This wonderful old key is from the New York & New England Railroad, which was in operation a scant 20 years, between 1873 and 1893. It is a tapered barrel style made by J. L. Howard & Co. of Hartford, Connecticut, a sought after maker in the hobby. It would be a prize in any better collection of railway locks and keys, especially one focusing on the New York or New England region.
On one side of the bow this key is stamped NY&NERR in tall graceful serif Roman letters. On the other side is a fabulous, sharp and clear, double line Howard marking, above serial number 748.
Color and patina are superb. The only thing we can find issue with is that NY& are rubbed away - that side may have been less deeply stamped than the other in the beginning.
The New York & New England Railroad was a major railroad connecting southern New York state with Hartford, Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island, and Boston, Massachusetts. Prior to 1873, it was known as the Boston, Hartford & Erie Railroad, which had been formed by several smaller railroads dating back to 1846. The most well-known and prestigious train of the New York & New England Railroad was the "New England Limited" of 1891, a crack Boston - New York passenger train. In 1891, the Pullman Palace Car Company refitted the train with luxurious new cars decorated in white and gold, inspiring the advertising department to call it the White Train and folks along the line to call it the Ghost Train, as it sped through their towns after dark. It inspired the romantic imagination of New Englanders, and even after it was long gone, Lucius Beebe, a Bostonian and noted railroad author, felt compelled to memorialize it. Famed author Rudyard Kipling also memorialized the train in a popular verse. After bankruptcy in 1893, the New York & New England Railroad was reorganized and became known as the New England Railroad; which in 1898 was leased to the competing New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.