Fake Railroad China: Reproductions

Railroad china is one of the most popular categories of railroad collectibles, so it is not surprising that attempts have been made to reproduce it in various ways. This new production ranges from responsibly produced reproductions with backstamps that indicate their status to outright fakes that are meant to deceive collectors.

The following information on reproduction railroad china was compiled from several sources, including Bill and Sue Knous who most generously gave us permission to post text and material from their book Railroad Detective: A Guide to Replica and Counterfeit Railroad Collectibles and Dick Luckin, author of Dining on Rails, Teapot Treasury and Mimbres to Mimbreno, who provided most of the china photos and information for Bill and Sue's book. Other sources were members of the railnet list and other collectors. See notes below for credits and important information.

Bill and Sue Knous note that ,"The majority of [new] china has not been produced with fraud in mind, but on the other hand has legitimately been represented as reproduction. The problem is not with the manufacturers or distributors but with the unscrupulous party whose greed comes to play a part. Also many of the pieces were not permanently marked reproduction, they are easily misrepresented to the unknowing collector as authentic. The fakers will go as far as to age, scrape, grind off bottom stamps, even damage a piece to help give appearance of age and authenticity. The one thing we must keep in mind also, due to the vast amount of fakery that is showing up on the market every day, it is important to note that even though it is an unknown pattern, this does not make it a fake. One of the things that makes this so much fun is the thought of finding that rare piece. We do the hobby a disservice if we assume a piece no good simply because it has not been seen before.

One more important factor in collecting railroad china involves the distinction between OVERGLAZE & UNDERGLAZE. This excerpt is from Dick Luckin's "Dining on Rails." The way you distinguish an OVERGLAZE from an UNDERGLAZE is by running your finger over the design. If you can feel the imprint, it's an OVERGLAZE. If you can't feel the imprint, it's an UNDERGLAZE. Keep in mind ALL railroads ordered UNDERGLAZED patterns, because of the increased durability and increased life span of the ware."

Following are railroad china reproductions, counterfeits, and replicas. A separate page deals with "fantasy patterns" -- patterns that were never used on a railroad.

Santa Fe Railroad "Mimbreno" pattern: This pattern has been reproduced by Pipestone China which was founded as Nostalgia Station Ltd.and which obtained exclusive authorization from the Santa Fe Railway to reproduce it. Early pieces in the line were backstamped with a Nostalgia Station mark (click on the backstamp at right for a larger image), but we have learned that there are also pieces -- likely more recently made -- that have a Pipestone backstamp. The current backstamp is not known, but it may be the Pipestone mark.

Baltimore & Ohio "Centenary" pattern. This pattern used extensively by the B&O Railroad since 1927 (See Centenary) and was so popular that it was produced after the railroad ceased passenger service as souvenir items for the B&O Museum in Baltimore. This post-railroad china has a black "Indian" stamp on the back and was produced by Shenango-Interpace. Update: Jim Hutzler wrote us with this very informative comment: "The black backstamped "Interpace" Shenango pieces are date coded between T-27 and F-33, indicating production during the years 1969-1975. Prior to the "Interpace" china production, another black backstamped version was produced, without the word "interpace" and with the word "RimRol" located approximately in the same place. Almost all RimRol pieces have the date codes G-26 or R-26, indicating that these were produced in 1968. It is absolutely confirmed that both Interpace and RimRol backstamped china was used on B&O/C&O dining cars during the last years of C&O/B&O dining service. This edition, along with the subsequent 1970s and 1990s editions which were also sold out of the B&O Museum gift shop and other outlets, continued to be used on company office cars (although information obtained in early 2007 indicates that this is no longer the case). So, to simply identify any of the Centenary pattern china, which was produced virtually continually between 1927 and 1997, as reproduction, is not completely accurate." [end of comment - thanks, Jim!]

Chesapeake & Ohio "Chessie" logo. A C&O piece with the "Chessie Cat" image was recently sold by Nostalgia Station. The best way to watch for C&O pieces which are becoming increasingly popular is to know the facts. The cat appeared on Buffalo manufactured service plates, salmon bordered dinner plates and a child's dish, as well as a dinner plate, cup and ashtray manufactured by Syracuse. If you see it by other manufacturers or on different pieces than noted, they were probably not railroad issue. A Chessie cup & saucer was produced in 1988 by the C&O Historical Society. All pieces are backstamped COHS 1988. See Below.

C&O "George Washington" pattern: There reports of fake C&O Railway demi-cups and saucers in the "George Washington" pattern. These have the potential to fool collectors because they have a backstamp. The real ones were made by Syracuse, and the back of the saucer is white, not black. The backstamp on the real version is under the glaze and in black lettering; whereas the fake version has an overglazed backstamp in gold lettering.

Colorado Midland Ry "Basalt" pattern has been reproduced in several pieces: dinner plates, bowls, cups and saucers, and butter pats. Some of the butter pats were produced with the deletion of the stripes. Mfg. STR. Backstamped "Colorado Midland Chapter NRHS" with year of manufacture.

D&RG "Curecanti" pattern. This pattern was reproduced in 1987 by Centennial Publications. Cups and saucers as well as 9 3/4" dinner plates have been reproduced. All pieces are backstamped with the year of manufacture and are marked reproduction. With this piece in mind we have knowledge of two different incidents involving the cups, where individuals aged, cracked and even ground off the bottom STR manufacturer's mark, in hopes of representing these as authentic. Until caught the cups traded hands several times for several hundred dollars each.

There have been other attempts to fake this pattern in a not-so-subtle blue version. The real thing was issued in black and brown markings on a white base, had a manufacturer's mark on the bottom, and last dates to the 1920's. It is quite rare. The fake china is blue, has no manufacturer's mark on the bottom, and seems to have fairly "fuzzy" markings. See example at right.

Erie "Starucca" pattern": Plates identical to the original Starucca pattern were manufactured by Mayer China for a restaurant in New Jersey.

Great Northen Railway. A modern, green Great Northern Railway teapot has been made with a modern Hall backstamp. A number of reproduction teapots have been recently produced with logos of different railroads, usually in green or cobalt base colors. Some of these are backstamped clearly as reproductions, but some are not.

Great Northern "Glory of the West" pattern. Pieces in this pattern were reproduced in the early '90's for the lsaak Walton Inn in Essex, Montana for their dining room. Manufactured by Syracuse, these pieces carry the 19D date code indicating production in 1991. All pieces are backstamped with "REPRODUCED FOR ISSAK WALTON INN" with the exception of the 5 1/8" sauce dish which only carries the GNRY "GLORY OF THE WEST" bottom stamp. In this case the "GLORY OF THE WEST" bottom stamp is done in green instead of gray. Also the bottom stamp is much smaller than the original and finally it does not state "MADE FOR" which the originals do.

New Haven Beanpot. The original, shown far right, is actually more crude than the reproduction, shown near right. The real thing has a rubber stamp decoration; whereas the reproduction uses an overglazed decal. The color variation is the most obvious difference.

New York Central "Century" pattern: This plate made in 1987 by THE PRIVATE CAR LIMITED and is well marked as a reproduction.

New York Central "DeWitt Clinton" pattern: This plate is easily detected since the original only had the 1831 date under the top logo. Original dinner plates did not have a center crest. Made in 1981 by the Mohawk & Hudson Chapter of the NRHS and produced by Syracuse. This is another well marked reproduction item.

Nickel Plate Road "Bellevue" pattern: This oval dinner plate is an excellent copy of the original. Reproduction bottom stamp has addition of ALCO STANDARD CORP added to bottom stamp.

MKT "Bluebonnet" pattern": A reproduction of the "Bluebonnet" china pattern used by the Missouri Kansas Texas Railroad, A.K.A. "Katy", has recently been produced. Chris Cruz has kindly provided the following review of this new reproduction china:

"There are five pieces -- a dinner plate, a salad/bread & butter, an oatmeal bowl, and a coffee cup and saucer. The ware itself is very close in shape to the originals with the exception of the coffee cup. It is mug shaped, but definitely not the same in handle design nor bottom construction. The base ware is not quite as white in color as the originals. The mint green band is an exact match. From a distance, most would not be able to note the difference in the flowers. The green stems and leaves are also very close to the original. The flowers on the stems of the reproduction are basically the same except they lack "softness" and a muted color. The originals are almost cotton like in quality. The reproduction has more artistic definition, like the stems. On several of the pieces, the decal appears to be thicker and thus, raise the glaze.

Now for the main point which has prompted major concern -- there is no reproduction backstamp. The ONLY backstamp is the green, rubber stamp shape of a buffalo. Some have the word BUFFALO under the animal. A date code will also be evident, such as 9907D, 9810M, and 9811A, to cite as examples. Confusion with authentic MKT Bluebonnet will occur unless one is very careful.

A website visitor emailed us the following in 2006: "The bluebonnet MKT pattern was commissioned by the KATY House in Smithville, Texas.  I know that this was done just for people who like the pattern and wish to enjoy it daily and not to confuse it for anyone." Above Right: An authentic Bluebonnet plate. Click on image for larger version.

PRR "Brown Keystone" pattern: Pieces were produced in 1986 and are accurate in color and design to the original pattern. Pieces include a 9" dinner, 7 1/4" bread plate, 5 1/2" plate, 5 1/4" fruit and a cup & saucer. All pieces are permanently marked with bottom stamp "REPRODUCTION MADE EXPRESSLY FOR RIGHT TRACKTRADING CO."

Union Pacific patterns. These photos show the work of one individual whose sole purpose was to defraud the collector. These pieces were exceptionally well made and fooled many seasoned collectors. Unfortunately the perpetrator was also a collector so the find was given even more credibility. The party obtained plain pieces of china with the correct manufacturer backstamp and overglazed the logos shown. The overglaze process was the clue in identifying the items as faked. The party involved was brought to justice and ordered to pay restitution. All faked items were ordered to be returned and destroyed. Unfortunately there is no proof that all pieces have in fact been returned and destroyed. Many questionable pieces have surfaced at farm auctions and flea markets. Know your source and remember if the price is too good, it probably is fake. Pieces include a UP "Ogden" pattern creamer pot. Other pieces in this pattern included two different sized oval platters, shallow rimmed bowl, oval baker, dinner plate, small handled creamer & butter pat. Another series of fakes included a UP "Overland Route" pattern cream pitcher, pedestal egg cup, and no handle creamer. Also there is a UP "North Platte" bouillon cup.

Click on the image below for a larger version.

In addition to the above, there is an extensive list of reproduction railroad china produced by a single individual. This list is presented on a separate page.

Advice. As with other specialty areas of collecting, the advice about self-education and seeking the advice of other collectors applies especially to china. RCAI regularly publishes information on china fakes and reproductions. In addition, there are two fine publications that discuss this topic along with other aspects of railroad china: Dick Luckin's "Dining on Rails" and Doug McIntyre's "The Official Guide to Railroad Dining Car China".

Comments. The following comment was sent by B.K. " Many railroads have museums in
which memorabilia are sold to generate revenue to keep the doors open. One of the products is chinaware. This chinaware is made under the scrutiny of the curator and originality is demanded. Most of the original chinaware manufacturers have long since gone out of business, so the current ware does have a backstamp not displayed pre Amtrak,
whatever that means.

Current ware is not "Fake". It is a reproduction (as was all chinaware after an original order) made under the direction of the subject railroad to meet authenticity. This ware has not been used in actual RR service, but then, alot of chinaware made in "the good 'ol days" that is
considered collectible was not put in service either. It seems that being in service is the underlying theme of originality, which is incorrect."


This information comes with no guarantees and is advisory only. See Disclaimer and Things to Consider.

Bill and Sue Knous operate one of the premier railroadiana auction services, Railroad Memories, and consequently are well-positioned to know about railroadiana fakes and reproductions. They have been very generous in sharing information with the hobby, and we thank them for their gracious permission to reprint the information that they have compiled. Also special thanks to Dick Luckin who provided many of the original china images and information.

Other collectors who contributed information and/or images: Tom and Meg Coughlin, Dave Yates, Chris Cruz, Dave H., Bob K. and others. Thanks to everyone!

We welcome additions, information, and images for this page. In particular, we need better color images to replace the black & white ones. Email Us.