Antiques We Like: Johnson Farecounters

By Dave

January 19th, 2008

Johnson Trolley FareboxIf you’re into trolley and streetcar-related antiques, check out our trolley page.

I found this Johnson model D Farebox in an antique shop in Bisbee, Arizona, and it turned out to be a 1920s San Francisco Muni farebox, which unbelievably can still use the MUNI tokens sold in stores today. It was probably used on a bus line, but maybe a streetcar.

This model has the electric motor on the bottom, which runs on 12 volt DC power (my dad helped me get it working). It can also be run with the hand crank on the side. Note that this farebox only counts the coins and tokens, but does not store them. The idea was to keep the person collecting the money honest.

31 comments so far

  1. Shelley Says:

    I have an old Johnson fare box. The dates on it are April 1909 to March 1919. Ser.j model. I was trying to research it. I would like to sell it eventually. If any body has info on it please let me know. Thanks.

  2. Mike Martinez Says:

    I have a pre-war Cleveland Bus Farebox. I have no keys and I am wondering how to access the box doors without destroying box. It’s in real nice shape. Thanks

  3. Mike Martinez Says:

    I was able to open my Cleveland fare box. I discovered the inner vault was missing. Now I’m looking to replace that vault. Can anyone help me find one?

  4. Dave Cyr Says:

    Has anyone figured out how to open these without a key?

  5. Mike Martinez Says:

    Dear Cyr I might be able to help you open your farebox.

  6. Gerald Says:

    I have a Cleveland Farebox with a vault, and alas, I cannot open the star lock. The dang thing has four sets of pins … any practical advice on how to open the box and not damage the bar or lock mechanism would be appreciated.

    A picture of a similar box is here:

    Thanks for any help you can offer.

  7. Bill Schell Says:

    I have two Johnson Fare Boxes. What is the little ball for that hangs where the coins fall on to the trap door? What is the dog-leg chute for?

  8. Xian Clere Says:

    hi Bill, the little ball is there to indicate whether the fare box has been tampered with. If you turn the box upside-down, the ball falls out from its holder and indicates the farebox has been tampered with.

  9. johnny brooks Says:

    I saw an old johnson fare box at a flea market here for 35.oo
    did not buy did not know value but still can buy.are the worth anything?
    how do they work saw motor plug in at bottom ,has counter,and maybe six round holes at top.various pat.1909,1914 etc.johnny

  10. John Sawyer Says:

    Has anyone had luck opening a Johnson trolley/bus fare box without a key. It has a 4-Way lock mechanism.

  11. Rod Stanfield Says:

    Can anyone help with opening a farebox that has a “4 way” lock that requires an X key?

  12. Mike Quezada Says:

    Does anyone know how to repair a Johnson fare box? When you turn the coin handle the inner disc does not spin so you can not count the coins

  13. patti Says:

    I found a Johnson fare box co the serial no is 52230 and it has no 11 on it. it says new ork and Chicago on it. dates for new York are apr 1909 and may 1914 and Chicago says oct 1912 and may 1914. Can anyone tell me about this box. Would like to know about it.

  14. Raymond C. Medina Says:

    We have restored an old bus we have the fairbox like this one with ser# 49597 no 316. We need the stand, it has 2 slots on other side of coin dispenser. Would like pics for fabrication or to buy one.

  15. steve handelman Says:

    i have a johnson farebox model d that i had put in working order over 30 years ago and over time has stopped working…as far as i can tell one of the major gears is stripped…i live in the nyc metro area and would like to have it repaired…any suggestions?

  16. Marshall Rubin Says:

    I have a Johnson Farebox Model D that I wish to enable it to work off of household current. It apparently ran with a 12-vold, 10 amp battery configuration. What is needed for the money-counter to crank off of household current?

  17. Terry Fleischmann Says:

    Our railroad museum has one of these in a (cosmetically) restored streetcar. I knew nothing about it until researching it online. My questions is; how does one disassemble it for slight repairs?

  18. Kevin Says:

    Did anyone ever come up with a way to open a Cleveland box with the 4 way key?

  19. Charles Gonzalez Says:

    Have a Johnson fare box around the 50s mechanical .
    the gears seem stuck wont return the change.
    opened it and tried to see but could not open the gear box???/

  20. Xian Clere Says:

    Unless you have the original key, those four-way keys are pretty hard to find. I had one years ago that I had a local locksmith drill out, once the lock was removed I replaced it with a more standard style lock. It fit well, once painted it looks great. However, if you do find the original key, it is very high security and nice to have. I believe the keys were utilized by Johnson, Keene, which is now GFI also known as General Fare Industries. I spoke to someone there years ago who mentioned they are still able to make keys for this. However, you need to know the numbers from the key. Very expensive, at least $50 per key if I recall. I do not believe this information can be obtained from the lock. Perhaps internally there is a code, but if you drill out the old lock, this information is likely lost.

  21. Jaime Nahman Says:

    Hi, I have a 1950’s Johnson Fare Box. There is a cast iron ring in the sorting mechanism that has broken. Anyone know where I might get a replacement? Any manuals to share?

  22. Dan Says:

    I have an old Johnson fare box I got it opened and want to remove the top glass portion for restoration but can’t figure out how. Any tips?

  23. Bud Hill Says:

    I have a Johnson farebox (pat dates 1909-14 so probably a model D?) purchased many years ago which worked manually when I got it. How do I remove the top glassed in section to clean it out? After storing it in my shed a mouse with some acorns got in and perished there. I want to restore it, which should be fairly easy if I can do that part.

  24. Jeremy Says:

    I have a D Box in great shape but the front hole in front is missing a cover or plug or something. Has grease innit. Really hoping to source parts for it I’d like to rebuild the motor or replace the motor as well. Parts parts parts????

  25. Carl Dulfer Says:

    Someone dropped paper clips into the coin drop causing the gearing to jam. I tried forcing it (mistake) and the internal shear pin failed. Does anyone know where I could get an equivalent substitute for the pin?

  26. Mark Donaghy Says:

    I have a model D Johnson Box Serial No 37817 (latest patent date is 1914) and I am looking for the top cap that accepts coins/tokens which the corners where the bolts go through are broken off. If anyone can assist in locating one it would be greatly appreciated.

    Dan, if yours is like mine you slide the coin counting mechanism out the front face and then there are 4 bolts securing the top glass piece that can be removed from inside the box.

  27. Alfred DeMartino Says:

    I have a Johnson farebox that I used for our spare change for twenty years. A few months ago, I guess my handful of change was a bit too much, the machine started to choke and make a banging sound. A friend and I took it apart and got it turning correctly, but as soon as I threw in a few coins, it gagged again. I really love this piece and would love to find a former workshop technician or anybody who could repair by “piggy-bank.” I live in Morris County, NJ, but I will travel if necessary.


  28. Kenneth H Fountain Says:

    How to remove the glass top of a Johnson fair box?

  29. Katie Quesada Says:

    My Dad has a Duncan Industries FaretronicFour FSW-4 transit collection box without the key. He loved giving us kids coins to watch go in to the box. It’s now full. I am reading these comments and looks like obtaining a key for the collection box is very difficult. I also read about people hiring a locksmith etc. If I have it re-keyed (not original) to make Dad happy are there concerns about that or will it still operate etc? Thanks so much.

  30. David Moody Says:

    Need to change broken glass at top of Cleveland Johnson Fare box. What role do springs inside corners of glass play. Can’t reach back 2 3/8 in nuts. Thanks

  31. Ron Hrubetz Says:

    I have recently acquired a Keene K25m. It is mounted on the pedestal with the vault box. Has anyone come up with a source for the x key to remove the vault box from the pedestal? Even photos or measurements, perhaps? Thanks, Ron

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