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Like the name implies, holding companies made money, not by making products or providing services, but by owning companies that did. Holding companies liked railroads because they were big business during the 19th century, Many holding companies, in fact, sprang out of railroad companies as they diversified and expanded.
Several of those companies kept their roots grounded in railroading and built an expansive empire through acquisition. Those kinds of holding companies generally maintained a semblance of historical perspective and kept names evocative of railroading. The Southern Pacific Company, the Reading Company and the Union Pacific Corporation are perfect examples. (For more examples, see a collection of famous rail-related names elsewhere on this site.)
Generally, holding companies chose somewhat anonymous-sounding names. There may have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of holding companies that had nothing whatsoever to do with railroading. Ideally, I want to keep companies unrelated to railroading out of the database.
Conversely, I think collectors cognizant of railroad history would like to find railroad holding company certificates in this catalog, even if those names were not obvious. For instance, the Excelsior Enterprise Company and Citadel Incorporated were anonymous-sounding, but definitely rail-related.
I have chosen to catalog all holding companies whose primary holdings were rail-related. Unfortunately, there is no easy way of testing whether anonymous-sounding companies were related to the railroad industry or not. It simply takes research with a good helping of hard-nosed reality. Conversations with many specialists have proven that there is great resistance to collecting certificates that don't easily fit the definition of "railroad." Consequently, I embrace the idea that "If in doubt, leave it out."
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