Published: March 30, 2021
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy Soulis Auctions
LONE JACK, MO. – In the publicity for his March 20 sale, auctioneer Dirk Soulis called Steve “Packrat” Cregut’s collection of railroad lanterns “the best ever offered at auction.”
Hot air? Not at all – the truth was bore out by the exceptional prices realized for the collection.
A look at realized prices on LiveAuctioneers found that examples from Cregut’s collection now hold the top nine prices realized on the site for railroad lanterns. That is remarkable. Soulis related that the top lot was certainly an auction record, though lanterns are known to have traded at offline auctions and privately in the $20,000 range.
“He was always on the move and always going,” Soulis said of Cregut. “He could be philosophical, but his answers were always really good. Chance favors those in motion, and he was out and about at the local auctions and shops. He said he was at an auction once and someone was having a garage sale right across the street – he bought a lantern there. Another was in the back of an antiques shop in a cupboard along with the Depression glass. He also went to specialty railroad and military shows and talked about a lantern that he bought at an auction there in Topeka, too.”
The sale was led by a $46,200 result for a Union Pacific tall cast blue globe lantern that went about nine times over the previous record for a railroad lantern at any online auction. The auction house wrote that the lantern is thought to be the only example in this color with the Union Pacific lettering embossed around the globe in this specific style. The lantern was made by MM Buck & Company of St Louis, which manufactured all kinds of railroad equipment.
Union Pacific still operates today, running freight through 23 states west of Chicago and New Orleans. It was founded in 1862 as part of the First Transcontinental Railroad project with Union Pacific among the three companies responsible for building the line from Iowa to San Francisco. Union Pacific built more miles of railroad than the other two companies combined. The track bills itself as the oldest operating Class I railroad in the United States.
Attributed to George M. Clark was a tall red globe with cast “Union Pacific” that sold for $14,300. The frame featured U.P.R.R. on its shoulder. At $7,700 was a Union Pacific lantern with cast lettering on red globe by Adams & Westlake. By the same maker was a lantern with a tall signal green globe cast with the letters U.P.R.W. that sold for $16,500.
“There were a few new lantern buyers,” Soulis said. “I commented in the run up that I thought we had dealt with them all before, it’s usually a tight knit community. But it’s an interesting field, we all worry about new people coming in, but Railroadiana has a following. There are guys in the audience that have hats and jackets with company logos on them – they work on the railroad. Guys in their forties and they’re starting to collect. There’s a lot of history that keeps people interested, there’s still a connection that renews and gets fresh blood moving.”
Soulis related that regional interest crosses with American West collecting to propel the category, as does a connection to each collector’s youth.
“You’ll hear from people and read posts on forums and other places where people say, ‘Where I lived, such and such train would come by every day,'” Soulis said. “They would learn about the artifacts later and they seem to remember seeing these things in service. A lot of people are enchanted by growing up around it.”
Cregut was no different, having grown up near a railroad in Topeka, Kansas. Among other categories, including general items and militaria, Cregut’s location on the line put him in constant contact with the material that he came to amass as a private collector, later a full-time dealer and then back to a collector again. Soulis related that he has held about five auctions from Cregut’s collection over the 30 years they have known each other, including two Railroadiana sales.
Coming in at $22,420 was a teal blue (signal green) tall lantern globe with extended lip and “Santa Fe Route” cast in relief within a rectangular frame. The globe measured 5½ inches high. Soulis wrote that collectors typically associate globes of this type and style to match correctly with MM Buck or Handlan-Buck lanterns. Also from the Santa Fe Route was a tall lantern with red globe embossed with a backwards U that sold for $15,400. The wire frame featured flat verticals and embossed makers mark for The Adams & Westlake Company of Chicago. By the same company and for the same route was a clear tall globe lantern that brought $3,520.
Also by Adams & Westlake was a $19,800 result, the third highest, for an 1870s example cast “A.T.&S.F.” over the initials “RR.” It featured a red extended lip tall red glass globe with a brass top and adjustable interior baffle. “This globe is said to be one of only four known,” the firm wrote.
MM Buck Company’s brass top lantern with wire frame housing a tall extended lip cased red glass globe with fancy embossed serif-style letters was marked for “D.&R.G.R.R.” Dated to circa 1890, the lantern went out at $14,300. Selling for the same price was a lantern with tall extended lip clear glass globe with lettering for the Rio Grande Western Railway, produced by the Star Head Light Company of Rochester, N.Y. “Any lanterns from this road are considered an important piece of Western railroad history,” the firm wrote, noting that some sources believe the lantern to be only one known by the maker.
Other artifacts from the railroad age hopped across the block. At $5,750 was a salesman’s sample rail car coupler that dated to circa 1915. The “Sharon” model was produced by The National Malleable Castings Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Whistles and horns blew loud, with a $3,450 result for a three chime step-top whistle attributed to Frisco, while a Leslie Supertyfon three-note diesel locomotive horn brought $880.
Soulis offered the estate archive of John A. Burke, a famed engineer and supervisor of air brakes who piloted the maiden run of the Santa Fe Super Chief streamliner in 1936. The lot included Burke’s uniform and cap as well as passes, organizational medals, ribbons and pocket watch. It brought $3,450.
Cregut runs a miniature steam-powered locomotive on his property that he opens up informally for kids who come from around town when they hear the word. He laid the track himself and has a water tower and depot, among other points of interest along the route. His interest in Railroadiana may never cease.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, 816-697-3830 or www.dirksoulisauctions.com.
January 24, 2023
January 24, 2023
January 24, 2023
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