Railroad took security very seriously as a miscreant moving a switch on the tracks could result in huge damage or loss of life. Additionally, railroads used locks to secure their own facilities, supplies, cars, tools, and other valuables, not to mention the valuable freight being shipped by the express companies, or others moving goods around the country.
As railroads expanded and production of locks advanced many different patterns and styles evolved from the fancy “cast back” heart shaped to simpler brass locks to steel locks with stamped initials. Any lock that is cast or stamped with railroad initials or names is collectible and if it looks like any of the locks shown below it could be worth a lot. A lock does not need a key to be valuable, but it is important that it has the original undamaged key cover, that the shackle is not damaged or frozen, that marks and lettering are visible and not overly worn, and that the patina has not been cleaned or polished. Most collectors place a huge value on the patina of a railroad lock and if it is cleaned and polished it can greatly destroy the value.