Since I was a kid I always had my nose to the ground looking for anything old, interesting or cool. The bottle bug hit me hard at the age of 14. A field separated our house from an old 1890's house that still didn't have indoor plumbing. I was walking along the edge of the field and found a clear square machine made unembossed cork medicine and I was hooked!
For the next few years I would hop on my bike, shovel across the handlebars and go digging at sites I knew about. When I got my driver's license my range greatly expanded. I remember talking with a customer of the company I worked for and he knew about the Park City dump. That was in 1970 and the beginning of many fun and fruitful digs. I met some great people and diggers at Park City. Some whose names you might recognize - Rick Holt and his friend Kip, Jack Tapp and Charles Murie, Dick Bartlett, Max Davis and Bob Conrad, and Jerry Harris to name a few.
When I think back we sure had a lot of places to dig in the '60's and '70's. We owe a lot to the pioneer Collectors who amassed big collections of amazing bottles and their history. Bob Wooley, Fred Ronnebeck, Blackie Owens, Stan Sanders, Ken and Earl Fee, Richard Smith, Ben Loader, Roger Terry and so on. But hats off to the newer generation of diggers and Collectors. They are keeping the fire burning. Thinking back, my biggest cryer was a light grass green Kelly’s Old Cabin Bitters with the bottom blown out that we dug in Bear River City, Wyoming. Bottle collecting has also matured into a hobby for those who have the money to acquire the the rare pieces. I moved into the buying and selling end with bottles in the early 80's so I have none of my early finds left, but have acquired a few nice pieces my wife won't let me part with.
The most sought after nails are those made by the Townsend Company of Ellwood City, PA. and the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company of Pueblo, CO. The most prolific producer of nails was the American Steel & Wire Company, which later became U.S. Steel.
I have complete and nearly complete sets of most Utah railroads and utility companies. That would include the Southern Pacific, Bingham & Garfield, Salt Lake Garfield & Western, Utah Railway, Salt Lake Route (SPLA&SL RR & Union Pacific), Utah Power & Light, Utah Light & Traction, Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph and Telluride Power. I am still adding to my Oregon Short Line RR and Union Pacific sets.
On a visit to Ken Fee's home in the early 70's, I noticed a small board on a coffee table that had some nails with numbers stamped in the heads mounted on it. That is how I found out what date nails were. I was now hooked on another hobby. I started walking the rails of local railroads and checking power and telephone poles wherever I went. When I started working for the railroad at Kennecott in 1976 I was in data nail heaven. They drove nails in their ties from 1922 to 1947 after which they ceased using them. The B&G 1922 and the copper 34 are two of the rarest nails in the country as there is only one known of each. I cobbled together some good sets, but in 1992 a whole new world opened up for collecting when I learned that there is actually a club dedicated solely to the hobby called the Texas Date Nail Collectors Association. Since then I have found new friends and lots of nails.
Like places to dig bottles, date nails are scarce and getting harder to find. Many of the old sidings, spurs and ties are long gone or have been picked clean. Little is left of the old Bingham & Garfield line since Kennecott demolished the mills on the north end of the Oquirrh Mountains. We have evolved into using metal detectors to find them along the old grades. Luckily they deteriorate slowly in our dry desert soils.
Bottles will always be my first love but I am also a rock hound and wood crafter. I am always interested in adding new items to my railroad sets, including padlocks and switch locks, especially from local lines. If any of you treasure hunters out there want to part with or find an item to sell or trade keep me in mind.