While exploring the remnants of the Skally in Maplewood, Minnesota, back in June (watch video on YouTube), I was able to examine some track up close. I always try to find dates on items and was not totally surprised to find the rails marked with number codes, the name Lackawanna, and the year 1937.
A month later, I came across another rail marking, this time along the same line, but further north in Hugo, Minnesota, outside the old Interstate Lumber where the depot used to be. It too was Lackawanna, but manufactured in 1957.
On these rails, the name “Lackawanna” and the date “1937” were intuitive to figure out, but I wanted to know what the other numbers and letters meant. So I went online.
At first it was hard for me to look up any information because I wasn’t sure what the practice was called. If I searched for “Rail Stamps” it brought up lots of information on philately.
A search for “Rail Markings” doesn’t bring up too much more than a discussion at Railroad.net titled “Markings on Side of Rail” which isn’t much, but it was helpful.
In the discussion it was explained that the steel company would mark the “web” of the rail with the weight (rail is made for different weights depending upon the amount and type of traffic), the company, and manufacture date. I also learned that sometimes this is called “embossing” (another search term I could use) and that there are typically hash marks after the year to designate the month the rail was manufactured. Sure enough, I went back to the Maplewood picture and saw four hash marks after the year, therefore the rail was made in April of 1937.
I wasn’t paying enough attention when snapping the photos in Hugo, so I didn’t frame the hash marks there.
I did additional searches for the code “100 RE CHBS Co.,” but can only guess that this is 100 pound rail.
Finally, I did a search for rail embossing and came across a company that actually sells the machine that does it. At least I have an industry term, and a supplier if I ever want to emboss on my own.