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Railroad Date Nails F.Y.I.

Railroad Date Nails, F.Y.I.
By Jeff Jargosch

Around 1899 railroads became aware of the coast of replacing worn and rotting cross ties. There seemed to be no good way to keep record of how long a tie had been in place. One way to do this was through the use of a large headed iron nail with numbers cast into it. The numbers showed the date the tie was installed in the roadbed. Records could now be kept and the tie life determined.

Each railroad ordered its own supply to its own specifications. The numbers, as well as the head shape, were different for each railroad. Supposedly, over 4,000 different types exist. Around World War II the practice of using date nails stopped. These nails were also used on bridge timbers and phone polls.

The Rahway Valley Railroad took part in this use of date nails. See examples of R.V. date nails in this article and get out on the right of way. Maybe you'll get lucky. Don't get arrested!

Drawings by Jeff Jargosch, 4/2013.

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