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These crude welded on handles (as if for leather straps) should exclude it from being a precision machine part.

Maybe its more to transfer the silver onto an axle or shaft to make use of its conducting properties (electrical/thermal). In which part of railroads did your grandfather work? 

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8 hours ago, Goldhooked said:

Try posting it somewhere like this - https://www.reddit.com/r/Whatisthis/

Someone might be able to ID it.

You're too slow ;)

No answers beyond what was said here though so didn't bother reporting back 



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So, silver is useful as a thermal or electrical conductor, but the issue here is that it's not clear what it's conducting from or to. There's no hint of electrical connection, so thermal conductivity makes more sense, perhaps as a radiator/heatsink?

The catalytic converter idea (ok I'm the only one that thought that) makes no sense because the shape is very poorly optimised for gas transfer

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