Saturday, September 29, 2012

9/29/12 Report - Florida East Coast Railroad Artifacts Found

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

F. E. C. Mystery Find for ID

I’ve been showing some items found at a Treasure Coast mainland site lately. There was a lot of variety. Finds covered a period of slightly over one hundred years. Most items came from the 1970s it seemed, but a 1902 nickel and a 1903 Indian head penny were among the finds. Today, though, I want to focus on a mystery item that came from the site - actually four of them.

I often say to be careful about throwing things away too quickly. You can easily regret throwing something away, but there is little risk in keeping an item until you know you know what it is.

I often discover something revealing about an item after I have had it for a long time, and I sometimes learn something that gives me some new insight or an entirely different idea about the item even after it has been sitting around for a very long time.

The first item in the group shown in the photo below was found first. It doesn’t have any apparent markings on it, but the edge, where it is jagged, looks something like how a pop bottle cap looks.

When I saw that item, I wondered what it was, and didn’t really have any idea. That is the type of item that could easily be thrown in the trash. It doesn’t look like much of anything and I did consider throwing it away, but past experience told me to hold on to it.

Four F. E. C. Railway Mystery Items

A little while later another item was found that had a similar edge, but was of a different size and about four times the thickness of the first..  The second was also symmetrical - not looking like it was ripped from a flat piece of metal, but rather, well formed.

Like the first item, it doesn‘t appear to have any markings on it. Just a similar jagged edge.

It looks like the first could possibly be made by taking one like the second example and flattening it.

The first one looked like it could have been cut out of something, maybe just a piece of scrap, but the second one is much better formed and doesn’t look like scrap at all.

The first is nearly the thickness of a quarter, while the second is the thickness of three or four coins, and is symmetrical top to bottom - looking something like two small soda bottle caps fit together, but not hollow like soda bottle caps. They are made of a heavy metal such as lead.

Then the third pops up. Now that is three items with the same jagged edge, but all three are different in size and shape.  And it looks like all three have had a piece cut off.

Then the forth comes out of the ground (also shown  in photo at top of page). The forth one, though, is complete, well-formed and clearly marked “F. E. C.” on one side and “182” on the other.

Not only is this one clearly marked, but it appears to have a stub of a wire connected to it, that might have been cut off close to the body of the item. You might be able to see the stub of that wire if you look closely above the “2.”

The third is just a little thicker than the first.

OK, the story is developing. Now having seen a very good marked example and knowing what to look for, in good lighting, ever so barely ‘F. E. C.’  can be seen on the third item.

But that is about as far as the story goes at this point. I don’t know exactly what they are. I’m confident that they have to do with the Florida East Coast Railroad now.  I think they might be some type of tag or seal that secured something, sort of like the lead bale seals that are found associated with some old shipwrecks or other historic sites.

I think the unmarked ones may have been attached to marked ones by a wire. The wire and/or the one part of the seal was cut when the item (maybe mail bag or something) was unsealed. That is my theory at this point.

I am confident that they are not buttons or tops to containers. 

Three things that could be important clues are the wire stub found on one, the fact that some are flattened, and that three have pieces cut off.

I showed these items for a couple of reasons. First is to remind you to not throw things away too soon because clues can come together over time. In this case I think you can see how the clues were adding up in the field even during the hunt, but sometimes it takes years for the clues to add up.

Second, I would like to know if any of you recognize these items and know what they were used for. I have contacted the Florida East Coast Railroad Society, and although they think the items were used by the F. E. C., they don’t know what for or when.

I am hoping that someone might be able to tell me a little more about these finds.

Added 3:16 PM:  The function of the mystery items above has now been determined with a high degree of confidence.  Now I would like to define the time period the items were used and the meaning of the number "182" as well as any other more specific details.

Thanks to Trez and Robert K. for information leading to the answer.   I'll have more on that tomorrow.

The fundraising cookout for Tom G. will be held on Nov 3 on the grounds of the Pennwood Motor Lodge in Wabasso.  This is a correction.  I previously stated it was Nov. 10, but there was a conflict and it will actually be on the 3rd at the Pennwood.  There will be a small charge and donations accepted for Tom's medical treatments.   I also hear there might be some really cool raffle items.

I've spent a couple of days talking about mainland finds, but will soon get back to beach finds.  As I often say, be flexible.  Adapt to situations and circumstances.

Not much to say about the beach.  No changes.   Still 2 - 3 foot seas and sandy conditions.  That will be the case for a while.

Happy hunting,