Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads     by Terry Cox

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Search the Coxrail database for descriptions of 23,700+ certificates from over 7,400 North American railroad companies.

Companies in other industries

This project endeavors to list only certificates that come from companies within the huge railroad industry. Without doubt, more companies existed on the periphery of the industry than existed in it.

The big problem, however, is that often it is impossible to determine whether peripheral companies played any measurable role in railroading. In this project, the primary determinant for inclusion is a company's name.

When faced with the question of whether a company is going to be listed or not, simply ask, "Would this company be listed in a catalog for another industry if one existed?" If "yes," then the issuing company probably does not belong here.

On the production side of industry, hundreds of manufacturers used railroad equipment to move products around their sites. Timber companies. Steel companies. Brewers. Distillers. Factories. Mines. Docks and wharves. While thousands of companies used railroad equipment, I do not consider them "railroad companies" because the vast majority did not carry freight or passengers off their own sites.

On the consumption side, we must remember that railroading was the largest industry in America for many decades. I definitely include manufacturers of crucial railroad equipment. However, railroading also demanded millions of manufactured items every year. Tens of thousands of companies fed that demand. However, simply because manufacturers made items for railroads – even if they made them exclusively for railroads – does not mean they were considered part of the railroad industry. For example, how many collectors would consider a manufacturer of saw blades to be part of the logging industry?

Obviously some industries used vast tonnages of rail equipment. Should we classify them as railroads?

MiningUnless incorporated as separate railroad companies, mining railroads are excluded from the railroad database.

Mining operations often moved tremendous tonnages of material and frequently depended entirely on rail transportation. This includes mining operations as diverse as copper, iron, limestone and coal mining. In the majority of cases, company-owned railroad operations were restricted to small numbers of privately-owned locomotives working on privately-owned tracks.

A few types of mining operations moved large tonnages across non-company land. Noted operations included taconite in Minnesota, copper in Arizona, gilsonite in Colorado and borax in Death Valley. In most of those cases, companies separated their rail operations from mining operations for legal reasons. Most such operations included some variation of "railroad" in their names, and are therefore included in my project

A few mining-related companies remain in the database when I have been unable to find confirmation of full company names or their corporate status.

A final reminder. Just because a company owned a bit of track and a couple locomotives does not make it a railroad company. If a certificate carries the name of a mining company, but does not include "railroad" or "railway" in the official corporate name, I classify it as a mining company.

Timber – Unless incorporated as separate railroad companies, timber and logging railroads are excluded from the railroad database.

Timber and logging companies used thousands upon thousands of miles of track, predominately narrow gauge. They often operated on branches for a few years, pulled up track and re-laid it elsewhere. Logging railroads were numerous across the continent, but their lines usually shifted frequently. There are numerous books on logging railroads, but few logging railroads are included in the railroad database for a couple of reasons.

Like mining companies, logging railroads existed to move heavy timber from hillsides to saw mills. Only a small number ever incorporated as businesses separate from parent logging companies. In that respect, few actually qualify as "railroad companies."

For several years, I cataloged logging railroads among legitimate railroad companies and several appeared in the first edition of Stocks and Bonds of North American Railroads. Even though the first edition attracted many collectors who contributed to this project, none ever corresponded about logging railroads. Not one! As a consequence, I ceased recording logging railroads unless they used railroad keywords in their company names.

Plantations – Unless incorporated as separate railroad companies, plantation railroads are excluded from the railroad database.

Like logging and mining companies, large plantation companies often used rail transportation to move their products from remote fields and onto main lines. This was especially true in Cuba, the southern United States and in Hawaii. While plantations definitely used railroad equipment, they rarely carried freight or passengers except as needed for their own purposes. Even if they did, plantations were still farming operations and not transportation companies.

A few plantations were originally included in the first and second editions of my catalog. Since then, I have removed all plantation railroads except those that used the word "railroad" or "ferrocarril" in their names. Rightly or wrongly, I decided that very few average collectors would ever think of looking for information about plantation certificates in a book titled Collectible Stocks and Bonds of North American Railroads.

Other industries – Unless incorporated as separate railroad companies, wholly-owned industrial railroads are not included in the database.

U.S. Steel certificateIt was fairly common for industries as diverse as brewing (Molson-Coors) and steel (U.S. Steel) to have operated privately-owned switching equipment on their own privately-owned tracks. A few of those companies incorporated their rail operations separately, especially when they had isolated properties and needed to cross non-company land. Those types of companies, because they were officially separate companies, may have issued stock, although few if any shares circulated among private investors.

If rail operations were incorporated as railroads, then all are listed in this database.

However, the vast majority of industrial railroads never incorporated separately from their parent companies. They would never be represented by certificates. Lacking the possibility for finding certificates, there is no reason to keep industrial railroads in the database.

I have made occasional exceptions here and there when I was uncertain whether rail ownership was officially separated or not.

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(Last updated August 8, 2020)


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