Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads     by Terry Cox

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(I do NOT buy or sell certificates on this website)

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

Rules for listing companies

 

As of Friday, December 2, 2022, 27,758 companies from North America have been recorded that:

  • carried freight and passengers over rails for profit
  • planned to carry freight and passengers over rails for profit
  • manufactured rolling stock, crucial equipment and crucial parts for railroads
  • directly serviced railroads
  • played key roles in building and financing railroads
Of those 27,758 genuine rail-related companies, 8,845 are represented by 31,093 different varieties and sub-varieties of collectible stocks, bonds and other closely-related certificates.

Even with that huge number of possible collecting opportunities, collectors have always asked me to include companies indirectly related to railroads, especially utilities, bridge companies, tunnel companies, subsidiaries and sister companies involved in products and services unrelated to railroading.

While I fully understand desires to have additional certificates listed in a hobby catalog, I usually decline. I am not trying to be capricious; these decisions result from over thirty years of experience trying to control project expansion. The two most compelling reasons for opposing further expansion include:

  • Practicality: Railroading was the biggest business in the 19th century and touched nearly all business lines in some way. And vice versa. Yet that is not sufficient reason to classify other types of businesses as railroads. It does not seem terribly logical to think that people who collect certificates from other specialties would think of looking in a catalog of "railroad" certificates for items related to utilities, bridges, buses, oil, pipelines, manufacturers, stockyards, shipping companies, grain elevators, water companies, banking or timbering.
  • Time: It is quite simple to add new companies and new certificates. However, every new addition adds a new certificate I must track forever in the future and that certificate will almost certainly not be listed among railroad certificates in auction catalogs and web sites. If there is any organization at all. Moreover, each new off-topic listing requires re-examining records to locate and record past sale appearances. That means looking through hundreds of old catalogs and price lists – page by page, listing by listing!

I sincerely apologize to anyone who might be inconvenienced or disappointed. I hope the following explanations will help my readers understand the boundaries of this project a bit better.

Companies that moved freight and passengers for hire

These are REAL RAILROAD COMPANIES. These companies are the primary sources for certificates in our hobby and are the main focus of this project. If there were a single characteristic that identified railroad companies, it would be that they sold transportation across rails. And specifically, in North America.

These companies are those that even casual observers would call railroad companies. Their central purpose was, and remains, to carry freight and passengers on a fee basis from points of departure to different points of destination. These are fully legitimate, for-profit companies.

Information sources for railroad company names are highly variable in quality, accuracy and content. It is not always possible to discriminate between officially-incorporated companies and those that operated under private ownership. Both types are listed here.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
typical railroads - incorporatedx
typical railroads - unincorporatedx
transportation companiesx
depot railroadx
terminal railwayx
street railwayx
elevated railroadx
interurban railroadsx
inclined railwayx
subwayx
monorailx
national railroadsx
municipal, regional and state railroadsx
water shipping and transportx
airportsx
truckingx
bus transportationx
companies with operations outside North Americax

 

Companies that moved their own goods and products

Unlike genuine railroad companies, these companies made money by selling products, not transportation. They may have moved freight or passengers by rail, but transportation was NOT their main sources of income. They were private rail operations. They were never considered common carriers. They existed to carry raw material and finished goods for their parent companies, but were rarely incorporated separately.

Before trucking came along in the wake of World War I, timber, logging and lumber companies were the second largest users of rail equipment behind railroad companies. They used all sorts of equipment, often purchased secondhand from railroads.

The next largest users of railroad equipment were mining companies. Underground coal mines and the majority of underground metals mines used vast mileages of lightweight rail and mine cars. Mines, particularly copper and iron mines, grew very large after 1900 and demanded heavier rail and heavier locomotives.

Prior to the advent of trucks, plantations and manufacturing companies were also significant users of rails and rail equipment. Equipment sizes tended to be smaller, although factories that moved dense material like steel required heavy duty rails and rolling stock.

In general, industrial rail operations of this type would never be confused with ordinary, for-profit railroad companies. As a rule, companies did not incorporate their rail operations separately and did not move their products off their own properties. The most notable exceptions were timber companies that operated in the Pacific Northwest. Some of those did augment their logging operations by carrying other products, and in those cases, often chose incorporation. Once incorporated, companies needed to report to the Interstate Commerce Commission and are, therefore, listed among genuine railroads.

In general, none of these companies will be cataloged unless they indicated rail involvement by rail-related keywords in their corporate names. Please see more discussion at companies in other industries.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
plantationsx
logging, timberx
mines, quarriesx
steelx
other industriesx

 

Entertainment-based rail transportation

Several amusement parks installed miniature railroad equipment and often named them in a manner similar to legitimate railroads. A few of them are listed in this project, with appropriate explanation, to help eliminate possible confusion.

A few amusement parks went a bit further and installed full-scale equipment for visitor entertainment. While certainly intended to carry passengers for profit, they are not listed here because their names are sufficient to indicate they were not legitimate railroads.

Dinner trains and tourist trains are found all across the continent, and for liability reasons, are normally incorporated. While entertainment and pleasure are certainly by-products of transportation, some are classified as common carriers and some take passengers to destinations different than their points of origin. Although they are somewhat hybrid entities, this project classifies them as legitimate railroad concerns for cataloging purposes.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
amusement parkx
miniature, or incline railroadx
roller coasterx
tourist railroadx
dinner trainx

 

Holding companies

Holding companies are corporate structures that make money from the profits of companies they own. Most of the largest railroad companies on the continent operated as parts of larger holding companies. As a rule, those larger holding companies had names that identified closely with one or more of their subsidiary railroads.

Some holding companies were small and worked under anonymous-sounding names. This project lists holding companies as long as they made significant percentages of their profits through railroad company ownership.

There were several highly-diversified holding companies that used railroads for company haulage and some might even have made meager profits from railroading. This project ignores such companies.

For similar reasons, this project also ignores companies that made the bulk of their profits from real estate, mineral resources and other industries. Finally, this project also ignores companies whose primary purpose was to hold, sell or lease patents, even if those patents were rail-related. While large numbers of companies operated because they owned patents, the bulk of their profits came from the products they made, not the patents themselves.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
to hold railroad companiesx
to hold railroad equipmentx
to hold land and real estate, developmentx
to hold mineral resourcesx
to hold patentsx
to hold other industriesx

 

Companies directly involved with railroad infrastructure

Several companies built or operated properties related to crucial railroad infrastructure. Many of those companies could be considered representative of other collecting specialties, but they are listed here when they are clearly related to railroading.

The most obvious connections to railroading are large structures like union stations and large depots. This project lists all of these kinds of companies. As a general rule, small stations were owned by single railroad companies. Conversely, large stations in large cities (and even large switchyards) were often owned jointly by several large railroads. Be warned, however, that not all real estate-related ventures are necessarily cataloged. For instance railroads often owned grain elevators in some of the midwestern states, but they are considered too far removed from the actual movement of freight for inclusion.

Terminal companies are also listed in this project, provided they had clear relationships with railroad and, preferrably, used rail-related keywords in their company names. While many terminals might have had railroad service going to their facilities, that doesn't mean that were all rail-related. Many served the purpose of inter-industry shipping. Large numpers operated for the benefit of canal, river, lake or ocean shipping. Terminals are included when there is positive proof of significant involvement of railroad companies.

Transfer companies are treated in a similar manner provided their names included rail-related keywords.

Further afield, but operating mainly as transfer businesses were stock yards that often consumed large acreages near railroad yards. While large stock yards such as those in Chicago contributed mightily to railroad income through freight fees, they were normally separate businesses. All are more closely related to the cattle industry than railroading. This project ignores all stock yards unless their corporate names reflect direct links to railroading.

Tunnel companies were very much businesses separate from railroading. While they allowed railroads to shorten routes by boring through hills and mountains, tunnel companies made money by removing rock and perhaps leasing those holes to other companies. They made money by leasing an underground right-of-way for track, not by selling transportation. The majority of tunnels were not bored for railroads but for mines. Many of the longest tunnels in the American West were drilled to carry water from one valley to another. This project ignores all tunnel companies unless they specifically mention rail-related keywords in their names.

Likewise, bridge companies made money building and leasing rights-of-way across artificial surfaces suspended above other surfaces, often bodies of water. They certainly helped railroads and other companies make money through the carriage of goods and passengers. It is true that some bridge companies owned track and possibly even operated switching equipment, but few sold transportation. Few people would stretch the definition of railroading to include bridge builders and operators. However, bridges are crucial to railroading, so this project includes them when they indicate links to railroading in their company names.

Most railroads hired construction companies to grade land, ballast and lay ties and track. Some railroad construction companies made tremendous profits for their stockholders and, without them, some railroads would never have been built. Many construction companies, the most famous of all being Credit Mobilier and Contract Finance, never even mentioned the word railroad in their names. This projects lists all construction companies as long as there is positive proof of their involvement in railroading.

Terminal companies are treated similarly. Many terminals might have had railroad service, but operated for the benefit of canal, river, lake or ocean shipping. Terminals are included when there is positive proof of significant service to railroad companies.

Warehouses are frequently situated near railroad sidings, sometimes with tracks going through their buildings. Warehouses, however are considered storage facilities and are not listed in this project.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
bridgesx
tunnelsx
constructionx
terminalsx
depotsx
stationsx
warehousesx
stock yardsx

 

Companies sometimes associated with railroading

It would be impossible to list all the companies, or even kinds of companies, that have used, owned or otherwise been associated with railroads through time. Having said that, there are few that qualify for listing in this project.

This project will list those companies that had such a solid relationship with railroading that they chose to include rail-related keywords in their names. While there may be exceptions, those kinds of companies generally include banks (especially in the pre-Civil War South), chemicals, docks, wharves, ferries, foundries and utilities.

Some companies are simply too far removed from the actual movement of freight and passengers to be included, even if they included a railroad-related keyword in their names. Such companies frequently include land companies, diversified companies, express companies, grain elevators, roads, turnpikes, schools and, of course, toy companies like Tyco and Lionel.

Power generation companies are a special group of sometimes-related companies. They are discussed in more detail at utility companies. While some evolved from humble beginnings as horse railways, utilites are listed here only when they display rail-related keywords in their names.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
banksx
chemicalsx
diversified (with incidental rail use)x
docks and wharvesx
express companies (unrelated to railroading)x
ferriesx
foundriesx
grain elevatorsx
real estatex
roads, turnpikesx
schoolsx
toy manufacturersx
utilitiesx
utilities that own or lease rolling stockx
other miscellaneousx

 

Companies involved in railroad sevices

Numbers of different companies offered services TO railroad companies, as opposed to using services FROM them.

Perhaps the most important, and worthy of listing in this project, are equipment leasing companies, particularly companies that provided rolling stock (tank cars, chemical cars, gondolas, trailer cars, etc.)

There were several express companies that worked as intermediaries, using railroads for shipping as well as trucks, boats and airlines. This project lists those that used rail-related keywords in their names.

A bit harder to uncover are those companies that are related to railroads more directly, but did not disclose that fact in their names. These include companies that provided repairs and services to railroad infrastructure, equipment suppliers and special ferry services for rail cars. Those kinds of important service and supply companies are listed in this project when rail relationshup are discovered.

However, this project ignores companies that never contributed directly to railroad operations or provided support for infrastructure. Such exclusions include companies involved in advertising, promotions, consulting, food services, printing, publishing and retail products. The project also excludes suppliers of consumable commodities such as oil, coal, diesel fuel and water.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
advertising and promotional servicesx
communications (telegraph, microwave)x
consultingx
consumable commodity suppliers - fuelx
consumable commodity suppliers - waterx
equipment leasing companiesx
equipment suppliersx
food servicesx
infrastructure services and repairsx
printing, publishingx
railway express servicesx
retail productsx
water-borne transfer of rail equipmentx

 

Equipment manufacturers - primary mobile equipment

This project definitely lists manufacturers of important and replaceable railroad equipment. The most important manufacturers include the many builders of locomotives, passenger cars, streetcars, interurbans and all other kinds of specialty rolling stock. All are cataloged.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
locomotive buildersx
rolling stock buildersx

 

Equipment manufacturers - primary fixed infrastructure

These companies produced key non-mobile equipment that supported railroad company infrastructures. While ancillary structures might have held some of the controls mechanisms for such equipment, virtually all was found outside, subject to environmental and physical damage. This equipment was highly important to railroads and subject to ongoing maintenance and repair.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
tiesx
spikesx
switchesx
frogsx
signalsx
semaphore x
crossing equipmentx
crossing gatesx
rail (steel, iron, other)x
rail jointsx
rail chairx
track bracex

 

Equipment manufacturers - secondary parts and equipment

Rolling stock and locomotives are subject to constant wear, tear and breakage. Practically every part that makes up every piece of railroad infrastructure needs to be replaced at some point. The possible number of those parts is huge and the number of manufacturers of secondary railroad parts larger still.

Roughly half of manufacturers of such crucial equipment indicated their involvement in railroading by their corporate names. Most used terms easily associated with railroading and no other industry.

The remainder are listed if positive relationships to railroading can be found. Words such as axle, bearings, springs, wheel and brake shoes indicated products important to railroading, but all were used heavily by any number of other industries.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
axlesx
bearingsx
bolstersx
brake beamsx
brake shoesx
brake systemsx
car boxx
car doorsx
car fendersx
car gatex
car heatersx
car lighting x
car locksx
car motorsx
car platformsx
car roofingx
car sealsx
car seatsx
car springsx
car starterx
car trucksx
car ventilationx
clocks, watchesx
controls (in-cab)x
couplersx
draft gear x
fireboxx
headlightsx
indicators, in-cab, station, streetcarx
journal boxx
mail devices, pouches, cranesx
non-specific, misc. train equipmentx
oiling equipment x
train pipe, pipe couplingsx
refrigeration equipmentx
safety equipmentx
signal lanternsx
smoke separators, burnerx
snow plowsx
spark preventive devicesx
superheatersx
ticket registrationx
train controllersx
train stopx
wheelsx
wheel dogsx

 

Railroad financing

No railroad company could have existed without financing. Obviously, companies found some of the money they needed by selling stock and borrowing money through bonds.

Significant external funding came from bonds floated by towns, cities, counties, states and even countries. This project calls such bonds aid bonds. Add to that funding raised by those same kinds of entities for municipal and national railroads. This project lists all those kinds of financing entities.

Not included are ordinary government bonds, issued by all levels of government, that did not directly benefit railroading.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
car trustsx
railroad equipment trustsx
aid bonds (to aid companies)x
municipal bonds (to fund city railways)x
state bonds (to fund state railways)x
government bonds unrelated to railroadingx
government bonds for abolition of railroad crossingsx

 

Railroad investment associations

This project lists a select group of unincorporated, non-governmental associations involved in railroad financing.

Perhaps principal among listings are the many protective associations formed in Holland on behalf of Dutch investors in North American railroads. I recommend the book, Slow Train to Paradise: how Dutch investment helped build American railroads to anyone unfamiliar with the importance of Dutch investments.

American bondholders also formed their own protective associations on occasion. Only a few are known, but all are listed in this project when their relationships to railroading are confirmed.

Similar associations or committees were formed when railroad companies were undergoing reorganization. Again, they are listed here because many issued special certificates that are now collectible.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
Dutch protective associationsx
bondholder associationsx
reorganization committeesx

 

Rail-related associations

A number of associations have been formed that related in some manner to railroading. The most obvious associations, and the ones listed in this project, are associations between operating railroads on some sort of local or regional basis. Most were never incorporated and never issued certificates, but ignoring them would cause their own problems when collectors find them listed in railroad literature.

There are, however, three other major types of associations that are not listed in this project because they never directly participated in the railroad industry. Among them are labor unions and brotherhoods. These associations had members who worked for railroad companies, but employees are not operational companies.

A second and huge group are model railroad clubs. Many such clubs issued membership cards and even certificates that are now circulating among collectors. This project ignores all model-related clubs, train layouts and certificates.

Practically every collector has encountered a railroad museum or historic park somewhere in North America. Again, none contributed to the operational profits of a railroad, so none are listed in this project.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
unions and brotherhoodsx
railroad hobby model clubsx
rail-related parks and museumsx
railroad company associations (operational companies)x

 

Securities companies involved with railroad assets

There were a small handful of brokerages and fund companies that specialized in investing in stocks and bonds of railroad companies. Why not? Until the 1920s, that industry held more of the largest companies in North America than any other.

Admittedly, those kinds of companies were unrelated to operational railroads and not really involved in any direct railroad financing. However, to reject them from listing in this project would create the never-ending necessity of explaining to collectors why they are not included.

Consequently, any stock or bond fund that included a rail-related keywords in its name will be listed.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
stock fundsx
bond fundsx
railroad funds and sharesx

 

Off-topic companies

This project does not catalog certificates from off-topic companies. Such companies are removed whenever they are located. Nonetheless, some off-topic companies remain in the database and throughout railroad literature. There is simply not enough time to research every company listed in this database and mistakes in published references will remain forever.

This is where every user of this database can help.

I am always looking for railroad companies that should be listed in this database and I am always looking for off-topic companies that should be removed. There are over 525 static pages on this website. There are over 27,000 companies and over 29,000 certificates listed in the database. If someone cannot find a mistake or oversight somewhere, they are not trying.

I have prepared a special page titled Specific exclusions that lists every company that has ever been excluded from this project. There are surely some mistakes there, too. Why not try to find some? Then write me at tcox @ coxrail.com.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
products or purposes that belong in industries other than railroadingx

 

Fictitious and fantasy companies

A few museums and model railroad clubs produced certificates that resemble legitimate stocks and bonds. A small number has appeared occasionally in auctions and dealer lists. None of these certificates would fool anyone in person. However, they could easily deceive remote bidders on auction sites. Certificates like these are listed in this database to help collectors spot deceptions.

Some businesses have used fictitious company names for promotional purposes. While imitations of stocks and bonds are rare, numerous replicas of railroad passes have been seen and some sound quite legitimate. Some fake company names have even made it into the vast literature of railroading, which makes spotting them even more difficult.

Find a further discussion of these fictitious certificates at non-genuine certificates.

Company typeListedListed with explanationListed ONLY if railroad keyword presentListed if positively rail-relatedNot listed
names that sound rail-relatedx

 

 

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