The Goal is a Railroad Watch

Alan Cassidy

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My goal is to have a watch that keeps Railroad time but how do I get there? Preferably it will be 18s, over 100yrs old and some kind of silver, at least in color.

What is a fair price to pay and would it be less expensive to get the case and movement separate.

How do I learn to be patient? You would think by my age I would have reached that plateau and have earned to enjoy the chase but no, things still move too slow.
 

Fritz Katzenjammer

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Don’t rush it or you’ll end up with junk... (the voice of experience talking here) buy running and complete whenever possible.

I’ve picked up a few very desirable watches matching that criteria for under 500 CDN in the last two years, so what you are asking is not a tall order, at least on the North American side of the pond. I’d start looking with the NAWCC... we can’t all be hoarders, someone will have something suitable for sale. My favourite haunt is Dave’s Watch Parts on the “weeb”, he’s had some nice stuff pass through in the past while.
 

Rick Hufnagel

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So I learn everything the hard way. Don't do that, haha. In your situation, certainly research what manufacturers you like, and see about their railroad grades. There's so many to choose from. Probably buy a cased running watch, if your looking for least expensive way. It may initially look like it costs more, but in the end it will be far less than buying movements, finding parts, finding a case and having it fixed, servicing the movement, ect ect...

There's many to choose from and many models and makes, from early keywinders to fancy high jeweled early 1900s watches.

Sorry to be so broad, but it's going to be a personal quest to find that "one".

Type in railroad grade in the search bar, and see what you come up with.

Prices depend on the watch, rarity, quality, how many people collect them, condition, it can fluctuate quite a bit.

There's the well known ones,
Elgin b.w. Raymond
Hampden railway
Illinois Bunn
Waltham vanguard
Just to name a few.
 
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Robert Sweet

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My humble recommendation is to buy "in hand" so you can examine the movement, dial, case, hands, etc., up close. Since I'm bias toward Hamilton, I would recommend a 940 with a serial number of 1533601 (made in 1918, i.e. 100 years old) or less. Your best bet is to locate a watch already cased.

Discussing prices in specifics if not permitted on this message board, as I understand the Rules.

You will be very lucky to find a "Railroad Grade" watch on the "trading market" that will keep time to +/- 30 sec. a week. They exist, but are few and far between. Many of these watches haven't been cleaned in years. Expect to pay for complete disassembly, cleaning, oiling, and adjustment job, if you are expecting your future watch to keep Railroad Time.

My 2c worth.

Robert
 
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musicguy

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Discussing prices in specifics if not permitted on this message board, as I understand the Rules.
Yes Robert is correct lets keep it conceptual.


Rob
 

musicguy

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John Cote

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I agree with Robert about a Hamilton 940 but I would also look at its 17j brother the 936. My dad taught me to look at things like the care watchmakers took with a watch in its history of repairs and cleanings. Look for a bright movement with minimal scratches on the plates. Look at all of the screw heads to see if they have bunged up slots. Don't buy a watch that has not, on the surface, been well treated because if what you can see looks screwed up...what you can't see almost surely is too.

Also, it is OK to look for bargains but it is OK to pay up for quality. If you don't, fixing up your junker may cost more in the end.
 

Keith R...

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If I had it to do over again, I'd look at Hampden New Railway. I have a Bunn, so I'm biased
to Illinois. My family all worked for the KCS RR out of Shreveport. About half of them loved
Hamilton's.

Keith R...
 

DeweyC

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You stated you goal is a watch that keeps RR time. This means a watch that will maintain its rate within 6 seconds a day across 5 positions. This will enable it to keep within the 30 seconds per week required.

It will certainly help if you start with a watch that appears unmolested (no alterations to the balance screws in particular). Any of those watches can be serviced to the required precision by a watchmaker who knows who to restore the restorable parts and when to replace parts with parts from a donor movement.

Starting w/ a good condition candidate helps reduce the cost of parts renewal/replacement.

From there, you need a watchmaker who is fully equipped with knowledge, skill and equipment to return the watch to its original performance standards. It is not rocket science, but it does require knowledge and not opinion.

The watchmaker should be able to provide you with a written report that shows the amplitude of the balance and its error rate in the 5 positions. There should be no hedging on what you can expect for performance.

Any graduate of a professional program can do this work. I am known for bias toward WOSTEP grads, which is a 40 year old program managed from Switzerland that graduated the likes of Roland Murphy. At least 1000 grads in USA.

You may well spend more on service than the price of the watch. BUT... it will be less than a 1/3 of sending a Rolex in for service AND when once all the corrections are done, your cost of service will drop dramatically unless it is dropped.

I am too far from you (Baltimore), but if you look through my website, you will get an idea of the kind of service you are looking for. You might even consider buying a restored watch from whoever you choose. The advantage to you for local source is you can have them show the results on the timing instrument in person. In my mind, your requirement (which I endorse) almost requires a personal relationship.
 

Tom Huber

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Prices, in general, have dropped during the last several years.

If you look diligently and gain the knowledge as to what is good, you can find a nice rr grade watch at a very reasonable price

In the past several years I have bought the following

1. Hamilton 936 with a double sunk Montgomery dial. The case is sterling silver. Watch keeps rr time. This was bought from a reputable dealer for $100.

2. Hampden, 18s John Hancock, 21j, adj 5 pos. Dial is DS Montgomery dial.
Housed in a silver lid case. Bought from a reputable dealer for $75. It keeps rr time.

These buys are out there. Be patient.

Tom
 

Dano4734

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Oh boy did I do it wrong starting out. My watchmaker would say dan can you stop buying turds:) my suggestion find a Hamilton 992b that has been well cared for. They will keep better than rr time. I have 14 of them and they all run perfect
 

Kent

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In lieu of the links (of mine) that Rob posted, I would prefer that people go to the "Railroad Watch" Encyclopedia article. Its mostly the same information, but those links are static whereas the Encyclopedia article is updated as new information becomes available.

The Encyclopedia article entitled "Collecting Railroad Standard Watches" may be helpful, but many of its links need to be fixed* and it probably ought to be updated (I've added it to my list to do so).

* Unfortunately, many of the links in our Encyclopedia articles were disrupted when we changed to the current version of our Message Board and its been a long process getting them all reinstated. So, if you come across a broken link and want to see what it led to, just let us know and we'll try and post it.
 
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musicguy

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Preferably it will be 18s, over 100yrs old and some kind of silver, at least in color.
There are many great choices that will fit your 18s 100 year old goal.
Any watch made before 1919(for the 100) that gives you a big selection.
And the 16s are nice too!

As said above in this thread I would start with a Hamilton, Waltham, Illinois or
Elgin(in no particular order)for your first RR watch. They are all easily found
and parts are fairly easy to find.

Like Tom said above.......
If you look diligently and gain the knowledge as to what is good, you can find a nice rr grade watch at a very reasonable price
Send a Private Message(PM) to one of us here if you have a watch that you want to ask about
and we will try to guide you.

Rob
 

W.T. Owen

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Be patient and wait on somebody like me. My health has gone to being bedridden and my watches are slowly finding homes to collectors like you. I have probably 10 or 12 that meet your standards but not rushing to sell. I'll sell them but auctions or things like that just don't do it for me. I'd rather get personal so I know whoever gets my baby takes care of it. I've babied these things too much to see them parted out for a dial here and hands there. Even changing cases makes me steam.
 
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Alan Cassidy

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Thanks for all the replies and encouragement. It's strange, the more answers I get the more questions I come up with, something like feeding a stray dog, I'll keep coming back for more.

I bought a 1907 Hamilton 18s 940 movement and want to find the correct dial for it. Is there a site that dates dials or do I just keep looking at pictures of 940's and hope they have the correct dial? Another question that springs to mind is, was the 940 only made in 18s or did it come in 16s. I have spent a week reading about it and get the feeling it was only 18s or is that because I only read about 18s. Also what stops me from using a 926, 935 or 947.

Enquiring minds wish to know, as well as nosy B...... like me.

Alan.
 

Kent

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... was the 940 only made in 18s ...
Yes.


what stops me from using a 926, 935 or 947. ...
Assuming you mean as a railroad watch; nothing except that the dates become significant.

The grade No. 926 was only adjusted to temperature. By the turn of the century, watches generally had to be adjusted to position to be accepted into railroad time service. I'm not clear on what the grade No. 935 was adjusted to - this might also apply to it

As for the grade No 947, if you can find/afford one, the adjustment would pass and hunting case watches were grandfathered into the 1950s on some railroads.
 

GeneJockey

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Thanks for all the replies and encouragement. It's strange, the more answers I get the more questions I come up with, something like feeding a stray dog, I'll keep coming back for more.

I bought a 1907 Hamilton 18s 940 movement and want to find the correct dial for it. Is there a site that dates dials or do I just keep looking at pictures of 940's and hope they have the correct dial? Another question that springs to mind is, was the 940 only made in 18s or did it come in 16s. I have spent a week reading about it and get the feeling it was only 18s or is that because I only read about 18s. Also what stops me from using a 926, 935 or 947.

Enquiring minds wish to know, as well as nosy B...... like me.

Alan.
The 940 only comes in 18s, because the grade numbers refer to one specific model of movement - one size, one configuration, one jewel count, one level of adjustment, etc. Change any of those, and you're really talking about a different movement.

You asked earlier about buying a complete watch versus separate movement and case. I've put together a number of movements and cases, and it's generally the most expensive way to buy a watch. There's a reason why several vendors on Ebay sell movements, and dials, and cases, and hands separately - because it makes them more money to part the watch out than to sell it complete.

There are resources here to help you identify authentic dials for particular grades of Hamilton watches. Other companies - not so much.

Oh, and of course the more you learn, the more questions you have! The more you know, the more you know you don't know.
 

musicguy

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Edit....I see we posted at the same time


I think Alan is also asking what is the appropriate dial for his new(to him) 940.
He believes he has the wrong dial on his watch.

Alan, post a photo of your watch.

Hamilton Watch Co. threads

Rob
 
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Alan Cassidy

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I can see I made a poor job of explaining myself.

I bought a movement on line (I know, I don't listen) and it was without hands or dial. I had the intention of buying a mint dial for it until the dials final price stopped me in my tracks, I just couldn't press the bid button.Then I saw another very good dial but it said it was for a 926, 935 or 947 but looked just the same as the 940 one so I wondered "What's the difference?"

I looked for information on dial dates and which dials are interchangeable with which models but have not found it yet. Got to expand my reading.

Alan.
 

musicguy

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I know this may sound like crazy advice. Since you now need to buy correct hands, dial
and case for your movement (and then it will need service), put that movement
away for a little bit and come back to it at a later time. Go out and buy
a complete watch as Tom Huber and others said. You don't need to
spend too much to get a nice running complete RR watch.
The Goal is a Railroad Watch post #11

Find a few you like and send one of us the links to the auction
and we will help give you some advice before you purchase it.
(send by PM because we don't talk about current items for sale in this
part of the forum)


Rob
 
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GeneJockey

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I know this may sound like crazy advice. Since you now need to buy correct hands, dial
and case for your movement (and then it will need service), put that movement
away for a little bit and come back to it at a later time. Go out and buy
a complete watch as Tom Huber and others said. You don't need to
spend too much to get a nice running complete RR watch.
The Goal is a Railroad Watch post #11

Find a few you like and send one of us the links to the auction
and we will help give you some advice before you purchase it.
(send by PM because we don't talk about current items for sale in this
part of the forum)


Rob
Totally agree. You gotta walk before you can fly.

The other thing is, getting railroad time from older watches is a more difficult proposition than getting that accuracy from newer watches. My last-run Elgin 571, and my 1961 Hamilton 992B pretty much fell into railroad time as soon as I finished servicing then and wound them up. Older movements were a bit trickier to get there.
 

OldSchool1959

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Prices, in general, have dropped during the last several years.

If you look diligently and gain the knowledge as to what is good, you can find a nice rr grade watch at a very reasonable price

In the past several years I have bought the following

1. Hamilton 936 with a double sunk Montgomery dial. The case is sterling silver. Watch keeps rr time. This was bought from a reputable dealer for $100.

2. Hampden, 18s John Hancock, 21j, adj 5 pos. Dial is DS Montgomery dial.
Housed in a silver lid case. Bought from a reputable dealer for $75. It keeps rr time.

These buys are out there. Be patient.

Tom
You are certainly correct. The bottom has fell out in the past couple years. There are bargains to be had all over the spectrum from high end too low. Just look until you know the one you want, and pull the trigger after you have asked all the important questions. Good Luck!
 

musicguy

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I just thought about a thread you should scan through
Time on the go
We have had multiple threads like this over the years
and this is the most recent from Keith and Rick.

These are watches people wear. If you ask Keith, some
of his mid 19th century key wind watches keep impeccable time.

EDIT:I just noticed that you are on Long Island, there is a NAWCC meetup
there on a regular basis with a Mart that frequently has watches
that would have been approved on the RR.
https://nawcc.org/index.php/workshops/104-chapters/states/1139-new-york





Rob
 
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Alan Cassidy

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I just found this post and I think it answers my question. It looks like all 18s dials are interchangeable.

Alan.

Jan 22, 2016
Carl,

All 18s Hamilton dials have the same dial foot location. This is true of the whole line both hunter and open face. All of the dials will fit any watch.

That said, you should look for a dial that is period correct. If your dial is original look for one that is the same. Over the years covering the first gr 936 or the first watch the company made to the last versions some 30 or more years later there were a lot of very different looking correct dials and a lot of other 18s factory dials which would not be correct even though they would fit.
 
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