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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:

 Q2950 'Pennsylvania System' Era?  Does anyone have any information on what time era was the Pennsylvania System? Was it before PRR, Lines West of Pittsburgh??? Any information that anyone could provide would be great!!! Thank you!  Posted Thursday, April 23, 2015 by RR Girl   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. After, about 1917. Posted Thursday, April 23, 2015 by BK

A. Enter prior Q. nos. 2551, 1778, and 1331 in the "By Question Number..." Box to see more discussion of the 'Lines' vs. 'System' designations on PRR and other roads. Posted Thursday, April 23, 2015 by RJMc

 Q2949 Pullman Silver Palace Car Lantern  I just bought a small lantern brass w/copper name plate saying property of Pullman silver palace car company. The base stands 5&1/4 inches high, the globe stands another 5&1/4 inches. Together it stands 9&3/4 inches tall. The globe is clear and has many bubbles. Could you give me any information on the reality of this piece?  Posted Tuesday, April 21, 2015 by JC   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Sorry, but there never was a "Pullman Silver Palace Car Co." Somebody (or multiple somebodies, and likely overseas) invented it, and then mass produced those copper tags and soldered them on literally THOUSANDS of whatever old, or old-looking, object they could find. In some cases they may have 'weathered' relatively cheap new items to make them look old enough. Any item with that kind of tag is considered a fake, or at best a 'fantasy item' depending on the history of the original item before the tag was applied. Also see the 'Fakes and Repros' pages elsewhere on this site.  Posted Tuesday, April 21, 2015 by RJMc

 Q2948 PRR Conductor Uniform Information  I am putting together a visual presentation and also a historical impression I wish to bring to the Sesqucentennial reenactment of Abraham Lincoln's funeral and funeral train. I am also a regular conductor at Hesston Steam Museum. I am looking for any kind of information regarding late Civil War to late Victorian era railroad conductors that worked on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Original photographs and information regarding ticket punches, button designs, and clothing colors/ would be much appreciated. I have perused hundreds of sources: libraries, other museums, archives, and websites-- unfortunately, none have yielded any information so far. This sort of information just doesn't seem at all documented. Much thanks.  Posted Thursday, April 16, 2015 by CR   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. See Link 1 for a photo which is directly relevant to your topic. If you hadn't already found it, that Dickenson Univ. website is specially dedicated to the Lincoln anniversary events. Its photos are really useful because some of them are 'zoomable' and you can get really close in to look over the details. The gentleman in the foreground of the pic in the Link would probably be an excellent model for you to duplicate that era. See also Prior Q's 1945 and 2710 on this Board about uniforms of that period and early PRR uniforms. 'Early' in this case means 1905. You will NOT find much 'PRR' info for the 1860's because the huge PRR System was then still well in the future, and you may have better luck looking up the subsidiary companies by name, such as Cumberland Valley and Northern Central, rather than 'PRR'. The Wikipedia article in Link 2 lists just some of HUGE number of companies which ended up in the PRR family, with dates. To illustrate how late the 'PRR System' formed, 'PRR' did not operate a through passenger train from New York City to Chicago under its own name all the way until 1887 -- before that several different operating companies were involved and sometimes required changing trains.  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Saturday, April 18, 2015 by RJMc

 Q2947 Steel Switch Locks  I was wondering if anyone knows about what year railroads started using steel switch locks instead of brass locks? Thanks.  Posted Wednesday, April 15, 2015 by vandswry   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I have steel locks in my collection made by adlake which date as far back as 1916. The early adlake locks were marked with the date of manufacture near the key way under the dust cover. One particular early lock I have was made for the Michigan Central Railroad and it is dated 1916. I also have another adlake made for the Southern Railway which is dated the same way from 1919, and on the back it is marked "No 48 lock pat sept 24 1912". I can't say that these examples are the earliest steel locks, but they are quite old. I've been collecting for 26 years now so my collection spans many years, and many different railroads. I'm not an expert, but if I were to guess, the patent date of 1912 likely coincides with WWI and a shortage of brass and copper needed to make ammunition and artillery shells. It would have been at that time that railroads and other industries were asked by the government to cut back on these essential metals needed for war, hence the introduction of the steel locks.  Posted Thursday, April 16, 2015 by Steve B.

A.  Iron cased switch and car locks date back at least to the 1880s produced in numbers by companies such as Wilson Bohannan and Speckmann of Louisville, Kentucky. The earliest steel switch locks I've encountered seem to be the A&W model number 12, shown in their 1907 catalog. I feel they actually date to the late 1890s as I have seen one of this type marked for the KCP&G that would have to predate the change in name to KCS in 1900. This model lock is rather scarce. I have three, all basically alike but for the marking, from four decades of collecting. I can make out a large A&W hexagonal mark on the shackle of two of them and all three have the machine made chains that began to replace the more expensive to manufacture forged iron in the 1890s. It would be interesting to document exactly when Adlake introduced this model lock. At this point I feel it may be just prior to 1900. Posted Thursday, April 16, 2015 by MG

A. I have a steel switch lock for New Haven and Northhampton that ended in 1887; also a Copper Range Moon lock Pat'd 1905. Have Penn Central in brass, and there are many in steel. Norfolk & Western was still making locks in cast brass in the 50's; I have one dated 1955. I guess your basic question was when did Adlake start? Posted Thursday, April 16, 2015 by JC

A. I also think ADLAKE started producing steel switch locks as early as the very late 1890's. Those earliest locks have the A&W Hex logo stamped on the back side of the hasp, no date and no "ADLAKE". These early examples also have a laminated hasp instead of a one piece casting. Either way, it's my opinion that A&W started production of steel switch locks before the 1912 date on early #48 locks. Posted Saturday, April 18, 2015 by rf

 Q2946 Small Marker Lights?  I found these lights in my dads barn 15 years ago. I'm having difficulty finding anything close to them. Could you please help me? No name. 'KD27'.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, April 13, 2015 by NK   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. These may also be automotive. Perhaps this was the manufacturer:  Link 1  Posted Wednesday, April 15, 2015 by JFR

A.  KD Lamp Company from Cincinnatti still makes a line of vintage truck clearance lights that are reproductions of their old models. I have not seen this particular model yet, but it is possible that these are not as old as you might think. Posted Friday, April 17, 2015 by KM

 Q2945 Dietz #3 Lantern  I recently acquired this conductors lantern. Sadly there is no globe. Any suggestions on measurements so I can find one? Also, any suggestions on cleaning it up? Products that work? Thank you so much.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, April 12, 2015 by Hope   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hello: I'm not sure what the measurements may be, but as far as cleaning, click the link. Link 1  Posted Monday, April 13, 2015 by XX

A.  I think that the globe size is (Ht.) 4.75" X (top) 2.25" X (Btm) 2.5" X (Bulge) 3.75". A replacement globe is available from W.T. Kirkman Co. at Give them a call and make sure of this info. The replacement globe which is their number WT 203 is not cheap, but you will have a hard time finding an original globe for this somewhat rare lantern. Kirkman also has the globe retainer available if you need it. For some reason I can't copy the direct links to their page right now.  Posted Monday, April 13, 2015 by KM

 Q2944 Torches  I have 2 different cast iron torches marked PRR. One is a Dayton. The other one is marked CMT. The CMT is cast like a logo or trademark. Looking for some info, especially who the manufacturer was. Thanks.  Posted Sunday, April 12, 2015 by Steve    Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q2943 Michigan Logging Railroads  I'm trying to find an information source regarding the 'rail roads' that cropped up during the latter of two lumber clear cutting operations in northern Michigan. My first thought is that many of these were constructed to follow the loggers and were simply abandoned after the rails were taken up. The Michigan Department of Conservation realized the damage done, many areas were almost barren, and pushed a program through the legislature to sell off large lots to people would promise to plant a minimum of 4,000 pine trees per year on the property. The price per acre was quite low and our property was crisscrossed with the remains of three roadbeds and two separate, large camps. Just a shot in the dark to see if anybody had any details. Thanks,  Posted Wednesday, April 8, 2015 by RM   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hi, Go to and click on their Classic Trains website. Try posting your question there. This site is more for railroadiana collectors. The Classic Trains site is where the "older railroading" experts hang out. You will probably have much better results there. If you have any artifacts from those roads, this is the site where we would love to see those items! Also, try this link to Wikipedia. It has a whole list of these railroads and where they eventually ended up. Happy Hunting! JN Link 1  Posted Thursday, April 9, 2015 by JN

 Q2942 Railway SIgnal Lamp  Please can you help me identify this lamp i.e what country and what year you may think it may be? The lamp opens from the top and has a red lens and clear lens both glass. I bought this from a local charity shop in the UK so I am presuming it is British? Regards,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, April 8, 2015 by Tony in UK   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Your lamp is, indeed, British. It is a Southern Railway brake van (i.e. caboose) side lamp. These were similar to caboose marker lamps, but were only used on "unfitted" freight trains, that is, trains where the wagons (cars) were not fitted with vacuum or air brakes, an arrangement which survived in the UK until the 1980s. They would be attached to either side of the rear brake van, red lens facing to the rear, clear towards the locomotive. In addition, a similar lamp with a red lens only would be attached to the centre rear of the van. Posted Thursday, April 9, 2015 by JAJ

 Q2941 Lamp ID Needed  I was wondering if you had seen anything like this before and could tell me what it is. I got this from my father many years ago and have looked everywhere to find out what it is. I found lots of lanterns but none with the angled spout. I have sent these picture to many other railroad sites and they have never seen anything like it. They all recommended contacting you. Can you let me know what it is? Thank You   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, April 8, 2015 by Miles   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hello, I believe this to be one of a pair of marine binnacle lamps that lit a ships compass from underneath. An unusual arrangement due to the angle. Most cast light from the side or downward. The brass construction is another " marine" clue. Posted Thursday, April 9, 2015 by GaryP

 Q2940 A&S Key  I have enjoyed visiting your web site on collecting railroadiana, and hope you can help me, or at least point me in the right direction. I am a railfan and model railroader with a serious interest in the Texas & Pacific, and the history of railroads in the Abilene, Texas, area. I have recently acquired a brass switch key that seems to be from the Abilene & Southern. It is stamped 'A & S RY' on the front, and 'Wilson Bohannon, Brooklyn, NY' on the back. The gentleman who sold it to me was from the Chicago area, and said he was reasonably sure it was NOT from the Alton & Southern, and he believed it was from the Abilene road. My question - this key is smaller than other switch keys I own. It is only about 1 3/4 in. long, and the head is only 3/4 in. wide. This may seem a silly question, but did very many railroads use this smaller size key/lock? The others I have collected are all longer, with a larger barrel and wider head. If not a switch lock, what other applications would have used a key like this? There are no other markings that I can see. Thanks for any assistance you can provide!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, April 4, 2015 by DG, Abilene ,TX   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I have found smaller switch keys more common on interurban RR's, but not as small as the one you have. The smaller key blanks are fairly common in lock shops and were probably used on furniture or display cases, for example. The WB stamping on this key looks old and authentic. The bit shows wear from some use. However the "A&S" stamping seems unworn and the lettering style looks new and very modern. Also, the "&" stamping was apparently home-built, looks like by using a reversed "3" and the "I" of a medern stamp set, which has no serifs. Many of the steel stamp sets commonly available now at hardware stores do not include the "&" stamp; it has to be bought separately.  Posted Monday, April 6, 2015 by RJMc

 Q2939 Unmarked RR Lantern  I have a lantern - Armspear Manfg Co '1925' lantern -- but there is no RR marking. Did Armspear make any lanterns that were not used with a railroad?  Posted Saturday, April 4, 2015 by BR   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. All the lantern manufacturers were more than happy to make lanterns for anyone who would buy them (trolley lines, power companies, utilities, the military, general hardware distributors, etc.), and marking might have even cost extra, so many were not marked for the purchaser.  Posted Saturday, April 4, 2015 by RJMc

A. I was set up at a flea market one time. A man came by carrying a RR lantern, and asked what RR is that? He stuck it out for me to read. It was marked 'Adm. Byrd Arctic Ex. 1939'. Posted Saturday, April 4, 2015 by DC

A. Thanks for your responses. How would not having a marking affect a lantern's value? i.e., compared to one that has a marking? Posted Sunday, April 5, 2015 by BAR

A. Awesome! Thanks XX! Posted Monday, April 6, 2015 by BAR

A. I volunteer at the National Capital Trolley Museum, and on Saturday I found several lanterns with no railroad markings on them in our streetcar display barn and model room (where we maintain our fleet of model streetcars). This too has puzzled me, but I wanted to share my encounter with you. The response from RJMc is a good general idea about this. It is a lantern that COULD have been used on a railroad but most likely it was sold to and used by someone else. No saying who, but now you get a general idea of what it is and why it has no railroad marks. As for value, we can't go into value on this website, but click on the link to go to a good appraiser. He can give you a general reference to value via email. That's as far as I can go on value here though. Hope this helps. Not an expert, but thought you might appreciate this information. Link 1  Posted Monday, April 6, 2015 by XX

 Q2938 Number Plate  Can you give me some information regarding this cast iron number plate? It is triangle shaped with a round top. It is 13 inches on top, 9 inches on the bottom, 10.5 high with large number 1900 in the center. Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, April 4, 2015 by Jim G.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I hate to throw cold water on this but it looks at first glance, to me, like it may be salvaged off an old building. Would be either the date of construction or possibly a street number. Sorry !  Posted Saturday, April 4, 2015 by js

A. This could also be from a bridge - either highway or railroad - and would be the date of construction. Posted Saturday, April 4, 2015 by RJMc

A. There is a website called "" which is a wealth of historical info and pix about all kinds of bridges and tunnels, including many RR bridges and tunnels which no longer exist, including over 700 built in the year 1900 alone. The Link shows just one of tens of thousands of pix people have taken of bridges. Not quite a match to yours, but you can see the possibility.  Link 1  Posted Thursday, April 9, 2015 by RJMc

 Q2937 Brass Reverser  Last year I acquired this brass locomotive reverser from a retired GM&O employee. What’s the history on these? When were they first and last used?? It weights a good pound and is 6” long. Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, April 4, 2015 by Tommy    Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hi tommy, this style of reverser came out when the AAR style control stand was first used. With EMD units that would mean some of the later F and GP units in approximately the early 1950's when EMD switched to that style of control stand from the 'drum type'. This early reverser you have is one of the rare ones- square and not round with hollowed out sides. The strange shape was to distinguish it from the throttle and other controls so the engineer could tell what his hand was touching strictly by feel, and could concentrate on the track ahead or behind. The next style has the same cut, also made of brass but has a red bakelite handle. The ones afterwards were all plastic, including the ones used today. That reverser you have is a nice find and seldom seen today. Posted Sunday, April 5, 2015 by Steve B

 Q2936 Railroad Boxcar Door  I recently met a gentleman who was dismantling a pair of old all wood ATSF boxcars. I was lucky enough to be able to purchase some of the iron parts off of them. One item I got was a small sliding door and its latches and hardware that was at the front of the car where it meets with the next car but higher up. My question is does anyone know what this door was used for? The small door is about 20 in. long by 10 in. high. Thanks for any help  Posted Wednesday, April 1, 2015 by NG   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Small doors in the end of a car like that were usually referred to as 'lumber doors'. Long boards up to almost the length of the box car, too long to be loaded through the side door, could be hand loaded one at a time through the end and stacked inside the car. Shipping lumber in a box car gave boards protection from the elements and made it much harder to steal. These doors were placed high up so you could stack the lumber pretty high in the car before blocking the opening. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Wednesday, April 1, 2015 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Awesome that makes perfect sense. I could not imagine whet the heck it could possibly be for. Now to figure out what to do with it and how to display it. Might just surround it with boxcar wood and display it like it was just cut out of a car. Thanks for your help Posted Thursday, April 2, 2015 by NG

 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

A. Missouri Pacific had 2 milk bottles. The quart size had a cast logo. The smaller individual size had a decal loco and was marked Sunny Mead Farms Posted Wednesday, April 1, 2015 by BK

 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

A. Hello. After a lot of looking I can not place the exact use for this item, but generically it is a "spanner key" or "tip spanner wrench". This kind of thing is often used when valves or electric switches are made (or tried to be made) tamperproof by not providing any kind of handle that a random passer-by could turn. Possible kinds of valves might be gas (when it was used for lighting), air, or steam; electric switches might have been on alarm or signalling systems for just a couple of examples. One other possibility is to turn and unscrew or adjust recessed threaded parts when overhauling things like solenoid valves or air brake strainer nuts. The recessed part would have two 'dimples' for the key to engage, allowing the part to be turned and moved in or out on the threads. Railroads had all of those kinds of functions, as did many other industries, but I agree that the way the initials are stamped make the "Colorado & Southern" source unlikely.  Posted Wednesday, April 1, 2015 by RJM