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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 50 Questions:

 Q4075 Unidentified RR Deopt - 1900s  I have an early 1900s real photo postcard showing an unidentified railroad depot, possibly located in the northeastern U.S. based on the location of the seller. Even after hours of reverse image searching and combing through various sites, I still have not been able to find a match for this specific depot. Is there any chance you could take a look at the photo and help me figure it out, or at least help narrow it down to a specific state/region? Thanks in advance. [Note: the top photo is the original image sent; the bottom is a digitally modified version to bring out detail.]   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, July 10, 2024 by Tyler   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q4074 RR Lamp?  Is this a RR Lamp? I have found no evidence of this lamp in my searches. It has the word Borden’s on it, and that is the only marking. Can you offer any information? Thank you,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, July 10, 2024 by Kris   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q4073 Baron Lantern Globe Marking  We have an Baron lantern with a globe in it that is cast AHA&S near the top. Can anyone help ID it ? TIA.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, July 2, 2024 by JMS   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hello. When you say a Baron lantern, I am assuming you refer to the company(ies) that Richard Barrett refers to as "The Barons of Ohio" in his Illustrated Encyclopedia of Railroad Lighting, Vol. 1. As described there, companies under the Baron name operated in Ohio beginning in 1875 into the early 20th Century. Studying the lettering on your globe makes me think the AHA&S is the ID for the globe manufacturer. Most lantern manufacturers did the metalworking, and purchased the globes from glassworks which in most cases were separate companies. I noted on close examination that the lettering on your globe seems to be A. H A&S. Looking at Ohio historical records of glassmakers, a good (but not perfect) fit seems to be the A. H. Heisey Co. of Newark, OH. The "&S" could be "and Sons"; Wikipedia says "The company was operated by Heisey and his sons until 1957, when the factory closed." The Heisey company specialized in fine glassware and colored glassware particularly; it also made automobile headlights and many other products. I have not confirmed whether they may have made railroad products, but those would fit well in its widely varied product lines. So, quite a bit of speculation, and others may well have additional views or info.  Link 1  Posted Saturday, July 6, 2024 by RJMc

A. RJMc, thank you for some truly introspective information. We have the Barrett book and were confident about the Baron lantern, but the glass mark threw us. We've never seen AHA&S before. I would think Heisey is a particularly good guess especially with the Ohio location, but there is an "extra" A -it's AHA&S, not AH&S. Based on their history it seems they could produce lantern globes but I would think they would be written up somewhere, and more common than the one we found in 40 years. We sold the lantern so at this point it's just fun to investigate and learn. Quite a while ago I did acquire several Heisey marked (the usual raised H within a diamond) glass inserts that fit several different railroad lines "supreme set" silver plated frames. They were the exact shape including the tall rim edges, of some of the supreme set glass inserts shown in the Maffett silver holloware service books. They fit the UPRR frame I have perfectly and they fit the frames of the fellows I sold them to.  Link 1  Posted Sunday, July 7, 2024 by JMS

 Q4072 MCRR Key Question  I have a question regarding the Michigan Central Key Marked MCRR on one side and ST Louis on the other. I already know that these keys have either the A&W Hex or Oval Logo dating from between 1898 and 1930 and that some keys have an 'S' on them indicating a switch key; also that the Wilson Bohannon bronze lock type #81 is used with this key. The Lock I have opened by this key is marked MCRR only. In Don Stewarts Key book there is an illustration of this key on page 49. My question is: what is the reason for the ST. LOUIS on the key, when the town of St. Louis, Michigan is 30 miles away from the Michigan Central right of way?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, June 20, 2024 by LT   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. ST LOUIS appears in order to differentiate this key as Manufacturer's Connecting which ran in St Louis, from any other road using MCRR as a reporting mark. This was for the benefit of both the maker and the receiver, so that the wrong key was not sent to some other railroad than the St Louis one. Similarly, if a Brakeman was working for several different railroads, he would not confuse keys if he was on one MCRR from the other MCRR. It DOES NOT indicate that the key was made in St Louis, only intended for use there. Oddly, I've never seen a Monongahela Connecting key with a city or state name stamped on the reverse so that you don't try to use the key on the Michigan Central. I own a Mon Con key marked MCRR, with a totally different cut than the Michigan line and know it's Mon Con by way of where I found it. While some keys have travelled far distances from their original place of use, generally the fruit doesn't fall too far from the tree. I am pleased to solve this mystery for you, LT and others.  Posted Friday, June 21, 2024 by Non

 Q4071 MP&Ry Lock  What railway was this lock for? I'm guessing P & RY stands for Power and Railway. I can't come up with an ID in reference books nor online.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, June 20, 2024 by Non   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Joseph Gross's Trolley and Interurban Directory, in the very- helpfully-broken-out nationwide "initials" section, identifies MP&RY Co. as the Monongahela Power and Railway Company (local system) located in West Virginia. The main data in the WV state listing shows three apparently isolated local systems incorporated about 1921, all operating under the same name and initials, in Clarksburg, PA, and Fairmount and Parkersburg, WV. (I suspect the Clarksburg they mean is really the WV one....) All the systems apparently underwent a name change to the Monongahela West Penn Public Service Co. at different times. No further disposition is shown.  Posted Friday, June 21, 2024 by RJMc

 Q4070 Rail Photo Question  Small format. Removed from an album and pencil lettered 'Logging Camp'. (Then vacu-sealed in a plastic coffin.) Badly damaged. Undated. Found in Springfield Oregon where the nearest mountain logging/milling was Mohawk Valley/Marcola/Wendling. Appears to be high elevation terrain with vast completed lumber. Central building of unknown useage. No logs visible. Very different from typical shots. Any information that may help locate this operation is welcome, including any explanations of what we’re viewing and when. TIA   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, June 20, 2024 by ShastaRoute   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This is certainly an intriguing photo. The remaining trees are huge, possibly redwoods (see Link) which may provide additional geographic info. As to the railroad I note in the center there are two very distinctly different track gauges; the narrower one apparently serving only the operations in the large building. I see no evidence of any motorized highway-type vehicles, and also no evidence of any kind of electrical power plant; no boiler house. But hydro power was widely available in the Pacific northwest of the US, and a Canadian location (or elsewhere in the world) should also be considered....The threat of fire was a huge issue for places like this; I don't see any fire suppression capabilities. The placement of poles almost suggests an electric railroad operation, although their placement is very sparse to be supporting any kind of trolley wire.  Link 1  Posted Friday, June 21, 2024 by RJMc

A. Good points. What’s really odd is things look like they are in the process of being loaded onto (spine, bunk ?) cars that might go out directly or to a reload point, but there’s no presence of a single human nor animal. And no power units, wagons, bicycles, canoes, or goat carts. Yet the whole place looks to be fully developed for long term workers…even patches seen through the trees. Could the building be a drying facility? Everything here is boards with no raw logs. And what’s with those vented? columns at the front of that central plant?? Posted Tuesday, June 25, 2024 by ShastaRoute

A. Right. I also noted the lack of any single person. Maybe they were all in church? Although no church is evident in the buildings. Also, for a picture of this apparently early period, the high angle of the view is unusual. Maybe taken from the top of a chimney, which would explain why we don't see a power plant in the pic.  Posted Tuesday, June 25, 2024 by RJMc

A. Ahh…a potential location of the missing locomotive, high up this side of the canyon directly underneath the character with the camera, possibly perched on the tender? Notice a track structure heads off to the left. Posted Tuesday, June 25, 2024 by ShastaRoute

A. And some laundry on a line in front of the house dead center with what may be the upper bodies and heads of two people further out front. Posted Tuesday, June 25, 2024 by ShastaRoute

A. The possibility of the large building being a drying facility is interesting. Note that the narrow gauge tracks seem to go right up to the front of the building but NOT into it. The framing across the front of the building looks like what is used for a theater stage or an airplane hanger, allowing the whole front of the building to be opened to let very large loads out. There are some vaguely similar structures when you search online for pictures of lumber drying buildings, but most of them have/had steam heat. I have been wondering if this is a photograph of a model, not a real location, but someone would have to have put most of a lifetime in creating the level of detail in the pic.  Posted Thursday, June 27, 2024 by RJMc

A. Pretty old thin photo paper torn from an ancient brown paper scrapbook. Well beyond the skills of even a top-notch scale model builder in an era probably before HO-gauge brought intense detail manufacturing. Larger scale modelers were often crafty, but this would challenge even Hollywood’s best talent and some of them were amazing. (I’ve been in a major studio several decades back and seen one of those huge hand-built dioramas. Mind boggling!) Posted Monday, July 1, 2024 by ShastaRoute

 Q4069 Button ID?  I work at an archaeology department identifying items and I can't find anything on the company behind this railroad uniform button. It's a little corroded, but much of the design is still visible. The only visible word is 'RAILROAD,' which hasn't helped much in narrowing down the button's maker. Any help in figuring out the origins of this button would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, June 20, 2024 by Abby S   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. There are two good RR button books by Don Van Court, one is Railroads and the other is Transit, uniform button identification. He is against cleaning buttons but from your pictures I'm going to say that if this was mine I indeed would try to GENTLY clean it. IMHO the condition is so bad it's worth the risk to try. The green tarnish is only going to worsen and keep on corroding unless it is stopped. Do not use anything harsh. If you can get brass wool (like steel wool but it is BRASS) it is very expensive but will NOT scratch. The big trick will be to make out what the letters are. It looks to me (GUESSING) like maybe Y&H or H&Y but there is definitely an & ampersand there. Best of luck, this one looks really interesting. Is there a maker name on the back.  Posted Sunday, June 23, 2024 by JMS

A. The lettering style on the button is VERY close to a historical Pittsburg and Lake Erie logo (see Link 1) which was first used in the 1880's but which they continued to use thru most of the 20th century. It is possible the button is from P&LE when the most flowery typestyle was in use. Some Atlantic Coast Line logos also had this general style of lettering. Link 1  Posted Tuesday, June 25, 2024 by RJMc

A. The Waterbury Button Co. was founded in Connecticut in 1812 and has been making all kinds of buttons ever since -- including railroad, military, fire dept., high school band, etc etc etc. (See Link 1 for just the railroad section). Check the back of your button; it could well be a Waterbury product. The Waterbury website has a huge number of excellent images of buttons past and present. They label the lettering style of your button "entangled" (most appropriate !!) and many samples in this style are shown. It can take hours to sort thru the vast selection all pictured on their website. If you want more of the same button, they can produce new ones for you. They may even retain the original tooling dies if they made your original, and stamping out more can be very economical meaning that collectors need to be very cautious about finding new-appearing "old" buttons.  Link 1  Posted Tuesday, June 25, 2024 by RJMc

A. This is a known button from the Louisville & Nashville. It is in Don VanCourt’s great book Uniform Transportation Buttons: Railroad. I hope this helps. If you are on Facebook, feel free to join the Railroad Button Collectors group that I manage. Cheers! Paul Hubbard Posted Wednesday, June 26, 2024 by Paul Hubbard

 Q4068 Lantern ID?  A friend recently gave me this lantern to decorate my train room where I am building a Lionel layout. I have a few other lanterns but I am by no means a collector nor am I knowledgeable about lantern history. I don't recognize the initials embossed on the lantern and would appreciate any information that anyone could share. Thanks in advance for your consideration and help.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, May 29, 2024 by Wayne   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The "BR" may stand for "Burlington Route", a nickname for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy RR. I think I have seen other lanterns from the Q with this marking. Other opinions?  Posted Wednesday, May 29, 2024 by PK

A. I agree, it's almost positively certainly Burlington Route. I don't know about lanterns but a lot of tableware and silver dining ware is marked BR. Unless I am mistaken, the 4-46 on an Adlake Kero model should mean it was made in the fourth quarter of 1946. You can actually look up the patent dates online, they probably refer to some part or another of the lantern (not the complete lantern) Posted Saturday, June 1, 2024 by JMS

A. Here is really good information about the CB&Q (Link 1)  Link 1  Posted Saturday, June 1, 2024 by JMS

A. Thanks for information. I appreciate your help.  Posted Sunday, June 9, 2024 by Wayne

 Q4066 Lantern info?  I would love to know the age and history of this lantern I just purchased. I can't find one with the red as a circle in my searches.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2024 by KW   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Congratulations on owning this beautiful lantern! Your lantern was made by E.T Wright, a Canadian manufacturer of lanterns which was in operation until 1933. Judging by the early patent date of your lantern, I would suggest that it was made in the early 1900's for the Canadian Northern Railway, a railway which existed until being merged into the Canadian National in 1923. This early example you have has an additional feature mounted on the frame known as a "bullseye" which was used for signalling. The bullseye on your lantern features a convex fresnel lens which magnifies the signal a greater distance, which in your case would be the red signal for "stop". It is very rare to find a Canadian lantern with a bullseye and often lanterns which had them often have the bullseye missing or broken. The clear cast globe was used to be able to see at night while walking the track, while the bullseye would provide a signal to stop. Your lantern is a complete and early rare example which is highly desirable by lantern collectors and is approximately 101-116 years old. Posted Friday, May 24, 2024 by Steve B

A. As indicated by Steve B, lanterns like this were provided to trackwalkers (track inspectors) in the days before every employee carried a two-way radio and it could be miles between lineside telephone boxes (and telegraph was often in use, anyway). And even warning a dispatcher might do little good since the locomotives didn't have radios, either. In mountainous territory particularly, things such as rock slides and broken rails could -- and did -- happen at any time and the track walker needed a way to stop an oncoming train short of any newly-discovered problem with the track or a tunnel. Fusees and torpedoes work for this function but since fusees only last a relatively few minutes, the trackworker would have to carry a lot of them. Times have really changed since then....the inspection and warning methods have changed, but many of the hazards have not. Posted Friday, May 24, 2024 by RJMc

 Q4065 RR Lantern Question  I do collect railroad lanterns but I don't consider myself an expert by any means. I pulled out one I had packed away and for some reason it just struck me as looking weird. There are no railroad identification marks and it is a Dietz. It look like one that you had a similar picture of saying unusual and an Adlake. I was just looking to see if this was something that was broken or if this is the way it is supposed to be. Thank you   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, May 12, 2024 by R   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q4064 A&W 1909 Lantern Globe Removal  I Recently acquired this Adlake Reliable lantern. Looks just like the Adams crossover model seen in the bottom right of this gallery [see link]. Does anyone know how the globe is supposed to be removed? There doesn't seem to be enough clearance to just pull it out the top of the cage; the globe rubs against the top rail and I'm, afraid I will break it if I force it. I don't see any obvious latches to remove the cage.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, May 11, 2024 by DB  Link 1     Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. It look like a standard Cnx globe which fits the reliable and many other tall globe frames. It should come right out without a problem. Maybe the frame is bent?  Posted Sunday, May 12, 2024 by Ex Sou Ry

A. Thanks Sou, I got it out. Standard CNX globe indeed. Had to force it a little; I really can't tell if the frame is bent or not. This threw me off because other lanterns I've seen had more clearance. Posted Thursday, May 16, 2024 by DB

 Q4063 Help in Identifying Item  I would appreciate help identifying this New York Ontario & Western item. It's been in my collection for many years and not sure what it was used for. It is made of thin metal which has some firmness, but can be easily bent (such as being attached to a telephone pole). Thanks for your time.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, May 11, 2024 by Jim   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This was made by a device a lot like the old-fashioned Dymo Labelmakers, but fed with a roll 0f metal tape rather than colored plastic tape. (The only reason that the Dymo's are now "old fashioned" is because almost everyone uses computer-printed labels of one form or another.) Many RR's and many other industries used the metal labels to mark almost anything. They could be spot-welded on to metal objects (shovels), soldered on (switch lamp frames), or as with yours, apparently tacked on to something such as maybe a phone pole, or maybe the bottom of a piece of furniture. No way to tell where a particular label was used. The pic does not indicate size,but this might also have started as a section cut from a metal boxcar seal which would usually be much narrower than the embossed metal tags.  Posted Thursday, May 16, 2024 by RJMc

 Q4062 PRR Caboose Markers  I am adding marker lamps to an HO gauge model railroad PRR caboose, and I want to make sure they are prototypically correct. What color lenses did the PRR use in their caboose markers, RGGG or RYYY? Or did it depend on the region? If both, which one was more common? Thanks.  Posted Saturday, May 11, 2024 by Joe   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Although your question is about caboose markers, the Link is to an article in the archives here on the RRiana site with all the history and details about classification lights and markers used on PRR locomotives. Its possible the PRR Magazine may have printed a similar article on caboose equipment; if not, it is reasonable (??) to assume that the marker provisions on the rear of tenders were very similar to that used for the rear of trains.  Link 1  Posted Monday, May 13, 2024 by RJMc

 Q4061 Southern Railway '927' keys and locks  Is anyone able to tell me the story or the meaning behind Yale Southern Railway locks which are only marked with the number 927? (see photos). I have checked a Yale catalog and this number isn't a key code. I am wondering if these locks (which don't open with a standard Southern switch key) may be from a railroad that was absorbed into the Southern? The keys are also only marked 927, and there are reports that some Southern Railway lanterns are also marked with this number. Any information you can give is greatly appreciated! Remember: 'Spring comes soonest in the South!'   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, May 3, 2024 by SB   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I own an Adlake Kero short globe lantern with the number 927 on it. From what information I could obtain The Southern Railway would order these Kero's marked 927 to deter theft. Their reasoning, I believe, is that lanterns without railroad initials would be less desirable, however, the number 927 still identified them as Southern Railway lanterns. Where the number 927 came from has not been definitively proven. As far as the keys and locks are concerned, I cannot venture a guess as to why they would be marked 927. Posted Monday, May 6, 2024 by Dave Y.

A. An old Trainmaster once told me they started marking lanterns with 927 after seeing some marked Southern Ry at the local flea market. They (wrongly) figured this would cut down on theft and didn’t understand most lanterns were being “appropriated” for use as a lantern not as a collectable. This is the main reason the vast majority we see today have clear globes. Sorry, I have no first hand knowledge on the locks and keys except I've seen them from time to time over the years.  Posted Tuesday, May 7, 2024 by Ex Sou Ry

 Q4060 Dietz Vulcan 39  I recently purchased a Dietz Vulcan 39 lantern stamped PS for Pennsylvania System. It has an unusual handle in that it is wooden. I can't recall ever seeing a tall globe frame like that before. Also noted that the frame is painted which is another thing I have never seen in a tall globe lantern. The PRR began electrification in 1905 so the handle makes sense if this was used near catenary. Also the frame painting as holding a metal framed lantern, even with an insulated handle, near catenary could prove fatal. I have seen short globe PRR and Washington Terminal lanterns with wooden or rubber handles. Has anyone else seen a tall globe lantern for any electrified road that had an insulated handle and is painted ? All input appreciated.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, May 3, 2024 by AS   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The first PRR electrification in the 1900 to 1910 time period was in the tunnels serving Penn Station in New York. As clearly shown in the pic in the Link it was third rail, not catenary. From the point of view of trainmen getting on and off cars, although the third rail voltage is much lower, the risk can be a lot higher because of how close you must get to the third rail compared with the (far) overhead catenary -- making that insulated handle even more desirable. The third rail system remains active in Penn Station supporting operations coming in from the ex-LIRR lines and serves the West Side connection on the former NYC to Harmon.  Link 1  Posted Saturday, May 4, 2024 by RJMc

A. I remember older guys saying the wood handles were for cold weather as they were much better to use than metal handles during the winter months (wouldn’t freeze up). These would be very popular on the P/S because the line ran through some pretty cold areas in the winter. Over the years I’ve seen several wood handles many of them cracked with age. Finding one in good shape makes a nice find!  Posted Tuesday, May 7, 2024 by Ex Sou Ry

 Q4059 Dietz Lanterns  I’ve got a couple of Dietz railroad lanterns from the 1920s and was wondering why they made them to where you had to take them apart to refill with kerosene instead of a cap you unscrew? Posted Thursday, April 11, 2024 by MS   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. From the earliest days of railroading brakemen and other employees were frequently climbing on and off moving equipment and climbing up and down ladders to get to hand brake wheels, with lantern in hand. Or, often, with the large hoop lantern bail over their arm. And the lanterns were used to pass hand signals at night, involving vigorous motion of the lantern. During all this activity, any arrangement with an easy-to-use screw cap would risk not only frequent loss of the cap but splashing-out and spillage of the kerosene with risk of fire. Marker lamps and switch lamps were much more stationary and so had tanks with easy-to-fill threaded caps. To reduce accidents most railroads today actually ban boarding or alighting from any moving equipment, access to the roofs of cars is prohibited, and every employee has a portable radio to pass signals. So you will seldom see the kinds of activities the kerosene lanterns supported other than in movies or maybe at a museum.  Posted Friday, April 12, 2024 by RJMc

 Q4058 L&N Lantern with SAL Globe  I have a Louisville & Nashville Armspear Lantern dated 1925 that has a red Seaboard Air Line globe in my railroad collection. I know that the L&N and SAL are part of the 'Family Tree' that eventually became CSX. I also had - at one time - a PRR Lantern with a NYC globe. These two Railroads merged to become Penn Central. My question is: are these mix matches of lanterns and globes something that actually occurred on railroads through mergers or is it more likely they were matched later on? Thanks for any help you can provide.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, April 2, 2024 by John   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The RR name marking on a lantern globe makes really no difference in the function. The answers to prior Q's 994 and 1021 give some discussion of how the various RR companies cooperated to arrive at standards that were used industry-wide to purchase items such as lanterns and globes. Use of the common standards guaranteed that the RR's got large quantity price discounts on all purchases, and that the items themselves were widely interchangeable. The various RR's served common terminals and so swapping of components was not uncommon and globes probably got broken very often and replaced with whatever was on hand (or nearby) regardless of the name on the globe. The later relationships of the companies probably has little to do with what globe may be seen in which lantern; of course that same interchangeability means that subsequent owners have also done a lot of swapping -- there is really no way to tell after the fact.  Posted Wednesday, April 3, 2024 by RJMc

A. The '1925' is a model number, not a date of manufacture. Put 'Armspear 1925' in the word search box (just the text, not the quote marks) to see several earlier Q's about this model. Regarding SAL and L&N, an Official Guide to the Rwys. from 1965 shows those two pre-merger lines both serving major terminals in Atlanta, Birmingham and Montgomery, AL, and of course many places in between so there were plenty of places a globe might have been swapped either before or after the lantern left service on the railroad.  Posted Sunday, April 7, 2024 by RJMc

A. Lets say you were a conductor working out of a big yard serving different railroads. If the globe on your lantern got broken you’d go to “supply” for a new one. The person working there would grab the first available and send you on your way. You’d thank him and slap it in place and go on about your work. Neither you nor the supply person would give a care as to the RR marking as long as it worked and fit the lantern. This is how many mix and match combos came to be. Posted Tuesday, May 7, 2024 by Ex Sou Ry

A. Nice lantern. With a little TLC it will clean up real nice! Posted Tuesday, May 7, 2024 by Ex Sou Ry

 Q4057 Presentation Lantern  I'm wondering if you can give me any information on my presentation lantern. I believe it is silver over brass and that the globe is not correct . Any info would be appreciated. Thank you.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, April 2, 2024 by Mary   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. As for the metal, a good jeweler should be able to tell you for certain if the plating is silver and identify the underlying metal. If you look in St. Louis city directories (business preferred) you should be able to reasonably date when the maker, Hart & Duff was in operation. A good reference librarian should be able to help you, or even use Google Books (not "straight Google")(Link 1) The St. Louis Public Library (link 2) is worth contacting. This lantern would be gorgeous with a two-color globe, which is what it deserves. You're correct, the Vesta globe is totally wrong (way too young) but if it fits, that is a huge help finding another that will. Good luck - it's lovely!!  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Saturday, April 6, 2024 by JMS

A. Mary - I just did a quick Google Books search and Hart & Duff was at 113 Broadway, St. Louis, late 1800s-early 1900s. Apparently they were listed as a hat company, but they were a purveyor of all kinds of railroad items including lanterns (may have had an outside company making them, for Hart & Duff?) I would go to the horse's mouth, St. Louis city library reference section. Best of luck !!  Posted Saturday, April 6, 2024 by JMS

A. Nice lantern frame and yes, it is most likely nickel-plated brass (even better than silver). Once of the great things about this hobby is there is enough to go around so everyone can have something special in their collection. But the globe pictured is for a Dietz Vesta for sure. I would suggest you go to a live railroadiana show like the Gaithersburg Show for example. This would give you the opportunity talk to other serious collectors one on one where you MIGHT pick up a lead and find a correct replacement globe for this lantern. One of the reasons I enjoy going to the railroadiana shows as it gives me the chance to talk to folks, gain knowledge and see some cool stuff.  Posted Tuesday, May 7, 2024 by Ex Sou Ry

 Q4056 PRR Black Keystone Patch  I have a black PRR keystone 1 inch patch, but I cannot find any info on it. Usually I only find the red patches. Any info would be appreciated. Thanks,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, March 15, 2024 by Nancy H.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Collar insignia? Posted Sunday, March 17, 2024 by da

A. I believe DA is correct this is NOT a "patch" and never was; it is an insignia, likely from a collar or lapel of a uniform jacket or possibly vest. The uniform makers would embroider these insignia directly onto fabric. Clearly, the garment in this case was black fabric (likely wool or a wool blend). Regardless, the "thread" is metal, either silver or gold bullion (I'm sorry, I can't tell for certain from the photo). When the garment this was on was discarded, someone cut out the insignia to save it.  Posted Wednesday, March 20, 2024 by JMS

A. These lapel markings were popular during WW2 and were made to conserve material for the war effort. Posted Sunday, March 24, 2024 by Ex Sou Ry

 Q4055 Question about a Key  I recently found a key metal detecting near a railroad that appears to be a railroad key of some type. Unfortunately I cannot find any information on it. I would like to know how old it is, what it was for and which rail it may have belonged to? Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, March 9, 2024 by Mark   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. There is some possibility that this is a RR key. However, at one time keys like this, and the padlocks they opened, were in wide general use by all kinds of busineeses, farms, utility companies, and many, many other users. They were commonly sold over-the-counter in hardware stores and lock shops. The number 12 on the key is quite likely a number for which key blank it was made from; there was typically a selection of over 20 or 30 sizes and configurations of blanks for keys like this in any well-stocked lock shop. Since there is no marking on the key to indicate a RR, the only way anyone will have of associating it with a particular company or a particular function is if someone happens to recognize the bit pattern, which is again possible, but pretty unlikely; or possibly if there was more specific info from someone who knew its history. The blank for this key can still be purchased, typically at the really 'veteran' older lock shops found in some cities, where they may still retain inventory of blanks purchased years ago. Posted Monday, March 11, 2024 by RJMc

 Q4054 Tags Used on Freight?  A friend and I were metal detecting the site of a general store that was active from about 1880-1910. There was a grain elevator next door, and a railroad track ran alongside the elevator. Across the road was the train depot. Between us, we found six brass luggage tags on the land where the store and elevator were. (We have not yet been able to search the spot where the depot was.) I thought it was odd to find so many luggage tags across the road from the depot, which made me wonder whether these tags were also used on goods that were being moved by train and delivered to the store? Any information you can provide would be appreciated.  [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, March 9, 2024 by Devon, Northfield, MN   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. A further question came to mind -- without any real basis -- was the Post Office located in the general store? I am not aware of RR baggage tags being used on parcel shipments, especially since they were supposed to be returned to the originating carrier for re-issue, but it might have happened.  Posted Thursday, March 14, 2024 by RJMc

A. A further suggestion: "Luggage" tags with one slot are part of sets of two: One tag would be attached to the parcel and the other serve as a claim check, given to the passenger checking the item to reclaim at the end of the trip, by matching their tag with the one on the luggage. The large two-slotted tags were for unaccompanied baggage. The two on each end of your picture are the type called "shells" - a paper tag would be inserted into slots on the long edges (in your photo they're on the other sides), held in place by inserting straps through the short end slots, then attaching those straps to the parcel. Also - This little group of buildings created a busy area where a lot of train related business was going on: travelers checking things in or picking them up; freight and baggage cars being loaded or unloaded; stage coaches and hacks looking for passengers. Tags of all kinds could have been dropped willy nilly anywhere. (And there might well have been Post Office involvement via a mail car, on any number of trains.)  Posted Thursday, March 21, 2024 by JMS

 Q4053 Holder for Kerosene Lamp?  I'm wondering if this is the holder for some kind of wall mounted caboose lamp? The moving arm brings that cap down to a fixed horizontal position. Is that cap a snuffer perhaps? Not sure what the front long area is for unless the lamp was shaped as fairly squat with a reservoir that extended forward. Thanks,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, March 7, 2024 by Ed   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I think the round cap is the giveaway; this is probably a juice squeezer. Searching for 'antique juice squeezer' images brings up a lot of pix of different varieties, but all basically the same idea. Link 1 shows only the bottom of a 1905 model that looks a lot like yours; Link 2 is the full view of a slightly different model. If yours is fairly small, it might have been used at a bar to squeeze limes.  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Thursday, March 7, 2024 by RJMc

A. Doubt it’s a squeezer for anything. The whole apparatus is about 12” tall and made of very light, bendable materials. There are only two small bolts holding the thin metal cup to the arm. The cup descends at an angle and only becomes completely horizontal at the bottom of the cycle unlike a squeezer which is designed to be horizontal the full time a squeezer is engaged. You couldn’t put any pressure on it or it would break. Its only apparent function is to gently come down on to the top of something to close it off which is why I believe it is a snuffer of some kind maybe for a kerosene lamp or even a candle inside a glass cylinder. Just wondered if anyone had ever seen a lamp with a mechanism like this. It also has a holder for a container that keeps whatever it is in place and centered for the cup to come down on. There are mounting holes on the back so that it can be mounted/hung on a wall Posted Friday, March 8, 2024 by EPD

A. I don't think any juice squeezer would have been wall mounted (mounting holes are clearly evident) and this may be off, but TO ME the surfaces of the piece look somewhat "scuzzy" and not "finished." To me they look like an aged industrial piece, not something smooth and easily cleaned that you'd want around food. The surfaces of actual juicers that RJM posted are smooth (still, despite age) and factory finished, to be easily cleaned and appropriate for food use.  Posted Saturday, March 9, 2024 by JMS

A. With all due regard to everyone's observations, Link 1 is the full pic of the 1905 Juice-o-Matic, a part of which was in the earlier link. And it might have been for squeezing out tomato juice; a lot easier to squeeze than lemons or oranges. The item in the pic and your item continue to look extremely similar to me. Link 1  Posted Friday, March 15, 2024 by RJMc

A. I agree the finish is very the extent that the item may have been heavily corroded at some time and then very roughly refinished. The original finish might have been much more suitable for food handling.  Posted Wednesday, March 20, 2024 by RJMc

 Q4052 Lock for Real?  This lock is from an Ohio estate making Atlantic & Great Western RR a possibility. The smaller stamp is Adrian Mich across the bottom and ‘something’ Co arching across the top. It seems to be functional, and reading about Adrian MI indicates strong railroad history and manufacturing history. There is a large stamped S on the other side of the shackle. Is it real and what company in Adrian MI is connected?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, March 1, 2024 by Joyce   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The Atlantic and Great Western RR betweetn 1860 and 1880 was the broad-gauge (6 feet!) predecessor to what ultimately became the Erie Railroad main line between the New York City metro area and Cleveland, and Dayton, OH. The lock certainly looks appropriate for that time period. A view of the keyway would help to match it to other known samples. I am having a very hard time trying to make out the manufacturer name; no historical references -- so far -- in the Adrian, MI area seem to come close. It might help to try side-lighting that lettering to make it more readable, or maybe try putting baby powder over it to bring up the raised lettering by covering up the background.  Posted Saturday, March 2, 2024 by trnbob

A. Please either tell us what it says or as trnbob asks, post a clear picture of the small stamp at lower right. What's there now enlarges so blurry it is not readable. SORRY ! The "S" simply stands for "switch" which is the function of this type of lock. I would suggest finding Adrian Michigan city directory(one or more) from the later 1800s - you can try a Google search for them, or a good library reference department should be able to help you. This is a good looking lock, it deserves to be more closely identified, especially since it seems to have been manufactured by a rare maker.  Posted Sunday, March 3, 2024 by JMS

A. Here's a close-up of the manufacturer's mark. Link 1  Posted Thursday, March 7, 2024 by Joyce

A. I believe the makers mark says Ill. Mfg Co for Illinois Manufacturing Company, which was engaged in the manufacture of railway brass and bronze supplies. They were located in Adrian Mich. Posted Thursday, March 7, 2024 by DA

A. Here's a picture of the keyhole. Link 1  Posted Saturday, March 9, 2024 by Joyce

 Q4051 A&W Switch Lock  I am a volunteer in the collections department of the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum in Tucson, Arizona. We are principally interested in the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific railroads ... these are the two lines that have operated in Southern Arizona/Tucson since the 1880's. The attached photos are of a switch lock that was recently donated to us. We have determined that the maker is A&W Co. of Chicago as shown stamped on the lock. Most importantly on the face is stamped 'So. Pacific Co' - right up our alley !! We have tried to research A&W Co. and do know it was a manufacturer of locks. I have found several A&W switch locks on-line, but cannot find information about the company itself --- other than in Chicago I don't know the years in business,relations with other Railroad companies, other RR products made, connection to Southern Pacific, etc. I have not yet looked through our inventory but I believe it is the first A&W lock we may have ... so very interested. I would appreciate any information you may have on A&W Co. or where we might look to find more about this company. Thank you in advance for helping us on this little project. Regards,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, March 1, 2024 by Debbie, SATM Collections    Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hello. A&W stands for Adams and Westlake Co., a predecessor of today's Adlake which continues to supply locks, keys and many other items of specialty hardware -- including lamps and lanterns -- to the railroad industry. Just to start, Link 1 is to an article about the history of A&W and Adlake. Putting 4044 in the Question Number box on this Q&A website will bring up a very recent discussion about locks like yours, and it explains the CS4 marking on your lock. Putting Adlake into the Word or Phrase box will bring up a huge number of prior Q&A's about many of the various kinds of things we have previously discussed here on the site. The second link it to the page in the Library on this website discussing railroad locks in general.  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Saturday, March 2, 2024 by RJMc

 Q4050 Monon Railroad Telegraph Key and Sounder  My grandfather worked as a telegrapher on the Monon Railroad from 1923-1937 in Indiana. Are you able to provide information on who manufactured the telegraph key and sounder used by the Monon Railroad during this time? Do you have similar manufacturing information for the glass insulators used on the poles along the telegraph lines? Thanks very much.  Posted Saturday, February 17, 2024 by KS   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. There was always a lot of variety in things like telegraph keys and sounders on railroads. That said, the railroads had strong partnerships with the Western Union Telegraph Co. and often the equipment in stations was provided by WUT and used to handle the traffic of both companies. There are good photos at Link 1 of the most typical basic types of keys and sounders, as well as relays also typically found in stations. Many telegraph operators brought their own much more sophisticated sending keys, called 'bugs', often made by the Vibroplex Co., and which could send much faster than the basic keys. The Link 1 site also covers a lot of info about insulators, which were even less standard than telegraph instruments.  Link 1  Posted Sunday, February 18, 2024 by RJMc

A. For insulators - try the National Insulator Collectors - a great, very active group !! See Link 1.  Link 1  Posted Monday, February 19, 2024 by JMS

 Q4049 Bell Identification  Shown here is a bell we have on display in our fire station. We believe it was manufactured by G.H. Holbrook Company in Medway, MA. There are 3 markings on the bell: 1. GHH 2. 1840 3. MASS. The bell was given to the Payson Tucker Hose Company No. 1 in 1885 by Payson Tucker, the General Manager of the Maine Central Railroad. It was mounted on top of the fire station and was used to alert the volunteer firemen of a fire in the village of Winthrop, Maine. Because of Payson Tuckers affiliation with the railroad, some have speculated that the bell came off a locomotive. I was curious of your opinion as the bell appears larger than most locomotive bells I have seen? The bell is 21 inches in diameter at the base and 22 inches tall.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, February 17, 2024 by DC    Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Yes, this is way too tall, and the mount is wrong, to have been on a locomotive. The mount is typical of the bells used on churches, schools, and firehouses. Posted Sunday, February 18, 2024 by RJMc

 Q4048 Lima Builders Plate  I recently bought a Lima locomotive works Inc. shovel and crane division builders plate front, serial #2948. Quick question: is the plate real and if so was it used on a crane or possibly a locomotive? Either way any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.  Posted Monday, February 12, 2024 by Warren   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q4047 Baggage Tag Info and Age?  I found a RR baggage tag with my metal detector this afternoon. I am trying to find out what RR it is from. The initials are P. & N. B. R. R. made by J. Robbins Boston. I found it in Massachusetts near the old Nashua, Acton and Boston Railroad bed. I was also curious about its approximate age. Thank you for your time. Regards,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, February 12, 2024 by Ron S   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Sorry, having no luck with figuring this one out. A run through Bill Edson's comprehensive "Railroad Names" of US lines yields no likely candidates, either in the railroad section, or the interurban and trolley section. The Initials Lookup page in this RRiana website yields no likely candidates either. A hunch that "NB" might be New Brunswick, Canada, didn't pan out either. I haven't looked into the Trolley and Interurban directory yet.  Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2024 by RJMc

A. NB could also be New Bedford. Check out Tagtown for info on Robbins tags (link 1). This one looks truly old and I don't recall seeing a Robbins marking where this one appears. You might write Tagtown's owner with questions. Good luck !!  Link 1  Posted Thursday, February 15, 2024 by JMS

A. When I found my copy of Gross's all-US Trolley and Interurban Directory, it did not have any P&NB candidates either, anywhere in the U.S. Posted Sunday, February 18, 2024 by RJMc

A. This may not be a baggage tag. Similar tags were used as employee ID's for payroll purposes (long before paper or plastic ID cards were common), as well as tool checks. Put 'brass tag' in the search box to see much prior discussion about tags like this. These kinds of checks would have been used on temporary local construction RR's also, ones which never carried checked baggage. There were many small lines which existed for only short lifetimes and which don't show up in any of the databases we have been looking in, even though they were incorporated railroad companies. Sometimes they will show up when an extensive historical search picks them up in local newspapers for example, but its very hit-and-miss.  Posted Monday, February 19, 2024 by RJMc

 Q4046 Signal Lens Question  I have a US and S signal that was used as a dwarf signal. When I took it apart to refurbish several years ago I didn’t note which side of this inner doublet lens faces ‘out’ (towards the engineer, away from the mechanism). One side is flat and smooth and the other side is ribbed and painted black on the ridges. I THINK the flat smooth side as I have pictured. Would anyone be able to verify that for me? Also, I notice this lens has a ‘TOP’ stamped in it with the arrow pointed down. I have a couple other Color light signals and most of the lens have an arrow on them. Do they always point down or towards the tracks etc? I’d like to ensure they get reinstalled properly too. Thank for any help! Much appreciated! Lonnie in Canada   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, February 12, 2024 by Lonnie in Canada   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Greetings Lonnie, the correct way to mount the doublet lens is to have the flat side facing inwards (towards the signal case) and the ribbed side to be on the outside of the housing facing outwards (towards the engineer). Also the correct orientation is to have the word TOP at the 12 O'Clock position and, you're right, have the arrow pointing down towards the track at the 6 O'Clock position. I hope this helps you! Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2024 by Steve B.

 Q4045 Fresnel Globe History  Was curious about when fresnel globes first appeared? Would you expect to see them on certain lanterns and are there examples where a fresnel globe would obviously not be appropriate and effect value? Thanks from a new collector.  Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2024 by BL   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Some indication of just how long Fresnel lenses have been around, copied from prior Q 3669 here on the RRiana site: Q 3369 A. Per "Illustrated Encyclopedia of Railroad Lighting Vol. 1: The Railroad Lantern" (Barrett) : The Fresnel (pronounced Fray-nell) globe is named after Augustin Jean Fresnel (1788-1827). Fresnel was a French physicist and engineer who did much research on the light conditions governing interference phenomena on polarized light and on double refraction. He developed a method of producing circulatory polarized light. [Fresnel globes] were used in railroad applications because they reduced globe breakage and, under many conditions, gave better light. They were ideally suited for some railroad applications because they produced a beam of high intensity light with limited vertical spread. This made them ideal for use in crossing gate lanterns and rip track lanterns. Posted Saturday, September 7, 2019 by JMS (end of quote.) On railroads many Fresnel lenses were used for grade crossing watchmen's lanterns to focus the beam more at the level of an oncoming highway driver. Similarly they were used for warning lights on railroad bridges where oncming boat traffic was to be warned and on many other marine lamps as well. Just put the word Fresnel in the 'Word or Phrase' search box and push the Go button to see a lot of prior discussion.  Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2024 by RJMc

 Q4044 Lock Marking  I like to collect old stuff and always wanted a old pad lock, but does 'CS 4' mean anything?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, January 27, 2024 by CQ   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hi CQ, the CS stands for "Common Standard", and the number is an order number. Several railroads such as Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Oregon Short Line and others used a Common Standard system so the ordering department knew what to ask for when ordering locks and keys and other necessary hardware. This was particularly useful on railroads that used multiple types of locks ie; Switch locks, Signal locks, Roadway and Bridge Locks, Special Purpose locks. Sometimes the CS number is cast or stamped on the locks and keys. On the SP CS-4 was the switch lock designation. That's a nice lock you have, congratulations! Posted Monday, January 29, 2024 by Steve B.

A. See prior Q's 3905 and 2840 for more discussion of the Common Standards, which were used on the Harriman-owned RR's and covered many other things in addition to locks. Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2024 by RJMc

A. See also Q 3552 for keys and numbering/lettering relating to CS4. Additionally, Q 3562 covers some more SP CS numbers. As to Harriman related “Common Standards”, and this is not bible, it was my understanding that it was first used on Southern Pacific while Huntington still ruled. Then, seeing the value of it, Mr. Harriman decided to apply it across the system using S.P. as the basis. The dissolution of the joint system did not stop the use of C.S., but Union Pacific would have been the primary source on their end (UP, OSL, OWRR&N, etc.) with Southern Pacific controlling their groupings. Much of it would have been shared by necessity of exchange practices across roads. Not sure how ICRR ran it. Posted Friday, February 2, 2024 by ShastaRoute

 Q4043 Dietz No. 39  I recently picked up this Dietz No. 39 lantern with an unmarked globe. I have been searching around for information (and have received some) about dating the item. During my search I have not seen any examples online that do not have a manufacture location stamped on the brass top like mine. Is anyone able to help me out on this? Is it possible that Dietz had some made by another company and did not mark manufacture location or is this simply a variant? Many thanks for you time.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, January 27, 2024 by Dave in Canada   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q4042 Brass CNJ Tag  I was wondering if anybody has any idea of what this CRR of NJ brass tag was used for? I was told it was a luggage tag but I have never seen one this shape and size before. It is 5 in. long 2 in. wide and the hole in the center is 3/4 in. round. Any ideas?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, January 27, 2024 by Ram   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. These were brass MFG'er tags that were attached to a piece of track hardware like a switch, etc. Wharton was the maker. I have seen them with different maker's names and also some marked for the P&R. Yeah, not a luggage tag. Posted Monday, January 29, 2024 by DA

 Q4041 Erie RR Lock  Can anyone tell me what an Erie ER69 key looks like for a Corbin padlock? Trying to find out a key blank number and what the cut looks like. Thanks,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, January 10, 2024 by Joe   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Your question has been up for quite a while but I will try a suggestion. IF you can find a locksmith who still has old Corbin blanks, take the lock in and see if they can find at least the blank for it. This has to be a locksmith that has been in business for a long time and hopefully hasn't tossed the old blanks. A new locksmith business or one of the chain hardware stores that cuts keys is not going to work.  Posted Monday, January 22, 2024 by JMS

A. Hi Joe, I have a similar Corbin lock with the same keyway. I had a key cut for it on an Ilco 1000F CO17 blank. As for the key cut, I have no idea. There were probably several and unless you make contact with someone with the exact same lock as yours with the dame stamp marks it will be difficult. However, an experienced locksmith, either professional or a serious hobbyist can cut a blank by impressioning it with your lock. That's how I got a key made for my Corbin and it works well with this Ilco key. I hope this helps you. Posted Tuesday, January 23, 2024 by Steve B.

A. This is probably a signal lock. There were many different cuts used across the Erie system. See prior Q 3291 about very similar EL signal locks. You can also just enter the words 'signal lock' in the 'search by word or phrase' box (no quotes in the box) to see a LOT of prior discussion about these kinds of locks.  Posted Friday, January 26, 2024 by RJMc

 Q4040 Old GTR Lantern  I came across by accident this lantern. Most people I talk to say it's 1860 era Grand Trunk. Could you shed the light on any info on it? It's intact and I did fire it without the glass. Thanks a million.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, January 10, 2024 by Jon   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Nice globe. Due to its great age you might want to refrain from firing the lantern. Posted Wednesday, January 24, 2024 by Ex Sou Ry

 Q4039 Identifying Builders' Plates  My dad, spent his entire work life with the C&O and its successors. He had quite a fascinating collection comprising mainly items used on the C&O and B&O. The collection included several builders plates that, soon after his death, (tragically) went to a local in-person auction that did not regularly deal with railroadiana. I know almost nothing about builders plates and am curious. I see the plates at auctions fairly often, but have no idea how to tell whether a particular plate was used on the C&O or B&O. Can anyone shed light on this? I would like to locate one from either railroad, but guess that establishing this connection is complicated and that I’m likely to be in over my head. I love reading the questions and answers shared here, and sincerely appreciate any help.  Posted Wednesday, January 10, 2024 by SN   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I do research on builder's plates for collectors all over the country. I have had builder's and number plates in from both the B&O and C&O railroads. Please send me an email at - - and I will set up a file for you and I would be glad to look for those for you. Posted Tuesday, January 16, 2024 by RJM

A. You may want to pick up a book by William D. Edson titled: Steam Locomotives of the Baltimore and Ohio An All-Time Roster. This will give you a comprehensive list of the builders numbers for all B&ORR steam engines. Hope this helps.  Posted Wednesday, January 24, 2024 by Ex Sou Ry

 Q4038 Kero Lantern Coating  I recently found this in the back of a family storage unit. From looking at the photo you can see the surface is textured. In looking at photos online, I cannot find another with a similar textured surface. It doesn't appear to be rusty because the texture is uniform over the entire lantern. Have you seen anything like this before? The bottom of the lantern has the date marker '2-36' and on the top there is a 'Wabash Ry' marking. Thanks so much for your help,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, December 23, 2023 by John   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Maybe look at Q.2322 where “undercoat” is mentioned in general context, and the question of soda blasting is being covered. So this might be old automotive undercoating used to protect the metal? Posted Saturday, December 23, 2023 by ShastaRoute

A. This also has the look of "texture" or "Wrinkle Finish" paint which was commonly used on some electronic instruments or housings. Texture finish by design was painted on, more recently may be applied by powder coating. The powder coating would provide a much more uniform application on a shape as complicated as a lantern, and would be more likely to adhere to the wires of the bail and frame. Texture finishes are vailable in spray cans (see Link 2), and forms the textured surface as it cures. Getting a good uniform coating of it on a first try is highly unlikely. Now largely replaced with plastic treatments if more than just a smooth painted surface is desired.  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Monday, December 25, 2023 by RJMc

A. First: On an Adlake Kero frame, the 2-36 should mean it was made during the second quarter (April-June) of 1936.... RE: the finish: Frankly, it looks to me like maybe a Non-Railroad person thought a wrinkly finish would look neat. The coating looks so thick as to be gloppy; was it applied this thickly to disguise rust underneath ? or is it good sound metal ? there is no way to tell.... Regardless, this is definitely not a factory finish! The original/factory "finish" would have been plain metal with no coating at all (although I suppose some railroads may have had them painted or done it themselves).... IMHO, RJMc is right on with suggesting this is some sort of textured-finish paint. I would think that the question now is, How to get this stuff off? Depending partly on whether it's an oil base that will respond to paint/rust remover, or a latex coating that won't, it may or may not be worth trying to clean/restore. (Found out the hard way that latex paint is truly wicked to try to remove).... We sell at train shows, and my own best use of this lantern would be to take it in its current condition to one of the mostly model shows and offer it as "train room atmosphere" rather than an authentic, collectible relic (which it truly is, BUT...) Thankfully it sounds like you haven't much invested in it.  Posted Monday, December 25, 2023 by JMS

 Q4037 Diesel Loco Bell?  I’m trying to figure out if this is a diesel locomotive railroad Bell. At the base it measures 13 inches, 12 inches to the top not counting the finial. It weighs about 55 pounds. It is stamped. Thank you very much.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, December 23, 2023 by William   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Bells of about this size were used in many applications, among them diesel locomotives and steam locomotives built late in the steam era (for example, Nickel Plate S3 Berkshires.) They were also used on fire trucks, ships, churches, and places such as the control shacks for movable lift or drawbridges. I note that this bell is not equipped with an air ringer, but instead with a cord tied to the clapper. That causes me to think it is not a locomotive bell, but one of the other types. Looking at the stamping, a search for "DE20" turns up the US Navy Destroyer Escort LeHardy, DE20, which was in service in WW II, and would certainly have a bell very similar to this one, if not this exact one. So far I have not found any photos of the LeHardy close enough to see its bell or how it may have been mounted.  Link 1  Posted Saturday, December 23, 2023 by RJMc

A. Also, the mount is not substantial enough for railroad service; the four fairly small mounting bolts would get ripped out very quickly in the normall banging around that occurs on railroads. This makes fire truck service more likely; and searching for fire truck bell images comes up with several with braided cords very similar to yours. Link 1  Posted Saturday, December 23, 2023 by RJMc

A. Some additional clarification: there are many situations where a locomotive bell must be rung continuously to warn folks in the area; examples: when preparing to move, moving thru a yard or maintenance area, approaching stations, approaching grade crossings. Having to do that manually would distract a crew member from keeping a good lookout and from doing their other duties. So since about 1920 it has been mandatory that all locomotives have bells and with some form of automatic ringer (by state laws, in some cases). Modern locomotives have electronic bells, which still can be "rung" continuously. The non-railroad bells are mostly for ceremonial functions and ringing them manually by hand is perfectly acceptable. Mechanical and electronic sirens have long since replaced the need for warning bells on fire apparatus, but they still carry them for tradition, and occasional ceremonial use. Readily available watches and clocks have eliminated any need to tell time on shipboard by the "Bells" system.  Posted Monday, January 1, 2024 by RJMc

 Q4036 Fixed Globe Marking - CT Co.  I noticed a fixed globe lantern (possibly New England Glass) for sale on E-Bay with the wheel cut letters CT Co. Does anyone know the name of the company these letters represent? Posted Saturday, December 23, 2023 by Dave    Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The Link is to the page here on the RRiana Website where you can enter initials or other parts of RR names to see what the full names might be / have been. There are 6 or 7 listings there for "CT" and there are probably many more in shortlines, construction companies, transit and interurban lines. etc. Link 1  Posted Saturday, December 23, 2023 by RJMc

 Q4035 Electric Adlake Lamp Socket  It is getting harder for me to find complete lamps ... in my price range. I recently acquired two Adlake electric lamps with the missing electrical socket. I was wondering if anyone has a picture of what this type of socket would look like? The picture shows the mounting bracket.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, December 13, 2023 by TC   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q4034 Railroad Globe Markings  Do you have any history as to when globe manufacturers started to making globes that were cast with the small mold lines on each side of the globe? In other words the year of different globe manufacturing changes, i.e cast or blown glass with the lines names that were raised. Globes that the cast RR lines name looks like is cast with a frame around it etc. I'm trying to date a globe that I come across. I want to match the lantern frame age with the globe age. Sometimes I see old frames with modern globes. Thank you and a high ball to you.  Posted Wednesday, December 6, 2023 by TW   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q4033 Cleaning a Hat Badge  I have a Ticket Collector's hat badge from the New Haven RR. I am not sure if it is authentic, although I was assured it is. What is the best way to clean it up/ restore it? The edges are darkened and there is no ink within the lettering. Also what is the proper way to affix it to a new cap? Thanks for any help. Posted Tuesday, December 5, 2023 by John   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. See Link 2 below for the page in the RRiana site archives about badges. It notes that many badges are still being made, some by the original manufacturers, even with the original tooling, so authenticity is very difficult to establish. And I noted in passing that the New Haven seemed to be a very popular 'model' for latterly-produced badges. As to mounting a badge on a hat, there are/were at least three common methods. The badge could have a threaded post or posts extending out the back. Each post is pushed thru the hat and a nut screwed on the back (see link 1 for how the military does it.) Some hats had pre-made holes with metal grommets to receive those posts. In method 2 the badge has/had a round hole on each side. A round-headed split tack is passed thru the hole and the hat, and the split sides are bent over to hold the badge in place. The third method has two narrow rectangular slots in the badge. This is more common on older badges. The tack method can be used, but I have not been able to determine for sure the 'proper' way to use those slots and will be interested to hear if others can confirm how they are/were used. A possibility is that stitches were passed thru the slots and around the edges of the badge, but that is just a guess. The first two methods would be much easier for moving badges as hats wore out, or people got promoted, etc.  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Tuesday, December 5, 2023 by RJMc

A. John, could you post a picture? (See Link 1 - a similar badge, just a different occupation, yours should be brass and the same shape.) ALSO - use a magnifying glass to double check for a maker mark on the back. Look for pale "halos" or rubbing around the holes, which are signs the badge was actually used on a hat - help to prove authenticity. ALSO - May I add to RMc's terrific explanation about attachment options: Having had several New Haven Ticket Collector's badges, I believe his #2 is what you need (there is a round hole on each end of your badge). You will have better luck finding a "round headed split tack" if you go to a good stationery store and ask for a "Paper fastener." (It's essentially the same thing - a flat round head with two prongs to insert through the badge holes then through the holes in the hat, and spread apart when they get inside. Your badge should be brass - these fasteners come in brass. ALSO - As for the lettering, the black in them was not "ink" it was enamel originally. I have had great luck restoring with black artist oil paint (comes in tubes, toothpaste consistency from an art supply store). Wipe the badge with lacquer thinner, brush paint over the letters to fill them, let it dry just a bit and wipe with a clean cloth but don't wipe hard, so the paint stays in the letters. If you mess up just wipe it off with the lacquer thinner.  Link 1  Posted Saturday, December 9, 2023 by JMS

A. John, I found a listing online for comparison with your badge - it's clearly authentic. See Link 1. Note, yours will not necessarily have the same backmark. Several companies made these over the years. Best of luck!  Link 1  Posted Saturday, December 9, 2023 by JMS

 Q4032 Locomotive Numbering  Any information on how steam locomotives were numbered? The plate from the front of the engine is solid brass as are the flagstaffs. See picture. Thanks for any assistance you might offer.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, November 6, 2023 by JG   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. To answer your question, historically there was never any standardization across railroad companies and other entities in how locomotives were numbered, since steam locomotives very seldom left their home line. Every railroad company or entity (such as industries, grain elevators, lumber mills, coal mines, steel mills, sugar refineries, etc etc etc) had the discretion to put almost any ID they wanted on their locomotive(s). Many engines were named instead of numbered. Some numbers were carried over from owner to owner when locomotives were sold, which is how some shortlines which had only a few miles of track and only one or two locomotives had them numbered in the hundreds or thousands series; keeping a prior owner's number saved on repainting and lettering. And most companies or entities at one time or another had an "Old Number One" or a "One Spot." For your specific smokebox door, a couple of thoughts. One clue is the ALCO ID and the 1920 date on the number plate. The apparent size (judging by the dust pan hanging next to it) is fairly small. The brass flag holders and the star decorations suggest a possible foreign line to me--the same (non) rules applied almost around the world, and ALCO shipped steam locomotives world-wide. I tried looking at images of Mexican RR's and industrial lines, but so far nothing close. But someone may recognize that gold star. Do you have any other info about where it might have been used? I would also check the back of the number plate for possible stampings; sometimes a builder's number or a boiler number might be stamped there, and they were much more unique to each locomotive builder. Posted Sunday, November 26, 2023 by RJMc

 Q4031 M Ry Marking  What company does 'M RY' markings stand for? Is it uncommon?  Posted Monday, November 6, 2023 by Jim   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. There are a lot of candidates for this railroad marking. One possibility is the Monongahela Railway. From observation, many if not most of the Monongahela's lanterns were marked "M.Ry Co.", the "Co" being appended to the other letters. However, it's possible that locks, keys and other items did not follow this practice. Posted Tuesday, November 7, 2023 by PEK

A. One of the handy features on this RRiana website is a search feature for railroad names based on the initials used. The Link is to the start page for such searches. If you enter the capital letter M (followed by a space) for the initials (RR or RY is presumed; no need to enter) you will see a list of over 40 North American RR's that could have used just the letter M as their designator. While reporting marks on locomotives and cars are registered for interchange control purposes, and need to be unique to one company, the markings on various RR property were entirely at the discretion of the RR and many were not unique. On some things we will never be able to tell which line may have marked them.  Link 1  Posted Sunday, November 12, 2023 by RJMc

 Q4030 Boston to KeeWeeNaw Pennisula (MI) Train Svc 1872-1905  I am writing a biography of a mechanical engineer that lived in Boston but commuted to Houghton Michigan at least twice a year for nearly 30 years, starting in 1872. He worked for the Calumet and Hecla Mining company. Q1: I would like to know what trains he needed to take, stops he had to make and how that trip evolved into the 20th century. Q2: Could you point me towards a source that describes the traveling options for a middle-class professional (ie, berths, dining, amenities, etc.)? Since he spent so much time on trains, I'm trying to imagine the train workers, fellow travelers and stations he must have encountered again and again. Any guidance much appreciated.  Posted Sunday, October 29, 2023 by EP   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I would assume that for such a long trip this gentleman would have used the long-distance major railroads as much as possible so here is a guess: Using Google Maps the major cities are Boston - Albany NY (Boston & Albany/New York Central RR; Albany-Buffalo NY (New York Central RR); Buffalo - Cleveland OH - Ann Arbor/Detroit MI (NYC-Lake Shore & Michigan Southern); Ann Arbor/Detroit - Houghton MI (Guessing: Great Lakes Central or Michigan Central ? but I'm not familiar enough with the railroad service in the Great Lakes area. Hope someone else here can help.) Likely there may have been a local rail line at the beginning and end of his trip. As far as amenities, Pullman service available on the larger roads would be a good explanation of choices (hopefully he'd be able to use Pullman for the most comfort on such a long trip). If you can find "advertising" brochures from the railroad lines for that time period, they often printed what was available on their trains. As far as stations, public timetables from the period would give a list of stations he would have passed through. And especially since you're writing a biography, please take this constructively as I truly mean it: I'm 70-ish and still recall my high school English teacher drilling it into us that a person is a "who," not a "that," so your man was a mechanical engineer who lived in Boston.  Posted Monday, October 30, 2023 by JMS

A. I meant to include the possibility that this traveler may have traveled from Buffalo NY straight across Canada to the Detroit area where he would have picked up a northbound train. It would have saved a good deal of time, rather than running around the lower end of the lakes through the U.S. but of course would have involved international travel.  Posted Monday, October 30, 2023 by JMS

A. Thank you so much for this information! Posted Tuesday, October 31, 2023 by EP

A. What you really need for this is the services of a Travel Agent, just as your traveller would have needed one. Of course your travel agent will also need the information appropriate to your time period. The Link is to a wonderful resource of historical railroad documents including public timetables, employee timetables, system maps, and other miscellaneous documents which can provide 'color' related to travelling in the past. (For future reference for all, the Link is also featured in the Library/Archives of this RRiana website.) The other outstanding reference is historical Official Guides to the Railways which are available from various sources, including scanned and searchable versions on line. Both independent travel agents and railroad passenger agents provided travel planning services using these documents and either kind of agent could plan, and ticket, and bill one-way or complete trips on the whole network relying on the very effective interline agreements. This meant that an agent in Boston could and would cheerfully issue a single through ticket to Kewaunee,MI, no matter how many RR's (and the Pullman Co.) were involved in any given trip. Larger companies often had their own internal travel offices, but just as today, smaller companies would usually have a longstanding working relationship with an outside agent. I would suggest you consult and recruit a (present day, or maybe retired) travel agent as a consultant for your project, who will enjoy plying their trade in the past tense, so to speak, likely even without getting paid to do it. Another great source for stories of travel would be the personal diaries of travellers from the time, if you can locate them. Some diary-keepers write down EVERYTHING. Link 1  Posted Sunday, November 5, 2023 by RJMc

A. What terrific further ideas, RJMc! especially the suggestion about station agents acting as travel agents. I would think that since this was a regular trip for so many years (although only twice yearly) surely the gentleman would have made acquaintances with agents who indeed could book him through the entire route to the end, and very likely others along the way where he would change trains.  Posted Sunday, November 12, 2023 by JMS

 Q4029 Sign Identification  Can anyone tell me what the purpose of this sign/signal was? It’s a steel rectangle painted yellow with two round holes, Approximately 16” x 20” and mounted on a steel rod. I’m pretty sure an illustration appears in a Boston & Maine rule book, which I can’t seem to locate. It may appear in other rule books. Thank you for any help!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, October 29, 2023 by JMS   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The Link is to an excellent site containing a wealth of info about North American railroad signal practices, including scans of many rule books with color illustrations of indications. The site includes all of the signal-related info from a Boston and Maine rule book from 1931. On page 111 of that book they show a "Reduce Speed" and a "Slow" sign, both metal painted yellow mounted on posts. The sign shapes are not rectangular. The reduce speed sign is supposed to show the intended speed limit. I suspect your sign is a more modern, simplified version (just plain old rectangular) and the single metal rod makes it look to me as if it was used portable, maybe to protect temporary track work zones. The holes may have been used to hang lanterns, or may just have been to keep the wind or the backdraft of passing trains from blowing the sign over.  Link 1  Posted Thursday, November 2, 2023 by RJMc

A. Thank you RJMc for such insights, it is truly kind of you. I actually got a response from the B&M Historical Society: "The yellow painted steel item is a switch--more properly known as a turnout--target. It was mounted on a heavy steel rod on the switch mechanism. When the track was lined straight, the target was nearly invisible, as being viewed end on by the crew. When the track was lined curved, the target was in full view, thus confirming same to the crew. Some targets were at ground level as shown; others were 3-4 feet in the air depending upon the location and situation." They actually included a photo of an identical sign at ground level, rectangular like mine, except mine is attached to the "3-4 foot steel post" they described.  Posted Sunday, November 12, 2023 by JMS

A. the B&M Historical Society response is interesting, and a very unusual practice as described. Did they say what years (or eras?) this might have applied to? Posted Saturday, November 18, 2023 by RJMc

A. To clarify my comments above, having switch targets is not at all unusual and all RR's have them in one form or another. The only unusual part is having only one "flag" to show the switch position and using the color yellow for it is unusual among RR's in my experience; maybe this was used on yard track rather than a main line.  Posted Friday, November 24, 2023 by RJMc

 Q4028 B&O Reed & Barton Piece  I was hoping you could help me with this. I know it is a silver plated piece made by Reed & Barton with a date code for 1929. But I don't know what it was used for. It measures about 2.75 in. tall and is about 2 in. x 1.5 in. wide. I was told it may possibly be for toothpicks or cigarettes and also that is might be an individual sugar holder. Thank for you whatever assistance you can spare.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, October 16, 2023 by BF   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This piece might also have been used to hold the stubby yellow "lead" pencils traditionally used by dining car patrons to write their orders on the provided order tickets. The matre'd handed out a ticket to each diner who wrote down their own order; the maitre'd picked up the completed ticket, read the order back to the diner to confirm the selection(s), then forwarded the ticket into the kitchen to have the order prepared. Both at the tables and in the kitchen, that system avoided a LOT of repeats and mis-communication otherwise likely on a dining car often proceding down the railroad at 80 or more mph and often in a fairly noisy ambient environment.  Posted Wednesday, October 18, 2023 by RJMc

A.  Is there a pattern number on the bottom (maybe 1400 or 0143) ? This design is a perfect match for the pieces in the wonderful photos of B&O silver and table settings shown on pp. 74-75 of "Silver in the Diner" (John Fowler). I am quite sure this is a toothpick holder. It would seem to be a bit too old for sugar packets.I can't believe it is a cigarette holder - that would be a rather uncouth way to "serve" cigarettes, standing on end out in the open. RJMc's interesting suggestion about a pencil holder would be a good possibility for a railroad that didn't use menu holders with attached "tubes" to hold pencils, usually one at each corner (Link 1)  Link 1  Posted Sunday, October 22, 2023 by JMS

 Q4027 Square MKT Lantern Base  I have many railroad items that are new to me which I was given by my Mother-in-law. These were collected by my late FIL over decades alongside the late Bob Read. I love historical items and enjoy learning as much as I can. With that, I have approx. 25 lanterns and have dove into how they are constructed, variations, and styles. This particular lantern is a Handlan tall globe but what I'm unable to find is another example of the squared shape of the guards/base. And there is no patent number on it. Any help or insight would be greatly appreciated!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, October 16, 2023 by CM   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. We've never seem this type of frame before, either. The obvious guess is that the shape was done to make it fit somewhere that round would not. I just looked through the Handlan section in "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Railroad Lighting: V 1: The Railroad Lantern" (Barrett/Gross) and every example has SIX uprights and there is no mention of any square wires. We initially thought maybe the square bottom shape was a custom job by an individual, but because there are only four uprights it looks like the entire frame is "different," not just the base. Also, from the quality of workmanship, it looks like the frame was manufactured that way and would have been too complicated for someone's project. So the other suggestion is, does this lid belong on this frame, or was the original lid switched to the Katy lid by a previous owner ?  Posted Monday, October 23, 2023 by JMS

A. FOLLOW UP - I found one!! Pictured in "Railroadiana II: The Offcial Price Guide for 2011 and Beyond" (Sue Knous) pages 362-363, Fig. 2784 is a flat top Handlan wire bottom frame with FOUR vertical wires not six. The bottom base wire is round, not square. The lantern is marked ICRR (Illinois Central). So the guess at this point is that the frame was made that way, but somebody squared the bottom wire for some reason.  Posted Monday, October 23, 2023 by JMS

A. Over 50 years I have run into a few of these 'square' frames. They are fairly scarce. Road marks I specifically recall are the 2 mentioned. ICRR and MK&T. These are late period tall globes made in the 1920's. The one you show is in beautiful shape, great patina, never been ruined by cleaning.  Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2023 by James

A. James - Thank you (!!) for the correction and additional information. These must be quite rare - I was surprised that there is no mention in the Barrett book. Now we know for sure !! It was really good of you to post about actual sightings.  Posted Friday, October 27, 2023 by JMS

 Q4026 Torch Identification?  This was my father’s. He was a fireman on the Union Railroad. It would have had a long wooden handle. He said it was either used to light a burner or to thaw something.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, September 20, 2023 by Don   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. See prior Q 3487 and other Q's referenced there. The Link is to the New York Central RR-produced motion picture about servicing steam locomotives; look at abt. 10 minutes in to see detailed views of using an open-flame torch in a roundhouse to check for air brake system leaks. Yours would have been used the same way. Like anything else around the RR, these would get used for all kinds of jobs (thawing something, etc) but it really didn't produce enough light or heat to be very useful for that; inspecting things would have been its main use. Link 1  Posted Friday, September 22, 2023 by RJMc

 Q4025 Barrel Globe Green over Clear  I have a barrel globe green over clear. I am wanting to match it to the correct lantern. Its dimensions are 2 5/8 inches at top green outside; 3 1/4 inches at bottom clear outside, and 5 1/4 inch tall. What lantern should this belong to?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, September 20, 2023 by GS   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Really nice globe that is fairly hard to find in good shape. The Macbeth pearl glass 223 or “barrel globe” will fit perfectly in to a Keystone Casey. Posted Sunday, September 24, 2023 by Ex Sou Ry