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CPRR & SPRR Brass Switch and Car Locks

Central and Southern Pacific Railroad Switch and Car Locks

Two sizes of brass padlocks were manufactured at the Central Pacific
shops in Sacramento for use on the line. Prior to 1885 these were marked on the back either "CPRR of Cal" or "CPRR Co." Later locks were also marked "S.P. Co." (Southern Pacific Company), the holding company controversially created by the CP management to "lease" and jointly operate the CPRR and the SPRR.

The smaller size "switch" lock (4" x 2 7/16" x 3/4"; 15 oz) was designed to secure a
switch stand and can also be distinguished by the reverse "9" shape of the keyhole known as a "switch cut." The larger size "car" lock (4 3/8" x 2 3/4" x 13/16"; 1 lb. 7 oz) was used to lock freight cars while in transit and had a "straight cut" keyhole. In addition some of these locks were marked "S" or "C" on the shackle but a great many were not. In general the smaller switch locks are found only along the CP and SP grades in California, Nevada, and Utah
while the larger car locks are sometimes found along the grades of other lines because of the interchange of cars.

Locks were dated on the back when they were made with both the month and year of manufacture. In the examples illustrated above the S.P. Co. switch lock is marked with the figures "3" and "90" for March, 1890, and the CPRR of Cal car lock is marked with "2" and "84" for February, 1884. -BCC

Courtesy of the Bruce C. Cooper Collection.

Images courtesy of:

Note:  Heidi J. Wills reports that a similar December 1883 "CPRR Co." brass lock having a key hole in the shape of a reversed "9" takes a SP Co CS-4-s key.

CPRR Switch Lock and Key Set

CPRR Switch Lock and Key. Courtesy Mick Needham. CPRR Switch Lock and Key. Courtesy Mick Needham.
CPRR Switch Lock and Key. Courtesy Mick Needham.

This is a switch lock which is smaller than a car and usually didn't get the date which it was put into service stamped on the perimeter like the bigger more common car lock. The car lock went on every car so there are far more of them than the switch locks which were few and far between in comparison, and consequently far rarer.

Courtesy of Mick Needham.

C.P.R.R. of Cal. brass lock by "A.M. Adams - Patented 1870 - Sacramento, Cal."


C.P.R.R. of Cal. brass railroad lock. Maker's stamp on the reverse side. "A.M. Adams - Patented 1870 - Sacramento, Cal."
The first image is where the lock was found – unearthed in western Nevada.

Courtesy Ivan & Catherine Oakeson who also recommend the Utah bottle collector's website.

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