A Brief Overview of the Locks and Keys used by the Long Island Rail Road by Robert L. Myers

LIRR-locks-keys_RobertMyers.jpg (105362 bytes)The Long Island Sunrise Trail Chapter - National Railway Historical Society:  185th Anniversary of the Long Island Rail Road published 2019
This article by Robert L. Myers illustrates a Brief Overview of the Locks and Keys used by the Long Island Rail Road

Wilson Bohannan Lock Company - LIRR Brass Switch Lock

The Wilson Bohannan Lock Company (Marion, Ohio) has been manufacturing padlocks for almost 160 years. This makes them America's oldest continuous padlock maker. The founder Wilson Bohannan received his first padlock patent (No. 27,883) on April 17, 1860. In that patent his first name is spelled 'Wilsin', while in subsequent patents (Nos. 46,539, 55,047, 55,048, 67,401) his first name is spelled 'Wilson'. In the same year that his first patent was issued, he opened a small workshop in the rear of his Brooklyn home manufacturing padlocks. Outgrowing his home workshop, the company moved into larger quarters on Broadway and Kossuth Place, Brooklyn, New York in (or before) 1869. 

The company since then has moved its business in 1926 to Marion, Ohio where it currently is operating. Source: Wikipedia

 Note: WB manufactured the small brass locks for the LIRR DE/DM's to lock up their fuel tanks. Their current logo is a WB in a circle on the front of the lock. Once a patent date was established, the shape of a lock may remain unchanged for 50 years, or more, if a successful model. Info: Robert Myers

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Adlake Switch Locks - LIRR Steel/Brass

Adams & Westlake was founded in 1857 in Chicago, Illinois. In the beginning, our company manufactured and sold railroad supplies and hardware. With the opening of the American West and expansion of the railroads, the company prospered and diversified.  “Adlake” became one of the largest suppliers of equipment to the transportation industry in the world.  In 1927, Adlake relocated to its present site in Elkhart, Indiana.  Today Adams & Westlake is a leading custom manufacturer serving clients from all over the world and in a broad range of industries. Source: 


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Adlake steel/aluminum switch locks came into use around the 1920's as they were less expensive than brass switch locks from WB. Info: Robert Myers

Note: Adlake indicates that brass lock options, based on locations/conditions were available. (left diagram) 

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Keys were an integral part of the railroad and are a major area of collecting for some folks who specialize only in keys. Keys for locks were used by employees to access any area, switch, or item that had been secured by a lock. Keys are usually stamped with a code that describes what they open, the maker’s hallmark, and usually the railroad’s initials. Older style keys frequently have fancier serif stamped letters, and a tapered barrel and will bring higher prices. Railroads often made many copies of a key so that any employee that needed to could have one, because of this it is still possible even today to match keys with some locks, and having both as a set can increase value. However, keys are mostly collected alone so the value of a key is not dependent on having a lock that goes with it. Some collectors will try to collect every type of key from a certain railroad, others focus on interesting or unique designs, and some will try to collect keys from as many railroads as they can. Many keys can be bought for less than $50, but the rarest keys can fetch over $1000! Source: 


Some codes commonly stamped on railroad keys:

BCC – Baggage Car Cellar
C – Car
DCC – Dining Car Cellar
ED – Eastern Division
HC – Hand Car
IH – Ice House
MC – Mail Car
M OF W – Maintenance of Way
OB – Oil Box
PH – Pump House
RT – Repair Track
R&B – Roadway & Bridge
SCALE – Scale
SIGNAL – Signal
SY – Stockyard
S – Switch
TB – Toolbox
TH – Tool House
TR – Tool Rack
WD – Western Division
WS – Water Service

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Agent's Keys, Speonk, NY LIRR Keys and I.D.  tag courtesy of Tom Collins, Dave Keller archive

The two long keys (1,2) are somewhat different versions of the old "coach key" used to (literally) lock up the end storm doors of the Pullman-Standard Coaches (2700, 2800 & 2900's)...all used the same ones.

The flat key is an old locker key(6) from the Agents Office to keep "his" stuff, and two of the shorter hollow barrel keys are signal keys.(4,7)

The other flat key, (not the old Ford ignition key (3), with less "teeth" to it is for an old Miller (Mfgr) 6 or 8 lever lock(5) with a "push" key(8), used for signal or other general purpose locks...possibly with baggage use (as in literally lock up the baggage or freight packages in a shed or room for that specific purpose).  The tag(9) is great.   Info: Robert Myers