Nail Notes--September, 1999

I sent out Nail Notes September 21 (2 times), 22, and 29.

Subject:  nail notes
Date:  Tue, 21 Sep 1999 10:37:21 -0500
From:  Jeff Oaks <>
Organization:  University of Indianapolis

Hello fellow nailers,
     I have quite a number of things to report on, and I had better get this note out now before more items come in.


I am sending as an attachment a photo of a Southern Wood Piedmont switch nail which was pulled by Tom Meyer on the ACL.  The 17 was driven into the end of a 17 foot tie which was used at a switch.  For more on SWP switch nails, see page 347 of Volume II and pages 139-141 of Volume III of my book.


Charles Sebesta just sent me this:
        The Spring Date Nail Show, scheduled for March 17-18, 2000, will be held at the Inn of the Hill in Kerrville, Texas.
        Kerrville is in the Texas Hill Country, only 54 miles west of San Antonio on Interstate 10.  It's one of Texas' favorite vacation spots. The water in the river that runs through the city is from springs. It's crystal clear AND 'COLD.'
        John Haifley, 1921 Summit Top Drive, Kerrville, Texas 78028 will be the show chairman.  His phone number is: (830) 257-4943.


I am nearing the point of issuing a third printing of my book Date Nails and Railroad Tie Preservation.  Right now I'm busy making minor corrections to a number of pages.  If you know of any mistakes, let me know now.  Each printing consists of 100 copies.


Terry Santola writes this:  "Tell your datenailers if they are in California to look me up and we will do some nailing for the old Santa Fe's."  Terry's e-mail address is


Rolland Meyers has found a variation in Southern Pacific (Western lines) 42's.  The nail is

2 1/2 x 3/16 rnd R    stl (18C) 42

and now we have a 42:b.  The shapes of the 2's are different.  At first Rolland thought that the shank diameters are different, too.  He mailed me examples of the nails, and they felt to me, too, to be different.  Charles Sebesta Agreed.

Rolland sent me eight nails.  Two each cleaned and uncleaned of each type.  I got out my micrometers, and found there to be no difference in the diameters.  They all measure in the range .190"-.195".  Not totally convinced, I went to the physics lab and weighed them.  Here are the results:

"thick shank"  cleaned 10.2 gm
                       cleaned 10.3 gm
                   uncleaned 10.5 gm
                   uncleaned 10.7 gm

"thin shank"   cleaned 10.0 gm
                      cleaned 10.1 gm
                  uncleaned 10.4 gm
                  uncleaned 10.8 gm

This confirms my micrometer measurements.  The diameters are the same.  But they DO feel different!

And in case you aren't convinced, here is an example where the shanks have different diameters.  The Milwaukee Road used short copper (60) 34's with shanks of 1/5" and 3/16".  The 3/16" shank nail is 4.3 gm while the thick 1/5" nail is 6.1 gm.  THAT is a real difference.

---Jeff Oaks

Subject:  More nail notes
Date:  Tue, 21 Sep 1999 16:26:08 -0500
From:  Jeff Oaks <>
Organization:  University of Indianapolis

I forgot to include a couple items in my message earlier today.

---Ken Moser has found some odd nails on the Illinois Central.  He sent me one.  It is a rectangular piece of steel (1" x 15/16" x 1/16" thick) with a small 1" long nail through a hole in the center.  These were driven into ties in southern Illinois (if I remember right).  Has anyone else ever found these?

---Also on the IC, Dave Parmalee told me that instead of ordinary switch nails (like the 17 in the photo), they used window tacks.  These are small nails the size of thumbtacks with numbers ranging from 1 up to 40 or 50 or higher which were used to identify windows in a house.  If you take out your screen windows, you want to know which screen goes with which window.  Thus in the first window a "1" was pressed into the window frame and another "1" was pressed into the screen (or window).  Who can tell me more about these?

---Lastly, Tom Meyer has given me another photo of the SWP 17.  This time it is of the shank.  (See the photo above, next to the head).  Note the small "T" on the shank above the horizontal anchors.  This is a type (19) nail, made by the Tennessee Coal  Iron division of U.S. Steel in Fairfield, AL.

Jeff Oaks

Subject:  yet more nail notes
Date:  Wed, 22 Sep 1999 08:37:04 -0500
From:  Jeff Oaks <>
Organization:  University of Indianapolis

And yet another installment of "nail notes"...

First, I am enclosing photos of Rolland Meyers' SP 42's.  See if you can tell the difference in the number styles.  I know that some of you can't open the photos for various technological reasons.  Don't worry:  they will be published in the next issue of the Nailer News.

     One variation (42:a) is on the left, the other (42:b) on the right.  The difference is clearest in the cleaned nails.

This just came in from John Iacovino:

Jeff, I was interested in the finding  of the plates on the IC.  Over the years (I have not kept records) I have found especially on the SP in Southern CA about 1 and one half inch discs that have a raise ridge circumferentially about half way in.  They are attached to the tie with a small nail.  Of interest on the SP they are both on the outside and inside the rail.  This is a similar placement for their  nails. SP nails pre 1926 are nearly always on the outside of the rail.  I have also found these discs on eastern tie and telephone poles.  Certainly they have some significance but not unique to a single railroad.  Due to their  ubiquity I suspect they may be related to a preservation process.
Any ideas...

---Jeff Oaks

Subject:  nail notes
Date:  Wed, 29 Sep 1999 09:11:04 -0500
From:  Jeff Oaks <>
Organization:  University of Indianapolis

A couple news items:

Al Byers just sent me a 1 1/2 x 1/4 rnd R   cp (31?) T.  He says it is from Mexico.  With the exception of the style of the chisel point, it sure has the style of those round shank (38) nails used by the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo in the 1950's.  I sent the T to Tom Meyer, and we should have a good photo of it soon.

   <See the November Nail Notes for a photo and description of this nail.>

Do you remember my problem with the Monon 9?  Now the 10 is a problem.  I have 10:c (the 3rd 10 in Volume III, page 20) listed, but in Joe Lewis' book the 10:b (large date) is shown.  Which is right?

   <10:c is correct.  Lewis shows a photo of the wrong nail.>

Jeff Oaks
Dept. of Mathematics
University of Indianapolis
1400 E. Hanna Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46237

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