This is a superb switch key from the New York, Ontario & Western. It has everything going for it, including attractive strong stamping in block letters on one side of its bow: NYO&W . On the other side is stamped serial number 1108.
The shape identifies this key as almost certainly from the earlier 1900s. It is a superb darkening golden color with terrific patina and a very smooth feel in the hand. The bit edges and barrel end are nicely rounded. It would be a star addition in any good railroad key and lock collection.
BACKGROUND: The New York, Ontario & Western Railway, also known as the O&W or NYO&W, was a regional railroad with origins in 1868, lasting until March 29, 1957 when it was ordered liquidated by a US bankruptcy judge. Headquartered in New York City, it operated in northern New Jersey, upstate New York and northeastern Pennsylvania. The O&W was primarily a coal hauling road but it also carried passengers and local freight. Over the decades, it expanded, acquiring numerous other rail lines in the region. The most significant occurred in 1890, when the O&W constructed a 54-mile branch from Cadosia, New York to Scranton, Pennsylvania, through the rich anthracite coal reserves in Pennsylvania's Lackawanna Valley. Revenues from this Scranton division strengthened O&W's revenues and provided the means for future improvements to the railroad, although it teetered on the brink of having to initiate bankruptcy proceedings for many years.
Then fortunes changed. The decrease of coal as a heating fuel for other than major power plants damaged its primary freight business, as did the end of rail transport of high-priority dairy products from upstate New York to the Metro-New York City area. Improved highways also were responsible for ending the O&W's passenger service to the resort areas of the lower Catskill Mountains and lightly populated portions of upstate New York. The last passenger train ran on September 10, 1953. The end was not far away. The New Haven Railroad, which had offered to purchase the company in 1952, withdrew its offer, citing its own financial problems. Abandonment of the O&W was loudly protested by towns along the line, which considered unpaid back taxes as an investment in the railroad. The New York state legislature approved a $1 million aid bill, citing the O&W as essential for civil defense, but the state civil defense commission rejected it. The federal government eventually recommended complete liquidation, which occurred on March 29, 1957 when all of the O&W assets were auctioned.
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