Railroadiana refers to a unique collection of items and memorabilia that pertain to railroads and train travel. The term has been coined to describe antique and vintage items related to railway systems, including posters, lanterns, timetables, locks, keys, train schedules, signs, lanterns, tools, and even railway dining car china.
Collectors of railroadiana often focus on items from the “Golden Age of Railroads,” which spanned roughly from the mid-19th century to the early part of the 20th century. During this period, railroads were the primary mode of transportation, and railway expansion played a crucial role in industrial and economic development in the US, Europe, and other parts of the world.
One of the most popular and valuable pieces of railroadiana to collect is railroad lanterns. These were used as signal lights and safety lights to mark tracks. Collectors look for lanterns that bear the name of a particular railroad, location or manufacturer. A rare and highly collectible railroad lantern is the “Adams & Westlake” model, which was made in Chicago in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Another highly prized item in railroadiana is dining car china. These pieces feature the logo of a particular railroad and were used in dining cars to serve meals to passengers. Collectors look for complete sets of dishes that include cups, saucers, plates and silverware.
Tools used by railroad workers, such as hammers, wrenches, and pliers, are also sought after by collectors. These well-worn tools are often marked with the initials of the worker who used them, giving them a unique backstory and provenance that makes them more valuable.
Vintage railway posters and signs are another popular area of railroadiana collecting. Posters had colorful and intricate designs that advertised destinations and modes of travel. Many of these posters featured famous artists like Norman Rockwell, and original copies can fetch high prices at auctions.
Finally, railway keys are highly collectible pieces of railroadiana. Railway keys were used to unlock signal boxes, signal posts, and switch points, each of which had a unique key. Collectors look for keys associated with specific railroads or locations.
In conclusion, railroadiana is a fascinating and diverse collectible, with many different types of items sought after by collectors who share an interest in the history and legacy of railroads, and their contribution to transportation, industry and culture. Items like lanterns, dining car china, tools, posters, signs, and keys offer a tangible connection to the great age of America’s railroads and the lively culture that grew up around them.