Nail Notes--August , October, & December 2001

Subject: Nail notes 8-17-01
Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2001 10:00:13 -0600
From: Jeff Oaks <>
Organization: University of Indianapolis

Dear nailers,
     Lots of items have been piling up in the last two months---here are
most of them.  Let me know if I forgot something you submitted.

Nailing in Italy

My wife Rossella is from Italy, and from July 3 to August 6, with our 3
kids, we were back in her home country visiting relatives, going to the
beach, and pulling nails.  O.K.---I went nail hunting alone.  No one
volunteered to come!  We had my father-in-law's car, and we were staying
at Rossella's aunt's house in the town of Rivignano, between Venice and Trieste.

I wrote a big article on my nailing experiences in northern Italy in the
March-April 1997 Nailer News, pages 9-11.  In brief, during the summers
of 1987 and 1988 Rossella and I pulled hundreds of date nails from two
abandoned branches.  Later, a friend of ours who works for the railroad,
got me many more dates.

This time I pulled some nails in active yards in towns near Rivignano,
but I'm a little nervous about getting in trouble with the police.  On
July 22 I walked a little-used indistrial spur south of S. Giorgio di
Nogaro.  I saw lots of nails:  63/1, 68/1, 70/3, 70/4, 72/3, 77, 78.  I
got one each of 70/4 and 72/3 with my fingers.  (In Italy date nails
from 52 to 73 have an extra digit sitting horizontally below the date.)
The 72/3 is new for me.

After buying a nail puller I drove July 24 to S. Vito al Tagliamento
where the station is in disuse.  There are lots of discarded ties
stacked up, and I got 35, 55/1, 57/1, 2 59/1, 62/1, 2 78, and a new
variation on the 78.  Only the last 78 was new for me.  I also picked up
some screw spikes and other items which help attach the rail to the ties.

While driving to the beach at Grado I noticed that the track which ran
from Cervignano through Aquileia is still in!  It was abandoned and
nearly completely overgrown in 1987, so I was surprised to see that it
had not yet been ripped out.  I drove there August 1 and walked the few
open spots I could find.  The dates were common:  I got 6 28's, a 29, 5
30's, 4 31's, 9 32's, 8 34's, and 2 35's.  Many are bent & rusty, and
none are new for me.  The most fascinating aspect of this track is that
cut spikes were used!  I believe that in all the world, only railroads
in North America use cut spikes today.  Everywhere else screw spikes
(big lag screws) hold the rails to the ties.  I easily pulled three of
these cut spikes, which are different from ours, and I got a tie plate,
too.  Of course all this came back to the U.S. with us!

A letter of Octave Chanute

Simine Short recently e-mailed me the text of this letter:

March 22 1900
Crerar Adams & Co.

We beg to accept your verbal offer of this date for 200.00 galvanized dating
nails, of the size and shape of sample herewith, but with the figures 00 in
raised figures on the head at six cents per pound, F.O.B. Chicago, cash.
Please advise us at what time you can deliver these nails. We will want some
of them by April 15.
Chicago Tie Preserving Co.
O. Chanute, Pres.

She is mailing me a photocopy of the original now.  The "200.00" might
be a slip for 200,000.  In Europe they use a "." in place of a "," in
numbers.  These date nails would have been used in ties treated at the
Mt. Vernon plant of Chanute's company.  Most ties treated there went to
the Chicago & Eastern Illinois.  Unfortunately, the two known 00's from
that railroad have indented numbers, not raised.  I'll give a fuller
analysis of this letter in an upcoming Nailer News.  See the top of page
131 of volume I for 1900 date nails on the C&EI.  Actually, you should
read the whole C&EI section to get a better feel for the meaning of the
letter.  After some reflection, I think you folks should read the
History of Tie Preservation as well as the biography of Octave Chanute
which sits neglected in Volume I!  What are you waiting for?

US Forest Service nails

Flip to page 118 of volume III in my book to see nails used to mark
trees by the Forest Service in the years 1909-1911.  The nail "US" has a
square shank turned 45 degrees with respect to the head.  Victor Buck
<> wrote to me recently that he also has the US nail
with an ordinary square shank (not turned).  Otherwise it is the same as
the "diamond shank" US.  He sent a scan, too.  I'm too lazy to load it
onto the server.

Jim <> reports an oversight in my book:  The Cotton Belt
used the rnd R (09) 47:c (page 36 of volume III).  He found close to a
dozen of these nails in the Dallas area.

Another fluke on the Spokane International

Jim Sinsley <> has found, among common SI nails, a
2 1/2 x 1/4 rnd R stl (18C) 54.  Jim thinks it is a fluke, and I have no
reason to disagree with him.  If you have been keeping up with Jim's
(and others') SI finds, this nail goes along with the other odd
finds---all shank length variations---which have been reported for this line.

Jim Yarem <> has been reporting to me his finds on the
Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley (Scranton, PA area).  He has found a rnd R
(07) 30, which is not listed in my book.

George Oliva <> has found treatmant tags in ties in
Florida.  Here is a scan of one:

"I found the CSX tag on the MAIN in LAWTEY, FL in the center of the tie.
There is a passing siding at that point and the tags were in the MAIN,
not the siding! There were LOTS of them but I only pried up one since
the track is right next to very busy US 301 and LAWTEY, FL is known as
one of the biggest speed traps in the entire country and there were too
many cop cars around! I did not check as to whether or not the stamped
F57 was the same on all the tags."

It is interesting to see both the treatment comapny (Koppers) and the
railroad (CSX) on the same tag!  We have no idea what F 57 means.

Both George Oliva and Charles Walthall <> have reported
plastic ties.  Charles sent me an article from the Lafayette County
Press (Arkansas) which tells of new plastic ties on the track through
Buckner, Stamps, and Lewisville.  At road crossings (i.e. the 5 or so
ties at either side of the road) concrete ties are used.  This is
interesting because in Italy it is common to have concrete ties on the
main stretches with wood ties at crossings.

Charles wrote to me July 3:  "I happened by when they were installing
some of them (on the Cotton Belt - Union Pacific) today.  The man who
seemed to be the foreman said that he understood that the new ties were
made of rubber.  This may be but I think they're made of a composite
material of some kind.  One of the ties broke into while being
installed.  The man said he thought it was due to a defect in
manufacturing.  One piece of the broken tie was about 3 feet long.  I
may go and get it just to have one (or part of one) of the new type.
The man also stated that the "rubber ties" (as he calls them)  have
already been used in some other places on the RR though he didn't say where."

George e-mailed me an article from a New Jersey paper.  "From Hoboken to
Harrison, 36 railroad ties made from recycled consumer plastic are in
place as NJ Transit tests the new substance, manufactured by
Edison-based Polywood Inc., as a potential widespread replacement for
traditional wooden ties.

"Using a patented method developed by Rutgers University professors,
Polywood specializes in a recycled plastic suitable for industrial use
that distinguishes the company from the dozens of other plastic lumber
makers. Aside from the New Jersey rails, 30,000 Polywood rail ties --
which hold the track together -- are used in such cities as Chicago and
New York."


Jeff Oaks, Associate Professor
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
University of Indianapolis
1400 E. Hanna Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46227

Subject: Nail Notes 10-12-01
Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2001 09:02:44 -0600
From: Jeff Oaks <>
Organization: University of Indianapolis

Dear nailers,
     In order to get this issue out at a reasonable date, I will include
only three items.  More will follow, probably next week.

The Octave Chanute Exhibit

The Crerar Library at the University of Chicago is hosting the exhibit
"Flight Before the Wrights:  Octave Chanute, Chicago."  (In small
letters:  aeronautical pioneer, engineer, teacher.)  One of the
organizers is Simine Short, who you will remember as the one who has
supplied me with photocopies of some of Chanute's letters.

The exhibit runs from November 1, 2001 to June 1, 2002 in the atrium of
the Library.  Hours for the library are Monday to Saturday 8:30-5:00.
The library is located at 5730 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago.  More
info---where even date nails are mentioned---can be found at the library website:

The important thing for us nailers is that there will be date nails on
display in the exhibit.  I loaned Simine French nails 88, 94, 97, and 99,
and Charles Sebesta has loaned her a couple early C&EI nails---4 and
5---which were driven into Wellhouse treated ties at Chanute's Mt. Vernon,
IL plant.  Accompanying the nails will be a copy of the 1900 letter in which
Chanute is ordering date nails from Crerar Adams & Co. (the same Crerar
as the library's name!)

The latest Nailer News is out!

For those of you who are members of the TDNCA, skip to the next item.  I
include here the table of contents, in hope that some more of you will
join the association.

Nailer News, Fall 2001 issue:
 1          Moving To a New Home!  Al Gustafson's date nail
            museum will now be housed as part of a railroad
            museum in a city-owned complex in Barstow, CA.
            Admission is free.
 2-3        From the Editor's Desk---assorted news items
 4-6        Missouri Pacific RR by Jeff Oaks
 7          Type (37) Ardox Spiral Nails by Buz Johnston.  Buz
            has found out the name of the company which produced
            these Canadian nails.
 8          A "Unique" Idea--- by Rolland Meyers (on DM&IR 45's)
 9          Are They Real---Or Just Phantoms by Charles Sebesta
10-11       When They were New... by Tom Meyer.  Pictures of
            some of Tom's old nail catalogues with date nail
12-13       Photos from the Perry, IA nail show
14-15       Nail Notes by Jeff Oaks.  I put the Nail Notes you
            are reading right now into the Nailer News for those
            who do not get e-mail.
16          From Jim Sinsley--- Photos of two Southern California
            Edison code nails.
17-20       Assorted short items, ads, new members.

For information on joining the TDNCA, go here:

A couple changes for my description of the UP's treating plant at The
Dalles, OR

Curtis Kyger, Material Manager (ties) for the UP at the The Dalles
plant, has made a couple additions and a correction to my description of
the plant, on page 335 of Volume II.  It should now read (changes are in
capital letters):

--- The Dalles, OR, 1903.  Originally at Wyeth, OR, this was the Oregon
RR & Navigation Co.'s two-retort portable plant.  In 1905 two cylinders
were added for treating ties and maybe other timbers by BOULTONIZING
(BOILING IN CREOSOTE), and in 1910 its ownership transferred to OSL.
['12, 285]  The plant was moved to The Dalles, OR in 1923, when it became
a UP plant. [WPN 8-51, 97-98][AREA '04, 75]

    In 1933 a fire destroyed the works, and the following year it was
sold to the Forest Products Treating Co., which operated three new retorts.
A fourth, from POCATELLO, was added in 1941, and between 1945 and 1952
the plant came into the hands of Baxco Corp, LATER J. H. BAXTER.  THE PLANT
[WPN 8-51, 97-98]['34, 474]['44, 430]['52, 394]


Jeff Oaks, Associate Professor
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
University of Indianapolis
1400 E. Hanna Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46227

Subject: Nail Notes 12-4-01
Date: Tue, 04 Dec 2001 11:01:50 -0600
From: Jeff Oaks <>
Organization: University of Indianapolis

Hi nailers,
     The order you find items here is the order I find them in my stack
of papers.

Photo of 2001 nail in tie

In November George Oliva sent me a pic of a 01 from the New Jersey Navy
track.  (Sift through past issues of Nail Notes for more on these
nails.)  Here it is:

George wrote:  "I took this photo during a visit to the base much
earlier this year as a slide and I just last week got a slide scanner
allowing me to transform my analog slides to the digital media.  When I
took the picture, I had a base photo permit, it is highly unlikely that
I could do this post 9-11."

BPB stands for the treatment company, Burke Parson Bowlby Corp.  Their
Goshen, VA plant is an EPA superfund site, and they have a plant in
DuBois, PA.  George thinks that the letter below the 01 is a B.  Its
meaning is unknown.

2002 pole nail

In addition to the new Navy nails, there are some utility compainies
which still date poles with nails.  There is a series of 2 1/2 x 3/16
round raised nails which have been used in Kansas (and elewhere), and I
recently acquired the 02 from this series.  This nail is different from
the nails used up to 2001:  the 0 is thinner and squarer, and the shank
is thicker.  I did some measurements and I find that my nails 96-01
average .193", and the 02 measures in at .205".  If we subtract roughly
.005" for the galvanizing, the older nails are 3/16" (.1875") while the
02 is 1/5" (.200").

The Joslyn Corporation

Jerry Penry just sent me a link to the web page of the Joslyn Corporation:

This company makes galvanized date nails, and a picture of a 96 is right
there on the web page.  We will try to find out if they are the company
responsible for the new nails being found in poles.

Tom Cox on date nails

Tom was a TDNCA member in the 1970's, and I received an e-mail note
October 14 recounting a story of his.  Here is the note, typed by a relative:

    "At this time, his memory is still keen and he has a real knack for
details so  hopefully we can share as many of them with you as he is
able to tell. He  told me stories for hours on Thursday about the
difference in the nails and  how he came to find some of them. It was
then that I thought it would be good  to try and contact other dedicated
collectors. Tom was show chairman for a  T.D.N.C.A. show  in Fort Worth
Aug. 10 and 11 in 1974. Tom served on the city  counsel longer than any
other  person in Forrest Hills so it was only fitting  for him to be
show chairman. He was given a plaque with a 43 Sante Fe  pentagon
affixed to it. Maybe they thought they could re-use him.  He just
relayed a story from some time around 1955. He was trying to find a bar
6.  He was looking between Hillsboro and Corcicana Texas on the Cotton
Belt. He  was looking around and old barn that was  made out of cross
ties and the  fence was also cross ties. A little girl that lived on the
farm was facinated  in what he was doing so she was helping him look. To
 his surprise, she  called out that she had found a nail and  when he
looked, it was in fact a   Cotton Belt Bar 6 and was one of the very
nails he was looking for. He gave  her 2 dollars and this really made
her happy. When he tells of the problems  he encountered collecting, it
sounds like getting permission to hunt may have  been a slight problem.

    "Thanks again for the interest in Mr. Cox. Collecting date nails was
his  passion for so many years I want us to share as much as we can as
long as he  is able."

You can contact Tom's wife at <>.

Hubbard nails

Hubbards are those large pole nails with raised rims, which often
contain a lot of information.  This can include owner of the pole, pole
height, class, date, number, etc.

Jerry Penry recently bought a Hubbard Co. catalog from the 1920's.  The
page which really interests us is here:

The nail shown on the right is an ordinary Hubbard.  We have never seen
Hubbard nails like the one on the left.

Hubbards in Hawaii

Tom Godfrey, a relative of Scott Weed in Hawaii, has been pulling pole
nails.  These are copper and aluminum Hubbards stamped with the year.
For a rundown on the styles, see Scott's web page:

The Somers, MT Great Northern tie treating plant

Ken Daley sent me the document titled "FINAL / SOMERS TIE PLANT
DEMOLITION WORK PLAN" dated November 1990.  This facility, built in
1901, was dismantled and completely removed in the 1990's.  Ken, who
used to work at the plant, says you can't even tell it was there.  At
some point I will write a Nailer News article on this document, which is
17 pages long.

Long Bell nails wanted

Lee Brewer <> is looking for LB 32, 33, 40, 41, and
42.  If someone has large copper 27's and/or the 1929 Hubbard, he might
be interested in those, too.

Nails needed

Don Chapman <> is looking for Norfolk & Western
21, 22, 58, 59, 60.  His address is:  PO Box 385, Piketown, OH 45661.

Nails needed

Richard Dekofski is looking for round date nails 1900 to 1925 in good
condition.  His address is:  6414 John Alden Way, Orlando, FL
32818-6859.  Phone:  407-294-8882 (Richard's Lawn Service).

And more nails needed!

Jan Vieyra <> is looking for early nails, too.  Does
anyone have pre-1910 (dates, not codes!) or 30's & 40's?  I'm sure some
of you have some of the later nails!


As usual, if you expected an item to appear in this Nail Notes, remind
me---my papers are not that organized.  Happy holidays!


Jeff Oaks, Associate Professor
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
University of Indianapolis
1400 E. Hanna Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46227

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