Tie Dateing Nails / Markers

Tie Dateing Nails / Markers

Today, we nail down dates. The University of Houston’s College of Engineering presents this series about the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them. A group of local hobbyists runs a large model rail system. Their models are much larger than the model trains we usually see. Some actually carry people. This issue has a feature titled “To Date a Spike”. It tells about something called a date nail. I didn’t know about date nails, so I went looking. Their distinguishing feature is a two digit number stamped in the head — the last two digits of a date. We have to guess the century, but that’s easy since they were used for less than a century.

Railroad Date Nail Cufflinks

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Date Nails and Railroad Tie Preservation. By Jeff Oaks. Indianapolis, Ind.: Univ. of Indianapolis Archaeology and Forensics Lab. Special Report No. 3,

Date nails were tagging devices utilized by railroads to visually identify the age of a railroad tie. Octave Chanute , railroad and aviation pioneer, is credited with the idea for using date nails as a way of tracking the life of railroad ties. An example would be a Southern Pacific Railroad nail with the marking “01” stamped on the head of the nail. The “01” would identify the nail as being hammered into a railroad tie in the year Date nail use has dropped dramatically since the midth century and the advent of more modern maintenance of way equipment.

Date nails on American railroads were phased out in the s. Ties are no longer marked in this manner in North American practice, and the nails themselves are now sought after by railroadiana collectors. The Southern Railway never made use of date nails. Date nails are also found on utility poles , sometimes in conjunction with a nail showing the height of the pole in feet.

The types of nails may have distinguishing characteristics, such as the date nail having raised digits and the “height nail” having incised digits. The pole height will be a multiple of five e.


Briefly, a date nail is a nail with the date stamped in its head. For example, a nail with a “41” is from Date nails were driven into railroad ties, bridge timbers, utility poles, mine props, and other wooden structures for record keeping purposes. I concentrate primarily on the nails used by railroads. Most date nails are steel, though many are copper, aluminum, malleable iron, or brass.

Date nails were driven into railroad ties, bridge timbers, utility poles, mine There are over 2, different date nails used by North American railroads that show.

Few railroad artifacts capture the eye like date nails. These small thumbnail-sized steel pieces of Americana bear a 2-digit number indicating the year a crosstie was manufactured. The various shapes and styles make each one unique and reflect changing styles across the decades. While walking a line with permission from our friends at the railroad!

We also realized we had an obligation to share some of the history behind these unique artifacts. Date nails served as a quality control measure allowing railroads and tie manufacturers to determine the lifespan of a wood timber crosstie. Through testing, they also helped as experts refined treatment processes, identified variations in performance among species of trees and determined how environmental conditions and climates impacted tie lifespan. Shape serves as a more distinguishing characteristic among date nails.

Most are round or square, however, diamond and pentagon shapes were also among the shapes used. Either due to wear or manufacturing, some date nails appear to combine shapes like a square cast atop a circular head as seen on the 14 and 17 in the first photo. Numbers were either raised or inset during the casting of the nails. Each style came with its advantages and disadvantages. Inset letters might fill in with dirt and soot making them difficult to see, however, raised figures deformed more easily when struck during installation.

Note how the edges of the raised numbers in the freshly harvested date nails have been flattened in some places.

railroad date nails price guide

InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website. In our images above and also in Alyssa’s railroad spike photos below you’ll notice that the head of these large railaroad spikes sport an offset head. The larger lip of the offset head on these large spikes, also called crampons, was used to secure the bottom edge of the rail to the steel plate upon which the rail rests.

As the railroad spike is driven through the plate and onwards into the railroad tie or sleeper , the combination of spike, tie-plate, and sleeper hold the rail in place in the stone-covered bed ballast of the railway. However a patent search finds slightly-later dates and inventors for citation, as we illustrate below.

This is a collection of vintage railroad date nails circa s. The collection features a complete decade from the year to The iron nail spikes were.

Common place in the late th century through the mid th century, Date Nails were driven into railroad ties, utility poles, bridge timbers, and other wooden structures for record keeping purposes. Today, Date Nails are highly sought after artifacts by Railroadiana collectors. Following the Civil War , the railroad race was in full swing. In one such race, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific would compete for government favor; with the line that built the most miles being rewarded with cash and land.

In order to keep pace with this expansion, the timber needed to produce crossties was in high demand. Left untreated, wooden crossties had a life expectancy of only five to seven years. Based on the frenetic pace of laying new track and the subsequent demand of timber supplies, rail companies hatched the idea of treating the ties to increase their life expectancy. Not knowing which type of wood and treatment methods would be the most effective and economical, railroads began to experiment with varying treatments in the mid to lates.

To monitor the results of differing test sections of crossties, railroads settled on the idea of using Date Nails for record keeping purposes. The oldest known Date Nail used in the U. Most Date Nails were made of steel, though copper, aluminum, iron, and even brass were also used. Nails were driven into ties at either the treatment facility or at the time they were installed into the track.

The Rusty Bunch

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Have you ever heard of a railroad date nail? Date nails were first invented in the s in Europe and used by the American railroads from the s and s.

Created by Ward Wallau. For an industrial statement piece that really hammers the sentiment home, this set of cufflinks is right on the mark. Each set of captivating cufflinks is made from authentic date nails in use from In order to record the date of construction, these steel markers were driven into railroad ties, bridge timbers, utility poles, mine props, and other wooden structures.

In its relatively short history the only significant change to this system occurred in , when the markers switched styles, from indented to raised dates. By , date nail use declined rapidly and today they survive as relics of an antiquated method of date keeping during the height of America’s Industrial Revolution. In order to turn these historical pieces into handsome shirt accents, the shank is milled down to create a post-style cufflink.

Railroad Date nails

Hey there! Because we love wood grain at the WGC, we decided to make a unique wall hook rack for our powder bathroom… with railroad spikes! Woo wee, we love this thing and how it looks in there! Read more. A few ideas of re-tooling those garden implements for a new job A few if these I am going to use this year

In Canada, CN use to mark the year that a railroad tie was put in place with a dateing nail. If you have I believe at some point most all railroads used date nails.

Forum Rules. Advertise Here! What is it? What Is It? The Best Of Results 1 to 9 of 9. Found in old RR bed that had been taken up, because the line went out of business. Date nail was found across from old RR Depot. Attached Thumbnails.

Date Nail Cuff Links

The collection features a complete decade from the year to The iron nail spikes were driven into railroad ties for record keeping purposes. When shopping for vintage clothing online, it is best to look at the actual garment measurements for sizing rather than the tags, as marked sizes have changed over the years and can differ between designers.

Also, many times this information is missing.

Antique Railroad Telegraph Date Nail Number 46 Metal ‘s Old Date Nails. Antique Railroad Telegraph Date Nail Number 46 Metal /’s Old Date Nails.

He returned the next morning at 2 o’clock. Wiswell and a friend who accompanied him, John Evans of Mountainside, N. Between and , railroads placed date nails in ties to keep a record of the life of the ties. Utility companies followed later with the use of date nails in their poles. The nailhead carries the date, often the last two figures of the year. Wiswell said.

Date Nails #PartySafe

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