Category Archives: Railway

I Don’t Want Your Photograph: Panoramic Black & White Railroad Staff Photo, ca. 1908

There are certainly times when seeking out items for this blog, the hunt takes me to places with absolutely no promise of finding anything special. Without a love of “the hunt” the process falls apart because 9 times out of 10, what you end up finding is a whole lot of not much.

Fortunately, while rummaging through a barn in Ohio recently, I came across this beautiful panoramic photo (40″ x 11″) of what appears to be employees of a railroad outside a train station. Though it’s difficult to detail the provenance of this image, you can see that the staff are decorated in medals suggesting that there was perhaps a commemoration of the railroad or perhaps the opening of a new line.

What else is clear is that many of these individuals were not getting enough fiber in their diets.

Regardless, what a dapper bunch and what a cool wall image to display!

A Spanner In the Works: Railroad Wrench, ca. 1890s

Every household should have a toolbox for those little emergencies. In the case of this railroad wrench, you’d need a somewhat larger place to store it as it’s 27″ long!

This piece of railway history was manufactured by the Roebling Machine Shop of Trenton, New Jersey; the same Roebling family who designed the Brooklyn Bridge. It spent its days tightening heavy duty iron nuts on locomotives and shifting rails to allow trains to branch off to other locations.

The wrench shows some rusting and pitting but the teeth are in good shape and it’s clearly marked with a patent date of 1898. Now, if only I could find someone to help left it…

UPDATE: This is a short note sent to me by the purchaser of this wrench, Mike from Georgia:

Some 21 years ago, I began my wrench collection with a like new Roebling No.3 baby brother to the one you have. Now 11 different Roeblings and close to 900 other wrenches later, I can complete my first collection! The Number 5 is scarce, probably because they were pretty useless as a tool and a lot of them probably went into WWII scrap metal drives. I have only seen 2 others up for auction over the years. Looking forward to its addition to the “Tool Room”.


Subway Series: Early NYC Cast Iron Subway Stool, ca 1910s

They don’t call it the “F train” for nothing. Between MTA service cuts, increased fares and staff restructuring, there’s never been a greater collective desire to take a load off.

The word is that these types of conductor stools were present in driver booths to allow for some sedentary time but later removed when it was felt that drivers were becoming a little too relaxed when at the train’s helm.

What’s clear is that this cast iron stool is darn heavy and with its original hardware, can be affixed to any right angle. Pictured here, the stool is attached to an old factory work bench for added flat surface area.

Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before: Railway Stop Sign, ca. 1910

I came across this old, heavy-duty stop sign recently while on a trip upstate. It had been so blacked with decades of dirt that there was no color at all showing through but after a gentle cleaning and oiling, it really came up well with a strong yellow enamel coming through. It even still has its original cast iron point at the base.

After speaking with the owner, it was explained to me that the sign had been used locally (in Delaware county) by one of the railroads. A man would stand at the railway crossing and signal traffic using this 6’6″ item.

The fact that this sign survived the punishing day-to-day treatment it received, yet remains sturdy and complete is a testament to the quality of the craftsmanship of the day.