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Antique Safes/Railway Express Agency safe


front exterior view
front exterior view  

front view of inner door
front view of inner do  
My dad was a Soo Line R.R. depot agent who began his career in 1936, retiring in 1977.  Back on March 22, 1967 he aquired a safe that had been used in the Brooten, MN depot for many (?) years.  The sale was recorded on an REA  Express form 1099 titled "Record of Property Retired".  This document shows the equipment number as 3196, original cost $160.50 and sale price of $2.00.  This is a double door (inner and outer door) safe.  The knob on the outer door handle has a number stamped in it that looks like 3996 (versus 3196) to me.  The combination dial for the outer door has "YALE" on the center knob.  The decal on the front of the safe above the door reads "Western Express" and on the door itself reads "Railway Express Agency".

I have donated this safe to the Kensington Area Heritage Society along with a number of other R.R. memorabilia items.  They are in the process of turning the old creamery into a museum and renovating the original Soo Line depot which they have moved next door to the cremery.  It would be great if we could find out a little more about this safe like when and where it was manufactured, what company built it, etc.  Also, it would be great if I could get an idea of its' value for tax purposes.

I've taken several pictures of the safe including close-ups of the combination dials, hinges, doors, bolts, castors, etc and will attach a couple here.  I can send the rest via separate emails if you will be able to help with this.  Each picture is about 2 megs in size.

The safe measures 30 1/2" deep, 28" wide and 34 1/2" high.  The castors keep it 7" off the floor for a total height of 41 1/2".  The combination for the outer door is four numbers, turning dial left several turns to the first number then right going past the second number two times, stopping on it the third time.  Then left by the third number once, stopping on the the second go-around.  Then right to the last number.  That part works great.  However, I do not have the combination for the inside door.  It is currently unlocked so that is good.  I seem to remember my dad saying it was broke but don't know for sure that is the case and, since I don't have that combination, I won't be spinning the dial to find out if it locks or not.   

Thanks in advance for any information you can provide,

Grant, it is interesting you have a history and it's original cost on that safe.  Most business fire safes don't have the added security of a good money chest and still today safes that provide both good fire and burglary protection go for big money.  I have an idea of who made it and an interior picture of the inner door should nail it down.  I wouldn't worry about the inner door lock as to properly display the safe in a museum, both doors should be standing open and immobilized.  This is especially true if children are around it.  Just based on the pictures here I would price it at least $2000.  Send the inner door picture to ""  Doug  

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Doug MacQueen


This unusual and highly innovative safe from the later 1800's is a Corliss. William, the much younger brother of George Corliss of steam engine fame, spent several years perfecting this design and it was first displayed at the 1876 Philadelphia U.S. Centennial Exhibition. I do extensive patent research helping me in the study of antique U.S. safes and safe locks. Repairs and part making for antique U.S. safes of the early to mid 1800's, both key and combination. Also the study of early round door chest designs up to and including cannonball safes of the early 1900's.


40 years in the lock and safe trade with a stint in bank service work. Openings, repairs and moving of safes of all types.

Charter member Safe and Vault Technicians Association SAVTA, National Safemans Association NSO, National Antique Safe Association NASA. No longer current.

SAVTA monthly magazine

CMS (Certified Master Safecracker- NSO) and CPS (Certified Professional Safe Technician - SAVTA)

Awards and Honors
2nd place national combination manipulation contest 1986 and now in 2016 1st place

Past/Present Clients

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