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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:

 Q3522 Teapot Finial  I found a Lenox teapot with silver-soldered lid marked with initials for the CMStP&P Railroad. Lid has an interesting finial, and I cannot figure out what it means. Is it a Railroad Logo, or something else entirely?? Thank you!!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, September 23, 2018 by John   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hello John,This finial is basically a stylized version of an Indian headdress representing the native American "Hiawatha"after whom the Milwaukee Road trains were named.There may be another explanation but that's the one I have heard over the years. DJB Posted Monday, September 24, 2018 by DJB

 Q3521 Adlake Gas Lamp   I have this lamp that looks like it is gas powered as opposed to kerosene. Does anyone have any info on this type of Adlake lamp?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, September 19, 2018 by CL   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The lens to concentrate the light makes this look suspiciously like a gas-powered theater floodlight or footlight source, or projector source, with the white cylinder being a gas mantle, or possibly a limelight source.  Posted Thursday, September 20, 2018 by RJMc

A. I think RJMc is on to something. If you look closely at the Adlake cap and the rest of the lamp body, you will notice that the finish is completely different from one to the other; indicating that they do not belong together. Another clue would be the screws holding the cap onto the rest of the lamp. I have never seen an Adlake lamp where the cap was screwed on; always riveted. My guess is that lamp is not Adlake, but rather, a previous owner needed a cap and slapped the Adlake one onto this lamp as a convenient fix. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Thursday, September 20, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Right...this is a 'mix and match' situation. The cap refers to the Adlake 'Non Sweating Lamp' which (as discussed at some length at several places around the website here)is a very specific group of patented design features for kerosene-burning lamps. None of those features are present in this lamp, and don't look like they ever were present. Gas mantle lamps, compared with kerosene lamps, burn extremely cleanly and so didn't need 'non-sweating'; plus the body of this lamp looks like it was for an indoor application.  Posted Thursday, September 20, 2018 by RJMc

A. To add a nail to the coffin - The picture shows the Non-Sweating top screwed down with actual hardware screws to the frame underneath. These were never fastened to railroad lamp frames in this manner. Indeed, it's attached to an unrelated frame!  Posted Thursday, September 20, 2018 by JMS

 Q3520 Bell Info?  I recently acquired a 14 inch bell that I believe should be stationary. Is there an adjustment I can make to straighten the yoke in the cradle? I would like to align this if possible. I was told that it was straight up and down but a trip on its side for delivery caused it to stick. I have tried a few things but am unable to straighten it and I don’t want to damage it. Any thoughts on this? adjustments? Thank you for your time.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, September 13, 2018 by Toby   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Nice bell but it's not stationary. The fact it moved in its cradle during shipment proves this. Assuming you already tried WD40, liquid wrench etc., have you tried heating the yoke/cradle areas with a torch? Auto mechanics do it to loosen parts (called a "smoke wrench" in the trade). I don't think muscling it back would damage it either as it looks well built. Posted Friday, September 14, 2018 by LC

A. THe bell was definitely not designed to be stationary, but in later years many were, using one or another kind of air-operated clapper instead of swinging the bell. Before any thought of a torch, I would take a medium-size bar and slip it between the hanger and the top of the bell (maybe with some padding) and apply leverage, gentle at first and then stronger as needed, to get the bell to move upright. It looks to me that some of the new paint on the hanger may have gotten into the bearings and jammed them, probably only a little. Some WD-40, PB Blaster, or even paint remover around those bearings might help to free them up, if the lever discussed above doesn't do the trick. When the bell was in daily use by swinging, those bearings would have had 'zirc' grease fittings (similar to used on a lot of automobile fittings), and applying grease would be another way to help free it up. I can't quite tell if the pins sticking out of the hinge area may be those fittings.  Posted Friday, September 14, 2018 by RJMc

A. My guess is rust is the real culprit. I’d go with the WD-40 or 3 in 1 oil before I'd try the torch. Another better lubricant is Militec available at your local gun shop. The bad news is that it is about twice the price of WD-40 but it works like a top. Posted Sunday, September 16, 2018 by Ex Sou Ry

A. Thank you for your ideas. Ok, so I have used wd40, blaster and a silicon lube with no luck. It still will not budge. I have bolted the base to a 2x8 and tried putting a strap around the bell to winch it. No luck. I placed the bell on its side and tried to move the base. So far nothing has worked to straighten or get it to move at all. I am thinking about putting a 90 degree galvanized pipe elbow over the nuts on top with a long pipe in the elbow for leverage.  Posted Monday, September 24, 2018 by Toby

 Q3519 Lamp ID Info Needed  Ever since I inherited these two lamps from a family member I have tried to figure out some information on them, to no avail. I cannot find one on Google or Ebay just like it at all. I know they are Adlake since it says so on the top. There are no other markings. It has two glass lens, one clear and the other red. It has no handle and any indication that it ever had one. There is a 'door' that opens by lifting up for changing the lens, I assume and filling the oil can or replacing the wick. Could you help me the identification of my lamp? Thank you for anything you can help me on.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, September 13, 2018 by Rick F   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Adlake used the same basic designs to make lamps similar to this for all kinds of purposes before all kinds of vehiceles got all-electric lamps. Possibilities include early automobiles, buses, delivery or farm trucks, and some railroad maintenance 'speeders' or motor cars used lamps similar to this.  Posted Friday, September 14, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3518 RR Item ID?  Can you identify this extremely heavy item( steel or iron,)? I would like to know if it's railroad related? If so might it be a collectible? thanks very much!!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2018 by Gloria P   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This is one end of a railroad rail, where it was joined to an adjacent rail in the track. This piece would have been sawed off from a rail which begain as 39 feet long. The larger hole in the middle (web) of the rail is where one of the bolts passed thru to hold the plates which join two rails together in the track. Each rail end at such joint has a minimum of 2, and usually 3 such holes and bolts to secure the joint. The smaller holes at what is the top of the rail ('the head') were to make electrical jumper connections between the two rails, usually to carry signalling currents which do things like make sure the grade crossing signals, and traffic control block signals, work correctly. Various people saw off and use these chunks of rail for many purposes: book ends, blacksmithing anvils, paperweights come to mind. They are not uncommon. Unless someone has particular knowledge and sentiment about where a particular piece came from, they have little special value.  Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2018 by RJMc

A. It is a piece of rail. It has zero collectable value ($) but will make a nice small anvil for your shop. Posted Sunday, September 16, 2018 by Ex Sou Ry

 Q3517 Assistance with Lamp  I'd love your assistance please. I purchased this beauty for my train loving son (who continues to say he plans to be a train signalman when he's older) at a yard sale and would like to restore it a bit. First, does anyone know what it is or about the age of it? It looks like it was built for an open flame to be inside. My thought is to use rust remover and possibly repaint it to its original color that looks to be red. Rust has taken its toll on the clips holding in the glass. Any thoughts or ideas on holding the glass pieces in after rust removal? Lastly, any ideas for a battery powered light to place in there that would be bright enough to shine through? Thank you!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, September 9, 2018 by Keith D.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. My thought is this lamp looks British or European. There would have been a rain cap on the top to allow venting and keep rainwater out. Most likely this had a kerosene tank and burner at one time. To preserve this somewhat I would mechanically remove excess scaly rust and then use a rust converter product on those rusty areas. The rust converter hardens the remaining rust and stops further rusting. I would not try to remove the lenses as those lens clips look really fragile. Once the rust converter is dry, mask off the lenses and spray paint it. You should be able to find a battery operated LED light that would fit inside. Walmart and many other retailers sell battery powered LED votive lights and candles. This looks perfect for a train loving boy's bedroom.  Posted Monday, September 10, 2018 by JEM

A. I agree with JEM, it has the look of a European style lantern or maybe even from India etc. Frankly it not a must have for an American RR collector. So if your son isn't going to carry it around, I'd drill a small hole in the bottom and install a treaded lamp rod with a chandelier base socket. Then a 4 or 7 watt night light clear blub lined up with the center lens. Makes for a nice low light signal lamp in a room. All lamp parts are available at Lowes & Home Depot.  Posted Monday, September 10, 2018 by LC

A. Looks like a level crossing (grade crossing) lamp, in which case it should have 4 red lenses. Could be from any country that uses British operating systems, though I have seen many similar examples from Ireland. Posted Tuesday, September 11, 2018 by JAJ

A. I looked and found a bunch of them popping up on the internet folloiwng a Google search for "India railway lantern". It surely looks like NOT USA made... see Link 1 for the search results.  Link 1  Posted Sunday, September 16, 2018 by JS

 Q3516 Oil Can Info?  I recently found what I believe to be a railroad oil can in an antique store. On one side in large letters are the initials WFZ. On the other side is a LARGE six pointed star, which is a symbol used to identify Israel. Can anyone out there help me identify if and what railroad this would be from? Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, September 3, 2018 by Joe R.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I think you may find this is a torch - not an "oil can." It would have fuel in the body and a fat round wick down the "spout" which would be lit at the end. The 6-pointed star SEE LINK 1 is called the "Star of David" and in the 1800s became representative of the worldwide Zionist community, and later the broader Jewish community, after it was chosen as the central symbol on a flag at the First Zionist Congress in 1898. My suggestion is that your torch is not from a railroad, but from a Jewish organization whose initials were WFZ - I would bet that "Z" stands for Zion (or some form of that word)and I would further guess "F" is for Federation - "W" maybe for World? or the name of the city where the Federation was located? See LINK 2. This kind of torch is a "universal" type that has been made for all kinds of customers since colonial days.Railroads were one of many customers.  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Monday, September 3, 2018 by JMS

A. See prior Q No. 3487 about torches on RR's. The RR uses usually involved moving the torch around quite a bit, and the wick holder on yours is very large in diameter which might lead to liquid spilling. I would also check what type of oil residue is in your unit. The RR's used the most commonly available fuel for shop work, usually kerosene. If your unit was used in ceremonies, it probably has a more 'refined' fuel, maybe olive oil. But the fairly rough, unfinished surface causes me to doubt 'ceremonial' use, and the added tag to me is more likely to indicate a user's/owner's initials, rather than an organization.  Posted Monday, September 3, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3515 Milwaukee Road Jar  I came across this small glass Milwaukee Road jar in a box of my recently deceased Grandfather's items and can't find anything similar online to know what it is exactly. It has a screw top lid, with two holes drilled in it, and three different 'motivational' type quotes under the Milwaukee Road logos on three sides of the jar respectively. I would greatly appreciate any informatiat your conveniece of course, as I have no idea what it is or if it's authentic or just some type of reproduction. Thank you very much.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, August 27, 2018 by Kirt   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Well, I would think the screw holes in the lid could be explained by someone (a shop worker) fastening the lid to the underside of a shelf. Then he could unscrew the jar with one hand, and it would make sure the jar was in immediate reach instead of being set aside or put where it didn't belong. My dad did this with some jars he had in which he stored screws. This certainly seems like it is authentic but I am no expert, only feeling that it is too complicated for fakers - who likely would have just slapped on a logo and not all THREE (no less) of the really neat "isms."  Posted Monday, August 27, 2018 by JMS

A. Hello JMS,This glass jar marked for the Milwaukee Road is absolutely legit and according to some of my fellow ex-Milw employees ( I transferred to the ex-Milw side from the Soo Lake States Division in 1987)these were given out in the early 80's as safety incentive gifts and we meant to be used to hold screws,bolts etc in their shops to lessen clutter on their work benches.The jar lids were nailed to an overhead surface above the work area and the jar screwed to the lid for easy access.One employee told me that they came in sets of 3 but I can't confirm that.I rescued a couple for myself from an old RR building that was being torn down and still use mine for this exact purpose. DJB Posted Tuesday, August 28, 2018 by DJB

A. Hello back, DJB - thanks for removing all doubt! This is great news. Guess my Dad who was in the sign business wasn't the only one using the bright idea of fastening jars underneath a surface. Clear containers are so much easier to use! I was 99.44% sure the jar shown was legit - but never seen nor heard of them until now ! And them being safety awards makes perfect sense, and explains professional enamel decoration. The only thing I might suggest is that Dad screwed his lids to the board above rather than nailing them, it's easier to control a screwdriver than a hammer upside down.  Posted Thursday, August 30, 2018 by JMS

A. Thanks to all the folks who have replied. I greatly appreciate the help! Posted Thursday, August 30, 2018 by Kirt

 Q3514 China Marking  Any help on this piece would be greatly apprecated - Thank You.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, August 27, 2018 by Antiques and Collectibles   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I am willing to bet this may be from a steamship line. "Line" or "Lines" often appears on ship china. I looked through Barbara Conroy's book with no luck. You might try the RestaurantWare Collectors Network on their Facebook page and ask if anyone recognizes it - they have EXTENSIVE lists of patterns. The FB page address is at Link 1. Good luck !  Link 1  Posted Monday, August 27, 2018 by JMS

A. I am glad to see an ID has been made via the RWCN FB link - Larry Paul (author of Sparkling Crystal) belongs to this group and has verified that it is STEAMSHIP china.  Posted Thursday, August 30, 2018 by JMS

 Q3513 Adlake 1112 Restoration  I am restoring an adlake 1112 non sweating switch lamp and was wondering if some one had previously taken all the paint off and stripped it to bare metal. It has a PRR tag on it, and I would like to repaint it. Most of what I see are all black. Should I use a heat resistant paint on it or just paint it gloss black? Also the small flame observation hole at the top was soldered over with a tag saying PRR on it. Do you think that the railroad did this or someone else? Any info would be appreciated.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, August 27, 2018 by SP   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Yes, somebody did a very good job of stripping the old paint; a pretty challenging task you don't have to worry about now. All of the Pennsylvania lamps I've seen have that same round Keystone tag soldered over the peep hole opening. I don't know if they came from Adlake like that or if the railroad did it. In the photos with your previous question (Q3491) it looks like there is a little residual rust on the lamp. Sand those areas with some coarse sand paper before you paint. I'd use plain Rustoleum gloss black. All lamps started out shiny, and none of the flat paints available capture the look of a weathered lamp. A lit lamp can get pretty warm, but not hot enough that you need a high heat paint; and, don't turn the flame up that far anyway. I've stopped using primer as well as I don't think it is needed. Also, when you chip the paint, the primer shows through (and I've eventually chipped many a repainted lamp) -- Please send in a photo of how you patched the bottom of the lamp. It's a nice piece and those PRR lamps don't show up that often. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Tuesday, August 28, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Red Beard, I see you have evolved. No rant about how history was destroyed when the original paint and rust was removed from the lamp :). Posted Tuesday, August 28, 2018 by LC

A. LC - Touché mon ami; LOL. No, I'm still the same ol' grouchy curmudgeon on the re-paint subject. This one though seems to have been acquired in its already paint-less condition. My rule of thumb is that if a lamp has +/- 80% of its original factory paint OR railroad re-paint, you should preserve it. -- Old weathered lamps, like fine wine and plump women, tend to be things you appreciate more as you grow older. My stance on the paint subject comes from having "ruined" dozens of lamps as a younger man by stripping or sandblasting them and then repainting them. I still hold on tho the idea that repainting lamps destroys irreplaceable history. --- Still making the analogy that railfans are an odd lot; give 'em a brand new $40 HO boxcar and all they want to do is slather a bunch of grime on it to "make it look like they really did on the railroad" (aka, "Weathering") but give them a naturally "weathered" switchlamp, in its authentic 'fresh off the tracks' grime, and all they can think of is "how can I clean this thing up and make it look brand new?" ...good to hear from you! ---- .... Red Beard  Posted Tuesday, August 28, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Alright my grumpy friend, we await your next victim who asks how to clean or restore a rusty lantern. Posted Wednesday, August 29, 2018 by LC

A. Been meaning to says this the next time the restoration topic surfaced. I have around 40 lamps. Not quite half are restored, the rest will remain as they were found because they were in pretty good shape right off the railroad and they weren't too nasty to handle and didn't have bullet holes in them or the handle bales weren't literally ripped off leaving jagged metal holes near the top of the lamp (I can't even imagine how that was even done) or, the tops slammed off to one side with what must have been a sledge hammer, or the peep hole crudely busted out, etc., etc. These I have restored to mint condition regardless of the glory of their past history and "yes" even bondo came into use. I know....... "Oh the horror," ha ha. I consider such restoration action on lamps of this class to be in line with restoring a classic car to prime condition. These lamps were a marvel of design and deserve to be shown and admired at their best. Just my two cents worth.  Posted Wednesday, August 29, 2018 by TE

 Q3512 Engraved Spike  Could you try to please help me or direct me to someone that could. I have a railroad spike that I have been trying to search for answers on. I want to check if this is a historical piece or some kind of souvenir. I joined on facebook 'Central Railroad of New Jersey' and people historial society of new I have jersey and some people are telling me a amazing find but I would like to send it or take it to be analyzed for authentication. If this is a historical value I would like to have it displayed somewhere.  [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, August 26, 2018 by LJ   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. U.S. President James A. Garfield was shot in Washington, DC in July 1881 but survived until just after Sept. 6, 1881, when the infection which had set into the wound finally killed him. The link describes how the desperately ill Garfield was transported by rail, which would have been Central RR of New Jersey, to the N.J. seaside Francklyn Cottage, where it was hoped he would recuperate. Over 1/2 mile of temporary track was constructed (see Link for pic of construction)in just a few hours to deliver him directly to the door. After the President's death, the emergency track was dismantled with the materials being bought by a local dignitary. The ties were used to construct a small 'Tea House' cabin which still exists today. Your spike is quite likely from that temporary track; its new appearance would be consistent with only being used once on a lightly-used track. There would have been as many as 8,000 spikes (2,000 ties, 4 spikes per tie) in that track, and many may have been marked after removal from the track to provide mementos of the very popular Garfield. But there would hardly be anything unique about them to verify, except the marking itself. The Long Branch Museum Assoc. (see Link 2) which now maintains the cabin would very likely appreciate having the marked spike.  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Sunday, August 26, 2018 by RJMc

A. I highly recommend this great book to read further about President Garfield: "Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President" by Candice Millard. Alexander Graham Bell was part of the attempt to save Garfield's life, interesting. I was inspired enough after reading the story to purchase a BRITISH BULLDOG... BTW, I think your spike is a great piece!  Posted Tuesday, August 28, 2018 by JSM

A. The Link is to a Smithsonian Institution web site describing artifacts from assassinations. It gives the same Garfield story as above, and specifically notes that the spikes from the temporary track were saved as souvenirs, with a pic of a spike similar to yours. The one in their pic seems to be engraved differently, rather than stamped as yours is, however.  Link 1  Posted Tuesday, August 28, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3511 Barrel Globe  I have a barrel globe measures 5.375 inches tall but does not fit the Casey lantern, or an Armspear correctly as the 'fat part' of the globe is higher up and makes the globe sit too far into the font area. What manufacturer of lanterns most commonly take a barrel globe? Thanks. GS  Posted Friday, August 24, 2018 by GS   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Coleman camping lanterns use a barrel globe (see link.) Link 1  Posted Friday, August 24, 2018 by RJMc

A. It may not be a lantern globe. Some modern day electric light fixtures have a barrel globe. I have 2 outdoor fixtures with a barrel globe in them. Posted Saturday, August 25, 2018 by LC

A. A picture of the globe would be a huge help.  Posted Saturday, August 25, 2018 by JMS

A. The earliest version of the barrel globe that I know of is the Macbeth 283 dating from around the turn of the 20th century. Posted Sunday, August 26, 2018 by Ex Sou Ry

 Q3510 Adlake Lantern Markings  While trying to research two Adlake Kero Railroad lanterns, I came across your website! What a tremendous collection of data - we’ll done! My question is: I have two #300 series Adlake Railroad lanterns but I can’t find details on the Railroad stamped on the top. I assumed it was Southern Railway but I’m not finding anything to confirm it. Also, one lantern is marked SOU RY and the second one is marked SOU RWY. Any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, August 21, 2018 by RW   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Your lanterns date from the early 1970s and are marked for the Southern Railway. See Link 1 for information about the Southern. These lanterns must have been from different orders or batches and made at different times as they are marked slightly differently.  Link 1  Posted Wednesday, August 22, 2018 by JEM

 Q3509 B&O Jug?  Did they ever make a B&O RR pottery jug? Thanks.  Posted Friday, August 17, 2018 by Michael   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. They had a 1 gallon size marked disinfectant, was brown & tan. Without a pic yours may be pure fantasy. Posted Saturday, August 18, 2018 by DC

A. Part of the standard equipment of every Pullman Co. sleeping car was a corked pottery jug of 'disinfectant' or 'deodorizer' (see link for pix). At various times the RR's ran the sleeping cars on their own lines, and diners and office cars would have been similarly equipped. They probably all used much the same approach. Link 1  Posted Saturday, August 18, 2018 by RJMc

A. I’ve owned several different styles over the years. Most just say B&ORR in blue letters of various sizes near the top. I did have one once that had larger letters in a frame or panel on the side of the jug.  Posted Sunday, August 26, 2018 by Ex Sou Ry

 Q3508 SAL Pot Use?  I have this old pot marked SAL RY CO - 5 inches wide by 3 inches deep. Any ideas what it was used for ??   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, August 17, 2018 by Gene T   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This is a 'Marking Pot." Used to hold the marking material (paint, ink, lampblack, or ??) so a stencil brush could dip into it before being applied to the stencil. See Prior Q 3367, where another one turned up. And that Q has a further reference to the same document from elsewhere on the RRiana site, shown below in the Link, where Figure 22 shows this item as a standard piece of RR tinware. Link 1  Posted Friday, August 17, 2018 by RJMc

A. Thanks for help. Makes perfect sense. My Grandfather used this to mark bales of cotton with farmers names (initials) and weights before they were sent to warehouse. Our family gin which operated in the 1940s and 1950s was located beside RR and had a loading dock and side track for gin use. Thanks Posted Friday, August 17, 2018 by Gene T

A. The info about the family cotton gin is quite interesting. It causes me to wonder about the business arrangements. Was the RR possibly taking ownership of the cotton (the way the RR often has ownership of coal being shipped?) Did the RR own the warehouse? If either of these was the case, the RR might well have ISSUED their marking pot to your grandfather, to comply with some standard marking spec so that they could keep all their accounting straight. There are thousands of historical legal cases (back to ancient history) relating to grain, lumber, minerals, milk, etc etc dealing with who-owned-what, and when, during transportation. I read one from 1920 or so about one broker mis-appropriating (stealing) 30 or 40 bales of cotton from another broker, by changing markings during shipping and mixing it in with his own 100 bales. When he got caught, the legal case was about trying to determine which bales to give back, since by then they looked pretty much alike. The markings were (and likely still are) crucial to making the whole economic system work.  Posted Sunday, August 26, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3507 Locomotive/RR ID?  Could you please identify this locomotive and the railroad? Thanx.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, August 14, 2018 by Ed R.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Could be the Sierra Rail Road. "The Sierra Railroad Corporation is a privately owned common carrier. Its Sierra Northern Railway freight division handles all freight operations for all branches owned by the Sierra Railroad". (Wikipedia)  Posted Wednesday, August 15, 2018 by LC

A. The locomotive type is a 2-4-4T tank engine. This type was apparently fairly widely used in commuter-type service (for example by New York Central, Illinois Central, the narrow gauge Revere Beach and Lynn in Boston, and others, see Link to images) then possibly handed down to branch lines, which the No. 2 on the engine would tend to indicate. The pilot on the tank end of this pic tends to indicate it started in that kind of service, where the engines weren't turned at the ends of runs. This engine has both air brakes and an air bell ringer; but still large oil-style headlights, indicating probably the 1920's era. Most distinctive is the building in the background. It has a tapered cupola on what appears to be a shop building, which tends to suggest New England to me. Hopefully these hints will cause somebody to recognize the railroad for this particular engine.  Link 1  Posted Wednesday, August 15, 2018 by RJMc

A. This is also called a 'Forney' type locomotive, after the guy who patented the style with the trailing truck under the built-in tank on the back (see Link). Turns out there were LOTS of these running in commuter-type or elevated service; the Illinois Central alone had over 60 of them and many were sold to other services (without having already been worn out) when they became surplus when the commuter lines all over the country were electrified. I can't quite tell whether the one in the pic is standard or narrow gage, can anybody tell? Link 1  Posted Thursday, August 16, 2018 by RJMc

A. Some further interesting features about the loco in the pic: the trailing truck has inboard bearings, so you can clearly see the whole wheel plate. Almost all the images of other engines on the web have a trailing truck with an outside archbar-style truck frame. The main driver counterweights seem to be bolted or rivetted onto the wheel spokes; almost all others are cast integral with the wheel. And of course the balloon stack, but those are readily changeable without too much trouble.  Posted Thursday, August 16, 2018 by RJMc

A. Bill Edson's Railroad Names book (all-time catalog of U.S. railroad company official names, as registered with the ICC, with their predecessors, successors, and years of operation) lists 39 RR's whose initials could likely be "S.R.R." in the likely time period of this pic. I included RR's like Saline River Railroad. Names range from Salem, Sandy River, Seashore, Shearwood, on down to Swannanoa and Sylvania. I have made some effort to look at each on the web, and have found nothing hopeful about those RR's having engines looking like the one in the pic. Note that Edson lists only U.S. RR's; the engine in the pic could easily be in Canada, or Mexico, or overseas, where this type of engine was also very popular although this particular engine does not show any European hallmarks.  Posted Sunday, August 19, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3506 Piper Lamp Question  The lamp on the left is marked 'Patented 1904 PIPER Toronto' and was found in the Queens Wharf Lighthouse which originally stood at the western gap of the Toronto Ontario Harbour. The light house was built in 1861, decommissioned in 1919 and subsequently moved in 1929 to its present location east of the CNE south of Fleet street. The galvanized steel lamp is 23 1/2 inches tall and has a square receiver similar to the Piper switch lamp on the right. This lamp has two 3 1/4 inch lenses, one clear, one painted green. The tray for the font inside is 6 1/2 inches x 3 inches with the height to the center of the lens from the font bottom 5 inches. This lamp would not be suitable to be the light house lamp. It has been suggested that it might have been a wharf maker lamp. However the shore line was filled to permit the expansion of the railway yards near the Union Station so it may well be rail road related. Any suggestions?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, August 13, 2018 by Dave S   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Something is strangely missing in these galvanized lamps in that there are plenty of air holes with no apparent wind baffling material. As they stand now, even a light breeze on your patio would blow out a flame, let alone any gust coming off a body of water. In short, I'm not sure what these would be unless baffling material has been gutted at some point.  Posted Monday, August 13, 2018 by TE

A. Interesting observation relating to wind baffling. Had not considered that issue. An examination shows nothing appears to have been removed. The four holes on the side (back and front) are baffled on the inside but certainly not the ring of big holes on the bottom, The top exhaust has protection. The ring that holds the font has a notch where the wick raiser would presumably extend beyond the ring but it is not accessible from the outside. Any trimming would require the removal of the font/burner from the lamp, a finger burning exercise. Perhaps the burner used a large chimney and was one of the “new-improved “ (were they not all ‘improved’?) and designed to cope with wind issues. Posted Wednesday, August 15, 2018 by Dave S

A. Let's look at a couple of other things that are, let's say, unusual here. The lenses are by all means small for a lamp this size and, they are set very low. I'm not sure then as to why you would need so much height for the body and top venting. Note too that the lenses are not held in place by draw bands. I would be real curious to see if there is any focal point/diameter/manufacturer's info stamped or molded into the rim of at least the lenses. This may be difficult to ascertain without removing the lens. By now, I'm sure you sense my suspicion on this piece. The patent tag looks real enough but that is not a complex thing to replicate. Still, I'm certainly open to anyone who's seen something like this and can verify more. Posted Wednesday, August 15, 2018 by TE

A. Having pondered this a while, and agreeing with the prior observations, I suspect this is a 'lamp holder' rather than a lamp. By that I mean you put a hand lantern inside this fixture, and the light of the complete lantern inside came out thru those low-mounted lenses. Some railroad cabooses (ex. Nickel Plate) had tin-box lamp holders for markers on the sides of cupolas, and you put a complete smaller kerosense lamp with its own chimney inside the box for illumination. The hand lantern provided its own wind protection, etc. And then those fairly large side holes would allow someone to make sure the lantern was lit. Another note: there is no significant corrosion, but then, the Toronto Harbor in Lake Huron is all fresh water. (Consequence of THAT: ice. Maybe this fixture provided protection from ice buildup?) I have tried to make sense of the opposed white and green color indications in terms of bouys or other 'marine' markers, or railroad usage, but so far no luck on that.  Posted Thursday, August 16, 2018 by RJMc

A. Sorry, sorry, sorry, Toronto is on LAKE ONTARIO. But still fresh water! And still lots of ice, from somebody who grew up along Lake Erie. Posted Thursday, August 16, 2018 by RJMc

A. Thank you all for your additional comments. I have examined the lenses for any markings. The metal rim which is soldered to the can is rotting away so I am reluctant to dig out the lens. But I can see almost half the rim and edge, and the parts visible have no markings. In comparing the black switch lamp I note that the square receiver on the bottom is slightly less than 1” square. The lamp in question has a receiver that is 2” x 1 ¾”. Does this receiver size provide and other clues? Posted Thursday, August 16, 2018 by Dave S

A. What RJMc says makes a lot of sense. – Dave S; do you have a hand lantern available that you could light and place inside this “mystery piece”? Given the item's patent date you'd want a tall globe lantern; but even a short globe one would give you a good idea. If the bail on a short globe lantern had extra clearance in there with this lamps top, that would further support this line of thought. – Regarding the lenses; as the green one is painted, thus originally white (clear), my first thought is that originally you could change the color of the signal by inserting lanterns with different color globes, and a focused light beam from a lens is more visible than a hand lantern. (better visibility in fog?) – The receiver does indicate that this lamp was placed on some sort of fixed post and that it was intended to shine its light in a specific fixed direction; most likely up and down something's direction of travel (tracks?). The size and shape of the receiver, or actually the post it sat on, also prevents a switch lamp from being placed on that same post, as the switch lamp's receiver would be too small to fit on this lamp's larger post. (fool proof is always good practice on the railroad.) thinking out loud here. ---- …. Red Beard Posted Thursday, August 16, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Again, thank you gentlemen for your thoughts and advice. I visited the local antique mall this morning and tried various lanterns. And YES, the standard railroad hand lamp (bail up), both short and large globe fit perfectly, base fits just right, and the flame lines up with the two lenses. A lamp with a red bulls eye seems also to line up fairly well. An older cold blast barn lantern also works with the bail down – the newer barn lanterns have too wide a font base. From comments I gather this find is unusual, and its use still remains somewhat speculative. I am definitely leaning toward rail yard use rather than a marine function despite being found in the lighthouse. Posted Saturday, August 18, 2018 by Dave S

A. When kerosene lanterns were in use, was the lighthouse on an island? I can see this device being a signal light (such as a railroad tower has a 'call-on' light), maybe to tell the mail boat that there is mail to come in and pick up. That's the kind of function not needing to be lit all the time, where it is reasonable to have the lighthouse keeper go out and stick a lantern in it only as long as needed. But the lantern needs to be protected while out there from all that wind, fog and ice we have already discussed. Also, this device almost had to be worked from above. It would be difficult to get the lantern in and out from below the line of the lenses. So maybe it was mounted on the side of the lighthouse, where access was from a window or landing? And the mounting base and bail on the lampholder would only be needed to very occasionally clean the lenses, and maybe get out the bird and wasp nests....And obviously, once electric light was an option this device would disappear from use very rapidly from that kind of function, readily replaced with just a light bulb in a fixture and a switch. I have to say, I am leaning toward marine use. Dietz Vesta and similar hand lanterns were a marine standard as well as a RR standard.  Posted Sunday, August 19, 2018 by RJMc

A. The various 'Piper' Co's provided a very wide line of lighting equipment. Did they equip lighthouses? Maybe your mystery piece was provided as an accessory to re-equipping the lighthouse, and maybe even a 'one-off' custom made as part of a larger job. Posted Sunday, August 19, 2018 by RJMc

A. A bit of further information about the Lighthouse. The following link > shows the Lighthouse in its current position (looks a bit different from the “normal” lighthouse) while subsequent pictures show it and the sister “range light” while it was still in use. Another picture shows it surrounded by rail road fill and it is now high and dry. Posted Monday, August 20, 2018 by Dave S

 Q3505 Button Info?  I'm trying to find out what railroad was S.O. & CO.? I've seen suggestions online it might be Southern New York Railway but I haven’t seen any confirmation. I've also seen buttons on eBay with the same logo and letters but with New York on the bottom so that somewhat hints at it being Southern New York Railroad. Part two of question is why would a uniform button (assumption) have a city yet another would not like this one?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, August 10, 2018 by Scott L   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Sweet-Orr Company, a manufacturer of work clothes. Not a railroad uniform button but many railroaders wore their denim coats. Posted Friday, August 10, 2018 by DC

A. Sweet-Orr made many variations of their buttons. Posted Friday, August 10, 2018 by DC

 Q3504 RR Lantern??  Any ideas if this is an old railroad lantern? No markings on it.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, August 8, 2018 by JB   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This looks like mabe an acetylene-fueled lamp. Does the burner have a wick, or just a tube (which would bring up the gas to burn if it is acetylene.) Posted Wednesday, August 8, 2018 by RJMc

A. The lens to intensely focus the light, along with the chimney arrangement, makes me think this might be the light source for a projector, such as for lantern slides. It does not look like a RR item.  Posted Thursday, August 9, 2018 by RJMc

A. The photos might be misleading. Is the fairly large, oval gray part on the bottom connected to the light? Or maybe just a can, or something else, you set the light on to take the pic? Posted Thursday, August 9, 2018 by RJMc

A. Here is the description of ONE PATENT that was patented on April 24 1883, does this match the smoke dome?  Link 1  Posted Thursday, August 9, 2018 by JMS

A. SORRY - I meant to post the above reply in the next question down.  Posted Friday, August 10, 2018 by JMS

 Q3503 CVRR Armspear Lantern??  I have this CVRR but no makers mark, only patent dates. Is it an Armspear? Those dates shown and CVRR are not in the database. Any info would be great. Add this marking to the Armspear data if you agree.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, August 7, 2018 by GS   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. There are two possibilities for CVRR: (1) Cumberland Valley which existed 1837-1919 and (2) Central Vermont RailROAD which existed 1848-1899, after which it was the Central Vermont RailWAY which lasted until 1995. Your frame appears to be an Armspear "Double Guard" a/k/a "Steel Guard" lantern, similar to the one shown on page 75 of "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Railroad Lighting, Vol. 1, The Railroad Lantern" by Richard Barrett. Barrett says these lanterns were introduced about 1891. Just an observation and I may be wrong, but the etching on the globe does not look like a pre-1900 job to me.  Posted Wednesday, August 8, 2018 by JMS

A.  I also looked at Armspear lanterns in Barrett and there are some differences between this lantern and the one shown on page 75. This lantern has a brass top and a flat bar stock base at the bottom. The one in the photo is a steel top with wire at the bottom. I tried to check that patent date in Barrett's list of "Selected Lantern Patents" and the April 24 1893 date is not shown, see page 335. I am not surprised though, all US patents are issued on Tuesdays, 4/24/1893 was a Monday. And that makes me wonder if this is a Canadian manufactured lantern and could that be a Canadian patent date? Posted Thursday, August 9, 2018 by KM

A.  Oops, I misread that patent date several times! It is April 24, 1883, not 1893, and that was a Tuesday. Still no help though in Barrett or from a US patent search by date. Given the Canadian influence on Central Vermont I still wonder if this was a Canadian manufacturer. Posted Thursday, August 9, 2018 by KM

A. KM you are correct on the little differences - I did notice the pictured lantern is a BT but should have seen that in the p.75 picture. Thank you for further info. I had no idea about the Mondays and Tuesdays patents - THANKS !! if only they would have printed the numbers.  Posted Thursday, August 9, 2018 by JMS

A. To redeem myself I decided to try to find the patent number - and think I have. Link 1 is for Google Books, a US Patent Office showing patents issued on April 24 1883. This starts on page 1531. On page 1539 a patent shows for #276,182 describing a new arrangement involving band(s), globe holders and bail handle. Please realize, this patent number applies to only a feature(s) on the lantern - this particular patent is not for the entire lantern. I MAY have missed another patent that is in fact the one referenced on GS's lantern, it is a bit to scroll through, and there may be another book (?). Link 2 is helpful instructions on how to conduct a search for a particular patent.  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Thursday, August 9, 2018 by JMS

A. I checked the Patent link and it matches the globe holding mechanism present in my lantern. There is another Patent date on the base of the lantern above where the "Armspear" latch is located. MCH 19, '89. The lantern came from Chambersburg PA, the HQ for the CVRR. Years ago at an estate sale in a nearby town. Globe is maker unmarked, only the etching of CVRR, Macbeth perhaps, however no Macbeth or Corning mark. GS Posted Saturday, August 11, 2018 by GS

A.  Barrett lists March 19,1889 patent # 399944 to Furman D. Spears.  Posted Sunday, August 12, 2018 by KM

A. From your history it does sound 99.44% certain this lantern is from the Cumberland Valley. And KM, good catch on the 1889 patent. I finally figured out (on one of my locks some time ago) that multiple patent dates on a piece usually refer to different parts of it - not the entire item as a whole. I originally had thought the patents referred to the entire piece, I was wrong. Patent dates are a huge help identifying age - the latest one is the earliest year the piece can have been made; but it could be newer because a patent date is not a manufacturing date.  Posted Sunday, August 12, 2018 by JMS

A. This lantern is a product of the Railroad Signal Lamp & Lantern Co., of New York. RRSL&L Co. is an Armspear predecessor. This model with all flat members dates to the mid/late 1880s. Posted Monday, August 13, 2018 by ASwoyer

 Q3502 Lantern Marking  I have a question about a railroad lantern. It has the RR letters on it but they are not showing up on your database. Just wondering what that means. The letters are: C. ST P. N. & O. It is an A&W with a red Adlake Kero globe. Is that an original combination? It is a short globe lantern. Any info you can give me would be great. Thanks,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, August 7, 2018 by Jeff   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hi; Hard to tell from your photo but possibly one letter, the "M", might not be correct or was mis-stamped. The lantern is from the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railroad. (C ST.P M & O) This railroad was and still is commonly called "The Omaha". The globe and frame might be original, but there is really no way of knowing as a replacement globe could have been added if the original broke, or another globe color was needed.  Posted Tuesday, August 7, 2018 by JEM

 Q3501 Non-Magnetic Handlan Lamp  I came across this interesting lamp a few weeks ago on eBay. I thought it was just a regular Handlan marker but once I received it I realized it is not made from steel. It is made from some other lightweight metal that is non magnetic. My friends at the Colorado Railroad Museum and I believe it to be made of tin. One of my friends is going to run a Spectrum analysis on it Monday and let me know for sure what it is. The entire lamp minus the hinge, the lens buckets, and bail ears is made out of this lightweight metal. I was just trying to see if you have seen or heard of a lamp like this? Any info would be appreciated. Thanks.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, August 6, 2018 by Dusty   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Did you consider aluminum, or aluminum alloy? Some of the corrosion spots on the inside suggest that possibility. I note that the door says 'Rock Island Lines' to possibly help others who may have seen others like it.  Posted Monday, August 6, 2018 by RJMc

A. Just got the Spectrum analysis back and it is in fact aluminium. We all kinda ruled aluminium out as we figured the door and other parts would be more flimsy than they are if it were aluminium. There were trace amounts of zinc and copper as well. Please let me know if any of you have seen one like this. Thanks  Posted Monday, August 6, 2018 by Dusty

A. These lamps and most lanterns were produced by stamping out the parts and assembling them. The same dies used for stamping out the steel sheet could also stamp out brass, silver, or even gold sheet and occasionally they did so for special orders(and they formerly advertised this capability.) So of course they could also stamp out aluminum alloy sheet. All of the lamp manufacturers were well familiar with aluminum because they were making cast aluminum electric markers, class lights, and switch lights from very early on. But I think the key difference was that they were electric-lit and/or very thick parts. I suspect the reason your marker is so unusual is that the thin aluminum sheet would corrode away very rapidly under the influence of the hot, moist,sulfurous fumes from burning kerosene and the lamp would have a very short life in service. It is possible you have a test or prototype object, one of few made in a 'model shop' mode, maybe at the RR's request. Does your lamp show signs of being used? Posted Tuesday, August 7, 2018 by RJMc

A. There are signs of use. There is a light coating of soot but not much. Someone may have cleaned it as well though. Even the inner removable chimney is made from aluminium. There is a nice dent/ mark from the inside out from the burner pot being slammed into the back wall that shows age like it happened more than once. There are a few other dings here and there but being that it's aluminium it's not bad overall. Worse part is the top part that says Handlan is fairly wavy but seeing how I can flex that area by hand it's understandable. Im starting to lean towards it being prototype or a trial piece that they found out didn't hold up myself now. Posted Tuesday, August 7, 2018 by Dusty

 Q3500 Help with Key ID?  I have an old key that I presume to be a railroad signal key. However I can't identify the letters 'JRH' on one side as a railroad abbreviation. The word 'signal' is on the other. So I assume railroad related. Could the RH be roundhouse?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, July 28, 2018 by Chris S   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. JRH likely is the initials of the man assigned the key. Such a terrific old key!! Many keys, unfortunately, escaped being marked for the railroads that ordered them, and this seems to be one. It looks like the gentleman had a blank key that must have operated a signal lock, and he likely did all the stamping himself (all the letters appear to be from the same set of dies) to help identify it on his ring.  Posted Sunday, July 29, 2018 by JMS

A. I agree that the 'JRH' are likely the owner's initials. The term 'Signal' is used by some other services, not just RR's; examples include traffic signals (control boxes for stoplights), and fire and police department telephone boxes (used before radios were common)used keys like this. What also strikes me about this key is its 'homemade' look, as if somebody cast it themselves (having done this myself). One indication of this possibility is the lack of any mfr's mark; another is that the ring is not aligned with the barrel in a way that would be difficult for wear to produce. Another indication is the obviously one-time stamping, including using an upside-down 'F' to make the 'L'; somebody lost or broke the 'L' stamp from the kit that was used to do the stamping.  Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2018 by RJMc

A. The "H" could refer to hose. Many fire departments had that as part of there name. Just as examples, NOT an ID of any kind, Jersey River Hose, John Roberts Hose. Only speculating that it could be FD.  Posted Tuesday, August 28, 2018 by J FR

 Q3499 Lantern/Lamp ID Needed  I recently bought this lantern but can't find one exactly like it. Was wondering if you know if it's old or just a replica? It is oil and there's no markers mark on it anywhere. Thanks .   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, July 26, 2018 by CW   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This appears to me to be a newly made decorator item. Maybe one of the India imports (?). The curlicue feet don't appear to be stable enough to hold an oil fire above them, and certainly the handle is too close to the heat that will be coming out the top when lit. Sorry!  Posted Thursday, July 26, 2018 by JMS

 Q3498 Keline Lock  I have several Conrail locks made by KELINE. Does anyone know if other manufactures of keys will work on these locks?  Posted Tuesday, July 24, 2018 by Tom W   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. See Prior Q 3356. If the locks you have are the 'standard' Conrail switch locks, using the large barrel-type key with a right-angle bend in the bit shown in the pic with Q 3356, that key was also a standard for the Penn Central and for the Pennsylvania RR for decades before that. The PRR keys from decades ago were to the same pattern but slightly smaller, but all having that same bit pattern will work in the more recent locks regardless of the key mfr. or whether marked PRR, PC RR, Portugal, CR or even ATK.  Posted Tuesday, July 24, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3497 Porcelain Railroad Crossbuck Restoration  I am trying to help someone get information on restoring a railroad crossbuck that he believes is porcelain. It was hit by a truck in his driveway and the porcelain body of the sign was damaged. The lights are still operational. I have not seen a picture of it, so I’m not exactly sure what was damaged and what needs to be fixed. Do you have any information on restoring crossbucks or have any idea what kind of businesses might have the expertise to repair one of these signs? Thank you,  Posted Tuesday, July 24, 2018 by JGR, National Toy Train Library   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. JGR : As always, this is a situation where PHOTOS are going to be a huge help; in fact, without photos it is going to be pretty much impossible to point you in the right direction. Photos of the item can be sent to the same address you sent your initial question to. – Cross bucks were made out of many materials, if this set is coated in porcelain it would be pretty hard to actually repair. Photos are really going to be needed to asses the situation. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Tuesday, July 24, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. I am working on getting pictures and will follow up with you after I get them. Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2018 by JGR

A. There is a huge hobby interest in porcelain signs (think gas stations to start) - if you can get into that loop there may be some serious assistance, if the crossbuck is in fact porcelain. Just remember, porcelain is GLASS - never try to clean it with any kind of metal. Even the finest steel wool will leave scratches - undetectable to the eye but over time they will discolor.  Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2018 by JMS

 Q3496 Dietz Empire Lantern  I would appreciate any history or knowledge you have of my grandfather's Dietz Empire lantern. He used it as a railroad surveyor prior to the depression. Thanks,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, July 22, 2018 by Mark   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. According to Woody Kirkman's Lantern net website the Dietz Empire lantern was "Made especially for the New York Central from about 1915 into the 1920's, unknown if they produced for any other Railroad". See Link and scroll down to "Dead flame lanterns". Link 1  Posted Monday, July 23, 2018 by LC

 Q3495 AM RY EX Box  I cannot find anything on line about this piece. The lettering reads: 'AM RY EX'. Other than being in business from 1918-1929, I see nothing like it. I love it, and would just like to know more about it. Thank you!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, July 22, 2018 by Doug B   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. See prior Q's 2590 amd 123 about similar boxes. Just enter the Q numbr in the 'Question Number' box to go directly to a prior Q. There is something of a debate over whether a box like this served an express messenger as a 'portable office' to carry forms, seals, sealing tool, etc, or whether the express co. put shipped items into the box and sealed it for shipment (the way the US Post Office now provides Rxpress and Priority Mail boxes and envelopes to shippers, but the wood box was fully re-usable.) I recall some discussion of express shipment methods in stories of 'Robbing Trains,' where the express car (or compartment separate from the regular baggage space) would have the highest value shipments and be a primary target of train robbers. Always a key issue for the robbers: the onboard express co. agent ('messenger')was armed and the currency and valuables were often in locked safes and/or possibly boxes like yours. So whether the robbers could convince the agent to provide access largely determined the success of a robbery. I will try to look those stories up and provide references to ones with more historical validity. Much earlier, stage coaches could not have had safes, and would have needed locked and sealed express boxes for high value shipments. Unfortunately, a lot of the info refers to Wells Fargo, and so many kinds of WF materials including boxes similar to yours have been recently faked and even 'weathered' to look old, that we avoid talking about Wells Fargo.  Link 1  Posted Tuesday, July 24, 2018 by RJMc

A. The Link is to a much longer story of train robbery in the 1860's; it makes very clear that in this case, the Adams Express Co. played a very key role in these affairs from start to finish. Link 1  Posted Tuesday, July 24, 2018 by RJMc

A. The words to look up on the web are "Express Strong Box" and many items come up, many very similar to yours. As to the debate about how the boxes were used, I think a strong clue is the hardware that allows the box to be both padlocked AND sealed. I suspect that in earlier decades that was to put valuables inside the box for secure shipment. Later on, when the facilities (safes) on the trains got much better, the boxes probably got re-purposed as mobile offices.  Posted Tuesday, July 24, 2018 by RJMc

A. Here is some really good historical background about the express service, it mentions but does not say much about American Railway Express (Link 1) and what terrific information about the Adams Express (go past the stock market info and see where it started!) (Link 2)  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2018 by JMS

 Q3494 Lantern Info Needed  If you could please help me identify this lantern, I would really appreciate it. Thank you very much!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, July 22, 2018 by Doug B   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Offhand I'd say Central of Georgia Ry....where they forgot the G. I've seen Nickel Plate lanterns factory marked NPK and Duluth Mesabi & Iron Range lanterns marked DM&IRR, also from the factory. I know there's more, but those are examples. Posted Sunday, July 22, 2018 by BobF

A. I once had a B&O 'RY' (Not 'RR') lantern. This was just one of many misprints from the factory. Posted Sunday, July 22, 2018 by PK

 Q3493 Signal Lantern Lenses  Hello! Wondering if you would be able to answer a question I have about an Adlake railroad signal lantern I had come across - it is in great shape, but on one side it has a red lens which was larger than the others - it seemed like it was OK, but I was wondering if any of the lanterns made, had that as a standard option, or could it possibly be an aftermarket lens? Retrofitted to the lantern itself? Are all of the lenses supposed to be of equal size on the 4 sides? Any help would be great! I have a chance to purchase it, but really don’t know much about the options of these vintage lanterns. Thank you!  Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by James   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. James: This is where a PHOTO would be really helpful. - Minus that, it sounds like that you have a Marker Lamp. Many marker lamps had an oversize red lens; usually 6&3/8 inch. The other three would be either all green or all yellow; and with the oversize red lens, the other three will usually be 5&3/8 inch. Switch lamps frequently have two different size lenses, paired 180° opposite each other; Examples would be 4&1/2 inch and 5&3/8 inch;or 5 inch and 5&3/8 inch; or 4&1/2 inch and 4&1/8 inch as mentioned towards the end of Q3489. The green lens would always be the smaller size and the two green lenses would be 180° opposite each other. This was done primarily to keep the lamp tender from spacing out and putting the wrong color lens in an opening. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. See the Link for a page in the archives on this site showing and describing many of the lamps we discuss often here, and there are supply co. catalog pages as well. In general, the bodies of kerosene switch lamps, marker lamps, and classification lamps are very similar. The main difference between a switch lamp and the others is they are base-mounted and the whole lamp turned along with the switch (or derail) mechanism to indicate the various positions by showing the lenses in different directions. Markers and classification lamps were hung on one (or sometimes one of two) feet which were inserted in brackets on the side of the car or loco. Sometimes they are marked 'Left' and 'Right' Only the lamp body would rotate in its mounting bracket to change the indications, usually with some kind of mechanical latch and lever. Markers showed to the rear; classification lamps showed to the front and sides. After being hung on the bracket, classification lamps often had a small mechanical lever on the side to easily change internal lenses to go from white to green, or sometimes red to use if the engine backed up. That allowed changing the color on all sides of the lamp without rotating the body. The units with two mounting feet at 90 degrees allowed hanging the lamp on either an end bracket or a side bracket on a car or loco, since both were commonly used. Intended to be portable, and fairly expensive, markers and classification lights are more likely to be marked with the RR's initials. But switch lamps may be marked depending on the RR's practices. The lamp bodies and parts are so similar that often parts might get swapped, either during the RR service or by others afterward.  Link 1  Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3492 Engine Headlight Database?  I recently acquired several steam engine headlights and was wondering if there is a way to track it to a particular railroad by the railroad record number on the tag? Is there a database for these numbers and if so where would I find it? Thanks.  Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by Jerry M.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. You acquired several steam engine headlights = WOW lucky you! I’ve owned a few over the years and believe that the engine number would be you best clue or starting point. The brass tags on headlights that I’ve owned seem only refer to patent numbers. I could be wrong on this as I am sure there are others out there who may know more than I do.  Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by ex sou ry

A. Jerry M : as always, the very best thing you could do is to send in PHOTOS of the headlights and let us point out some things from those pictures. Many railroads had distinctive enough headlights that they can be ID'd from a picture. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. There are ID numbers on some of the mfrs. tags that I am guessing might be mfr's lot or order numbers which potentially could be related to the RR that ordered the headlights. I have NOT had the sense that the 'record numbers' were individual unit serial numbers for each headlight. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any records, cross references, or data bases available today to match up those numbers now, with the ordering RR, then. But photos might still be helpful and provide clues.  Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2018 by RJMc

A. Just send your photos to this website via email (like you sent the question) and we'll post them to the question as a response. We don't allow direct posting of photos to questions and responses for security and storage management reasons. Posted Sunday, July 22, 2018 by Web Editor

 Q3491 Lamp Question  I have what I think is a adlake #1112 non sweating marker lamp. The base is rotted out. I was wondering if the base can be fixed? I can soldier a new piece of tin on the bottom. I was wondering if this is advisable but the base I see on others similar to this one have a base with a foot on it. I was wondering if I could get one? The brackets and shades are pitted and worn. Can these be replaced also? Any information would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by SP   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. My best happy hunting grounds for lantern parts is the Gaithersburg Show held the first weekend in November. Guys often show up with boxes of parts and pieces that are too esoteric for internet auction sites.  Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by Ex Sou Ry

A. If the lenses, burner/fount etc are missing as well I would say you could probably buy a good condition and complete 1112 lamp on that well known auction site for about the same money you'd put into trying to find and buying parts for your lamp. The 1112 is a common switch lamp so rarity is not an issue. Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2018 by LC

A. SP : Yes, it is an ADLAKE 1112. You have a Switch Lamp from the Pennsylvania Railroad; not a marker lamp. Even though the bottom has rusted away, it is a salvageable and desireable piece; and actually the body looks to be in pretty good shape. You can certainly solder a sheet metal disk into the bottom of the lamp and do a fairly good restoration job. I'd be tempted to find a good sheet metal or custom auto body shop and have them assist you in cutting that disk or even forming a cup with some low sides for that replacement bottom. When you say the “brackets and shades are pitted and worn”, you can fill in some of the pits usually with several coats of paint primer, sanding between coats. Or you can look on eBay for replacements. Lamp parts show up on there frequently. – As to the base; See LINK 1 for a good depiction of the ADLAKE cast switch lamp base. The LINK is actually to the #169 lamp, but the base is the same as the #1112, and that link is a clearer illustration of the cast base. NOTE, however, that the PRR practice was to turn the base 45° on the bottom of the lamp. - What do I mean by that? ..note that in the illustration of the #169 lamp, the flat sides of the cast base are lined up parallel to the lenses. The Pennsy rotated the base 45° so that the corner of the base was facing the lens. They are they only railroad that I know of that did this. – You have some options here; over the years, many lamps have had their cast base removed by collectors and home decorators as doing so makes the lamp shorter and easier to put on a shelf as well as making them more stable; those bases are of a pretty small footprint and make the lamp easy to tip over. By not replacing the cast base you would still have a nice display item. You can search at shows and on eBay for a replacement base, -OR- you can try to make a reasonable facsimile; of all the parts on your lamp, the cast base is the one piece that you could make a pretty good replacement for out of some sort of modeling compound, depending on how artistic you are. – As to lens and day target color; the lenses for your lamp would be Yellow and Lunar White, the day targets would be chrome yellow for the yellow lenses and white for the lunar lenses. If the lamp takes two different size lenses (and I think they did) the larger lens is the yellow one. Those show up on eBay as well, but you have to search constantly. ---- …. Red Beard Link 1  Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. As the LINK is not working this morning, copy and paste this: - http://www.railroadiana.org/library/cat_AW191216/(B-11)%20No.%20175%20Switch%20Lamp%20with%2028-oz.%20Oil%20Fount.pdf Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Well, we're continuing to tweak the code to allow longer links. The link field from Red Beard has now been posted from this form and it seems to be working. Apologies for this annoying problem. Link 1  Posted Thursday, July 19, 2018 by Webmaster

 Q3490 Removing Inspector Lantern Globe  I recently acquired two inspector lanterns. They seem like they are in fair condition, some rust, nothing seems broken. The globes seem original. Problem is: I want to clean them up but have no idea how to remove the globes! Is there anywhere on the web that gives instructions for this because I can’t seem to find it? Thanks in advance.  Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by Karen D   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. We can probably help with this here on this site. But there are many different types of inspector lanterns, so a pic would be very helpful to make sure we give good advice. Posted Saturday, July 21, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3489 Lamp Questions  I recently purchased an 'Adlake Non-Sweating Lamp Chicago' and have some questions. It has 2 red lenses and 2 green lenses. The red lenses have red targets and the green lenses have a small hood rather than a target. Age – From what I have read, my understanding is that Adlake produced square top lamps in Chicago between the mid-1920s and 1927. Lamps produced there were stamped with 'Chicago'. After that period of time (1927), the company moved to Elkhart, Indiana and lamps no longer carried the 'Chicago'stamp. I am guessing that this lamp is from that time period. Is that correct?'The base has 4 feet on it and has the number 86025 cast into it. I am guessing that this is a switch lamp. Is that correct?'What does non-sweating mean and how does that make it different from other lamps? Thanks!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, July 12, 2018 by Oreo97   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Oreo97: Yes, this is a switch lamp. I've seen many, many ADLAKE lamps over the past 50 years. Thinking that all the square top lamps I've ever seen said CHICAGO on the cap; some of which I know for a fact as having been produced in the 1960s. From material recently uploaded on this site, it appears that the square top vent system was introduced in the "teens", as bulletin B-31 (LINK 1) mentions the square top system and that bulletin is dated January 1916 (far bottom right, last page)- Not all lamps had day targets; many had none. It's quite common to see lamps with day targets only on the red or yellow lenses, and with hoods, or nothing at all, on the green lens. Some lamps had day targets all around. This was purely by the preference of the railroad. The number cast onto the base is a part number. - The little port hole / peep hole had a flat, clear glass disk in it when new. The rubber gasket made the glass disk air-tight. The peep hole was so that the lamp tender could look in and adjust the flame up or down after refilling and relighting so that it didn't smoke. Lamps needed to be closed and warm back up to operating temperature after being re-lit before the final adjustment of the flame. The "Non-Sweating" feature of the vent system is explained in LINK 1 as well. the vent system drew outside air down over the back of the lenses so as to keep the front and back of the lens nearly the same temperature to prevent condensation and fogging of the back side of the lens, which would significantly reduce the visibility of the light from the lens. By the early 1900s, most lamp manufacturers had similar venting features. ---- .... Red Beard Link 1  Posted Thursday, July 12, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Well, as unfortunately happens on this site, the LINK feature isn't working. Copy and paste this - http://www.railroadiana.org/library/cat_AW191216/(B-31)%20Square%20Top%20Ventilation%20and%20Wind-Proof%20Door.pdf Posted Thursday, July 12, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. ALSO: It is almost impossible at this point in time to date square top ADLAKE lamps. They all look just alike, and apparently there were NO manufacturing changes to the original design from inception until the last kerosene lamps were produced and used in the '70s. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Thursday, July 12, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Thanks for the fast reply! Your information was really helpful and I learned a lot. I will keep your response with the lamp so my grandchildren can know about it when they are a little older. I have downloaded the bulletin and will also keep it with my lamp. Age doesn't make a difference to me. I'm just glad to have the lamp and it looks great with my grandfather's O gauge Lionel trains. In case you couldn't tell, I have hung a light bulb down the vent to illuminate the lenses. One of the red ones is broken but still in the housing. I have ordered a new one (with gasket) and will install it upon arrival. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge. It made my day! Posted Thursday, July 12, 2018 by Oreo97

A. With that arrangement of red targets and hoods over the green lenses (all 4-1/2" diameter it appears), there's a very good chance that the lantern came from the Burlington. I've also seen BN, INC (stamped in the base) lanterns with this arrangement. Posted Friday, July 13, 2018 by BobF

A. In very old lamps, the peephole window was made of natural mica ("isinglass")which is transparent enough, but somewhat brittle, when thin slices are used. Glass has been in use for quite a while and is much more transparent and durable. As to 'non-sweating', one of the unavoidable byproducts of burning kerosene is water vapor. Without the 'anti-sweating' air flow design, in cool or cold weather the water vapor would build up in the lamp and as indicated above, condense and sometimes freeze on the insides of the lenses. Initially that destroys their ability to focus the light and eventually, with picking up soot, dirt, etc, blanks out the light completely. And it is a real chore to attempt the clean the interior of a switch lamp caked with moist soot and kerosene, without totally dis-assembling the lamp and lenses. One of the key features of the design, often missing in souvenir lamps, is the small Pyrex glass chimney (about 1" in diameter and 3" tall.) It conducted the incoming air to the flame to properly mix for combustion, and directed the burned gases and water vapor into the 'non-sweating design flow pattern.  Posted Friday, July 13, 2018 by RJMc

A. RJMc : Thanks for mentioning "isinglass", that's an important piece of history to pass along to readers, one that is rarely mentioned anymore. My experience is that Pyle National liked mica and used it in late production of their round, two lens class lamps. Those class lamps had a large "peep hole" window on the opposite side of the body from each of the lenses; which were 90° apart. I've always assumed that was so that the crew could see from the cab if the lamp was lit or not. All Pyle class lamps I've seen had thin isinglass disks in those peep holes. - Also, in the late days of lamp use (mid 1960s onward), and as many railroads were running out of money, quite a few lamps in service went without proper replacement of that very important Pyrex chimney. A "Non-Sweating" lamp without the chimney didn't perform; and as you mention they would soot up their interior something awful. I've seen some where, in addition to no chimney the wick was turned up too far, creating smoke and poor enough combustion that besides the soot, there was a tar like substance inside the lamp and even up in the perforated cone in the metal chimney baffle, so bad that the perforations were almost entirely blocked. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Friday, July 13, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Folks, I've lengthened the link field to accept a higher number of characters so the problem of bad links should get better. There's still a limit of 255 characters owing to the structure that was established 20 years ago when URLS tended to be smaller. I fixed the link field in Red Beard's original response. Sorry for the problem. Posted Friday, July 13, 2018 by Web Editor

A. BobF : A question for you. Do you have actual marked BR/CB&Q lamps with 4&1/2 inch green lenses? And if so, do you know where they were last in use? -- I have several of the lamps, and saw many more in service back in the day. All of the BR/CB&Q marked lamps I've seen actually had 4&1/8 inch green lenses. The unusual goggle in the lamp body for the green lenses had a step down shelf formed into it so it could accommodate either size, though I never found any in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area with 4&1/2 in. green lenses. Additionally; instead of a lens hood, as pictured in this question, they employed a unique full circle ring hood; the lens sat in the smaller step down I mentioned and the ring sat in the 4&1/2" step and the two pieces were held in place by a standard 4&1/2 inch lens coupling ring. The lamp would not accommodate the green lens without the full circle ring hood to hold it in place, though 4&1/2 in. lenses will fit directly in them. The litmus test for unmarked Burlington lamps is the 4&1/8 green lens, OR to take out the replacement 4.5 inch lens and see if that step down shelf to 4&1/8" is built into the goggle. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Friday, July 13, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Red Beard, I stand corrected. It's been so long since I messed with a BR/CB&Q lantern that I forgot that they had those 4-1/8" green lenses. I just instinctively see a lantern like that and think Burlington. Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by BobF

A. BobF : drop me an email sometime, it would be fun to trade stories. RailroadRaider@Gmail.com Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Gentlemen, This lamp that is pictured and is being discussed is a Milw Road lamp and is probably one of the last orders from Adlake.I can tell its Milw by the inside shape of the lamp tip casting and the new hole that was drilled thru both sides of the base casting to add the large pop rivet they were famous for using for theft deterence.The Milw ordered and used the green/red/red targets version on their low boy switches on crossovers.The green/yellow/yellow target version was used on yard lead switches.Some of these late Adlakes had a CMSTP&PRY letter stamping on the edge of the top cap. The CB&Q/BN did use 4-1/8 green lenses with that 4-1/2 inch reducer ring.The CB&Q's lamp tip was very small and their initials were often cast in the lamp tip socket casting. DJB Posted Thursday, July 19, 2018 by DJB

A. DJB ; Thanks for that info. I do remember seeing MILW shop made lamps and Dressels on the Milwaukee that had been drilled through like that. The ones I saw in Council Bluffs and Sioux City had a piece of soft steel rod stuck through that hole and then bent 90° on each end. On the shop made lamps, they took the spring loaded knob out of the base, and using that same hole that the spring loaded plunger went in, they'd drill right through the target rod and run the steel rod through it. In Omaha, the UP had some industry sidings out west that had the lamps actually welded onto the target rod. ..those blasted souvenir collectors kept the lamp makers pretty busy in the last years of lamp use. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Friday, July 20, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

 Q3488 Good SIgn?  Can you tell me does this sign look right to you? I just bought it. I did some research and the IRT never ran in Queens. It's a porcelain sign but not as good quality as some of my other old porcelain RR signs. I’m just not sure. Thank you.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, July 8, 2018 by Michael   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The IRT Flushing Line did in fact run in Queens - "The IRT Flushing Line is a rapid transit route of the New York City Subway system, named for its eastern terminal in Flushing, Queens. It is operated as part of the A Division. The Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), a private operator, had constructed the section of the line from Flushing, Queens, to Times Square, Manhattan between 1915 and 1928. A western extension was opened to Hudson Yards in western Manhattan in 2015, and the line now stretches from Flushing to Chelsea, Manhattan. It carries trains of the 7 local service, as well as the express during rush hours in the peak direction.[2] It is the only A Division line to serve Queens" (Wikipedia). I think the sign is probably legit. Posted Monday, July 9, 2018 by LC

A. Michael: Another clue to the authenticity of your piece is that your sign is a three dimensional box. Almost all reproduction porcelain signs are on flat stock, though often in various shapes. Additionally, it's a pretty arcane piece. Reproduction pieces take a good deal of work to set up and produce, and are geared to being able to sell numbers of them a wider audience. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Friday, July 13, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

 Q3487 Another Handlan but not a Lamp...  This may not be a railroad item at all, but perhaps something for the construction industry. I can find no image of a similar item with a Handlan image search. Cap unscrews exposing the wick which has some residual kerosene smell. What gets me wondering is there is no wind protection for the flame, so it was not likely used long term or unattended. Anyone have an idea?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, June 28, 2018 by Bryan J   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Looks like an engineer's torch. Cast iron ones are usually marked with RR letters but brass ones were likely his own property. Have one with a lot of engraving similar to scrimshaw on a whale tooth. Has engineman's name etc. have never seen one with screw on cap, could easily be lost when in use.  Posted Friday, June 29, 2018 by DC

A. The screw-on cap was so you -- the locomotive engineer -- could carry the torch lying down in your grip (small suitcase) when on the road, so the kerosene wouldn't leak out all over your clothes, your lunch, your timetables and other paperwork, etc. Having the kerosene not leak was obviously fairly important, is there any sign of an 'O' ring or other means to seal the threaded joint? The cast iron torches were usually bulkier, with handles and wide bases, and were usually based in shops where they could be kept upright between uses. They were more likely to be marked with the RR initials and just issued as general-use equipment rather than assigned to individuals.  Posted Friday, June 29, 2018 by RJMc

A. I know very little about most railroad items, although I did work as a "gandy dancer" for several months after graduating from college. (In retrospect one of the best learning experiences in my 68 year life to date.) Anyway, the knurl on the cap looks typical to that I've seen on mid to late 19th century items of various types. At the bottom of the thread there appears to be smooth slightly concave surface or "gland" when associated with 0-rings. It would also function effectively as a sealing surface for a leather gasket which would be more likely.  Posted Monday, July 2, 2018 by JSM

A. See also prior Q's 2693 which also lists other earlier Q's including 2510. Unfortunately the video listed in 2510, which was shot for the NYC RR and explicitly showed and discussed torches in use in a New York Central roundhouse, is no longer available. The film may still be available elsewhere. It makes the point that a critical use for the torch is for finding air leaks in air brake systems; providing light is almost secondary since lanterns were always available for that. Posted Tuesday, July 3, 2018 by RJMc

A. The New York Central film is now available at the Link. See just after 10 minutes into the film for the section about using torches in the roundhouse. Link 1  Posted Tuesday, July 3, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3486 Adlake No. 250 Question  I recently was given my grandfather's Adlake No. 250 kero lantern. I've read multiple posts about mfg date stamped on bottom. Mine does not have that ... only a metal stamped flower design on the bottom. Where does that place its mfg timewise (approx year). Just curious, as it's never going to be sold for sentimental reasons. Thank you!  Posted Thursday, June 28, 2018 by Ron V   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The Kero 250 never had any dates stamped on the bottom, but the later Kero 300 /400 had manufacturing dates on the bottom. This web site discusses the various Adlake Kero models and provides the following information about the age of the Kero 250- see Link 1. "This model (Kero 250) was manufactured from around 1926 to around 1930 and was succeeded by the "Kero"." Cunningham in his book "The Railroad Lantern" states the Kero 250 was made as a standard type of lantern from about 1925 to 1931.  Link 1  Posted Friday, June 29, 2018 by JEM

A. Thank you for the info! :)  Posted Friday, June 29, 2018 by Ron V.

 Q3485 12 Inch Bell with Letters  I researched a 17 inch bell a few years ago (posted on youtube) and remembered seeing some bells with lettering, I acquired a 12 inch bronze bell with yoke recently with lettering (removed) and wondered the meaning. Thank you,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2018 by Robert   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Looks like the word "weight" was there. Could this have come from a scrapper??  Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2018 by BobF

A. It looks more like Wright than weight. But good guess... Do you scrap yard Scrapper or Locomotive Scrapper?  Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2018 by Robert

A. Most ship bells were lettered with the ship name, but usually the lettering was etched rather than painted. But this certainly looks like a RR mount.  Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2018 by RJMc

A. There is some black coloration under the remaining white paint. Is the bell surface etched (sandblasted) under each letter, the better to retain the paint? The stencilling is done with care in a way that a scrap yard would not bother with. If weight was the issue, the number would likely be daubed on with a paint marker or brush, not carefully stencilled. If that last set of letters is 'Eight', as in 'Engine Co. 8', that could refer to either a piece of fire apparatus or even to a 'Public School 8'; both of those things had bells like this. The school bells often were 'hand-me-downs' from the local RR. It could also be 'Light' -- maybe as in 'Lighthouse?' The preceding characters still make no sense to me.  Posted Thursday, June 28, 2018 by RJMc

A. Bridgetenders also have bells...see Link for the bell on the Wells Street Bridge in Chicago, in an arrangement (although this one is very fancy) and size very similar to a locomotive bell. Railroad bridge tenders no doubt also had bells. Link 1  Posted Thursday, June 28, 2018 by RJMc

A.  The bells and yokes on fire apparatus are usually chrome or nickel plated not painted. The finial nut would also be more decorative. The yoke has both white and washed out red paint on it. If that paint is latex based I would suspect it was on a building. Also I have never seen a bell on fire or railroad equipment with a chain being used as a pull rope, that was probably added to it when the bell was repurposed. On fire trucks the bell is stationary and only the clapper moves. If you mount a bell on the sheet metal of the cowl or fender and let the total weight of the bell move it won't take very long for it to loosen up the mounting bolts and have damage occur. In the 1920's the Seagrave Fire Apparatus Parts Catalog lists "12 inch locomotive bell" as standard equipment while the yoke is a custom cast or fabricated part from Seagrave. Posted Thursday, June 28, 2018 by KM

A. Heavy black,fairly thick paint and probably stenciled. Could be OM Wright or O M P.IGHT. Could say any number of things. I can see some clean areas were the paint was to get an idea of lettering, but still difficult to read for sure. Looks similar to a Howard yoke and cradle, the location wear the raised letters would be on the yoke looks ground off. Heavy nut for balance I suppose. There is a 12 on the yoke side arm. 10"H to the flat top, 12" diameter, 19.25"H, 19.5" wide. Posted Thursday, June 28, 2018 by Robert

A.  Based on the O M Wright lettering I was going to guess Orville Wright. But the "M" is wrong, Milton Wright did not give middle names to any of his children. There are schools in the Dayton,OH area named for Orville Wright. Posted Sunday, July 1, 2018 by KM

A. Nice idea. Thanks.  Posted Monday, July 2, 2018 by Robert

A. There have been several US Navy ships "USS Wright," all with Orville Wright or both Wright brothers as namesakes. The first one was commissioned in the 1920's and had a hugely diverse career as an aircraft and/or lighter-then-air craft support ship until being scrapped in 1946 or so (Link 2). But it was never officially the O. or O. M. Wright. Link 1 has an unusually clear pic of the ship in 1927. Zoom in and look closely under the crow's nest at the forward mast to see the ship's bell, hung vertically, and quite large in comparison with the people in the pic; clearly much bigger than a 12" bell.  Link 1  Link 2  Posted Thursday, July 5, 2018 by RJMc

A. Sold this one. Thanks again.  Posted Wednesday, August 8, 2018 by Robert

 Q3484 RR Key?  I came across this key in a shadow box that was made by a Santa fe employee and in the box was 6 of your standard barrel keys and a brass heart shaped lock most all marked. I'm fairly confident this was railroad as well because it was included but I would like to know for sure or to see if anyone has seen these or known what they were used for. Thanks for any insight.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, June 24, 2018 by Nick G.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Older hotels and many ship cabin doors had this type of key; each of those places needed a lot of different key cuts to give each of many doors its own key. The groove on the side of the bit provided a whole additional dimension to the pattern. (Pullman car passengers didn't need their own different door keys; passengers came and went too frequently to bother issuing keys which the RR would not get back when they departed the train quickly, plus the Porter was always there to let them in....and he had a single, much simpler skeleton or barrel-type key that worked all the doors.)  Posted Sunday, June 24, 2018 by RJMc

A. Since the shadow box was made up by a Santa Fe employee it must have had some connection. Maybe a ATSF owned hotel, the Greenbrier in West Virginia was owned by Santa Fe railroad for 99 years, there were others. Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2018 by DC

A. I think you mean the Greenbriar Hotel was owned by the Chesapeake and Ohio RR (C&O)?? Many kinds of connections are possible; the Canadian Pacific RR owned many ships and resort hotels, also, and unlike C&O, they used the RR Co. name to identify them. And they owned an airline, too!  Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2018 by RJMc

A. Most Railroad-marked keys of this type I have come across are shorter than this one - the usual I've found is about 4 inches. The extra length is suspicious for being some other purpose, but without any markings it is anyone's guess. Regardless, it's a terrific key and a real beauty.  Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2018 by JMS

A. The hotels associated with the Santa Fe were the Fred Harvey hotels and restaurants (See Link). By 1885 there were already 17 Harvey Houses along the Santa Fe, and somewhat later there were 84 (!!) Some of those were just restaurants next to depots, but some of them were VERY large and grand hotels and excursion destinations in their own right-- there are still about 10 Harvey facilities at the Grand Canyon, for example. Santa Fe crews were probably lodged in these hotels , but I am sure they didn't get the luxury rooms. Any of these could have been a source for your key. These keys are often seen with some kind of tag or fob with a hotel room or ship cabin number since so many were used in one location. Enter "Fred Harvey hotel key" in a Google search to see hundreds of keys--some even with fobs marking them specifically as Fred Harvey hotel skeleton keys, but a simpler style than yours. One key with a fob from a hotel in Akron, OH, with a brass fob, even has the side groove.  Link 1  Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2018 by RJMc

A. The size & style of this door key would indicate Pre-Civil War manufacture..............  Posted Thursday, June 28, 2018 by DA

 Q3483 Burner Question  Were Dietz Convex burners used in Armspear 1925 lanterns?  Posted Friday, June 22, 2018 by Marvin E   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. No,similar but not a Dietz although they seem to be interchangable. An unmarked brass convex burner with a wheel at he end of the stem was used in the Armsphere 1925.  Posted Saturday, June 23, 2018 by LC

A. Burners were interchangeable so who can tell if a burner is original to the lantern. One of my two Armspear 1925 lanterns has a large wheel marked ARMSPEAR NY. The other one has a Dietz Convex burner. The later 1925 Armspear lanterns made by Adlake (under contract to Armspear), and that look like Adlake Keros may well have had Adlake burners. Posted Sunday, June 24, 2018 by JEM

A. Your one marked "Dietz" isn't original to your lantern and was replaced at some later date. Posted Monday, June 25, 2018 by LC

 Q3482 Tag ID Needed  I'm the curator at the Lehnis Railroad Museum in Brownwood, TX. This luggage tag was donated in a large collection of items found in the 70s by a gentleman who was part of a metal detector club. We can't seem to find what H.H.&Y.T.Co stands for. We'd appreciate any information we could get, as we are updating an exhibit on the man and this interesting collection of tags, keys, coins, buttons, and other items. Thank you for your time.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, June 22, 2018 by CS   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The most interesting result so far, accounting for most of the initials, is the narrow gage Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite Valley RR which began operatons in 1898 in the vicinity of what is now Yosemite National Park, CA. (See Link). The HH & YV became part of the West Side Lumber Co. operations. Nothing turned up so far would account for the "T Co." but often that would stand for Transportation, Transfer, or even Taxi Co. Transfer Co.'s moved people around between hotels, train stations, boat piers, etc, and often had baggage tags. A steam loco lettered 'HH&YV' is operating on tourist RR at the Cover's Apple Farm.  Link 1  Posted Friday, June 22, 2018 by RJMc

A. Since HH&YV became part of West Side Lumber could T be for timber ? There is a Silver falls Timber Co.RR in Oregon. Posted Friday, June 22, 2018 by DC

A. I might not have thought a 'lumber co. RR' was into passenger service....but look at picture #16 of 17 in the link above, to see a 1902 excursion train absolutely PACKED with tourists...Must be a thousand or so folks packed onto that train. So the Yosemite area has always been a tourist target, and no doubt supported some pasenger trains.  Posted Sunday, June 24, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3481 Fake Badge?  I found this in a box of stuff I purchased at an auction. I've had several people look at it and no one can give me a conclusive answer: Is it real or fake?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, June 21, 2018 by Parker   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. I would say it is a fake. You find many of these on Ebay as well as ones from "other railroads". Posted Thursday, June 21, 2018 by JN

A. No doubt whatsoever....................Fantasy piece. Posted Thursday, June 21, 2018 by DA

A. Two identical badges are on that world renowned auction site now (6/23/2018). One is listed as "new", and the other as a "reproduction", which it isn't.  Posted Saturday, June 23, 2018 by JEM

 Q3480 Lamp Info Needed  I have the lantern pictured in the image – minus the globes – and I'm looking for more information on it. I reached out to Adams & Westlake directly and they said that due to the age and some merging / ownership changes in their company, they would have to go back to their archives to try and find information on it, which I’m still waiting to hear back from them. Any idea where I could learn more about it? I believe it was a lantern in a rail car based on what my Dad told me (he had limited info as well), but I can't track any info down based on my search using the maker and date: dams & Westlake – Chicago 1890 May 6. I’d greatly appreciate any pointers. Thank you,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, June 20, 2018 by Brian   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Try Lampguild.org (link 1). They may help you. Link 1  Posted Thursday, June 21, 2018 by LC

A. Thank you for the pointer to the LampGuild site - i have reached out to them as well. Hoping to find more info to help further identify the Adams & Westlake piece. Thank you, Brian Posted Thursday, June 21, 2018 by Brian

A. Hello - does anyone else have any advice on this? No response back from LampGuild and a lot of the links on their page are broken.  Posted Tuesday, July 10, 2018 by brian

 Q3479 Authentic Locks?  I have two Milwaukee Road locks. I am not real familiar with the hardware from this line and would like input as to their authenticity. They almost look 'too good'.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, June 17, 2018 by WCC   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Does U S Mail Lock have a double bit keyway and indentations on both sides of drop (dust cover). Absence of any patina is strange but maybe they were never exposed to the elements. Posted Monday, June 18, 2018 by DC

A. Yes, the mail lock has the indents on the hole cover and would take a double sided key... Posted Monday, June 18, 2018 by WCC

A. Those locks are both most definitely legit. The mail car is quite rare. It appears someone cleaned them up some time ago, and the patina will appear in time. Two very fine locks.  Posted Thursday, June 21, 2018 by Jim G

A. When mail car lock had its steel chain there was a fitting at the end that was brass to fasten it to car. Key is brass hollow barrel marked CM&STPRR on one side and MC on other side. Posted Friday, June 22, 2018 by DC

A. Many thanks for all of the replies! WCC Posted Saturday, June 23, 2018 by WCC

 Q3478 EMD Bell  Can anyone give me information on an EMD bell with the number 8004168. It is a 12 in. bell that appears to be bronze. Thank you.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, June 17, 2018 by CC   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Just put " EMD Bell " (no quotes) in the search box for word or phrase, (let it search for a while) to see many prior Q's and A's about EMD bells.  Posted Monday, June 18, 2018 by RJMc

A. EMD bells were mounted on post WWII GM diesel locomotives produced by the Electro Motive Division hence the EMD designation. They were air operated and mounted to the frame hence no yoke or rocker was ever used. The chain on the one pictured was added after the fact. Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by Ex Sou Ry

 Q3477 Lantern Marking  I bought a lantern with markings CO. & ST. RR or CO.8c ST.RR Could you help me? Thanks.  Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by Jim   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. A photo would be very helpful. Posted Monday, June 18, 2018 by BobF

A. Here's a photo of the marking. Link 1  Posted Saturday, June 23, 2018 by Jim

A. The style of this lantern makes it similar to the "Heritage Kero" style -- see the link to our page on these. However, it's been many years since this page was posted, and there have probably been new markings from the Adlake Company. This letter combination does not show up in our list of heritage Kero markings, so it may be fairly recent.  Link 1  Posted Saturday, June 23, 2018 by Web Editor

 Q3476 Adlake Marker Lenses  I recently purchased an Adlake cannonball marker lamp (not a class lamp – no internal baffles), and would like to make sure it has the correct lenses installed. The lamp came with 2 red and 2 green lenses, all 4 are Kopp Glass RL 4364, 5 3/8 D. 3 ½ F. 30 degree SPR. 10 degree DEFL. I thought all caboose markers were either RGGG or RYYY. Was there an application for which this lens arrangement, RGRG, was correct on a marker lamp? Are these the correct lenses for this lamp? I thought lenses with SPR and DEFL were used in switch lamps. Or was this used in a different application? Thanks,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by Joseph C.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. See prior Q 2881 for a discussion of marker light colors, and also enter 'Marker Lamp' (no quotes) in the 'word or phrase' search box to see many, many earlier Q's & A's on this topic. (Let the search work for a while.) Bottom line, each RR determined its own color use and it was usually specified in the rule book or timetable special instructions, which might vary from area to area on the same RR.  Posted Thursday, June 14, 2018 by RJMc

A. Joseph: Your suspicions are correct; those are NOT the correct lenses for your marker lamp. – The vast majority of markers had 3 green and 1 red, OR 3 yellow and 1 red. I know of no markers that used a GRGR arrangement. – Some eastern railroads that ran four track main lines used combinations with red, yellow and green in the same lamp, but I won't go into those here. RJMc is correct in that there are many marker lamp questions you can search for on this site. – – The thing to always remember is that we are now more than 40 years past the use of markers on American railroads and almost that long since switch lamps were used as well (switch lamps lasted in use later than markers). Many markers and switch lamps show up for sale that have been cobbled together from parts. Glass lenses, being the most fragile part of the lamp, are often replaced with what ever is available; that combined with the fact that many sellers have absolutely no idea of what they are doing, accounts for many lamps turning up with non-realistic combinations of lenses and lens colors in them. Your fine lamp is one of those! – – You are also correct in that the Spreadlight ribs and Deflector prisms were not used in markers. Do note though that some railroads, including the D&RGW used Spreadlight ribbed lenses in Classification Lamps. Class Lamps needed to be seen at shorter distances and on curvy track. Spreadlight lenses helped to make the class lamp light more easily distinguishable by station operators and crews on other trains sitting in sidings as the engine passed. Almost all diesel class lamps had ribbed lenses to spread the beam out in a wider pattern. Markers however needed to be seen brightly at as great a distance as possible, and the Spreadlight ribs diminished visibility of the lamp light at distance. – – Your lenses are intended for a low mount electric switch lamp, and are fairly late production (1950s or 1960s). The Sreadlight ribs make the lamp easier to see where tracks curve, as the light is focused into a horizontally wider beam, and the deflector prisms, in the top of the very center Fresnel ring, deflect the light upwards so that the lamp can be viewed not only at a distance, but by an engine crew up in the cab sitting very near the lamp. People who haven't seen lit lamps in a very dark situation don't realize that the forward focus of the lenses is so effective that in the dark it is very hard to see the colored light from a lamp if you are very close to the lamp and several feet above it, as you are in an engine cab. The deflector prisms made for a small dot of visible color from that position up in the engine cab. If it weren't for those deflector prisms, a crewman would have to leave the cab and climb down closer to ground level to see the light from the lamp to determine what color it was! – – Deflector prisms are also used in block signal lenses for the same reason. An engine crew sitting very close to a lit signal cannot see the lit lenses, they look completely dark, again because the forward focus of the lens is so effective. Downward deflector prisms need to be added to the center of the signal lens to diffuse enough light so that the crew can see the colored light from the signal while sitting in the engine cab close to the signal. This is especially true while sitting stopped at a red signal waiting for it to change color. ---- …. Red Beard Posted Thursday, June 14, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. The New York Central used the outside-ribbed lenses on kerosene markers. This was mostly in the time period-- probably 1930's and earlier -- when they were operating multi-track main lines which already had signals. In that kind of territory the ability to see the markers at long distances was considerably reduced.  Posted Friday, June 15, 2018 by RJMc

A. For clarification and ease in future searches, ribbed lenses are trade named Spredlite (actual trade name spelling), and marked as such on the outer face of many lenses ---- .... Red Beard Posted Saturday, June 16, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Thank you all for the informative answers. I suspected that the lenses were not correct. However, I know that Spredlite/Deflector lenses are relatively rare, and to find a matched set of them in the marker lamp suggested that they were original equipment. The odds of someone cobbling the lamp together with such a matched set seems highly unlikely, but of course not impossible. I’ll just swap the lenses out with a switch marker I have with smooth lenses. Thanks Joe Posted Wednesday, June 20, 2018 by Joseph Cich

A. Joseph: for clarification; when you say “However, I know that Spredlite/Deflector lenses are relatively rare, and to find a matched set of them in the marker lamp suggested that they were original equipment. The odds of someone cobbling the lamp together with such a matched set seems highly unlikely, but of course not impossible.”, consider this; WRRS (now Western-Cullen-Hayes Inc.) is one of the last manufacturers still offering switch lamps and replacement lenses for sale to railroads and industries. Link 1 is to their catalog sheet for such. (LINK 1) – – The 5&3/8” Spredlite/Deflector is now, and has been for decades, their standard lens. Looking back over the past century and a half, hundreds of thousands (and probably literally millions) of Fresnel lenses have been made, some still in their original lamps, many broken and replaced. Given that vast number of lenses, the Spredlite/Deflector lens is likely a small percentage of the total number of lenses ever produced, (see last paragraph) however; over the last four decades, I would guess that the -majority- of lamps produced came with those same lenses (that current 'majority' being very small in number compared to the lamps produced in the 1950s & 1960s). So, in the “real world” (not the collectors world) those lenses are now the most common still being produced for industry. – – Those same lenses show up on eBay every now and then still wrapped in the red, green or yellow tissue paper they came from the factory in, and apparently are still available from Western-Cullen-Hayes themselves (though, pricey the last time I checked). Additionally, the erroneous R-G-R-G arrangement is probably the most blatant clue to some post-railroad owner having slapped them in there, as they were the first thing he could find in the 5&3/8” size; ...or, maybe he just liked the way they looked and he selected those lenses from an assortment of lenses available to him. If you search the web on a weekly basis, lots and lots of glass lenses come up for sale over a year's time. – – Again, the biggest thing to remember in this hobby is that almost half a century has passed since Fresnel lensed lamps (electric or kerosene) were in general, widespread use on American railroads, ..that's very long time. Lots and lots of the lamps you see for sale really are “cobbled together” from the parts someone can find at any given point in time. – – Another thing I stress on here is that today, it is almost impossible to grasp how extensive the rail network was in the U.S. up through the 1960s (just by coincidence, about the time lamps were discontinued) Almost every tiny town (of a few hundred people) had a few siding tracks. Towns of just a few thousand people had one or more small yards. Large cities had immense networks of yards. Each of those sidings or yard tracks usually had a switch lamp at each end. That's an astounding number of switch lamps in use, just fifty years ago (Viet Nam War era). World War II era, it was even larger yet. ---- .... Red Beard  Link 1  Posted Thursday, June 21, 2018 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

 Q3475 Dietz Vesta GM&O RR lanterns  I recently purchased a pair of Dietz Vesta GM&O railroad lanterns. I cannot find a patent date or manufacturing date code. Did they put a patent date and/or date code on all their lanterns? Is it possible I purchased a 'fake'?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by Marvin E.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Is there an "S" number, such as S-39? The letter is the plant and the 2 digit number is the date manufactured. It would be on the lid near any patent dates. Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by JN

A. JN...No patent dates, no date codes. Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by Marvin E.

A. We have a web page about Vestas [See link], compiled with information from a variety of sources. According to the page, Vestas after 1956 did not have date codes. We have never heard of a Vesta with a railroad marking being reproduced/counterfeited. Your lanterns are very likely legit but newer than the mid-50's. Link 1  Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by Web Editor

 Q3474 Lubricator or Oiler  Our museum was given the item shown in the photo. Can anyone provide any detailed information on what appears to be a lubricator used on a steam locomotive? I found no identifying labeling on the unit.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by Steve S   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. What size is this? These came in a huge variety of sizes and were used on various locomotives, steam traction engines, steam boats and ships, and many other kinds of machinery. What appears to be a hanging mount is unusual. Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by RJMc

A. I’m guessing it is about 12” high.  Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by Steve

A. Several factors cause me to think this was for some kind of stationary use. First, the fixed mount, apparently set up to hang from a wall. In the late 1800's where this technology was in use on RR's, locomotives and their lubricators were smaller and lubricators were mounted directly on the fitting on the bottom. Second, the sheer quantity of liquid this would hold is more than any locomotive application would need between fillings, and the large weight/inertia of the unit and the liquid would have VERY serious consequences in the banging and hauling of any kind of mobile service (train, tractor OR ship). That mount would not survive impacts. Third, what appears to be a filter on top to let air in as the liquid was metered out. That would indicate to me that this was intended for some very dusty environment such as a mill, grain elevator, or maybe a mine or coal-handling facility. Steam-based heating or electric power plants are another possibility, and most RR facilities had them, so it might indeed have come from a RR, but very unlikely a locomotive. For example, in the early 1970's the Western Maryland roundhouse complex at Hagerstown had its own fully-self-contained coal-fired power plant for electricity and steam heating of the whole complex. Posted Thursday, June 14, 2018 by RJMc

A. What appears to be a black "filter" on top is most likely a solenoid. I had a similar looking oiler with a black solenoid on the top with wires coming out of a threaded hole on the side for an electrical connection. This solenoid indicates the oiler was used on a factory machine and a controller would periodically activate the solenoid for bearing oiling.  Posted Friday, June 15, 2018 by JEM

A. The solenoid makes sense....But one of the striking things about this is that it is OLDER technology. Even mentioning the 1970 power plant, I don't think I saw anything like this there in the 1970's. The idea of just dripping the lube out onto some machine has been out of vogue for quite some time. On locomotives, first there were hydrostatic (steam pressurized), then force-pumped mechanical lubricators. In the power plants and factories there are now sealed roller bearings and anti-friction permanent surfaces such as Teflon. So a drip-feed, even solenoid-operated, lubricator is really a 'vintage' item. Posted Friday, June 15, 2018 by RJMc

 Q3473 Hollow Brass Key Origin  I am curious about what the origin of this key may be. On one side it has a 'C' and on the other side it looks the first 3 letters are 'j.h.w.' But I cant make out the rest. I know that employee numbers would be placed on the backs of these. Could this be a name of an employee or is it a location? Thanks in advance!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, June 11, 2018 by Michael   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. J.H.W.Climax Co. Newark NJ lock manufacturer. If key were marked with railroad letters it could indicate car lock. Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2018 by DC

A. See also Q 3463 about how various barrel keys and key blanks got used and marked. Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2018 by RJMc

A. This is a very nice key but unfortunately there is no way to document that it was used by a railroad. Climax (and other key/lock makers) sold to MANY types of customers, and this type of key/lock was popular with those needing heavy duty, quality padlocks. Because thousands of them were sold for non-railroad uses, the only way to authenticate that a key is from a railroad, is that it has a railroad marking on it, which this one does not. In this case, the letter C could mean anything its owner wanted -- "Building C", "Gate C," "Door C" etc. With the C being centered, obviously no other marks were intended.  Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by JMS

A. Thanks JMS. So are you saying that only keys with RR stamped on them are from a railroad or that that is the only way to know for sure? I have a large collection I’ve recently acquired and many look like they may be switch keys because on the back they have an “S” but they don’t have RR stamped on them. Thanks! Posted Friday, June 15, 2018 by JMS

A. I do have some unmarked keys that do work railroad locks. I have a blank Reading, an unmarked Santa Fe and 2 unmarked Conrail. These all came with marked locks when I purchased them. That is why I know they are railroad keys. Keys like yours may be railroad keys, but to be certain they really have to have some form of "proof". In my cases, the marked locks were the evidence to verify the keys. Posted Saturday, June 16, 2018 by JN