Restoration Guide



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Many railway items when purchased are still in their ex use (ex loco) condition. The decision has to be made whether to restore the item look its best or to retain its authentic used looks.

Cast Iron Signs | Cast Iron Loco Plates | Brass Plates | Enamel Signs
Clocks | Silverplate | Other Items


Most cast iron signs had been left to rust for many years before they were rescued and turn up in such an ex trackside state that it's difficult to read the message. I feel these are best restored – BUT DO NOT TOUCH THE BACK! – old paint and a nice post mark give great provenance if you wish to sell at a later date. You can either clean off all the old paint with paint stripper  (often a long labour of love) or just wire brush down and then paint the whole sign in the background colour and once dry pick out the letters in a contrasting colour, generally white.






Smokebox Numberplates, Shedplates and Worksplates are best left untouched if they are in as removed condition. If you are going to keep them for ever or need to display them in the front room then use the same process as with other cast iron signs and once again do not touch the back. I personally would never restore a shedplate as there are so many replicas in circulation that being in ex loco condition can double its value in auction, but once again it depends on what you want to do with it in the long term.

                                                       Ex Loco                                                            Restored  





The main difference between a new replica plate and a genuine old plate are the knocks and bumps on the face and the patina of age on the brass. These can be destroyed by skimming the front of the plate (done by the railway to some King Arthur plates to make them more saleable!) and then dipping in acid.
Worksplates and nameplates are best left untouched but often to display they have to be improved. Once again never touch the back or use acid to clean. If necessary repaint and polish with non abrasive chemicals – if you have a lined GWR backplate to repaint then get it done by a professional as a poor amateur job destroys the value of the nameplate.



Most enamel signs come with some signs of age – even a small chip in the enamel will quickly become rusty and with the damp in the air will continue to rust. I personally feel that any enamel sign looks better restored and I have all my enamel signs – totems , targets and other station enamels - restored to look as good as possible.


Restored but with
poorly matched blue

             As rescued                                                          After expert restoration

                   Repaired crease on left hand flange                                   With major restoration all over

Click here to view our Guide to Enamel Sign restoration


If you obtain a clock in ex use condition you can do whatever you like to get it working properly but the easiest way to remove value is to have the face restored. Only do this if it is essential to make the clock acceptable for use. Railway clocks are so much more expensive than a duplicate non-railway clock that you must do nothing to remove its authenticity. If you just want a nice clock for the house you could get a much superior non railway clock for the same money. Restored clocks can often be faked so only buy from a reputable auction or dealer.


                             Original Face                                                                     Restored Face


There are a vast number of railway silver plated items around and again once purchased should you get a dull item replated? I would suggest a good clean first and see if you can live with it in its original guise and only as a last resort have it done. Many collectors will only buy original items and by replating you will limit your market if you wish to sell in the future. If you are buying I would suggest you look out for good original items and avoid the reworked ones.


                    Unloved for many years                                            Polished to as new condition


I feel the best general approach is to leave an item as close as possible to its ex loco condition unless it spoils its impact on display. Always remember that the market prefers original items so don’t restore unless you want to keep your Railwayana relic for ever! 

Do you restore this or leave it just as it was found?
You have to decide.

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