Hazard A Guess: Week of Oct. 22, 2009


Hello from Hazard!

Leftovers, we love leftovers! (Well, kind of. Even the best Thanksgiving turkey gets to be old hat by the third day!)

Anyway, we have a leftover in regards to Item No. 873, which we had shown for several weeks to no avail — until Frank Ehrman of Medina, Ohio, called to say it could be a sledgehammer used in road construction, with the hole used to hold a flag to warn motorists (obviously when the sledgehammer was not being used as a sledgehammer!).

Item No. 873

Now this week, we received two different responses from readers.

Lee VanNostran of Copley, Ohio, says it looks like a pole-stepping hammer, used by utility and telephone company linemen. The hole in the hammer was used to turn the end of the step up, and also to unscrew the step from the pole when the pole was removed

And from Beaver, Pa., we heard from Chuck Roksandich, who thinks Item No. 873 might be a forerunner to the modern B&O, or backing-out, or backout hammer. He used the tool in the mill to help knock out broken pins or screws under the mammoth furnaces. It was a two-man job: Our item held by one person, while another used a second sledge to hit a steel pin that was in the hole of our sledgehammer.

So, at the end of the day, we may still have some leftovers, since we haven’t been able to confirm any of these uses.

* * *

Item No. 874, on the other hand, received three quick responses from readers, and they each identified it as the same thing: a railroad switch lock, or keeper. It’s used to secure the handle of a track switch when changing from one set of tracks to another on a railroad.


Item No. 874

In fact, observes Dave Lozori of Aurora, Ohio, our item is probably stolen railroad property. (Yikes!)

Jim Bellamy knew exactly what it was because he was the superintendent of the maintenance department at PTC Alliance, Alliance, Ohio, and they used the system in the company’s inplant railroad.

Haven Grittie also quickly identified the item, adding “the white part in the picture is stepped on, which unlocks the keeper and allows the switch handle to be operated. There are two of these on each switch, one on each side of the switch stand.”

Thanks for the quick responses and lesson!

* * *

For our newest Hazard-ous item, Item No. 875, we turn to a photo shared by longtime Hazard reader, Wayne Cooper, of Fombell, Pa.


Item No. 875

Can anyone identify how it was used?

Write to: Hazard a Guess, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or via e-mail to: editorial@farmanddairy.com.

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  1. Re: that hammer

    I really don’t know, but here is my guess.

    Judging from the small size of the handle relative to the head, I would guess this is no ordinary sledge. It seems possible that this was a “bucking hammer”, used to install rivets and wasn’t really intended to be swung, but rather that the mass of the head provided the inertia needed to do the bucking.

    The hole on the end *might* have held one of an assortment of dies, each one for a specific size or type of rivet.

    But, that is entirely a guess.


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