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 Post subject: Brainstorm session: Lesser-known Rail artifacts
PostPosted: Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:00 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2010 12:02 am
Posts: 250
Hello all.

While helping my Grandma set up her Christmas decorations last December, I discovered an interesting item. It was one of the cardboard boxes that the decorations were packed away in.

In most respects, it was just an ordinary cardboard box. What caught my attention was the Railway Express Agency shipping label on the lid of the box. Upon further examination, I discovered the original point-of-origin and destination addresses. The box was originally sent from a Department store to a private individual.

Now, I don't know how many other such boxes exist, but it seems to me that this once-everyday object is now somewhat of a rarity. I've never seen another one on Craigslist, and only a few images of similar boxes appear on Google Image search. This sort of object was once considered trash, but now it helps tell the story of pre-amazon.com ordering and shipping that was closely tied to the railroad. It also has some connections to the fact that railroads made the ordering and shipping of mass-produced goods feasible.

I'm sure that many rail museums have large collections of telegram cards, lanterns, hand-tools, advertising brochures, and many other artifacts you can see at just about any rail museum. Are these artifacts important? Of course they are. But how many of you have seen artifacts like this box? Artifacts that are just as important to rail history as the more "well-known" artifacts, but which are less-well represented?

So, I want to hear from you. What lesser-known artifacts have you seen that tell a good chunk of the story that rail museums preserve, but which are less well-represented? It doesn't have to be an item that was only one of a few mad. It could be something that was mass-produced, but wasn't usually saved.

Related to this, what common artifact have you seen that is preserved, perhaps even exhibited, but isn't well-interpreted/explained?


Just for the sake of discussion, let's stick to artifacts that don't roll on rails. We've got plenty of discussions in the archives about what rolling stock and locomotives should have been preserved. ;) What items have you seen that could provide an interesting display inside a small depot museum?

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 Post subject: Re: Brainstorm session: Lesser-known Rail artifacts
PostPosted: Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:26 pm 
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Joined: Mon Aug 05, 2013 2:42 am
Posts: 1679
Location: Seattle, WA - Land of Coffee
The Northern Pacific Railway Museum in Toppenish, Washington has on display the Railway Express Agency safe original to the depot. REA parcel/baggage carts are somewhat common (Portland, Hood River, Chehalis*, and Toppenish all have examples of said cart in good condition), but I don't think REA safes are quite as numerous. How many museums have station safes as part of their displays?

The safe (as well as the depot's ticket box) are mentioned about halfway down the page linked: http://nprymuseum.org/what's%20new.htm

*Chehalis did something with their cart I haven't seen elsewhere: they gathered up a number of vintage suitcases and piled them up on the cart, as if waiting to be loaded onto the next train. (The cart is outside underneath the large awning next to where the platform used to be; Amtrak trains currently stop at Centralia, and skip Chehalis).

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 Post subject: Re: Brainstorm session: Lesser-known Rail artifacts
PostPosted: Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:57 pm 

Joined: Wed Oct 22, 2008 8:18 pm
Posts: 2097
The St Joe Model Railroad club had to move its layout, now located in the former NYC freight depot in Mishawaka, IN, in cleaning up found an unused pad of freight billngs. of note was how it was dated like you fill in the rest of the year saving pencil time....

so make your freight bill

________ ____ 18____


it was found up on the rafters out of reach, may have sat there over 100 years, building was built 1888.


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 Post subject: Re: Brainstorm session: Lesser-known Rail artifacts
PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 12:01 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3054
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
I recall that one rather unusual bit that the Baltimore & Ohio museum had was a teabag. Yes, the little paper and string bag for brewing tea, lettered for Baltimore & Ohio. It was damaged by water in the roof collapse some years ago, yet I understand the museum still has it; it's likely the only such teabag left.

I also have in my personal stash some things like field guides to proper loading of open-top cars, and some stickers to go on packages to warn people handling them that the contents inside are in glass, and thus quite breakable.


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 Post subject: Re: Brainstorm session: Lesser-known Rail artifacts
PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 12:20 am 

Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:22 pm
Posts: 339
A longtime B&O fan gave us one of the little milk containers from a long-ago dining car breakfast.

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 Post subject: Re: Brainstorm session: Lesser-known Rail artifacts
PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 9:14 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8396
Location: Baltimore, MD
One of my own most prized possessions, to this day, is a type tray,

Now, type trays are now sort of a dime a dozen in the antique market--especially the larger ones. But this has a double-whammy. First, it came from my parents' newspaper office, salvaged when the company changed hands in the 1980s and the old print shop was being dismantled.

Second, on the back/bottom of the tray is the evidence of either how the wood used to make it was salvaged from other wood or how the trays were shipped: Painted on in semi-cursive:
"PRR Prepaid
M.S. Schoch [the publisher from 1910 to 1940]
Selinsgrove, Pa."

I also spent years shoveling ash out of the plant's burner with an old coal shovel before I finally brought it up to enough sunlight to see stamped on the handle: "PRR 7 "


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 Post subject: Re: Brainstorm session: Lesser-known Rail artifacts
PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 9:18 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
Posts: 2444
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Personally I have a small bowl that my grandfather used as a change bowl. After he passed, I looked at it and on the bottom it was marked "Southern Railway." A neat, prized possession.

Railroading involved a LOT of accounting, especially in ticketing. I have yet to see a good exhibit explain this or the fare/transfer system on street railways and rapid transit.

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 Post subject: Re: Brainstorm session: Lesser-known Rail artifacts
PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 10:48 am 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 4:02 pm
Posts: 974
Location: Back in NE Ohio
Somewhere I have a paper head rest cover with a cardboard mounting piece lettered for B&O/C&O from a trip a year or two before Amtrak started.


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 Post subject: Re: Brainstorm session: Lesser-known Rail artifacts
PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:23 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:01 pm
Posts: 1441
Location: SouthEast Pennsylvania
I have a Signal Department's seal press for sealing the lead and wire seals used on signal relays. The Accounting and Treasury Departments may have also had them for sealing money bags.
While railroad car door seals usually have the road's initials, sometimes different parts of the company had their own personalized seals. I have some embossed "Reading Co. Signal Dept."


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 Post subject: Re: Brainstorm session: Lesser-known Rail artifacts
PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:04 pm 

Joined: Mon Oct 03, 2011 9:30 pm
Posts: 56
Also managed to get away with a couple of wooden coat-hangers printed with the slogan "courtesy of the Santa Fe"


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 Post subject: Re: Brainstorm session: Lesser-known Rail artifacts
PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 8:39 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 04, 2007 8:25 am
Posts: 133
Location: Across the river from Baldwin's on the Naugy
In the basement is a leather and canvass bag from the New Haven Railroad's President's office.

How about corporate seals from the New Haven, Hartford & Connecticut Western, Rutland & a couple of others?

A Pullman clothes brush with made with gen-u-ine pig bristles.


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 Post subject: Re: Brainstorm session: Lesser-known Rail artifacts
PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 10:23 pm 

Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:50 pm
Posts: 148
Location: MD
Three items I either own, or have seen at places I volunteer at come to mind.

1st - A baby rocker made by carpenters at a railroad shop who presented it to the parents of a newborn on behalf of the entire shop crew. This piece has alot going for it. It's painted with the name of the parents and the name/shop of the railroad and makes for a great display of the RR's impact on the community. The paint used is both the only known example and in excellent condition, and will be used to match the correct color for a future caboose restoration.

2nd - A brass match holder/striker from a business car of the road several relatives of mine worked for.

3rd - A vintage(60's) nudie calendar from a local bar, found during the restoration of a certain WM caboose. Believed to have been disposed of by a female volunteer who didn't share our enthusiasm for an authentic restoration....


Last edited by alcoguy1 on Fri Aug 09, 2013 10:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Brainstorm session: Lesser-known Rail artifacts
PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 10:28 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8396
Location: Baltimore, MD
Someone in Altoona, Pa. just came up with not one, but two, DuPont spray paint cans of official Conrail blue paint, intended for touch-up of Conrail-painted locos.

He acquired them the same week as the very last original unpainted Conrail loco on Norfolk Southern, 5424, rolled into Altoona Works for rebuild and repaint.......

Image


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