Date Nail Resources

The book:  Date Nails and Railroad Tie Preservation

     In January, 1999 I published the most comprehensive book on nails yet.  It supersedes the 1976 work Date Nails Complete (Glenn Wiswell & John Evans).

And now Rolland has compiled a book dedicated to the date nails of New Zealand and Australia! --Click here-- for the .pdf.

Rolland Meyers has just produced an updated photo section! This takes the place of most of the pages 5 to 145 of Volume III of my book. --Click Here-- for the .pdf.

And he has also produced a volume for letter nails. --Click here-- for that.

I ran out of copies in July 2011, so I put the whole book online for free in three .pdf files (November 22 2013):

Volume I
Volume II
Volume III

    The volumes are paperback, plastic comb bound (like spiral bound), on standard 8 1/2 x 11 paper.  It is Special Report #3, University of Indianapolis Archeology and Forensics Laboratory.

Table of contents for Date Nails and Railroad Tie Preservation  by Jeff Oaks
Volume I Page
Introduction     1
History of railroad tie preservation

    Contents   19
    History of railroad tie preservation   20
    Tables   64
    Short biography of Octave Chanute   76
Railroad listings A-H   91
Volume II

Railroad listings I-Y 185
Index of railroads without entries 345
Treatment company sets 346
Shadow sets 347
About the author  352
Volume III

Photographs of nails

    Introduction to the photographs     1
    Date nails showing the year only     5
    Letter nails   75
    Letter-number tie nails   95
    Letter number nails   98
    Single digit code nails 121
    Switch nails 142
    Pole height and depth nails 142
Descriptions of some nails not shown 146
Reverse listing

    Reverse listing 149
    Index of railroad initials 198
Quick guide to shank markings 203

    The introduction contains detailed info on notation, a glossary, lists of treatment chemicals and processes, general nail collecting information, and the bibliography.

    The railroad listings comprise about 3/4 of the text (Volumes I & II).  For each of over 250 North American railroads, a list of date nails they used is given, followed by all info I have on their tie treating and record keeping practices.

    These lists form the foundation for the history of railroad tie preservation.  No such history had ever been published before, and those article-length histories of wood preservation which have appeared in engineering journals over the years are invariably slanted or give bad information. That is because it takes a careful examination of each railroad's practices to see the whole picture clearly.  I am the only one crazy enough to spend years compiling this info!

    The reverse listing is extremely helpful. If you have a nail and you don't know what railroad used it, you can look it up here. The reverse listing, about 50 pages long, was created by a computer program I wrote which takes the railroad listings as input.

    It took me nearly a decade to write this 561 page book.  I corresponded with five dozen nail collectors and read thousands (I lost count after about 2,000) pages photocopied from old railroad engineering journals and books. I issued a first edition, called Date Nails by Railroad in 1994, but it contained only the railroad listings, and those had not yet been well researched.

    If you have any questions on date nails, drop me a note. I am always glad to find out what people are pulling and trading. I often help people identify nails, and I learn what is out there.

Errata for the book.

If you have a 1st or 2nd printing (i.e. you purchased it in 1999), consult all errata pages.  If you have the nth printing consult all errata from n up.  Example:  if you have the 4th printing, consult the 4th and 5th printing errata.  Note:  I gave up an maintaining errata in 2003.  If you keep up with Nail Notes (see below) you should be covered.

Errata for 1st & 2nd printing
Errata for 3rd printing
Errata for 4th printing
Errata for 5th printing

The booklet:  Railroad Date Nails:  Collecting for Fun

This 22 page booklet, written by Norman Christian Jensen in 1983 is a great introduction to our hobby.  Jensenís book is profesionally printed with ample photographs of nails, ties, tracks, fencelines, etc.  It does not pretend to give any information on nail sets or to decipher the meanings of the nails.  The book does a very good job of explaining to people outside our hobby just what it is that we do.  There are photos of nails in ties, of equipment used in pulling nails, and of date nail displays.  If someone is a little curious about date nail collecting, this is the right book.

To order, send $6.00 (that includes postage) to:  Jerry Waits, 501 W. Blue Bell Rd, #10, Brenham, TX 77833.

The Texas Date Nail Collectors' Association

    Despite its name, the TDNCA is a North American organization which has served date nail collectors since 1970.  The magazine Nailer News is issued four times a year, and it contains articles on nails, ads for nails, info on nail shows, etc.  Issues are normally about 24-30 pages long.

    Annual membership is $20.00. Send your check to:
                                            Jerry Waits
                                            501 W. Blue Bell Rd #10
                                            Brenham, TX 77833

The upcoming date nail show

As always, if I fall behind in my listing of the next show, contact Charles Sebesta ( for the latest info.

     Our 2011 Summer Show in LaCrosse, Wisconsin was initially scheduled to be at the Knight's of Columbus Hall on State Road 16.  However, since those arrangements were made the building has been sold.  The new owner has refunded our initial payment and has also provided us with additional funding to off-set some of the rental cost at our new locaton.  Mark Gilles, our Show Chairman says it is a win-win situation: better facilities at less cost.

      The new location is:

                    The Moose Lodge
                    1932 Ward Avenue
                     LaCrosse, WI 54601

       To get there take Exit #5 off of Interstate 90 in LaCrosse onto State Road 16 and go south through LaCrosse (no turns - Hwy 16 turns into Losey Blvd.) until you reach Ward avenue (McDonalds is on one of the corners) and turn right.  Go five blocks and the Moose Lodge is on the left.

       Mark says that we will have adequate space for up to 32 tables, all furnished by the lodge.  Right now Mark plans on setting up 27 tables, but he would appreciate if all those planning to attend would let him know how many tables that they will need.

       Show hours:

       Thursday afternoon, August 4th:  3:00 to 6:00pm for set up

        Friday, August 5th: 8:00am to 5:00pm

        Saturday, August 6th; 8:00am to 12:00 noon
                 (We need to have things cleaned up and be out of the
                   building by 1:00pm)

On Thursday evening, Mark has reserved the private upstairs dining room at the "Freight House" for dinner at 7:00pm.  It is the old Milwaukee Road Freight depot.  It's at 107 Vine Street, in LaCrosse.

On Friday evening (if we have enought who wish to go) he'll reserve space at the "Train Station BBQ."  It is located in the 'old' Milwaukee Road passenger depot, which is now the AMTRAK Depot.  It's located at 601 St. Andrews Street in LaCrosse.

If you have additional questions, you can contact Mark at:

Cell: (608) 385-3850
Home: (608) 782-9580
Work: (608) 775-4010


Extra currulicular activities

There will be some flyers with information for a train trip to the Boone & Scenic Valley RR station on Thursday or Saturday available at the show.

Here is a photo, taken by Wes Hodges, from the March 23-24, 2001 show in Shelbyville, KY.  It is of Don Blake's marvelous display of type nails.  What you see is only half of it!:  (--1--)

Here are some nice pics of the show taken by Steve Cochran at the Concordia, KS show (July 28 and 29, 2000):  (--1--)(--2--)(--3--)(--4--)(--5--)(--6--)(--7--)(--8--)(--9--)

Photos from the Kerville, TX show, which was held in March, 2000 (photos by Steve Cochran):
(--1--)  Show host John Haifly looks over Don Blake's table
(--2--)  Some nice old Rock Island nails in this one!
(--3--)  Santa Fe nails.

The e-mail newsletter Nail Notes

    About once a month I send out "Nail Notes" to over 300 people via e-mail.  This newsletter informs people about new discoveries, eBay tips, date nail shows, and often contains digital photographs of nails, opinions, etc.  "Nail Notes" is free.  If you want to subscribe, e-mail me.  Your address will NOT be given out to anyone.
    If you want to see past mailings, they are available with a click of the mouse: <>           Nail Notes, May 1999
           Nail Notes, August-September 1999
           Nail Notes, September 1999
           Nail Notes, November 1999
           Nail Notes, January 2000
           Nail Notes, February 2000
           Nail Notes, March-April 2000
           Nail Notes, May-June 2000
           Nail Notes, July 2000
           Nail Notes, September 2000
           Nail Notes, October 2000
           Nail Notes, December 2000
           Nail Notes, January-March 2001
           Nail Notes, April-June 2001
           Nail Notes, August, October, & December 2001
           Nail Notes, February & May 2002
           Nail Notes, November-December 2002
           Nail Notes, February 2003
           Nail Notes, April-May 2003
           Nail Notes, July-September 2003
           Nail Notes, Nov 2003-Jan 2004
           Nail Notes, March & May 2004
           Nail Notes, July-November 2004
           Nail Notes, January 2005
           Nail Notes, July-August 2006

The date nail discussion forum

    This is set up on Paul Zeiner's web page.  Go here to leave your comments, questions, wants, nails for trade, etc.  The software does not record the date, so you might want to do that.  The most current entries are at the bottom of the list.

In January 2001 the Forum was revamped and the messages started again from nil.  The messages from the old forum are still available for viewing here:

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