This wonderful old steel key is stamped CC&CRR on one side of its bow. On the other is stamped the number 836; there is a second stamping below the number that looks like a check mark or symbol, we do not know the significance.
At just 3 inches long, it has a very thick and heavy solid shaft, no distinction between the end of the shaft and beginning of the bit; and a short choke barrel with a ring around the shaft where the bow attaches.
PLEASE SEE OUR PICTURES - the bit cut is complicated with a deep groove on one side. The bow is slightly offset (raised when the key is laid on a flat surface), a manufacturer trick to prevent too much pressure if someone tried too roughly to turn it in the lock.
With no provenance, it's impossible to know for certain which railway this key is from, but any of the possibilities all date in the 1800s. We will offer three:
(1) The Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati Railroad existed from 1836 to 1868. Its short line ran from Cleveland to Columbus in the U.S. state of Ohio. It was a precursor to the "Big Four" - Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis. This choice makes the most sense for our key -- as it was the largest operation.
(2) The Charleston, Cincinnati & Chicago Railroad, informally known as the Triple C, was a precursor to the Clinchfield Railroad. Formed in 1886, it was a Southeastern railway that operated in the late 19th century, built to extend rail service from Charleston, South Carolina, to Ashland, Kentucky in order to reach the coal and ore mines in the Appalachians. In 1890, major investor Baker Brothers & Co. failed. and a court-appointed receiver was ordered. Three years later, the line was sold to its bondholders, and a new corporation, the Ohio River & Charleston Railway emerged.
(3) Worth a mention is the Concord, Claremont & Contoocook Railroad, a New Hampshire railway that became part of the Boston & Maine Railroad. Formed in 1848, its predecessor the Concord & Claremont filed for bankruptcy in 1852 and then was merged in 1853 with the New Hampshire Central Railroad, forming what was known as the Merrimac & Connecticut Rivers Railroad Company. In the early 1870s, it reappeared with a merger with the Sugar River Railroad, which built and between Newport and Claremont, and the Contoocook Valley Railroad, which went under the control of the Northern Railroad of New Hampshire. In 1887, the Boston and Maine Railroad absorbed the line.
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