Date nails are not fasteners. The two numerals on their heads are the last two numerals in a year. They came into use when railways began to treat ties with preservative, as a way of monitoring which treatments worked best, and gradually went into disuse as wood preservative technology matured and other means of marking dates were introduced.¹ Still, some were driven as late as 2001.
Date nails are also found in utility poles.
1. Jeff Oaks.
Date Nails and Railroad Tie Preservation.
Indianapolis: self-published, 1999.
Available through http://facstaff.uindy.edu/~oaks/Resources.htm
There is a very active community of date nail collectors and traders. A good introduction is through Jeff Oaks' website, http://facstaff.uindy.edu/~oaks/DateNailInfo.htm
Scott Weed maintains a site specializing in pole nails: http://nailhunter.com/
*USE OF DATING NAILS.
(1) A dating nail should be driven in the upper side of every treated tie ten inches inside of the rail, and on the line side of the track. The tie should be laid with the end having the year stamped on it on the line side of the track. Dating nails should be driven the same day the tie is put in.
(2) Section foremen should be especially careful to see that the marks or nails intended to identify the ties are not injured or destroyed.
(3) In addition to the use of the dating nail, each tie should be stamped with the year, at the treating plant, before treatment, and, preferably, should be stamped on both ends.
† SPECIFICATIONS FOR DATING NAIL.
1. The nail shall be made of iron or steel, galvanized with a coating of zinc, evenly and uniformly applied, so that it will adhere firmly to the surface of the steel; it shall be ¼-in. in diameter, 2½-in. in 1ength, with head 5/8-in. in diameter, having stamped therein two figures designating the year; the figures to be 3/8-in. in length and depressed into the head 1/16-in.
2. Any specimen shall be capable of withstanding the following test: The sample shall be immersed in a standard solution of copper sulphate for one minute and then removed, immediately washed in water thoroughly, and wiped dry; this process shall be repeated. If after the fourth immersion there is a copper-colored deposit on the sample, or the zinc has been removed, the lot from which the sample was taken shall be rejected.
3. The standard solution of copper sulphate shall consist of a solution of 34.5 parts of crystallized copper sulphate in 100 parts of water. This solution shall have a specific gravity of 1.185 at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. While a sample is being tested, the temperature of the standard solution shall at no time be less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit nor more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
* Adopted, Vol. 7, 1906, pp. 37, 67; Vol. 11, Part 2, 1910, pp. 883, 901.
† Adopted, Vol. 7, 1906, PP. 38, 67, 68; Vol. 11, Part 2, 1910, pp. 883, 901.
Manual of the American Railway Engineering Association.
Chicago: American Railway Engineering Association, 1911.
American Railway Engineering Association, Specifications for Dating Nails, 1931.
The nails shall be made of iron or steel, galvanized with a coating of zinc (prime western, or equal)
evenly and uniformly applied by the hot-dip process so that it will adhere firmly to the surface of the iron or steel.
(a) The sample shall be immersed in a standard solution of copper sulphate for one minute and then immediately washed in water thoroughly and wiped dry. This process shall be repeated. If after the fourth immersion there is a copper-colored deposit on the sample, or the zinc has been removed, the lot from which the sample was taken shall be rejected.
(b) The standard solution of copper sulphate is prepared by dissolving 36 parts of crystallized copper sulphate in 100 parts of water, then adding enough cupric oxide to neutralize any free acid. The solution is filtered or allowed to settle and decanted, then diluted with water until its specific gravity is 1.186 at 65° F. While nails are being tested, the temperature shall be at no time less than 60° F. nor more than 70° F.
The shank of nail shall be one-fourth inch in diameter and 2½ inches long; the head of nail shall be five-eighths inch in diameter and one-sixteenth inch thick, and shall bear two raised figures designating the year, the figures to be three-eighths inch long and raised one-sixteenth inch, and of the following type.
(Inspection conforms to A. S. T. M. standard specifications for steel. See 605.0, p. 247.)
U. S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of Standards.
Standards and Specifications for Metals and Metal Products.
Miscellaneous Publication No. 120.
Prepared by George A. Wardlaw.
Washington: U.S. Gov't Printing Office, 1933.
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Last revised: 6 August 2014.