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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:

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Latest 25 Questions:

 Q2935 RR Marked Creamer/Milk Bottles  You mention on your website about the appearance of small milk bottles and creamer bottles [typically 3/4 oz.] bearing railroad logos, and that experienced collectors consider many of them to be fake. Having unknowingly bought a few non-railroad fake creamers, I did some research and read in a source on-line that, among other things, there are NO authentic creamer bottles having railroad logos, and thus collectors should avoid any creamers with logos. Can someone confirm? However, I've found no information one way or the other on the authenticity of the small milk bottles. I do remember a few years ago that there were several listings on eBay of creamers with railroad logos, but these were immediately removed. At that time, I had no idea why, but having read later about fakes, perhaps the seller was persuaded to take them off.  Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2015 by CB   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q2934 EMD Cover Plate  Any idea what this plate/cover would have been used for? It looks to be cast aluminum or brass? It measures about 7 inches. It says 2019-EM on the back of it.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, March 29, 2015 by SY   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Thank you for your response! I've been scratching my head trying to figure this out!  Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2015 by SY

A. Hello SY.I worked for the railroad for 40 years and although I was in the signal dep't,I deadheaded enough on the trains,in the lead loco usually,to recognize these emblems.I may be wrong,but I am sure these emblems were mounted in the center of the General Motors locomotive control stands near the other various gauges.I recall these on the older diesel locos from the 40s-50s,models such as the SD,GP,F and E models.General Electric and Alco had similar emblems on their control stands.If I am wrong,someone out there will correct me and set the record straight.Lets wait and see. DJB Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2015 by DJB

 Q2933 Dietz Vesta Restoration  I am restoring a Dietz Vesta lantern that had a heavy coat of gray paint on it. After the paint was removed, there was quite a bit of rust pitting on a large portion of the lantern and I could see why it might have been painted. Should I leave it as is or is there a silver paint that might look good? Any help is appreciated and thank you.  Posted Friday, March 27, 2015 by RD   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. You can try stripping off the rust using the Lye and hot water process. Use a plastic pail, fill with hot water as hot as it can get from the tap, take your lantern apart as much as possible removing globe of course and pot and burner and globe retainer and spring. Place the lantern and any rusty metal parts in the bucket of hot water and slowly add lye and stir with wooden spoon. Let soak for up to an hour. Don't burn your hands! Remove, rinse and use a brillo pad and soap and cold water. This strips the rust off and you should see 'clean' relatively bright metal. You can improve further by lightly buffing with WD-40 and extra fine steel wool. But be careful- if the rust is very deep this could leave small holes in the lantern but only if the rust is extensive. If that's the case, leave the rust, and your lantern will have to look like a well-used piece instead. I've fixed up many lanterns using this process. Posted Saturday, March 28, 2015 by Steve B.

A. If after all this cleaning you should decide to paint and don't like a silvery finish, an alternative is cold spray galvanize available at a welding supply. Posted Sunday, March 29, 2015 by DC

 Q2932 PRR Reproduction Silver?  Does anyone know if there is someone making reproduction RR silver?? I recently saw at a railroad show there was Pennsylvania Railroad 48 oz Silver Coffee Pot for sale. It had International markings on the bottom with 09-01 with the box inside marked 71. PRR didn't exist in 1971, that was taken over by Penn Central (PRR & NYC merger which ended in 1976). I originally thought that the coffee pot was made in 1871 but International Silver didn't exist until 1898. Any information anyone could provide me would be greatly appreciated!  Posted Friday, March 27, 2015 by JT   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q2931 Tubular Lantern used on RR  I have a question regarding one of the lanterns I just found in the garage. It looks identical to the Defiance 'Perfect' N0 O. Lantern, however only has 'made in USA' on top cover; and 'N0 O. Tubular' on tank base. There is no manufacturer name anywhere. Is this one of Embury's lanterns he manufactured shortly after leaving Defiance?? My late father told us that he got it while working for railroad repairing tracks one summer back in the 1940's around Pittsburgh, Pa. Just would like to know who made it when someone asks, thank you, keep up the good work.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2015 by GK   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q2930 Semaphore  In reference to a semaphore signal, what is a spectacle casting?  Posted Monday, March 23, 2015 by CH   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hi CH,The spectacle casting on a semaphore signal is the part that actually holds the lens openings,lens and lense holders.In many cases its not even a casting.Its usually a piece of heavy stamped sheet steel that's bolted or riveted to an actual heavy casting.This casting is really a counterweight arm that causes the complete arm assembly,blade and lenses to fall by gravity when electrical energy is removed from the motor mechanism latch.I can go on with this subject but this should give you some idea to what you are asking about.DJB signal dep't retired. Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2015 by DJB

A. DJB, many thanks.  Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2015 by CH

 Q2929 Howard Railroad Bell  I recently acquired a complete Howard 12 inch railroad bell. My grandfather worked for a railroad company in upstate New York. Only marking besides “Howard” is “Patent Pending” with the E in pending missing. The bell is frozen at this time (no parts move). Any suggestions on who I could reach out to unfreeze this? No fun having a bell that does not work.  Posted Monday, March 23, 2015 by Shawn   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Pictures of the bell, inside and out, would really help here. A lot depends on what kind of ringing apparatus is on your bell.  Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2015 by RJMc

 Q2928 Station Sign  Question about this sign: It's 24 inches wide and 16 1.2 inches tall. It's heavy cast alum. Reading lines was taken over by Conrail in the 70s. Did they make station signs out of alum back then? Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, March 22, 2015 by RT   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. sorry theirs not enough real railroad collectors on this site who know enough about it to answer your question. if you notice how sometimes how they refer you to another question number to look the way were or the real i mean real railroad collectors at  Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2015 by djb

 Q2927 Advance RR Warning Sign  I bought this sign about 10 years ago. It's steel with raised RR and X. The paint was very faded; only traces of it were still on it. I repainted it the same as I found it. Is this right -- white on black or is it black on white? I have seen the signs with the two RR and a cross painted the same way, white on black. Is this right and what year did they use these signs? Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, March 22, 2015 by RT   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. See prior Q's 2284 and 1324 on this board for a long discussion on this. Just enter the Q number in the 'By Quetion Number' box, and it should take you right to the former questions and answers. Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2015 by RJMc

A. i have seen the old cast iron round warning signs the ones with the cross and two rrs that were white on black. this sign might be from 1920s federal highway funds were for state highways not state roads or county roads.i only saw a couple of these type of sign that were painted white on was up to each state what color the signs were.white on black showed up better at night then black on headlights weren't as bright as they are today Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2015 by mk

 Q2926 Tool ID?  I have this Colorado & Southern tool. Can you ID this tool and how come it's marked C.S. & R.R. Co? Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, March 22, 2015 by Roy   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. To begin with there is no ampersand between the C & S so I do not believe it is Colorado and Southern. Looks like could be R B not R R. Looks like a tool for unscrewing golf shoe spikes. Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2015 by DC

 Q2925 Lamp Info Needed  I wonder if you could help me identify a railroad lamp which I acquired recently? It's quite heavy. I think it is very rare over here in England. Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, March 22, 2015 by JN   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. It's a British railway lamp for illuminating temporary speed restrictions. Where a speed restriction was imposed due to track ("permanent way" = "p/way") work, or the poor condition of the track, 3 temporary signs were placed; the first, showing the maximum speed in m.p.h. also carried a yellow fishtail shaped "caution" signal board, the second, a letter "C" (commencement) and the third, at the end of the restricted section, a letter "T" (termination). These were painted on translucent glass (later perspex) plates which fitted in the slots on the front of the lamp. This system was used until about 1990, when it was replaced by more modern battery operated equipment. "Havant", as marked on this lamp, is a town near Portsmouth, in Hampshire. I'm afraid that these lamps are not particularly rare, though they are not widely collected as they are relatively modern. Perhaps "unusual" would be more appropriate.  Posted Sunday, March 22, 2015 by JAJ

 Q2924 Dressel Erie Lantern  Just bought a Dressel Lantern with an embossed 'diamond E' logo on the lid as well as an etched 'diamond E' on the clear globe. Did Erie mark their lanterns with the diamond logo? Thanks.  Posted Wednesday, March 18, 2015 by Al   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The Erie had several markings. They used the "diamond E", "ERIE" and "ERR". I have a Dressel and an Armspear, both with the diamond E.  Posted Thursday, March 19, 2015 by JN

A. I have an Armspear 1925 with the above mentioned "ERIE" in raised letters on the lid Posted Monday, March 23, 2015 by WC

 Q2923 Brass Genesy Electric Lantern  I recently purchased a brass Genesy Electric Lantern Co. K. C. , MO. Barrel-shaped body ( 1920's). This would be the style with a magnifying lens below the light bulb and a slide switch on the side of the body. What makes the one I purchased interesting is there is NO threaded hole on the bottom for a bulb (solid bottom) and NO evidence of four prongs where the lens would have been attached. Also, the switch is riveted to the body and does NOT move. Could this be a lantern that left the factory by mistake? The attachment is the nickel-plated brass model complete with bulb and lens.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, March 17, 2015 by KFK   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. It appears to be heavily and very attractively plated, and in very good condition. Another thought is its a demonstrator or display model of some kind; but you would think the best demo would be turning on the light. Or maybe a first prototype? If you have a working one of these, do the holes for the bulb appear to be drilled into the case? That could indicate an incomplete unit taken off the assembly line before being finished, but the immovable switch does not support that theory.  Posted Wednesday, March 18, 2015 by RJMc

 Q2922 Kero Fuel?  I sent an Email to Adams and Westlake about the right fuel to use [in a Kero lantern]. Eric said none of the lanterns burn kerosene but to use lamp oil. All the lamp oil products I see on-line are paraffin based, some up to 99% paraffin. In the Railroadiana readings it says many times that Kerosene is the best lantern fuel and was the historic fuel. Do you have a kerosene fuel brand or source that you can recommend? I see the flash point should be above 140' F. I am in Minnesota near Minneapolis, St Paul. A local farm store here in MN has a clear, K-1 Kerosene but it is a mixture of Paraffinic, Olefinic, Naphthenic and Aromatic Hydrocarbon. Know anything about that Paraffinic?  Posted Friday, March 13, 2015 by Kelvin   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This was taken Kirkman Lanterns web site. See link Always use 150 degree kerosene, or regular lamp oil for best results. 7. Never use gasoline, paint thinner, Coleman fuel, or any other explosive oil with a wick. 8. Avoid using colored or tinted oils as they will gum the wick. 7. Paraffin oil should not be used with 7/8" or larger wick due to the difference in viscosity. (Paraffin burns with a 50% reduction in light output.)  Link 1  Posted Friday, March 13, 2015 by JL

A. How I long for the days when you could go to the filling station and get old K2 yellow kerosene (referred by many as "coal oil" because it actually had a coal-like smell) and pay 25% less for it than a gallon of gas. Now it's more expensive than gas and is the clear K1 often used for heating in small home heaters. I do buy a couple of gallons of the new stuff every now and then to keep my outdoor switch lamp and hand lantern lit but I usually have to bear the brunt of some smart alec counter clerk saying, "That ain't gonna' keep you warm very long." I just tell them I'm going to start a brush pile on fire and that seems to satisfy their pesky need to know why I'm not buying five gallons at a time. Out at my in laws old farm, I did find a 35 gallon barrel mounted sideway on a rack that hadn't been touched for 50 years. It was used by my wife's grandfather when he still used kerosene lamps. I drain off a couple of inches of water that had formed from condensation over the eons of time and then drew off a gallon of the old stuff and used it in some lamps at home. It sputtered a bit at firs but then settled into the dull yellow flame so well know if lamps and lanterns of times past. Sorry to ramble like an old timer but that's my two cents worth on the subject of kerosene and lamp oil issuesl. Posted Saturday, March 14, 2015 by TE

A.  I'm pleased to hear that Adlake actually answered your email. Adlake has had a history of ignoring hobbyists; largely because they have been deluged with lengthy questions from people who will never be customers, about products they no longer make. - Unfortunately, the personnel at Adlake know very little about their historic product line. -- In a litigious society, they may be cautious about recommending Kerosene for lamps/lanterns to be burned indoors. -- Something to know about Kerosene!, ...once you've burned Kerosene in a lamp or lantern you will NEVER get all of that smell out!!, ..even if you burn lamp oil in it, it will still smell a bit like Kerosene for years, if not forever. -- Some people can't stand the smell of Kerosene in the house (wives especially!!) -- Sterno Candlelamp Softlight Lamp Oil is a very good product. It burns bright white and has no discernible odor, BUT it will make an old Kerosene lamp smell from reheating the old Kerosene residue. -- You will have to hunt for a restaurant supply company that sells the Sterno Oil; by the gallon it is $20 - $30 but worth it as it is so clean and odor free. -- Don't worry about any Lamp Oil gumming up your wick; wicks are cheap and easy to replace if it does gum up. You’re not going to burn it all that many hours over a year’s time anyway. You can also take the wick out of the lamp and hand wash it to get the gumming out of it. ..take the wick out of the lamp/lantern, soak it overnight with WD-40, then hand wash with lots of liquid dish detergent, rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse several times and dry outside in the warm sun. Wick should work just fine again. K-1 Kerosene from your Farm Supply will work just fine in your lantern, but it will smell. Petro Chemistry has its own language and "paraffin" & "parafinnic" have lots of meanings; far to technical to go into here; Google it if you want in depth information. Kerosene is actually a mixture of about ten different hydrocarbons and the exact combination can vary slightly and still be considered Kerosene. Paraffinic, Olefinic, Naphthenic and Aromatic Hydrocarbons are all legitimate components of Kerosene. We really do live in the age of "TMI", and that label is a good example. -- Go to your local small airport and see if they will sell you a gallon of Jet Fuel (NOT Aviation Fuel, which is gasoline) Jet Fuel is some of the best Kerosene you can buy, and usually cheaper than at the hardware store! ..just make sure it does not have any dye in it. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Saturday, March 14, 2015 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. K1 kerosene will work fine, and is probably the best fuel for the lantern. However, my wife complained about the smell of kerosene, so I switched to Ultra Pure lamp oil. Definitely wasn't as bright as kerosene, but worked fine for my purposes. And that worked great until my local Walmart quit selling the Ultra Pure stuff. Now I burn regular lamp oil. A bit more smell than the Ultra Pure stuff, but not as smelly as the kerosene. Hey TE, tell me about your "outdoor switch lamp". How do you have it mounted, and how often do you burn it? I've been thinking about putting one outside, but I worry about thieves.  Posted Monday, March 16, 2015 by JeffPo

A. JeffPo: If you go to the 'featured' section on the home page of this site [see link below], you'll see it pictured about half way down page three. There's probably a better way to mount it but I'm in an area where theft is minimal--at least for something like that-- so I took a landscape timber from the lumber yard (i.e., a few dollars) and had them cut it in 4 pieces of slightly different lengths. Then I nailed those together in a cluster of varying heights and anchored it in a hole dug with a pair post hole diggers. Then I marked off the four footed base of the lamp, on the top of the tallest post and sawed horizontally down an inch or so in all the various directions of the marking and finally chiseled that out. If you look close or enlarge the picture, you see that I merely used large, U-shaped fence staples from a farm store and hammered them over each of the four leg protrusions. A bit crude but it's stable. When this picture was posted, it had been there about 23 years and now it's around 27 years or 28. Time passes. It's burned constantly day and night all that time except when I'm gone on vacation and it will run out of fuel. I go through about a gallon of K1 a month and refill it every 4 to five days but it's never empty at that time. I do replace the wick about once every year to 18 months. Technically, I should replace the wick sooner even though it's still long enough but they aren't the easiest thing to axquire, other than going onto Ebay and getting a packet of them. I think Kirkman sells them for a couple of bucks a piece but I have not bought from them. I just enjoy seeing it lit at night and know that it's still functioning in the way it was suppose to. Hard to tell how old this model is at least as to when it was manufactured. Adlake made most of their models for a long time. This one did come off the railroad in the early 70's. I do know that for sure. Admittedly, burning K1 in the house or an enclosed area would still be somewhat strong. You should have smelled old K2. Whew! Actually, some of the older hand lanterns burned lard oil. That would have been something to keep thin in cold weather. TE  Link 1  Posted Monday, March 16, 2015 by TE

 Q2921 Air Hose  We bought this air hose from someone in California who said it was a spare from a Union Pacific locomotive. It seems very long for the average railroad air hose, so is there any idea what it was used on (i.e. a car, locomotive, caboose, etc.)? Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, March 12, 2015 by TP   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A.  This is a multiple unit(MU)hose connection used to control two or more engines in consist from one location. There are two sets of three each side of the coupler, one set usually being connected and the valves open. The inboard hose is the main reservoir hose, the middle is the actuating hose for bailing off a brake pipe reduction, the outside hose is the application & release hose for use with the independent brakes of the engine consist. The larger air hose next to the coupler is the train line brake hose and there is a larger MU cable that connects the engines electrically plugging into a sprung cap protected socket from engine to engine just under the walkway somewhat above the coupler. Posted Thursday, March 12, 2015 by MG

A. Its hard to tell from just the one pic, but its probably one of the hoses that support multiple unit (MU) functions between diesel units, rather than the typical main brake pipe air hose you will see between cars, as well as between locos. In addition to the standard electrical MU cable, there are typically three MU air hose connections; one to allow the main air reservoirs to equilize and two to control the locomotive consist independent brakes. (See Link for much more detailed explanation.) Formerly there was also a sanding control hose, and an air signal hose on passenger-equipped units. There are sometimes MU air hoses on each side, but that is redundancy; only one side need be coupled for the consist to function. The MU hoses are usually skinnier than the main brake pipe hoses because they don't need to carry anywhere near the air volume, and they are longer both because the connections are not centered on the locomotive body (have to reach further during curving) and the mating locations are not standarized on different units. A different 'glad hand' fitting is used on each type of hose to try to make sure they will not be mis-connected to the other MU hoses or to the main brake pipe hose.  Link 1  Posted Thursday, March 12, 2015 by RJMc

 Q2920 Soldering Lanterns  I have a couple Dietz Vesta lanterns that need some minor soldering repairs. I have tried different solders, used flux, a propane torch and a soldering gun, but the solder just rolls off the lantern and doesn't stick. What am I doing wrong? Thanks for your help.  Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2015 by RD   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Could be either too much heat or or not clean enough. Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2015 by BK

A. Sometimes people put clear lacquer on lanterns to keep them shiny. Most of the clear coatings would resist soldering and are also electrical insulators. Some of the newer epoxies and urethane coatings will stand up even to propane torches, so you might not be putting the solder onto the actual metal. A good test would be an electrical continuity tester (even the very cheap digital meters will do this). So if you get good electrical conductivity, chances are you are working with the actual metal surface and it should solder (unless somehow you got one made of stainless steel, very unlikely). Posted Saturday, March 14, 2015 by RJMc

A. As a further comment, what kind of flux(es) did you try? Almost all electrical-type fluxes these days are rosin-based, or synthetic rosin base, are intended for copper and copper-based work, and are unlikely to do much good on plain steel or tin-coated steel. Traditionally, soldering of tinware was done with a flux of solid block 'sal ammoniac' which is the commercial name for ammonium chloride, and you put the hot tip of your solid-copper soldering iron onto the solid block and then applied the tip to the work, only then applying the plain, no-flux solder which was usually 50/50 lead/tin plumber's solder (mostly because that's cheaper; the 60/40 or 62/38 solders melt at lower temperatures and tend to flow better, and will work OK for what you are trying to do). Sal ammoniac is probably hard to find now. Zinc chloride-based liquid or paste fluxes are more commonly available than sal ammoniac and are likely to do a good job on tinware -- look for them in the plumbing departments of the big box or hardware stores. See if this approach improves things. Posted Monday, March 16, 2015 by RJMc

 Q2919 B&O Shovel  We recently purchased this B&O coal shovel from a man in Ohio. As we were looking for a B&O shovel to add to our collections, we noticed several other similar ones that looked the same, but without the B&O markings on it. Is this one real??   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2015 by TP   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I collect New york Central and have 2 similar shovels in my collection - one which is handle stamped like yours, and one that is stamped on the hilt of the shovel blade. Your shovel appears to be pretty standard style for a coal shovel of it's day, and the lettering style and aging of the wood is all consistant with the age of my similar shovels, so I have no doubt this is the real deal. Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2015 by wdpdepot

A. Look closely at the metal hilt even down where it enters the shovel, it may also be marked there. I have 2, 1 PRR and 1 PS (Pennsylvania System) they are both marked on the wooden D handle, also on the metal. They also come in different sizes mine are both #5, have seen others. Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2015 by DC

A. Yes, the shovel looks authentic to me, also. I think the 'B&O' label was actually BRANDED into the wood (red hot stamp, same as with branding cattle), not just pressed, to make it really permanent. If the shovel was less used I think you would see the carbon char left over from the branding process. All the later RR shovels have the RR initials steel-stamped into the hilt of the shovel, as already described. It is always something of a guess as to whether shovels were used for the coal on steam locomotives, or for things like moving ballast on the track crews. In many cases the locomotive shovels had longer handles, to make it easier to reach back to the front of the tender to get a scoop of coal, and then get it forward into the firebox door. Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2015 by RJMc

 Q2918 B&O Oil Can  We purchased this oil can from a seller in Ohio who claimed it was an 'early, rare steam locomotive oil can.' I don’t really believe the 'rare' part of the description, but was wondering would it have been used on steam locomotives? When do you think it was used? Also if you noticed on the handle in the photo, it has silver paint lines from a poor paint job. Were B&O oil cans painted at all? If so, what color were they?? Our belief is that it was repainted at some point, and if this can be proved true, we would most likely remove the paint. Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2015 by TP   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hi, you are correct in the fact it isn't that rare, especially for a railroad as large as the B&O.This is a standard "thumb pump" long neck (28-32") oiler (looks like it maybe a Handlan or Urbana brand) that was used for steam locomotives and other general servicing needs. You are correct in that it would not have been painted when factory new. It would have likely had a smooth metal finish similar to railroad lanterns. Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2015 by wdpdepot

 Q2917 Railroad No Trespassing Signs  I was recently given a cardboard no trespassing sign for the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad. I was wondering, did railroads really use simple cardboard signs or was it one that was temporary and like duct taped to a door or something? It is pictured in my personal in-home museum in a glass frame. Thanks for your help.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2015 by TP   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Depending on who, what, when, where, and why, I have seen no trespassing signs cast, painted on just about everything, sheet steel or aluminum with reflective materials, cut into wood and painted, fiberglass and plastic sheeting, thin paper, heavy stock paper, and posterboard. I cannot remember a cast concrete one. The only one I found that would work, was to get a "Danger 600 volts " sign and place it on a low voltage signal case. If you did not know which case held what, it seemed to keep most people away.  Posted Saturday, March 14, 2015 by hvcollector

 Q2916 Lamp Info Needed  I am seeking some help identifying a railroad signal lamp that I bought several years ago from a man whose farther worked for the P.R.R. in New Jersey in the early 1900's I have not been able find one like it. The only markings I can find are some numbers on the top that read 11729. There is also a spot on the bottom that looks like there was some kind of identifying plate that is missing. Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Thank You.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, March 5, 2015 by WR   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. These are steam locomotive classification lamps that normally have red and white (clear) lenses Posted Thursday, March 5, 2015 by BK

A. WR, would you kindly send in a photo of the inside of that lamp. I'm particularly interested in what that square knob on top does, thanks. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Saturday, March 7, 2015 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

 Q2915 Switch Key Question  I have had this key for a while. It is marked 'N.Y. O & W RR'. I have several questions. It looks to me as though the 'O & W' lettering is original, while the 'N.Y.' and 'R R' look to be added later as an afterthought. Also, the ring seems to be cracked along the edge and these cracks extend down the barrel. These cracks are not centered so they appear to be cracks rather than seams. The reverse of the ring has '628' and no maker. Any thoughts on this key?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, March 5, 2015 by JN   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The bit on that key is not right for a standard NYO&W switch key.  Posted Thursday, March 5, 2015 by DC

A. JN, I think I have read that the NYO&W keys are somewhat rare. Your key shows no wear and the ring appears to have been brazed onto the barrell and the bit shows signs of ginding as do other places. I would be very suspect that this is a fake. It may be real and is a new , old stock key, never used. Someone versed in that particular rr could probably make a better assesment especially if examined in person. I personally think is is very suspect. GaryP Posted Thursday, March 5, 2015 by GaryP

A. I think the key was home made in someone's machine shop. The handle likely started out as a brass washer, and possibly two brass washers, one thick and one thin. They were pressed together and brazed onto the round barrel and then ground off. The edge cracks you see are the joint between the two washers. Check the front of the key; I suspect you may find that the flat bit of the key was made separately and then set into a slot in the end of the round barrel. Machining the flat bit of a round key is challenging; it can not be easily done on simple machine tools; assembling the pre-made parts would be much easier. Steel stamp sets to add the lettering are quite common (and can still be easily purchased), and are found in many machine shops and lock shops, in many different vintages and type styles. The lettering seems to be uneven probably because the handle surface was ground after the lettering was applied (rather than from pocket wear). As already noted, the key shows no wear from use. I strongly suspect somebody enjoyed making this as a personal shop project (possibly even in a RR shop), but that it probably never was near the RR.  Posted Thursday, March 5, 2015 by RJMc

 Q2914 Caution on Judging Fake Buckles  In review of your article of bogus or fake buckles, I would suggest caution to avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water. I am a career railroader, having hired out with Western Pacific many years before they and the MoPac merged with the Union Pacific, and have several buckles given to me by the Western Pacific as service awards or safety awards over the years. I have first hand knowledge that such gratuities were awarded at least in the early 1970's, and according to some, even earlier. Also, at one point in history the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads were jointly operated when Harriman was the operating president of both railroads, and any memorabilia that shows that affiliation should be carefully scrutinized since some such items are indeed the real (if scarce) deal.  Posted Wednesday, March 4, 2015 by JS   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I am the person who wrote the article concerning the fake buckles. First of all, if you read the article in its entirety, the very last paragraph says:----- "Note that recently several railroad companies have issued buckles as safety rewards, retirement gifts, etc. They are easily identified as such and won't be mistaken as something supposedly issued over 100 years ago." As far as items being marked with BOTH railroad names Central Pacific and Southern Pacific, Harriman may have operated both lines at one time, but they were operated as separate companies, and each company marked their items with their OWN initials. In almost 40 years of collecting railroadiana, I have NEVER seen an item marked with both CP and SP initials that wasn't a fake. The main purpose of the article on fake buckles was to publicize the large number of fake Tiffany (and other markings) buckles being sold as authentic antiques, some bringing several hundred dollars at the time. I think my efforts (and those of a few others) paid off as Tiffany buckles (and the like) are mainly sold as collectables today, and hardly ever come close to the criminal amounts they used to be sold for 10 + years ago. Posted Wednesday, March 4, 2015 by Dan Allen

A. Sorry.........Central Pacific and UNION Pacific Posted Thursday, March 5, 2015 by D Allen

 Q2913 Cleaning a Wax Sealer  I have a wax sealer I would like to clean to make the letters more readable. What would the best way to do this? Thanks.  Posted Sunday, March 1, 2015 by vandswry   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Take a paper towel and fold it in quarters and lay it on a small plate. Take a small sauce pan your wife isn't too attached to and fill it half way with water and set it on the stove on low heat until it just starts to simmer; that should be hot enough. Use some tongs and dip the metal head of the sealer in the simmering water for 20 seconds or so to get it good and warm. If it has a wood handle, try to keep the handle out of the water. Still grasping the sealer with the tongs, take it out of the hot water and press it into the paper towel several times; each time in a different dry place on the towel. The hot water should melt any residual wax and the paper towel should then absorb the melted wax. -- If that doesn't work, try heating a dry, bare metal (not Teflon coated) pan on low heat. Put a single sheet of aluminum foil cut to the pan size in the bottom of the pan. Set the sealer directly on the foil in the hot pan for a few seconds then blot on fresh dry paper towel. If the wax doesn't melt the first try, leave it in the pan a little longer to get it hotter. As a last resort; leave it in the hot pan until it starts to smoke and actually burn off all of the old wax, then clean the head of the seal with some Brass-O or other metal polish. Use a round (not flat) wood toothpick to dig around in the letters to get everything cleaned out. Some paint thinners may dissolve the wax as well, ..or not. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Wednesday, March 4, 2015 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. An easier way to heat it is to use a hair dryer, Posted Thursday, March 5, 2015 by BK

A. When trying to clean a corporate seal (embossing) stamper, I was looking for useful brushes that would fit in the narrow space between the dies. I found gun barrel cleaning brushes to be very handy for this. They come in a wide range of diameters and different bristle types including fiber, brass, and even stainless, and are tightly wound to survive being tugged thru a gun barrel and therefore very durable. Anyplace with a sporting goods counter is likely to have them. The brass bristle ones are particularly good for detailed items such as sealers and embossers.  Posted Thursday, March 5, 2015 by RJMc

A. Thanks for all the information on cleaning the sealer. It was a big help. Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2015 by vandswry

 Q2912 Dining Car Menu Date Codes  Do you know if there are any publications that offer information on dining car menu date codes? I'm primarily interested in menu date codes for the Santa Fe Railway. Thanks!  Posted Friday, February 27, 2015 by WF   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Dining car menus I am familiar with usually have the month - year (i.e. 5-71) Some may have the train numbers they were used on but I think the codes I have seen are pretty much self explanatory. Posted Friday, February 27, 2015 by JN

 Q2911 Vesta Lantern Number?  I have a 1923 BOSTON & MAINE Dietz Vesta lantern with the no. 17346 stamped on the top. Is the number a sequential number of that lantern for that year or something else?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, February 27, 2015 by PC   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Should have included this in the original question, the date on the lantern is s-1-23 so I doubt it's the sequential # of that year maybe the patent? Posted Saturday, February 28, 2015 by Phil

A.  The number is probably a railroad employee ID or inventory number. Given the haphazard job done on stamping the number in it was not done at the factory. I have Vestas from the NKP that have caboose numbers stamped into them. The S 1-23 means that the lantern was made in the Syracuse plant in January,1923. At that time Dietz had the Main plant in NYC, but I have never seen a Vesta that was made there, if they had it would have been stamped M (for Main) 1-23. Other models of Dietz lanterns were made at the Main plant and are stamped for that. Posted Saturday, February 28, 2015 by KM

A. Yep knew about the date and plant, didn't know about the # thanks. Does the no. effect the value? Posted Saturday, February 28, 2015 by Phil