Discussion relating to the Penn Central, up until its 1976 inclusion in Conrail. Visit the Penn Central Railroad Historical Society for more information.

Moderator: JJMDiMunno

  by Engineer James
Well, grandpa has surprised me once again. While down in his workshop I found what appears to be a PC switch Key.... and the turn bar to open switches.... how rare are the keys?? It is gold, about 3 to 4 inches in length and has "PCRR" stamped into the top.....

  by shlustig
Not rare at all.

Prior to PC, the NYC had divisional switch locks and keys. Working on the Western District (Buffalo to Chicago) we had Buffalo, Lake, Toledo, and Western Div. keys, plus Detroit, Ohio, and CUT keys for the other divisions which we had rights on, plus the keys for the foreign lines over which we also ran.

The Toledo Div. had all of the divisional locks replaced on a single day. The only problem was that a full distribution of the PC switch keys was not made prior to that day. A lot of new locks were battered off so crews could do the work.
  by lbagg91833
Switch keys are collectable, tho you oughta search for old predecessor RRs keys, as T&OC-K&M-LS&MS-CCC&STL -TT-etcetcetc......No doubt your grandad left you an artifact.....the real challenge would be to find/locate an old CONDUCTORS/AGENTS revenue stamp for remitting cash to the AUDITORS.....last RR show I attended they were going for $300-$400 each. regds and your KEY is as valuable as GOLD!! LARRY B

  by Noel Weaver
The New York Central and New Haven Railroad switch locks were replaced
early in the Penn Central years by Pennsylvania Railroad switch locks
which became the standard for Penn Central switches. This same lock
was also used on the Long Island Rail Road during the period.
I do not remember just when this happened but some years back, all of
the railroads went to a high security switch lock, first on single track
branch lines that have no automatic block signal system but eventually
all switches and most everything else.
The New Haven switch keys went out of use very soon after the locks were replaced on the hand thrown switches as the NHRR had separate
keys for practically all of the telephone boxes. The New York Central locks also went out of use quite quickly but there remained a good number
of metal and wooden telephone and bill boxes where the lock was built in
to the box rather than a padlock and they remained much later, some
even into Conrail.
The high security keys do not make as attractive of a collector's item as
the older keys do and in addition they are much harder to get as the
railroads tended to make us sign for them and kept records of their
The worst key that I came accross was a plastic key that was distributed
by either late day Conrail or Metro-North in the early 1980's. My first
sight of one of these was just plain disgust.
Most switch keys were steel, brass or bronze.
In my firing days and early days as an engineer, I carried a New Haven,
New York Central and Pennsylvania/Long Island key. Some New Haven
people also carried a Boston and Maine key for use in Springfield where
we used Boston and Maine trackage to reach Yard One which was the
main freight yard for the Boston and Maine and the New Haven in
Springfield at the time.
Not all valid switch keys had the railroad's initials nor a number on them.
Noel Weaver

  by lvrr325
I could have bought some brand new NOS never used PC keys for less than $20, the brass switch lock keys, in November '06.

  by Engineer James
WOW $20! thats suprising.