Here’s an interesting find we picked up at a local yard sale. We live in an area of Maryland that is steeped with railroad history, specifically that of the Baltimore and Ohio- or B&O- Railroad. I consulted the CSX website for a little information about this historic railroad system. Chartered in 1827, the B&O Railroad was created as direct competition to the proposed Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The first lines were made of wood with iron straps and were horse drawn. The first lines carried produce and mail, and later, as the railway expanded to incorporate new cities like Cincinnati and St. Louis, carried Union troops and supplies during the Civil War. By the end of the 19th century the B&O had nearly 5,800 miles of track. In the 1960s the B&O merged with the C&O who already held 61% of its tracks. In 1972 the Chessie System was born, and in 1986 all of the Western Maryland railroads including the B&O, the Chessie, the Seaboard, and the C&O merged to become CSX Transportation, officially ending the existence of the B&O Railroad system. Because of this, train enthusiasts are enthralled with items bearing specific railway names like the B&O.
What we picked up is not a dunce cap (hey- I thought it was, too- no shame!) but an early 20th century conical shaped fire bucket. The gentleman we purchased it from had other B&O memorabilia for sale but having never seen something like this we only bought this piece. This type of bucket would have had a ring through the top to hang it from the wall inside the train and in the case of a fire emergency would be filled with dirt or sand to put out the fire. You could also find these hanging from bridges along railway routes. Its different shape was to deter users from using it for other purposes- like a stool or a handy seat. I can see where this shape would deter one from using it as a seat. Just saying! They are typically red but this one has been repainted. You can still see the B&ORR marking on the side identifying its source. It’s a neat little piece that made me learn a little bit more about the history of the railroad. I can see why there are so many B&O Railroad enthusiasts out there it has such an interesting history and was a part of so much of the development of the United States.
If you want to learn more about the B&O Railroad and are near Baltimore, Maryland, make sure to stop in the B&O Railroad Museum. This family-friendly gem in the heart of Baltimore is loaded with artifacts of this bygone system.