Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Read a message from our director, and check our website and social media for updates.



Usage conditions apply
This homemade spanner was used in steam locomotive repair work to tighten/remove very large, critical bolts. The wrench would need to be used with a very long 'extender' on the handle to gain the necessary leverage. The spanner was used on bolt heads and nuts that hold the front-end (or the "smokebox" portion) of a steam locomotive boiler onto the cast-steel "saddle" that is the foundation of a steam locomotive's cylinder-and-mainframe assembly. The strength and tightness of these "saddle bolts" that join boiler and saddle are crucial to keeping the locomotive from literally shaking itself apart when underway down the track. This crude spanner was likely home-made in a roundhouse far from a full repair shop.
Object Name
Date made
ca 1950s
used date
Associated Place
United States: Vermont
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 19 in x 8 1/2 in; 48.26 cm x 21.59 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of National Park Service
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Railroad
America on the Move
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object