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Safety Locomotive Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - September, 1960

60-09.JPG (16748 bytes)

An interesting, attractive, tri-purpose mechanical bank is our choice as No. 87 in the numerical classification of mechanical banks. This bank, Safety Locomotive, is not only intended as a toy savings device but was also made to be used as a paperweight and a pull toy. Of further interest is the fact that the bank represents an object and there are a very limited number of mechanical banks that fit into this category. Others are the American Bank (HOBBIES, July 1955), the Camera Bank (HOBBIES, December 1955), and the Pistol Bank. The fact that the bank represents an early type of 4-4-0 locomotive with its fine tall stack adds considerably to its desirability, not only to collectors of mechanical banks but to collectors of cast-iron toys and toy train collectors as well.

The Safety Locomotive, like the American Bank and the Camera Bank, has been considered a borderline case as to its being a semi-mechanical or a mechanical bank predicated on the fact that there is no immediate action in direct connection with a coin whether inserted in the bank or deposited by the action of the bank. Well the Safety Locomotive is a fine little bank and it does have clever mechanism inside whose operation is eventually caused by the number and weight of coins and it most likely belongs in the mechanical bank category. It’s to be admitted that from a strictly action standpoint the bank leaves much to be desired but this is not the only basis on which we judge a mechanical bank as to its merit as there are other factors involved. It is a well known and established fact among collectors of mechanical banks that some of the most desirable and rarest items have a minimum of action in their operation.

The Safety Locomotive was patented November 15, 1887 by Edward J. Colby of Chicago, Illinois. The patent papers covering the bank were somewhat difficult to locate since he patented the bank as a toy locomotive and, therefore, this put the papers into a classification and sub-classification where under normal circumstances patent papers covering a mechanical bank would not be found. Also of interest is the fact that the Safety Locomotive is the only known mechanical bank to be patented in the entire year of 1887.

The patent papers on the Safety Locomotive are noteworthy and Mr. Colby starts his claim as follows: "My invention relates to toys for banks, paper-weights, and the like, and has for its object to provide a bank which can be used as a toy to be drawn by a child, can be used as a paper-weight, or can be used as a bank, the contents of which are adapted to open the bank when they reach a certain weight. These objects I accomplish by means of the mechanism in the accompanying drawings, wherein Figure 1 is a side view of my invention. Figure 2 is a longitudinal section through the invention. Figure 3 is a plan view with the smoke stack and sand chest removed to leave the bank open."

The accompanying drawings referred to are the same as the bank pictured. Detailed explanation is given in the papers as to the parts and working mechanism with reference to the drawings. The smoke stack and sand chest are shown as an integral unit which is removable after the proper number of coins have been deposited in the bank. In his summation of his patent Mr. Colby expresses his claim as follows:

"I claim and desire to secure by Letters Patent a toy bank consisting of a hollow locomotive provided with a coin receiving aperture, a removable smoke stack which covers the aperture through which the coin is removed, and a spring-latch which is adapted to lock the smoke stack in position, but when depressed by the weight of the coin permits it to be released and removed so that the coin may be abstracted."

The bank shown is in nice condition and completely original. It was obtained by the writer a number of years ago through the good help of B.H. O’Connell of Binghamton, N.Y. The bank has its original nickel-plate finish and this type finish in mechanical banks is rather uncommon. As a matter of fact in the entire series of articles up to date only one mechanical bank came with a nickel finish and this was the Automatic Coin Savings Bank (HOBBIES, December 1956).

As to the operation of the bank, dimes are inserted in the coin slot located in the roof of the cab and they drop on through into the steam boiler. When sufficient coins have been deposited they force the spring in the forward end of the boiler and thus depress the locking piston and cause it to descend. The hook on the bar to which the sand chest and smoke stack are fastened is thus freed and this part may be removed so that the coins can be extracted.

The Safety Locomotive pictured has the name "Safety" on the front of the boiler and "Pat. 87" on each side of the cab under the windows. A later variety of the bank has the name "Safety" on each side of the cab and the date "Pat. 87" on the front of the boiler. This type also has a removable curved piece that fits on top of the boiler under the removable stack and sand chest. This was a later adaptation to facilitate the removal of coins.

The Safety Locomotive makes a desirable addition to a collection of mechanical banks and it is a real challenge to the collector to find one in complete original condition. Since it was played with as a pull toy as well as a bank it was subject to extra usage. Usually one part or another is broken and most often the removable stack and sand chest is missing completely. The number of complete original Safety Locomotive Banks in private collections is very limited.


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