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Thread: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

  1. #1

    Question Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    I am looking for any information about a Saint Louis & San Francisco Railway (Frisco) key that I purchased many years ago at an antique shop in Flagstaff, Arizona.

    I am assuming it is a switch padlock key(?) I would be interested to know anything at all about it, including the era (approximate age) and the meaning of the letter "S" stamped on the back.

    I've searched the internet and been unable to find one like it, or any information about it.



    Thanks,

    ~Rick

  2. #2

    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    I think the "S" on the back means this key was a Signal department key. Most keys stamped in the '70s just said FRISCO with the STL & SF keys being older. I'd say as worn as that one is it was issued in the '60s or earlier. Hope this helps, Steve Signal Maintainer BNSF railway.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    I am no antiques appraiser, but based on the name stamped on the key, I would guess it was considerably older than that. According to George Drury's "Historical Guide to North American Railroads", the St. Louis & San Francisco RailWAY (as opposed to "RailROAD") was organized in 1875 to take over the Missouri trackage of the former Atlantic & Pacific. That corporate name lasted through various corporate troubles until 1896, when it was replaced with the new moniker St. Louis & San Francisco RailROAD.

    They might have continued using old tooling or key blanks that still bore the "St L & S F Ry" lettering for a few years, but the "Ry" suggests to me a date between 1875 and 1896. Perhaps others, more knowledgeable, can clarify things further.

    Bradley A. Scott

    NOTE: Original version of comment contained a factual error. Corrected by original poster on 4/7/08. Corrected text in italics. Note also further information in subsequent responses below.
    Last edited by Bradley A. Scott; 04-07-2008 at 12:22 PM. Reason: Corrected error.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    The first St. Louis and San Francisco RY Co. was incorporated 9/10/1876 to succeed the bankrupt Atlantic and Pacific RR Co. which was incorporated 7/27/1866. This was then replaced due to bankruptcy by the St. Louis and San Francisco RR Co. which was incorporated in 6/29/1896. This was then replaced due to bankruptcy by the second St. Louis and San Francisco RY Co. which was incorporated 8/24/1916. This was then replaced due to bankruptcy by the St. Louis- (hyphen not and) San Francisco RY Co. which was incorporated 1/1/1947. I would suspect that the key belongs to the second RY period, 1916-1947.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    I received a similar comment on the Trains.com forum from 'diningcar' that I would like to share...

    It has been my experience that keys such as this which are marked 'S' are Switch Keys. Keys for other purposes, ie., Tool House, Signal, Motor Car were marked to so indicate in earlier years but those designations diminished after WW II. I believe you have an early (1900-1940) switch key.
    And, I want to express my appreciation for all of you who have taken the time so far to comment... Thanks.

    ~Rick
    Last edited by RGoodell; 04-08-2008 at 06:45 AM.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    I've corrected a significant error in my original comment above. I typed in the wrong date for the change from StL&SF Ry to StL&SF RR. ( !!!) Thanks to Larry Shankle for getting it right.

    However, the information he gives about the 1916-1947 corporate name does not match the sources I have (Drury's Hist. Guide to North Am. RRs; reprints of the 1926 and 1945 Official Guides; the historical preface to Joe Collias's "Frisco Power"; various public and employee timetables of the period, etc.), all of which show the Frisco having the corporate name "StL [hyphen] SF Railway" during the 1916-1947 period.

    So... just based on the lettering on the key, I'm sticking with my (revised) guess of 1875-1896. However, I have no specialized knowledge of the appearance or function of keys like this, so bear that in mind.

    BAS
    Last edited by Bradley A. Scott; 04-07-2008 at 01:05 PM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    My names and dates are based on copies of the actual incorporation papers. Collias and many others have many inacuracies in their history of the Frisco. I have spent several years researching the family tree and while I doubt that I have a complete record, I have compiled the most comprehensive list I have ever seen, with 246 Railroads. I stand on my information as given previously.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    I'm bringing back this old thread with the hope that someone has further information on this subject.

    A few years back I read an article in one of the older (1920's - 1940's ??) Frisco employee magazines in which a retiring lifetime employee mentioned that he still had the original switch key which he had been issued when he was hired many years earlier and that he still used it on the job (it still "worked"). If I am remembering the article correctly it would imply that this same switch key would operate any Frisco switch lock used in the 20th century and perhaps the late 1800's as well.

    ADDED NOTE: I FOUND THE ARTICLE (POSTED BELOW) AND AT LEAST GOT SOME OF IT ALMOST RIGHT.

    A few years ago I obtained a very old, but undated, brass FRISCO switch lock (pictured here) which I was unable to open with a standard FRISCO switch key. They are just slightly too large to fit into the lock. I recently discovered a much older switch key which seems to fit the description above. Not only does it fit into the old lock, it will operate even the latest FRISCO switch locks dated from the late 1970's.

    The keys pictured are (upper) a "standard" later issue FRISCO switch key and the old STL&SF key which I found.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails FRISCO Switch Lock Old.jpg   Switch Key 2.jpg   Switch Key 1.jpg  
    Last edited by john; 07-06-2011 at 04:13 PM. Reason: corrected late 1900's to late 1800's and added note

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    Pictured here are some more FRISCO keys. Am I correct in assuming that RT represents Repair Track?

    Once again a very old key is pictured along with one from the latter years. Both keys will operate the lock shown which is stamped with the date 1962. Notice that the lock is stamped STL&SF, not SL-SF or FRISCO.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails RT Key 2.jpg   RT Lock 1962 1.jpg   RT Lock 1962 2.jpg   RT Key 1.jpg  
    Last edited by john; 07-04-2011 at 08:52 AM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    One final photograph:

    The steel Adlake manufactured SL SF RR switch lock pictured here carries a stamped 19. This appears to represent the year 1919. (either of the above switch keys will operate it). In the later years the Adlake switch locks used by the frisco carried the date stamped into the "head" of the hinge pin.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Switch Lock 1919 maybe.jpg  

  11. #11
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    Apr 1971
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    Topeka
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    685

    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    The Frisco and MP interchanged in so many places, that they used the same switch lock key, I know because I have both Frisco and MP locks and keys, and either one will operate either lock.
    Richard E. Napper
    Frisco Northern Model Railroad
    Modeling the Northern Division and Sheffield Steel in Kansas City, MO and Coal Mines in Missouri

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    Not exactly the same key, but Missouri Pacific and Frisco switch keys were very similiar and could be interchanged. It may be that both patterns can be traced all the way back to the Atlantic and Pacific origin?

    In the attached photos the top key is an old Missouri Pacific switch key. The middle key is the old STL&SF key which I recently found and the bottom key is (I have been told) a "wartime" Missouri Pacific switch key made from steel instead of brass.

    Does anyone know if FRISCO ever issued steel switch keys?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails MoPac STL&SF comparison 1.jpg   MoPac STL&SF comparison 2.jpg  

  13. #13

    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    Yes, I have a steel tapered barrel key marked St.L.&S.F.R.R., serif letters made by Ritchie Bros., Newark, NJ,. This should be post 1896. It is a beautiful key. I will try and post a picture tomorrow. Jeff

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    In the joint track (RI and Frisco) at Oklahoma City Union Station all switches had two locks (one of each railroad). My Rock Island switch key worked just fine in the Frisco lock. Also on the RI, the S stood for scale as in scale track or scale house.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    I relocated the article (or a similar one) about the length of service of FRISCO switch keys. This is found in the June 1931 issue p29 of the employee magazine (online Springfield library). This article stated that W. A. Franks, a bridge carpenter, had just turned in a worn out switch key (in May 1931) which he had received on May 1, 1904 from a former carpenter who told him that he had previously used it for 20 years. This would indicate that the
    final" FRISCO switch key pattern (or something "close enough") was in use from at least the early 1880's until the end 100 years later!

  16. #16

    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    Steel Frisco switch lock key. This is a nice tapered barrel style with ring. The marking would indicate post 1896 but style would be right for this era or earlier (1896 and before would be RY rather than RR). Mfg. is Ritchie & Son rather than Ritchie Brothers. There is also a brass key, exact style as the steel by same Ritchie & Son company. Jeff Cooney
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails IMG_0522.JPG   IMG_0521.JPG  
    Last edited by frisco4301; 07-05-2011 at 05:47 PM.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    A friend picked up this lock in Pueblo CO for me a few days ago. Maybe someone can tell me how much it is worth? Paid 30 dollars. I would also like to see about getting a key for it too.
    Any info is appreciated.


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    Thank You,
    Tom Holley

  18. #18

    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    Quote Originally Posted by gjslsffan View Post
    A friend picked up this lock in Pueblo CO for me a few days ago. Maybe someone can tell me how much it is worth? Paid 30 dollars. I would also like to see about getting a key for it too.
    Any info is appreciated.


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    Tom,

    That is a very nice find. With regard to finding a key, I wonder if a modern key might fit. I have a modern Frisco lock with a steel case. The key hole on your lock looks very close to the key hole on the modern lock. I have an older, well-worn key and several new "uncirculated" Frisco keys that both work in the lock. Perhaps we can strike a deal for one of the "new" keys, and see if it will work.

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    lauditor temporis acti

  19. #19
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    Thanks Karl Will PM you tonight.
    Thank You,
    Tom Holley

  20. #20

    Default Re: Seeking Info: SL&SF Key

    The manufacturer of the lock is "Fraim". Very nice lock to have. I have seen this lock in the $150+ range. Jeff

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