This amazing little bell is a very scarce relic of an 1800s New York City horsedrawn railroad car operation. From the Brooklyn City & Newtown Rail Road Company, it is solid brass, cast with the company initials in raised letters: B C & N R R CO around the outside edge. It is in superb condition, with extremely nice patina and no damage other than surface rubbing signs of use.
Only about 3 inches tall, this bell is thick and heavy, intended for working industrial-type use. It would have been hung from the harness or a horse or mule that pulled one of the passenger streetcars used by the BC&N. It has a melodious but very strong and demanding ring, to warn pedestrians ahead that the street car was approaching.
Inside, the original cast iron clapper hangs from what must be an original loop. This bell must have seen years of use, because wear around the rim caused by incessant rubbing of the clapper is so clearly obvious.
The Brooklyn City & Newtown Rail Road Company operated Brooklyn when it was a City, before becoming a borough of New York City. Newtown referred to a nearby creek, rather than a municipality. Founded in 1860, the BC&N operated for 37 years over only 21 miles of track, until ownership changed in 1897 to the Coney Island & Brooklyn Railroad Company. The CI&B, which was the first railroad of any kind to reach Coney Island, wanted it to expand its operations bringing people from Brooklyn and from New York City (then meaning Manhattan) into its service to Coney Island.
Horse-drawn railroad cars were a popular method of transportation throughout the United States for nearly 100 years between the 1830s and early 1900s. Horsedrawn streetcars, which began as an offshoot to the horse-drawn omnibus, followed regular routes on steel rails and could be hailed along the way by people wanting to ride. In those days before trolleys, these small bells were attached to the harnesses of horses or mules pulling the car, to sound a warning to pedestrians that the vehicle was coming.
Many improvements and ingenious design achievements over the years resulted in 500 horse railways operating in 300 U. S. cities and towns by the 1880s, powered by 100,000 horses and mules. However, with the introduction and continuing improvements of electric driven railways which offered faster, more reliable transportation, the days of the horse car suddenly became numbered. After an abrupt decline of just a few years, almost all the horsedrawn railways were gone by approximately 1910, driven into sudden extinction by technology. Perhaps due in part to their unexpected demise, very, very few artifacts have survived from the horse drawn railroad industry. Steel cars were scrapped, wood and leather articles were not preserved. The horsecar bell is one of the few tangible items that survived as mementoes of the old days. They are very hard to find, but one will occasionally surface.
This little bell would be a fascinating addition to any collection of not only horsecar bells, but any antique bell collection, or for someone who enjoys early trolley and streetcar transportation history.
*** SIGN UP FOR EMAIL ALERTS of new listings or changes: Click FAVORITE "Heart" SHOP at the top of this page! ***Credit Card payments accepted through PayPal - just choose their "GUEST" option !