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Disappointed No Longer: Voltamp or Carlisle & Finch Switches?

By Jim Burke

Left hand and ‘Y’ switches look like C&F items.

As the trading pits were closing at the 1974 TCA National Convention, I literally grabbed what I thought were two Carlisle and Finch switches to use to display my lone early C&F trolley. When I got home, I was ‘disappointed’ to discover that both switches were stamped Voltamp.

Left hand switch base bottom measures 11” X 5-7/8”. Note wiring.

‘Y’ switch bottom also measures 11” X 5-7/8”.

Both have wood bases dyed green (Each base measures 11” x 5-7/8”.) and brass strip rail.

Left hand switch of typical C&F construction.

‘Y’ switch also of typical C&F construction.

Over the years, I have seen other switches that look alike, and each time they were Carlisle and Finch. I believe even stronger today that my switches were made by Carlisle & Finch, but sold by Voltamp. As Mr. Harvey used to say on the radio “And here’s the rest of the story…”

Left hand switch found with a box.

When I was using Jim Kelly-Evans' Voltamp book to review my 1910 Catalog, there on page 108, I discovered very accurate drawings of my switches. The only difference is that those in the catalog are labeled ‘Voltamp’ on the brass plate with the moving rails.

Page 93 of 1910 catalog begins 15 page train section.

‘Voltamp’ is stamped into the wooden bases on mine.

‘Voltamp’ stamped on wood base of left hand switch.

'Voltamp' stamped between rails of ‘Y’ switch.

In his book on Voltamp and Boucher Jim points out that Voltamp offered various stations and accessories made by European manufacturers. Page 107 of the 1910 catalog shows these items plus a C&F station…adding to my belief that my switches were made by C&F.

Cover of 1910 Voltamp Catalog.

When working on my BEGGS book, I came to believe that as more and more efforts are made to uncover the history of early toy and model railroad manufacturers that more and more of these cooperative relationships will be uncovered. I offer the following known examples:
Ives, Blakeslee & Co. with Beggs and Secor (jobber)
Beggs with Ives (wheels for metal cars)
Lionel with Schoenhut (stations)
American Flyer with Bing (stations and freight cars)
American Flyer with Lionel (10 series freight cars)
Voltamp with Bing, C&F and Issamayer (stations and other accessories)
Bassett Lowke with Bing and Marklin (locomotives)
Carrette with Karl Bub, Bing, Isaamayer and with everyone (parts, pieces, locomotives, cars you name it; they swapped it.)

One last note, when putting the switches under good lighting to do the accompanying photos, the bright lights revealed that the box containing the left hand switch has very faint lettering stamped in black on its end.

Box faintly stamped in black on end.

First line: “ ?? st No. 2156”
Second line: “???? switch?
According to the 1910 catalog this is the box for a right hand switch. Apparently, folks got things in the wrong box back then too. I hope these switches, and the photos, add to your body of information on Voltamp.

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