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Arrowhead shaped brass token, pointing down with a thick ring at top on a small chain. Text reads: T.C.I. COKE 250 TOOL CHECK

Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad check, USA

From Wikipedia, the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company existed from 1852 – 1952. It was also known as TCI, and the Tennessee Company. TCI was a major American steel manufacturer with interests in coal and iron ore mining and railroad operations.

Arrowhead shaped brass token, pointing down with a thick ring at top on a small chain. Text reads: T.C.I. COKE 250 TOOL CHECK

This is a tool check, from T.C.I. Coke. A tool check is a token, issued to each employee. When they need a particular tool, they swap the tool for their individually numbered check. If someone else needs the tool, they know who has it.

Coke, in this case, is a grey, hard, and porous coal-based fuel with a high carbon content and few impurities, made by heating coal or oil in the absence of air—a destructive distillation process. It is an important industrial product, used mainly in iron ore smelting, but also as a fuel in stoves and forges when air pollution is a concern.

TCI Tennessee’s leading coal extractor during the 1860’s, mining and transporting coal around the towns of Cowan and Tracy City in the Cumberland Mountains, and soon branched out into coke manufacture. This practice of both extracting and moving coal to market by building private rail tracks was not unusual at the time, as by owning the tracks that served their mines, businesses could undercut rivals at market by saving money on transportation

Reverse of the arrow-head shaped TCI Coke tool check. Smooth, plain back.

One of the few early heavy industries in the largely agricultural Southern United States, TCI’s asset sheet for 1900 listed 17 blast furnaces, 3256 beehive coke ovens, 120 Solvay coke ovens, 15 red ore mines, as well an extensive network of railroads.

Since being fully absorbed by U.S. Steel in 1952, the last relic of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company is Fairfield Plant. This plant continues to be operated by U. S. Steel as one of its five integrated steel mills in the US. As of September 2006, it was the largest steel-making plant in Alabama, employing 2,000 workers, down from a peak of 45,000 during World War II. In 2006, Fairfield Plant was producing 2.4 million tons of raw steel per annum and 640,000 tons of seamless tubular and sheet products, mainly for purchase by the booming oil industry.

Most details on TCI, courtesy Wikipedia.

I must admit, having never been to Tennessee, when I think of that US State, I think of Johnny Cash. As I write this, I’m listening to “Hey Porter“. I’m not sure what Railroad the subject of that song was on. Possibly the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway. Or perhaps The Louisville and Nashville Railroad. Those look like the two most obvious ones heading south into Tennessee anyway. Likely not the TCI railroad, unless he was an employee.

An early locomotive of TCI was the Sewanee, a type of 4-4-0 “American Standard” steam locomotive, built in 1855. Photo from Locomotive.fandom.com:

TCI&RR Co Sawanee locomotive.  Black and white photo of the locomotive facing right.  It has a large funnel, square cab and short tender which slopes to the rear.  Photo from https://locomotive.fandom.com/wiki/The_Sewanee
Arrowhead shaped brass token, pointing down with a thick ring at top on a small chain. Text reads: T.C.I. COKE 250 TOOL CHECK






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