Antique Railroad Switch Lock Keys Value Guide

Keys were an integral part of the railroad and are a major area of collecting for some folks who specialize only in keys. Keys for locks were used by employees to access any area, switch, or item that had been secured by a lock. Keys are usually stamped with a code that describes what they open, the maker’s hallmark, and usually the railroad’s initials. Older style keys frequently have fancier serif stamped letters, and a tapered barrel and will bring higher prices. Railroads often made many copies of a key so that any employee that needed to could have one, because of this it is still possible even today to match keys with some locks, and having both as a set can increase value. However, keys are mostly collected alone so the value of a key is not dependent on having a lock that goes with it. Some collectors will try to collect every type of key from a certain railroad, others focus on interesting or unique designs, and some will try to collect keys from as many railroads as they can. Many keys can be bought for less than $50, but the rarest keys can fetch over $1000!

Some codes commonly stamped on railroad keys:
BCC – Baggage Car Cellar
C – Car
DCC – Dining Car Cellar
ED – Eastern Division
HC – Hand Car
IH – Ice House
MC – Mail Car
M OF W – Maintenance of Way
OB – Oil Box
PH – Pump House
RT – Repair Track
R&B – Roadway & Bridge
SCALE – Scale
SIGNAL – Signal
SY – Stockyard
S – Switch
TB – Toolbox
TH – Tool House
TR – Tool Rack
WD – Western Division
WS – Water Service

Common Maker’s Marks:
ADLAKE – Adlake
A&W CO CHICAGO (oval shaped or in a hexagon) – A&W Company
FRAIM (in a banner or keystone shape) – FRAIM Co.
FS HDW CO (in a diamond shape) – FS Hardware Co.
HANDLAN-BUCK MFG. Co. – Handlan Buck
M.M. BUCK & Co. ST. LOUIS MO. – MM Buck and Co.
SHERBURNE & CO. BOSTON, MASS – Sherburne & Co.
SLAYMAKER – Slaymaker

Do you need help finding the value of your antique railroadiana item? We can help with single items or entire collections, and we provide a hassle free service and most of the time we can answer contacts the same day. In order to help you we will need to see pictures of your item or items so the best way to get started is to email pictures to us at

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