Railfan Collectables?

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Railfan Collectables?
Posted by steve-in-kville on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 11:01 AM

I'm avoiding the temptation to get into modeling, so I opted instead to indulge in a few calendars. And a NS 911 license plate. 

I already have the 2020 NS calendar, with a BNSF on order and just mailed off payment for a RBMN calendar as well. That should do it for a while.

Regards - Steve

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 12:49 PM

Collectables can be almost as dangerous as modelling.  

Especially when your collection just has to have that authentic CS&LGRR lantern with the green globe...

 

LarryWhistling
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Posted by diningcar on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 1:01 PM

Or a complete set of Santa Fe's Mimbreno dining car china!

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, December 19, 2019 10:06 AM

Timetables, both employee and public, can be equally habit-formingWhistling

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, December 19, 2019 10:16 AM

Lanterns.  Oh brother, I'm up to 30 of them right now.  I had to cool it because I've just run out of room!

Although they DO come in handy during power failures.

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Posted by steve-in-kville on Thursday, December 19, 2019 10:21 AM
Timetables are sorta like maps of the rails, right? I found the timetable for our area and it was interesting. Speed restrictions, switches and the like.

Regards - Steve

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Posted by Deggesty on Thursday, December 19, 2019 10:34 AM

Yes, city ticket offices were wonderful sources of passenger timetables from many roads. Employee timetables were, and are, harder to come by. Of course, if you have the money, it is possible to buy ETT's. Even more difficult were rule books. 

 

 

Johnny

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Posted by Deggesty on Thursday, December 19, 2019 10:37 AM

Quoting Larry: "Collectables can be almost as dangerous as modelling." Yes, especially if you collect torpedoes.

Johnny

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Posted by Ulrich on Thursday, December 19, 2019 10:42 AM

I collect books of all kinds, including railroad books. And I actually read them too. 

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Posted by diningcar on Thursday, December 19, 2019 10:46 AM

Deggesty

Yes, city ticket offices were wonderful sources of passenger timetables from many roads. Employee timetables were, and are, harder to come by. Of course, if you have the money, it is possible to buy ETT's. Even more difficult were rule books. 

 

 there is an organization of timetable collectors and they have an annual meeting where both public and ETT's are traded.

 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, December 19, 2019 10:49 AM

Deggesty

Quoting Larry: "Collectables can be almost as dangerous as modelling." Yes, especially if you collect torpedoes.

 

Oh wow, track torpedoes!  You don't see those around too often, probably a good thing.

An old timer I new up in New Jersey years back told me the local railroaders he'd gotten friendly with when he was a kid used to give him track torpedoes.  He used 'em as targets for his .22 rifle!  He said you sure knew when you scored a bulls-eye!

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Posted by MP173 on Thursday, December 19, 2019 11:03 AM

I collect quite a few paper products: public and employee timetables, maps, brochures, Official Guides of the Railways (a must for collectors).  I also collect old tower records which list the daily movements of trains (very interesting) and have a large collection of Conrail dispatch sheets which expands the tower movements to entire divisions....also very interesting. 

One of my favorite collectables are old Freight Schedule books which were issued to operation personnel and would list all scheduled freight trains with routings, blockings, etc.  The tower records, dispatch sheets, and freight schedules provide a very good look at how railroads were operated, particularly when combined with Official Guides which listed all passenger train movements.

I also have a collection of railroad mechanical pencils, something I can use at my desk.

 

Ed

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Posted by York1 on Thursday, December 19, 2019 11:13 AM

Concerning collectibles:

I realize you need to buy from a reputable seller, and expect to pay a good price.

That said, how can I tell for sure something is original rather than a knock off?  I've seen signs that look about as real as you can get, yet know they are not real.

It doesn't help that sites like ebay have words like "authentic", "original", "antique", and "vintage". I looked up ebay's definitions, and they don't clear up anything at all.  I'm not picking on ebay, because even buying at a railroad show or a store is just as difficult.

Without being an expert, how can I be sure not to get ripped off collecting something?

John  --  Saints Fan  

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Posted by tree68 on Thursday, December 19, 2019 11:27 AM

York1
That said, how can I tell for sure something is original rather than a knock off?  I've seen signs that look about as real as you can get, yet know they are not real.

Making your purchases in person can be important - gatherings such as the organizations mentioned earlier (Key, Lock & Lantern is one of them) are a good place.  The dealers with authentic items aren't going to tolerate people trying to pass replicas off as the real deal.

Once you make a few friends (in person, especially) with folks with similar interests, your resources will grow.

Not everyone can travel to such shows, but learning what the organizations are, and joining those that interest you can be beneficial.  Many have Facebook pages that provide a wealth of information.  Even though I only have one such box, following the FB page about Gamewell fire alarm boxes is enlightening.  And an item I posted about a rare fire truck has garnered nearly 300 responses, including some information about that specific truck.

 

LarryWhistling
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Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
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Come ride the rails with me!
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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, December 19, 2019 11:43 AM

Another great source of information is www.railroadiana.org  

Lots of good information on that site.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, December 19, 2019 3:32 PM

And for much more reason than respondents so far seem to indicate!  IIRC the common detonants in those things are subject to deterioration or crystallization over time, leaving them much more sensitive to shock or even vibration -- potential temperature excursion in storage spaces might contribute or accelerate this, too.  With nifty shrapnel from the metal case too...

I'm surprised no one has mentioned watches as a collectible.  Useful every day, a delight even for many non-railfans (including prospective heirs), a relatively enormous group of experts both in assessing 'genuineness' and FMV, and a fascinating subject in their own right.  A properly-'damaskeened' Waltham Maximus movement from the early 1900s is as beautiful as a piece of jewelry, and functional to boot; one of the later 'dieselproof' Hamilton/Elgin/Waltham watches is a technical triumph of American engineering.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, December 19, 2019 4:47 PM

I collected watches too for a while, and Mod-man's right, the damaskeened backplates from around 1895 to 1905 are a sight to see, absolutely stunning!

Watches are a whole 'nother area of expertise though.  Do your homework before you go chasing after them.  There's "railroad grade," "railroad themed," and just plain pocket watches.  Gold-filled (plated really) silver cased, or german-silver cased (usually called "silverode" or "silveroid") can be pretty reasonable, but solid gold cased, wow!  They can be up there! 

That being said, they ARE fun to own and wear! 

If you want to get into pocket watches Cooksey Shugart's books are the gold standard, but there's so much information in there they can be a little overwhelming.  Still, I've relied on them for years.

https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Price-Guide-Watches-Professional/dp/0891456570   

I don't think I'd rely on the prices too much, those go up and down, but as a reference work it's hard to beat.

 

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, December 19, 2019 6:08 PM

Ulrich

I collect books of all kinds, including railroad books. And I actually read them too. 

 

I've collected three of the same book.  I bought one and the others were gifts from my wife.

All three have a different cover picture.  I was paging through one when the "this seems familiar" feeling hit me.  Twice.

Because of that experience she no longer likes to pick up railroad books for me.

We won't mention the number of duplicate employee time tables and rule books I've obtained without knowing.  Although I've acquired a few duplicates on purpose.  Some were parts of a lot where I wanted something else in the lot or maybe to have on hand to trade or give to a friend.

Last count was some 35 rule books, not counting a few duplicates, and a multitude, again not counting duplicates, of employee time tables.  

Jeff

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, December 19, 2019 6:10 PM

There are really only three categories of railroad watch to collect: true 'railroad grade' watches from roughly post-1891 that fit Webb C. Ball's adopted criteria for a 'real' railroad watch; "investment-grade" (basically what 'concours' is to antique and classic cars, and similarly specialized and expensive; and early watches actually made and adjusted to work in railroad service.  You can get into the field comparatively quickly by learning the 'railroad-approved' requirements (16-size, open face, lever set, something locking the regulator, adjustment to 5 positions or better) and get rid of 99% of the idiocy, lies and scams at antique stores/shows and on eBay.  Yes, there are 12s watches of full railroad quality -- they are not railroadiana unless awarded or given to railroaders, and would never be accepted as a service watch.  Conversely, in the Depression there are a number of instances of very fancy European watches meeting the standards being recased and used...

If in doubt - start by learning the common and popular types, with the Hamilton 992 and Waltham Vanguard the most popular and the various Elgin B.W. Raymonds not far behind.  PM me if you want any detailed advice.

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Posted by Deggesty on Thursday, December 19, 2019 8:49 PM

Back when pocket watches were still common, a flagman told me that I could get a good watch by going to a pawn shop in New Orleans, for men, down there for a good time, would pawn their watches when they ran out of money before they ran out of time. I did buy a fairly good watch from an engineer who had a new watch. 

Johnny

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, December 19, 2019 10:36 PM

An enormous number of pocket watches went on the market when railroads first allowed wristwatches (Elgin had several B.W.Raymonds and Ball even had a self-winding Trainmaster -- you can tell these because they have a miniature regulator clamp.  There is even a Railroad Hamilton Electric, although I'm not sure they were made in quantity in both 500 and 505, that has this clamp.  

Then there was another huge sell off, first with the Accutrons (official watch of the Metroliner crews) and then the familiar 'railroad approved' quartz watches, any of which are almost guaranteed to keep time better than the finest mechanical railroad watch ever built.

Something to think about, though, is that much of the value of a railroad pocket watch is in the time and labor to adjust it to five positions.  Much of the 'historic' value as an artifact of railroading is therefore destroyed if the balance staff is broken or its pivots bent even slightly or the hairspring is damaged.  Of course if you just love carrying and showing the thing, just 'getting it ticking' and adjusting to mean time 'pendant up' (which is the position most people wear one) is enough ... but be prepared to keep it in that position (e.g. in a vest pocket on a hanger or chair back) instead of. 'dial up' or 'dial down' which are two more of the positions.

Traction guys have it easier; their watches did not need to be more than 3 positions, and there are some watches (notably Illinois, which with Hamilton was the grandest of the railroad-watch makers) which are built as well as most true railroad watches and have similar if not identical dials and hands.  (You will also see a select few with things like Electric Railrlad Special proudly printed, and these will get you special attention from trolley and inter urban buffs who appreciate what they're seeing.  

Remember too that 'real railroaders' weren't allowed to take the back off their watch to appreciate the damaskeening and twenty-umpteen 'smokestack jewels' -- only the railroad time service men xcould do that, and you handed your watch in every week to be checked, adjusted as necessary, and set to exact railroad-standard time.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, December 19, 2019 10:55 PM

Older railroad watches are fun, too, but you have to know more about them, particularly the English watches, with and without 'chronometer balances' (the type with adjusting screws around the rim) that were commonly used before the time of the Civil War.  One thing that is almost a given is that any English watch that calls itself a 'Railway Time Keeper will NOT be .. I think I have seen two out of thousands that are even reasonably railroad grade, and one of those was a thousand-dollar late-Victorian Russell.

Incidentally, Casey Jones bought his watch used... it is a plain-gilt 15-jewel Waltham in the low 4-million serial range, but excellently made in all the components that mattered.  Many watches like this are sold on eBay to people who appreciate railroad grade but don't need the fanciest showpiece movements.

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Posted by steve-in-kville on Friday, December 20, 2019 4:57 AM
This hobby gets more bazaar, yet exciting and intriguing, all at the same time!

Regards - Steve

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Posted by tree68 on Friday, December 20, 2019 7:24 AM

steve-in-kville
This hobby gets more bizarre, yet exciting and intriguing, all at the same time!

Every hobby has their niches - a lantern collector may collect only Dietz lanterns, f'rinstance, or only lanterns from a certain railroad or its components.

I collect fire department shoulder patches and die-cast models - partly because I can't afford a real fire truck...

LarryWhistling
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Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
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Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Friday, December 20, 2019 7:40 AM

Sounds familiar Tree.  I collect O gauge steam engines because I can't afford the real thing either!  Lady Firestorm feels your pain as well, she wants a 1940 Seagrave pumper but can't afford one either.  Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a die-cast model available.  I check the model fire engine tables at every train and toy show I visit, so far no luck.

Steve, Overmod's given you a good tutorial on pocket watches that I can't add to, but on a personal note I've got a 1903 Elgin railroad watch, which still keeps excellent time.

Since all the money in a railroad watch was in the movement and not the case, the base metal is showing through the gold finish on the back of the watch.  Not a problem for me, I look at the case and wonder about all the times that watch was in and out of some long-ago railroaders pocket.  If it could only talk! 

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Posted by steve-in-kville on Friday, December 20, 2019 7:43 AM
I collect calendars because I can't drop $300 on a single model locomotive!

Regards - Steve

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Friday, December 20, 2019 7:53 AM

steve-in-kville
I collect calendars because I can't drop $300 on a single model locomotive!
 

I can dig it, however most of mine I buy used at train shows.  It's cheaper that way!

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Posted by steve-in-kville on Friday, December 20, 2019 8:02 AM

Regards - Steve

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Friday, December 20, 2019 8:09 AM

Well isn't that the cutest thing?

When you get it you can play with it on the kitchen table and have the wife think you've totally lost it!   "Woo-woo!  Ding-ding-ding-ding!"

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Friday, December 20, 2019 8:27 AM

Ulrich

I collect books of all kinds, including railroad books. And I actually read them too. 

 

Yep- I have that affliction as well. 1,000, maybe more. Whistling

Thanks to Chris / CopCarSS for my avatar.

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