This is a fine example of a switch key from the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad that traversed western and northern New York state between 1842 and 1891. Relics from the RW&O can be difficult to locate.
The key is stamped RW&ORR on one side of its bow in fine, serif Roman letters above a serial number 741. On the other side is stamped the letter S in the same typeface font. The name stamping is quite light, worn away by "finger polish," but it is fully legible.
The barrel has a slight taper, and significant wear but no damage. There are NO cracks or splits, and NO areas where the metal has worn thin. This key has lots of use left in it!
BACKGROUND: The Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad began in 1842 as the Watertown & Rome Railroad to link the New York cities of Watertown and Rome with the Syracuse & Utica Railroad. About the same time, the Potsdam & Watertown Railroad was formed to link Watertown with the nearby village of Potsdam, to its east. In 1861, these two railroads merged to create the RW&O.
A branch line from DeKalb Junction, south of Canton to Ogdensburg was later built. In 1864, the RW&O constructed a line from Pulaski to Oswego and merged with the Syracuse & Northern Railroad. In 1858, the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad (LOS) was chartered from Oswego to Suspension Bridge (now Niagara Falls). The RW&O merged with the LOS in 1875, by which time it was bankrupt.
The RW&O was nicknamed "Rotten Wood & Old Rusty Rails" due to its crumbling infrastructure. By 1878 the RW&O had been merged into the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad (DL&W). The DL&W built the Ontario Secondary in 1882 from Charlotte, New York (where the Genesee River flows into Lake Ontario) to Rochester, New York. By 1891, the RW&O became a subsidiary of the expanding New York Central & Hudson River Railroad, and on April 12, 1913 was formally merged into it.
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