The first pattern of this item was made by a man named Alanson in 1863 in New York. It was used because it was easy to break and had a minimal amount of extinguishing capability, thus a minimal amount of mess to clean up. It is called a fire grenade. It was aimed at the base of the fire to quench the flames. It was filled with a blue brine of salt water and bio carbonated of soda or muriatic of ammonia because it did not freeze. The grenade worked by robbing the fire of oxygen through a chemical reaction.
Fire grenades are usually six to eight inches high, with a narrow neck and a round body. Many grenades were sealed with a cork and cement. The cement would prevent the liquid from escaping if the cork shrank. For added protection, some grenades had a foil seal over the cork. Many grenades had a wire loop on the neck which was used for hanging the grenade from a nail or hook on the wall.
Finding a grenade unbroken is rare. They were made for a short life, so for the railroad collector this is a great find.