered identity plate. I believe that this is such a plate. I don't think it is connected with the photograph, which is of a N.American train, not a British one. Drummond's Mill was burned down in 2016. Posted Friday, November 3, 2017 by JAJ

A. The above comments about machine number plates make sense. I could not locate anywhere about the Bradford, UK, area where '2291' would make sense as a address or building number. As to the photo, close study shows the station sign probably says "Sanford". The time period is probably 1900 - 1910. Looking at all the various Sanford Station pix on the web, the closest looks like maybe Sanford, Maine, on the Boston and Maine (See Link). I was unable to make out the caption which had been handwritten on the negative in the lower right of the photo, but if legible it would provide further clues. There is no apparent connection between the photo and the ID plate.  Link 1  Posted Sunday, November 5, 2017 by RJMc

A. Continuing study of the picture shows that the number plate on the engine front looks to be the characteristic "Frisco" shape (not B&M). The large lettering of the station name, where the ending "Ford" is almost all that is legible, is also notable. The time period is definitely around 1900, evidenced by the engine having air brake hoses, but also having a front coupler slotted to also take link and pin couplings. There is a Mannford, OK, near Tulsa, which might match the etched-in caption. No photo has turned up so far there, but see the Link for a definitely Frisco train and station at about the right time period, definitely similar to the pic in question. However, still no link to the "Branford" plate.  Link 1  Posted Friday, December 1, 2017 by RJMc

 Q3385 Highest Lantern Price?  I'm getting into lantern collecting and am realizing there are many many rare and super rare lanterns that exist as only a few known examples or maybe only one known. My question is out of personal curiosity: what is the most anyone has seen a lantern sell for? Not looking for a line or specific lantern just curious as to how much some of the rarest or most desirable have gone for in the past. I've seen some go 4 figures and would imagine some would go in the ten thousands but have any that anyone knows of gone in the 20s, 30s ...100 thousands? Again I'm not looking for specifics on individual lanterns; just curious as I'm looking at some of the rarest of my favorite railroad and seeing there are only one or a few of some lanterns and globes. Thanks for any input.  Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2017 by PM   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. If memory serves, and it often doesn't, a few years ago at an auction a Santa Fe(?) lantern with an extended base blue cast globe sold for $25,000 or so. A year or two ago a Northern Pacific lantern with a green cast globe went for about $15,000. From what I am seeing, generally most railroad lanterns, lamps, and other items are seeing price drops as collectors age and downsize, and people become less interested in buying "stuff". I think this is also true in the railroad china collecting area. And today you can't give away Grandma's china either. The RR collecting area isn't in Beany Baby territory yet, but it may get there some day.  Posted Thursday, October 26, 2017 by JEM

A. I also remember that $25,000+ figure reported on an internet forum some years ago -- which is the highest lantern/globe price that I've ever heard of. Regarding china, Richard Luckin (one of the major RR china experts) was quoted in Trains magazine a few years ago as saying that RR china values were declining. A lot of collectors seem to think this is the wave of the future. However, some people say that US Civil War artifacts have remained very popular among collectors, even though no one alive experienced that conflict personally. So it's possible that railroad stuff will not completely fade away. Ultimately it's anyone's guess. Posted Thursday, October 26, 2017 by PK

 Q3384 Syracuse China Cup  I have a Syracuse China Cup with large initials CM & O on the front and dated 9-MM (Sept 1958). I’m looking to find out if this cup is possibly Railroad China? Is there a Railroad with these initials? Possibly Chicago, Milwaukee & Omaha? or Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway (which was reportedly having the initials CMO)? Thank you in advance for your help,  Posted Tuesday, October 24, 2017 by Donna E.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The initials are actually GM & O for Gulf Mobile & Ohio RR Posted Thursday, October 26, 2017 by DME

A. A picture would be nice !! Without it, it's hard to tell much, and with all due respect, we can't say with 100% accuracy if the first letter is a "C" or a "G" without any more description than that (such as the color). It IS possible that there may be china made with a CM&O marking, but not very likely, but more details would help remove any doubt. I am posting a picture of the Gulf Mobile & Ohio china that DME is referencing, the pattern name is "Rose." To be Gulf Mobile & Ohio railroad china your piece must be the same decoration. Good luck! Link 1  Posted Friday, October 27, 2017 by JMS

 Q3383 Lima Number Plate  This is at a local antique store and I'm trying to figure out if it's legit or not. I know Lima plates were cast bronze but the name Lima Locomotive Corporation was used between 1912-1916, during WW1, so maybe they used metal over bronze because of the war? Unfortunately I didn't get a close look, but close inspection of the photo where the paint has flaked off makes be believe it's galvanized. That seems like a lot of effort to do for a fake. What's your opinions on it? Cheers,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, October 24, 2017 by Drew   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. What does the back look like? Posted Friday, October 27, 2017 by JPN

 Q3382 Number Plate?  Hello. I was wanting to see if anyone knows about this engine plaque I just got. I'm wanting to see if anyone knows what railway it came from? Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, October 24, 2017 by BR   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Cast iron signs in black and white are usually railroad, however it may not be an engine plaque. With two mounting holes in the center could have been made to mount on a pole, perhaps as a mileage marker. No clue as to what railroad. Posted Saturday, October 28, 2017 by DC

A. Yes, this is quite likely a milepost marker. Put 'milepost' in the 'Search by word or phrase' to see several prior Q's about cast iron mile marker signs. Many of the larger RR's had lines more than 350 miles long.  Posted Wednesday, November 1, 2017 by RJMc

 Q3381 B&O Strap  I came across several of these straps and have no idea as to what they were used for -- 4 3/4 in. long, 3/4 in. wide, looks to be made of a type of either plastic or hard fiber board. The back is unmarked and they all look somewhat faded. Very small arch so it's hard to think that it could be a handle of some sorts. Any help is welcome!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, October 8, 2017 by Bob N.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. No exact answer yet as to "What is this?" Some observations to start the discussion: The phrase 'compliments of' usually gets used on advertising material, something someone is handing out or making available to some part of the public they are trying to impress. Possibilities might include magazines or newspapers made available to passengers. To try to pin down the age of the item, searching shows that the B&O used "The Friendly RR" slogan at least in 1936; the B&O Magazine for 1936 in the Link uses the slogan several times thruout. And probably a coincidence, but the size, shape and curvature of the item almost perfectly match a conductor's hat badge, many of which were fastened onto the hat with two brass studs at either side of the badge, where the slots are on your item.  Link 1  Posted Monday, October 9, 2017 by RJMc

A. Could be a carry handle for a package bound in string. Department stores in Philadelphia used to give a carry handle of wood and wire with complements of printed on them. If you bought for instance a suit, it was folded, put in a box and bound with string. Maybe some passengers would be carrying something bound like this ?? Posted Friday, October 13, 2017 by DC

A. I thank you for the input to my question. The possibility of it being some sort of hat badge is about the closest. The material is too weak to be any sort of a handle so until someone can shed more light on this question, I'll go with that! Thanks again!!! Bob  Posted Sunday, October 15, 2017 by RLN

A. RLN: Let's revisit this for a moment. - A hat badge, it is not. A common mistake in this hobby is to apply the phrase “it looks like..” to an item. There is no hat that something like this would be applied to. Railroads did have Engineer and Conductor hats printed on heavy paper / light card stock, which were given to children on trains; (much like the Burger King Crowns of today) however, those had any lettering or badge printed on them. - A conductor's or trainman's dress uniform hat that a real brass badge would go on was a pretty esoteric and expensive item; not something a non-railroader would own. The last time I saw a new one from a top quality hat manufacturer, it was nearly $200, and would have been comparatively priced, adjusted down before inflation “back in the day”; so passengers or the general public would have no use for a novelty hat badge. - - Item, next; “bundles”. - A hundred years ago, good luggage was quite expensive. Many average people didn't have any. It wasn't until the American entrepreneur Sol Koffler started American Luggage Works (later, American Tourister) in 1933 in Providence, Rhode Island, that sturdy and affordable luggage became generally available; selling at the time for a dollar per suitcase. Remember too, 1933 was well into the Great Depression, if you could find work, a dollar a day was about all a man made then, if that much. Consequently, many people didn't have a dollar to spare for one of Koffler's new suitcases. - Actually, 'DC' (above) hit it right on the head. If you needed to travel, it was common to fold your clothing, stack the items and tie string around them to keep them together, which you then hand carried. If you were fortunate enough (depression, remember) to have wrapping paper, you could wrap the folded clothes in good brown wrapping paper to keep them clean, and not have your “BVDs” (..look it up) visible to the whole world. The next problem was that a weighty bundle of clothes, or a gift for grandma, would get pretty heavy and the string holding it together would seriously cut into your hand while carrying it. An advertising novelty “handle” like the one shown in this question was actually a cushion that slipped -under- the string, so it didn't have to be very strong, and was centered and held in place by the end notches. Its purpose was to spread the weight of the package out over a wider area on your skin than the string alone and make the bundle much easier (and less painful) to carry. - Oh, yes, Wrapping Paper: going back from the mid-twentieth century into the 1800s, stores would wrap your purchases in heavy weight, brown wrapping paper, and tie it up with string so you could carry it home (think of the 'Sound of Music' song). Wrapping paper then, and even as recently as fifty years ago, was much more substantial than what we have today. It was long fiber, 'virgin' paper, not this 'post-consumer' recycled junk we have now, and was actually quite strong and durable and could be reused a few times. - An advertising piece, such as this B&O package handle, in that day and age, would likely have been held onto for some time and used over and over to carry items on a day to day basis, giving the railroad lots of exposure from a small, inexpensive promo item. ---- …. Red Beard  Posted Tuesday, October 17, 2017 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider