Item of the Month

Railroad Date Nails

Item of the Month is a series of articles featuring some of the amazing treasures that can be found in the BHA archives. A rare glimpse of the technology, fashion, and everyday items of a bygone era.

These date nails were pulled from abandoned railroad ties south of Bayfield, on what is now the Brownstone Trail. The numbers 7, 23, 24, 25, and 26 on the nails represent the years the ties were placed.

Ours range from 1907 to 1926. The dates served as an indicatcator for maintenance crews. That practice ended in the 1970s in the U.S.

Railroad Date Nail Head Showing 25

Close up view of a railroad date nail from 1925. Click image to enlarge.

Here in Bayfield, the railroad has been turned into the Brownstone Trail, a favorite of locals and tourists. The railroad was abandoned in the 1970s and the trail was established in 1996.

Improvements have been made throughout the years including a walk-through kiosk, a bridge, a native plants garden, a replacement steel bridge, as well as many others.

Map showing the Brownstone trail from Bayfield to Salmo

Location map showing the Brownstone trail from Bayfield to Salmo. Click image to enlarge.

If you would like to walk the trail, it begins near south 3rd Street and Wilson Ave. here in Bayfield. Currently, there is a detour part way through due to slumping in the trail. If you would like a map or information you can go to the Brownstone Trail page on the Landmark Conservancy website.

Railroad Date Nail Collection showing 23, 24, 25, 26, 07

A collection of railroad date nails from 1923-1926 & 1907. Click image to enlarge.

A view of the stacks in the Pike Research Center

A view of the stacks in the Pike Research Center. Click image to enlarge.


Curious what else lies within the BHA archives? Find out for yourself, as a Pike Research Center volunteer!

There are many fascinating documents, photographs, and objects entrusted to BHA’s archive which need to be entered into our database, to ensure future researchers can access these resources.

We offer training, and you set your schedule!

Email for more information on this opportunity to be part of this volunteer-run organization.

Also, check out our Get Involved page for more options.