Locomotive bell needs history and ID help please
December 29, 2008 at 5:29 pm #11028
After reading through several forums here, and the Railroad collector’s site, I have come to the conclusion that I have a RR bell, with a date stamped “1847” and two other numbers stamped: “81” and “89”. (see attached photos) The bell came to me as a gift from my children, but without any history, and hung in a modern frame for display. It lacks a yolk and uprights, and the clapper does not appear to be original, or at least augmented and modified. It measures 16 7/8″ at the mouth of the bowl, and stands 12″ to the top with another 2″ turned “knob” on top. There is detailed hand “checkering” around the the top also but the bell shows lathe turning rings top to bottom, where I thought the surface would be smooth. There are several “dings” (ha ha) or nicks indicating abuse or at least neglect. These add up to the appearance of an attempt to restore the bell, though crude and incomplete. The interior has the green coating of a bronze or brass bell, though I have not done any acid test to determine which, as I fear further damage. I hope some of the members here can provide direction for parts, or history, or any other information regarding this bell.
Thanks in advance,
December 29, 2008 at 10:17 pm #14327
Your bell certainly has the shape, size, and appearance of a RailRoad Bell. Usually they are polished smooth although I have seen some that exhibited lathe grooves. The clapper is clearly not original. It could also be a ship bell, but usually these have the letters “US”, “U.S.N.”, or “U. S. A.” on a bell of that size. I suspect that the bell was stripped of its cast steel hardware in preparation to be recycled as scrap metal prior to someone saving it from destruction. That may also explain some of the distress marks on the bell. To my knowledge, no one is currently making yokes and brackets for railroad bells. Each railroad had its own design and mounting for the engine that the bell was made for, although bells were often recycled. You can make a sturdy wooden “A” frame from which you can mount this bell quite reasonably. If you want to get a bit more elaborate, you can get a local welder to fashion a frame from steel plate or square tubing and mount the bell on a post. It will be difficult to find authentic hardware that will fit this bell.
Harry Long, MD
December 29, 2008 at 11:03 pm #14328
I appreciate any and all info!
While I hope to find authentic mounting hardware, I concede that is unlikely. I have several ideas for display mounting, thanks!
Do the numbers stamped on top relate to casting date, and the two engine numbers on which this bell was mounted? Railroadiana.org refered to several numbers stamped on the same bell as it was re-used…
Here’s a close up of the numbers and one of the checkering.
December 30, 2008 at 6:14 pm #14329
Each company had a different numbering system to keep track of their bells. I don’t know what they mean. The checkering on the shoulder of the bell is from the lathe when the bell was turned. This may have been from the original machining, but since these bells were usually polished to a smooth finish, I suspect that this bell was re-turned at a later date on a lathe to remove distress marks and never underwent its final polishing. It would certainly be interesting to get some input from someone more expert on railroad bells than me.
December 30, 2008 at 9:09 pm #14330lucky13Member
My knowledge of locomotive bells is next to nothing but 1847 does not represent the year. This bell is probably first quarter 20th century, maybe a bit later. A good machine shop can make a clapper that will look much better than what you have. It’s a handsome bell and I’d mount it from a 4 by 4 wood beam somewhere in the house such as a family or rec room. Stuff like this displayed outdoors is tempting to thieves.
December 30, 2008 at 10:30 pm #14331
Thank you both!
So the numbers remain a mystery….
Can you imagine a machine shop turning this bell smooth?
A nice clapper would be great!
The interior/exterior debate continues here, and theft is one argument for interior display.
An oak “Liberty Bell” type yoke on oak “A” frames is an interior mounting option.
Geees an original cast train mount would be sweet, though…
Thanks again for all input.
December 30, 2008 at 10:56 pm #14332lucky13Member
I wouldn’t have the bell smoothed because it will remove metal. I advise against applying a protective coat of lacquer. The stuff dulls over time and is stubborn to remove. It’s small enough to be easily hand-polished when needed. Leave the interior green patina. A good woodworker can fashion an oak mounting and the polished bell will look stunning against it.
January 12, 2009 at 3:42 pm #14333
January 12, 2009 at 4:16 pm #14334
I’ve contacted Larry Curran already, who states that the foundry he used is closed and the castings are no longer available.
But Thanks, your efforts are appreciated!
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