Skip to main content

Museum Collections: Small Artifacts

Discover Railway History Details Through our Small Artifact Collection

The Northwest Railway Museum’s Small Objects Collection consists of collection materials under one metric ton in weight. These include objects such as:

Railroad Lanterns 
Work Uniforms
Railroad Tools & Equipment 
Artistic Prints & Paintings 

All these objects offer some insight into the significance railroads played in the development of the Northwest. Many provide stories that offer a compelling human connection and help illustrate how the railroads changed everything.

Learn more about NRM’s collections stewardship in the Museum’s Collections Management Policy.

Dietz Vesta Railroad Lantern


A cold blast and clear globe, the R.E. Dietz Company produced this Vesta model #6 lantern in the US from 1923 – 1956. Railway workers used this lantern, and others like it, to give common rail signals that would have involved swinging a lantern, particularly in low light, to improve visibility.

Dietz Vesta lamps were popular in the NE United States with this one bearing the symbol for the Boston & Main Railway (B&M). Boston and Maine Railway operated under that name from 1843 – 1990 and still exists today as a non-operating ward of Pan Am.

Station Master’s Hat

The Station Master served the critical role of managing other station employees and holds responsibility for the safe and efficient operation of their assigned station. Many Station Master’s would have worn a hat like this one as a part of their uniform.

This object was made by Carlson & Company in Chicago, Illinois and includes gold buttons with the Northern Pacific logo.

Link and Pin Coupler


Couplers are used to connect cars to each other. This coupler is one of a set of two, known as a link and pin coupler. This style was hazardous because brakeman or switchman would have to work between moving cars to connect them. If an inexperienced person didn’t get their hands out of the way in time, they could lose a finger or a hand, and often did. There were also many fatal accidents when workers were caught between the two moving cars and crushed; 518 men were killed in 1888 alone. Use of the link and pin coupler was prohibited under the Railroad Safety Appliance Act, which passed March 2, 1893, and went into effect in 1900.

Adlake steel switch lock with brass clasp and attached chain


Switch locks were used to secure railway switches to keep unauthorized people from changing the switches and potentially sending a train down the wrong tracks. They were also used to secure signals and other railroad property and equipment.

This lock has a few unique features including a keyway cover embossed with the company’s name and the stamp “CM St. P & P” which stands for Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul and Pacific on the back. The back is also stamped with Pat. 2040482, a patent issue in 1936, and an “S”, presumably for switch.

Steel Rail Bender

Rail benders are used to bend or curve rails. They also can be used to straighten out kinks. The device is hooked onto the track.  The large screw in the middle is then turned to apply pressure to the bend the rail.

This rail bender that has been in the Museum’s collection for more than 40 years. It is marked with the letters PSRH for Puget Sound Railway Historical Association, the former name of the Northwest Railway Museum.

Working to Bring our Collection Online

The Northwest Railway Museum is currently working to bring our full small artifact collection online. Please check back for future updates.

Have questions or need more information about Small Artifacts?

Feel free to reach out to us.