Southern Style Southern Charm

Estate Sale Social Distancing: Shopping for Southern Railway Memorabilia

Last week I went to an awesome estate sale.  It had been almost three months since attending my last sale. Things are different now though. Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp began lifting shelter-at-home restrictions in April. A few estate sales were still taking place but I have been following Georgia guidelines and I  stayed home for the previous eight weeks, going out only twice during that period (and not to estate sales). Thankfully my husband was and is still working so I was fortunate that he was willing to take care of our grocery shopping.

The sale I went to strictly adhered to CDC guidelines. I think that was one of the reasons I felt comfortable going to the sale. They clearly stated how they were going to be running their sale. They had an online sign-up sheet. They only let seven people in at a time. Customers were only allowed to shop for 45 minutes. You also had to wear a mask. They had hand washing stations available. If you forgot your mask, they had some available to purchase. They were constantly counting the number of people in the house. The checkout table was outside and had tape on the driveway to make sure people maintained safe social distancing.

While all of their requirements and guidelines were reasonable and actually made me more comfortable with the idea of shopping with them, it did make shopping more challenging and I know I missed out on some of the best items because I couldn’t get a slot until the second day of the sale. Typically there is a huge crowd that shows up bright and early on the first day and the home is packed. Although I understood and agreed with how they were running the sale, it was a little frustrating not even being allowed to shop the first day, especially knowing that the most desirable pieces wouldn’t be available when I finally got to shop (and they had already sold).  If you are like me and are a frequent user of, you know that most listings feature 100 to 200 photos. This one had more than one thousand photos! So much stuff. Grand scheme of things though, there wasn’t anything there that I absolutely had to have. It’s just an adjustment that we all will be having to make to  a new way of shopping.

What did they have that I was so interested in? Railroad memorabilia. Specifically, Southern Railway memorabilia. One of the reasons I decided to venture out to this sale was the fact that it featured lots of railroad memorabilia. My grandfather worked for Southern Railway for fifty years, many of those years as a conductor. So whenever I see an estate sale with Southern Railway memorabilia, I try to go. This was one of those sales. The homeowner had worked for Southern and had save many mementos. I saw the sale on and was excited to see Southern china and silverware, matchbooks, cups, hats, photos, artwork, and so much more. Unfortunately most of the more desirable items were already gone by the time I got there on the second day. I imagine the men who had the first time slot (and yes it was all men who got the first time slot of the first day) quickly purchased the most valuable items.

Now I don’t actually collect railroad memorabilia but my brother does and my mother appreciates having a few pieces from Southern Railway and I enjoy finding pieces to give to them.  I was still able to get a few Southern items and I also bought a number of other non-railroad items because this house was full of a huge variety of vintage and mid-century treasures.

I thought I would take you through some of the rooms in the house today and later this week I will show you what I bought.

Here is the front of the house. It is a nice mid-century brick home located in Brookhaven, a suburb of Atlanta. It looks small from the front but it just kept going and going with lots of rooms. The sale entry was in the back of the house in a large den which was crammed full of merchandise.

From there it branched off into the kitchen on one side and a bedroom on the other side. After that it was just one room after another. It had an interesting floor plan and it was hard to get your bearings. Each room, and even the garage, was just overflowing with so many vintage items.

A lot of the furniture had already been sold but there were still a few lovely antique pieces.

The estate sale  company had tables set up in almost every room and they were all full. I talked to Derrick, the owner of the estate sale company (Old Mill Antiques), and he said they had actually sold a lot of merchandise on the first day. It sure didn’t look like it though. The rooms were packed. It was a good thing they were only letting seven people in at a time. There really wasn’t enough room for many more than that.

Here are some of the railroad items. Most of these had already sold when I got there on day two. I dug around in the garage and in the corner of the formal living room and found a few railroad pieces.

They had what looked like two sets of Southern Railway china, including serving pieces. These are very hard to find and I am guessing that they were the first to go at the sale. The nice thing about this set is the large logo on the pieces. A lot of times they can only be identified by maker marks on the back but these have a prominent logo on the front. In my opinion, this really was the top treasure at the sale. I really would have liked to have gotten a piece or two for my brother and my mother.

These are cloth headrest covers featuring the Southern Railway logo.

They had boxes full of matchbooks.

Quite a few Southern ashtrays. People sure did smoke a lot back then.

Railroad lantern.

And finally, what I considered the best Southern treasure, railroad silverware. This and the china were the two items I would have liked to have purchase. Oh well, like I mentioned earlier, it’s not like it was something I had to have.

Now there were lots of other treasures to be found at the sale. The owner had a huge collection of blue and white hobnail china. They even had some moonstone opalescent hobnail pieces. I will share photos of that in my next post.

My friend Anne was with me and she had to make more than one trip to her car to load her purchases. So we still ended up with plenty to take home, just not much related to Southern Railway. It was a fun sale, especially after the long dry spell we have all experienced. I appreciated the steps that the estate sale company took to keep their customers safe.

I will share what I purchased in my next post. Have any of you ventured out to estate sales yet? Let me know what you have experienced.

6 Responses

  1. Wow, we won’t be able to do that until, July probably in Illinois. Very interesting selections, I think I would have liked to snag that railway lamp. My grandfather was a night watchman for a large foundry. The lamp was used to signal trains to the proper position for loading and unloading. Very cool stuff, from VCharm. Sandi

    1. July…that is a long time to wait. Governor Kemp of Georgia has received a lot criticism for his decision to start opening up the state. That lantern was pretty cool. My brother and I actually have one that belonged to our grandfather but I would have bought that one too if I could have. Stay safe Sandi. Kathy

  2. I bet the railroad items were really something to see! My daughter and I i visited a local transportation museum last year and out favorite part was learning about the trains. They had cases of dishes ad dinnerware that was used in the dinner cars years ago. It was so neat to see!

  3. I’m happy to see that the estate sale followed social distancing guidelines. In Texas, we have started reopening too, but I am disappointed that more people aren’t exercising caution. Looks like a fun AND safe sale. Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm!

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