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Signal Cabin Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine April, 2012

     THE LEGENDARY locomotive, with passenger or freight cars in tow, has long been a worldwide symbol of freedom and expansion. These wood burning, steam-belching behemoths enabled nineteenth century travelers and industrialists to span vast distances with greater speed and safety than ever before.
     Artisans of that era immortalized the railroad with folklore, fables and ballads. Producers of commonly utilized products began to adorn many of their goods with images of trains. Toy manufacturers, ever cognizant of innovative and popular trends, exploited the public's current
fascination. Children of the era were captivated by the detailed and attractive miniature railroad models. Several German manufacturers of tin-plate toys crafted not only model railroad layouts but also many of the accessories used to enhance realism and interest. One such producer was Doll and Company, located in Nuremburg, Germany, whose imaginative and handsome accessories included "Railroad Ticket Vending Bank" (Figure 1), "Railroad Drink Dispensing Bank" (Figure 2), and "Railroad Postage Stamp Dispensing Bank" (Figure 3).
     Our subject, "Signal Cabin Bank" (seen in Figure 4), was the product of Johann Distler Company, also located Figun, in Niiremburg, Germany. During the latter portion of the nineteenth century, and continuing through the early twentieth century, NUremberg was the world center for production of tin-plate toys. Distler was well known for its lithographed, tin-plate, penny-toy road vehicles, novelty items and model car and train sets. The "Signal Cabin Bank" (Figure 4) is a fine representation of one of the company's model railroad layout accessories.
     "Signal Cabin" features what is referred to as a semaphore safety signal (refer to Figure 5). The actual signal was patented in the early 1840's by Joseph James Stevens, a gentleman who realized that there was a dire need for some type of safety control governing such enormous vehicles. These signals were set up along critical sections of railroad track to serve as a warning for sharp curves, track crossings and  other potentially Figure 3 perilous obstacles.
     Action of "Signal Cabin" is uncomplicated. A coin, when pushed through the slot in the roof, causes the semaphore flag to be lowered and return to its horizontal position (Figure 4). The weight of the coin causes an internal plate to tip downward, thus lowering the fishtail-shaped semaphore flag. The result is that the coin slides into the bottom of the building. Coin removal is achieved by opening a sliding coin retainer located underneath the base of the bank.
     The "Signal Cabin Bank" was produced in two different color schemes and these pertain to its building. One example displays a red brick building, as seen in Figure 4, and the other exhibits a blue brick building (Figure 6). The scarcity of either example may perhaps be attributed to its fragile tin-plate construction and frail mechanism. Or, perhaps, many examples may presently be in the possession of vintage model train collectors who possibly are unaware that this railroad accessory is also a mechanical bank.
     To my knowledge, "Signal Cabin Bank" has not been reproduced. Despite its simplistic design and diminutive size (Height - to the top of semaphore pole: 5-7/8 inches; Width: 2-1/4 inches; Depth: 3-15/16 inches), "Signal Cabin" is an attractive and highly desirable addition to a collection of antique model trains and/or mechanical banks.
Acknowledgment: The fine example "Signal Cabin Bank" (Figure 4) safeguards the mechanical bank collection of Bob Weiss.

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