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Badges were used by railroads to both designate authority and indicate employees' occupations.  These functions were especially necessary because of  the many different occupations that railroads used as well as the large geographical size of their territories.   Employees who performed the same jobs over perhaps hundreds of miles needed some way of indicating their authority to customers and the general public, and badges were a major means of doing this.

As collectibles, badges have a special appeal because they were normally used by individual, specific employees, often for the many years.   They can be found in a wide range of styles, shapes, and sizes, and are almost always marked for the railroad on which they were used.  Badges can be found to indicate a wide range of occupations, from railroad police to passenger train porters to time clerks.   Because railroad badges are highly sought after and relatively easy to produce, they have become particularly susceptible to counterfeiting.   Collectors need to be especially careful here.  An article on this problem, authored by Phil O'Keefe, is available elsewhere on this website. Here are some especially beautiful badges from the collections of some of our members.

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Above LeftA Special Watchman Badge from the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.  It has no number and was probably issued to special employees hired to assist railroad policemen during times of war. Although the badge is shiny on the front, the back is tarnished and old looking, so it's probably the genuine article.  It is hallmarked “J P Cooke Co. Mfr’s Omaha."  Collection of Phil O'Keefe.   Above Right:  A patrolman's badge from the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway.  The "Rock Island" issued many different designs of badges over the years, from large Chicago Police Style "pie plates" to these small six pointed ball tip stars.  Because of the patina on the front of this badge and the tarnish on the back, it's probably authentic.  Collection of Phil O'Keefe.  

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Above Left:   A large Chicago Police Style "pie plate" badge of the type used by the Illinois Central Railroad's Special Agent Division from the 1920's to the late 1960's.  The 3 1/2" diameter badge has applied copper numerals and an Illinois State seal in the center.  Phil O'Keefe, who provided this photo notes that although it is hallmarked "The C.H. Hansen Co. - Chicago", there is the possibility that it may be a modern re-make struck from the original tooling  Does this make it authentic?  Some collectors feel that it does.  Above Right:  A gold presentation badge that was given to Joel S. Hindman, Special Agent of the Northern Pacific Railway for meritorious service.   Collection of Chip Greiner.

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Above: This large ornate conductor's badge was from the Brockton Street Railway which operated lines in the south suburbs of Boston from the early 1890's to about 1901 when the company was absorbed into the Old Colony Street Railway.  Badges of this type were common during this period when primitive, single-truck, open-platform, electric cars were used.   Collection of Phil O'Keefe.  
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Above: Cap badges from thirteen different occupations of the New York Elevated Railroad.  Badges in the center column are brass/gold colored while those in the outer columns are silver/nickel plated.  The period of use for these badges would have been the 1870's.   Collection of Mike Sullivan.
Left: A conductor's badge from the Brockton Street Railway. The badge is made of leather with a silver oval frame but no hallmark. Collection of Phil O'Keefe.

 


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