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Central Pacific Locks
by Dan Getts

THE CENTRAL PACIFIC RAILROAD began construction eastward from Sacramento, California in 1863 and met with the Union Pacific Railroad at Promontory, Utah in 1869. The joining of these two railroads completed a vital link commonly known as the transcontinental railroad. The CPRR was leased to the Southern Pacific Company in 1885: the corporate history of the CPRR and the SP is complex and will not be discussed further here. Those who are interested can read an excellent overview of the CPRR's corporate history in the 1998 summer issue of the Railroadiana Express.

Fortunately, many CPRR artifacts survived for us to collect, preserve, enjoy, and research. Now on to the locks... The following companies furnished locks to the Central Pacific (note: lock dimensions do not include the chain clevis on the bottom).

Ritchie and Boyden Company: — stamped "Patent ext'd Aug. 23, 1867" on the shackle front: "Ritchie & Boyden Newark, N.J." to the left of the drop (dust cover): and "C.P.R.R. (over) S." on the reverse raised panel. The locks measure approximately 4" by 2 1/2" and are keyed as switch locks. Other locks may exist. These locks are likely the earliest used since this company existed from 1853-1870. The author has seen examples of this lock but no photos were available.

H. Ritchie and Company: — stamped "H. Ritchie & Co Newark N.J. Patent ext'd Aug. 23, 1867" to the left of the drop and stamped "C.P.R.R." on the reverse panel. Lock dimensions are approximately 4" by 2 1/2" and are keyed as switch locks: again, others may exist. No photos available.


The T. Slaight Company: — (see photos 1 and 2) stamped "T. Slaight Patent Dec. 12, 65., Newark, N.J." to the left of the drop and stamped "C.P.R.R (over) CAL." on the reverse panel. The locks measure approximately 3 3/4" by 2 1/2" and are keyed as car locks: others may exist.


A.M. Adams: — (photos 3 and 4) stamped "A.M. Adams Patd 1870 Sacramento Cal" or only "A.M. Adam Patd 1870" to the left of the drop and stamped "C.P.R.R. of Cal." on the reverse panel. Locks are known in car 4 1/2" by 2 3/4") and in switch (approximately 3 3/4" by 2 1/2”). Other locks are possible.

Two additional varieties of Central Pacific locks are known and both are void of maker's marks.


Variety 1: — (photo 5) stamped "C.P.R.R. of CAL." on reverse panel and also stamped "11 83" on reverse. Locks known are car (4 1/2" by 2 3/4") and switch (4" by 2 3/8"). Others may exist.


Variety 2: — stamped "C.P.R.R. Co." on reverse panel (photo 6): known locks are keyed in car (4 1/2" by 2 3/4"); and switch; "300" (photo 7) stamped on shackle front; and "72" (photo 8); also stamped on front of the shackle. The latter three locks all measure approximately 4" by 2 3/8".


The lock keyway for the "switch", "300", and "72" can be described as a "reverse 9" opening; the car lock keyway tapers out downward evenly on each side.

The two varieties of locks without maker marks are thought to have been made by the Central Pacific in their Sacramento, California shops. The author has seen locks stamped with various dates on the back with month and year numbers ranging between 8-77 and 6-87. Locks date-marked after the lease of the CPRR to the Southern Pacific Company in 1885 are possibly locks that were previously stamped "CPRR Co." and later date-marked by the S.P. Co. for their use. The author believes it is also possible that the A. M. Adams Company of Sacramento furnished some of these nonmaker-marked locks to the CPRR.

The Southern Pacific continued use of the switch, car, "72" and "300" locks into the 20th Century; the "300" and "72" keyed locks were apparently discontinued when the "CS" series of cast (raised lettered) Southern Pacific locks were introduced around 1912. The "72" and "300" locks application is not known; possibilities include water service or maintenance-of-way use, or perhaps these served as depot or other building locks.

From RCAI's Railroadiana Express, autumn 2002 issue, Vol. XXXI, No. 3, pp. 8-9. Copyright © 2002, Don Getts/RCAI, Inc.
Courtesy of the author, Dan Getts and the Railroadiana Collectors Association Incorporated. Reproduced by permission.

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