Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Large Bells Seeking information about 2 large brass bells

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    • #11733

      At a recent yard sale, I acquired two large brass or bronze bells. I believe them to possibly be ship bells or railroad bells, but I’m not sure. I would love to find out more information on them: possible history, what the engravings mean, and the value.

      One is 17” with the yoke (?) and the base has a curvature. On the top of the bell it is stamped Z 0 17/32 DZ (see picture below).

      The other is 19” without yoke. On the face of the bell in raised lettering is N & H/B (See picture in other posting).

      Please see our second posting for the photos of the 19”

    • #16318

      Here are the photos of the 19” bell as described above. Let us know your thoughts!

    • #16319

      The first bell is a railroad engine bell. I can give no other information concerning its origin. The second bell has a unique crown that would have been mounted to a wooden yoke with a series of “U” bolts in the style of English bells. It was probably used as a farm bell.
      Harry Long, MD

    • #16320

      I never have the luck to find things like these at yard sales.

      Most “big bell” fans on this site appear to agree.
      Bells that don’t have a specific history can be polished.
      Bells were made to be polished and maintained.

      I don’t suggest polishing the Liberty Bell, but run of the foundry vintage bells appear to increase in value when properly polished and maintained.

    • #16321

      Is the second one tuned to musical note B? If so, it was probably part of a chime or carillon. N&H might indicate the maker.

    • #16322

      The first of the bells illustrated is a locomotive bell, from an engine built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. From about 1842 to the 1930s Baldwin stamped a code on most component parts of the engine, even the back of Builders plates, and bells. The numbers which you can see quite clearly stamped into the bell give some interesting information. Although it does not identify the engine’s number nor railroad, it tells something about the engine itself – in a weird code.

      I can see that your bell has the code “10 17/32 D 1” stamped into it.

      The 10 (this is a 10, not Z0) indicates that it has a total of 10 wheels and the D indicates 3 pairs of driving wheels. As there is no fraction 1/3 nor 1/4, there is no trailing truck, so the wheel arrangement is 4-6-0 (i.e. a 4-wheel leading bogie and 6 driving wheels). The fraction shown 17/32 indicates that there are cylinders of 2 sizes, being 11 1/2 inches and 19 inches in diameter. The 1 (not Z) at the end of the set of stampings shows that this was the first locomotive in this type.

      Having cylinders of 2 different sizes shows that the engine was a compound type. Normal (or simple) engines had two cylinders of the same dimensions. Steam enters the cylinder, does its work and is exhausted to atmosphere, creating the rhythmic chuff, chuff, chuff. For a time, Baldwin was a proponent of the compounding system, whereby after being used in one cylinder, the steam, at a lower pressure, was passed to a second, larger cylinder, to extract more work before being released to atmosphere. Samuel Vauclain of the Baldwin Works designed the system and engines using his design are called “Vauclain Compounds”. Quite a number of engines of this design were constructed and worked quite well, with proponents shouting the praises. It was claimed that such engines were more efficient, but there was a cost in higher maintenance etc. So the Vauclain Compounds are somewhat of a novelty and rarity.

      Thus, the engine was the first of a group of Vauclain Compound 4-6-0 engines having 11 1/2 and19 inch diameter cylinders. I would expect from these details that it was an express passenger engine.

      So yes, this is an interesting bell. Its age cannot be known accurately but such compounds were in favour in the latter part of the 19th century into the early 20 th century. Teddy.

    • #16323
      Willie B. Herd

      Both bells are made of brass.

      The second one is most likely a church bell of European origin….try searching “N and H” for the maker.

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