Back before EPA and OSHA their used to be small foundries everywhere. Large boat
yards like Herreshoff also had foundries and made their hardware
on site. In the early '70s had windlass
cast by the Moritz Foundry in Costa Mesa. Cut a foot off the anchor
chain and he cast a gypsy
to match. Really nifty piece of gear
, ratchet and pawl with no springs to break, double handles so you could haul in the rode
relatively fast though it still was all muscle. The windlass wouldn't pass OSHA inspection
but worked a charm for us. Too bad that the Lords in Sacramento and DC shut him down though that was probably going to happen in any case as Mr Moritz was in his 60s and had no one around that looked like they would take on the business.
Anyway, your windlass is probably a creation of one of those small foundries. The geared crank handle allows you to crank continuously which may be a bit faster though the gearing will have a lot to do with that. Can't tell from the pictures how you release the chain, maybe pull the handle so the gears no longer mesh. The Moritz had a band break that worked great so you didn't get runaway chain feeding out. Would see how it works before committing to using it. These old windlasses had some quirks that weren't good for longevity, yours not the windlass.
Brass would probably work
fine for a windlass. It's constant immersion in salt water
below the water
line that eats up the zinc in brass. Just leave the post as is. Hopefully someone knows the history
of the Pioneer foundry.