Vintage Railroad Lanterns, Lamps & Lenses

In the early days of railroads, operating after dark was a difficult and dangerous proposition. The lights they had available to use as locomotive headlights, switch signal lights, to direct and inspect the trains, and to direct and sort passengers, luggage, and cargo in train yards were generally "dead flame" whale oil lamps and lanterns. Dead flame lanterns rely on convection to bring fresh air inside the lantern globe around the bottom, and the globes and air intakes are shaped to guide airflow around the flame. This design helps to prevent the wind from blowing out the flame, as it is sitting in the middle in "dead" air, but it does not cast a bright light. The glass globes on these early railroad lanterns were fixed to the fuel font, making access to the burner and wick area difficult.


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Lantern Globe 5010000780 Buy Now »

Lantern Globe 5010000780

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Antique Dietz NY USA No2 Blizzard Ruby Red Oil Railroad Lantern Hippie Folk Art Bid Now » Buy Now »
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Antique Dietz NY USA No2 Blizzard Ruby Red Oil Railroad Lantern Hippie Folk Art

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Adams & Westlake  Railroad  Lantern "ADLAKE RELIABLE".!!! Bid Now » Buy Now »

Adams & Westlake Railroad Lantern "ADLAKE RELIABLE".!!!

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PRESENTATION LANTERN CONDUCTOR LAMP CT HAMM RAILWAY RAILROAD CANADIAN BRASS Bid Now »

PRESENTATION LANTERN CONDUCTOR LAMP CT HAMM RAILWAY RAILROAD CANADIAN BRASS

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Vintage Rusty DIETZ NO. 2 D-LITE RR lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Rusty DIETZ NO. 2 D-LITE RR lantern

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Dietz  "UNION DRIVING LAMP" Wagon/Barn Lantern !!!!WORKS!!! Bid Now »

Dietz "UNION DRIVING LAMP" Wagon/Barn Lantern !!!!WORKS!!!

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Vintage RAILROAD LANTERN  Red  Hard Plastic LENS 5 3/8 inches Bid Now »

Vintage RAILROAD LANTERN Red Hard Plastic LENS 5 3/8 inches

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Dietz  "UNION DRIVING LAMP" Wagon/Barn Lantern !!!!WORKS!!! Bid Now »

Dietz "UNION DRIVING LAMP" Wagon/Barn Lantern !!!!WORKS!!!

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Vintage Conger Battery Powered Railroad Lantern w/ Handle Bid Now »

Vintage Conger Battery Powered Railroad Lantern w/ Handle

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Vintage A&W Brakemans Lantern - MKTRR -   MISSOURI-KANSAS-TEXAS  - Red Globe Bid Now »

Vintage A&W Brakemans Lantern - MKTRR - MISSOURI-KANSAS-TEXAS - Red Globe

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PYLE NATIONAL DIESEL DOUBLE LIGHT HEADLIGHT, E-7 OR F-3 TYPE LOCOMOTIVE, Bid Now »

PYLE NATIONAL DIESEL DOUBLE LIGHT HEADLIGHT, E-7 OR F-3 TYPE LOCOMOTIVE,

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ALADDIN MODEL C RAILROAD CABOOSE KEROSINE LAMP WALL BRACKET + EXTRA C BURNER Bid Now »

ALADDIN MODEL C RAILROAD CABOOSE KEROSINE LAMP WALL BRACKET + EXTRA C BURNER

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VTG DIETZ RAILROAD SIGNAL LANTERN TRAIN OIL LAMP LIGHT VTG STEAMPUNK DECOR Buy Now »

VTG DIETZ RAILROAD SIGNAL LANTERN TRAIN OIL LAMP LIGHT VTG STEAMPUNK DECOR

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DIETZ COMET KEROSENE OIL LAMP VINTAGE RED RAILROAD STYLE SYRACUSE N Y LIGHT USA Buy Now »

DIETZ COMET KEROSENE OIL LAMP VINTAGE RED RAILROAD STYLE SYRACUSE N Y LIGHT USA

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Vintage GRS General Railway Signal Light Bid Now »

Vintage GRS General Railway Signal Light

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Vintage Burlington Route Railroad Lantern   Antique Old Rail Road Embossed Buy Now »

Vintage Burlington Route Railroad Lantern Antique Old Rail Road Embossed

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VINTAGE EMBURY LUCK-E-LITE RED GLOBE RAILROAD CABOOSE LIGHT LANTERN No. 25 Bid Now »

VINTAGE EMBURY LUCK-E-LITE RED GLOBE RAILROAD CABOOSE LIGHT LANTERN No. 25

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Antique Embury No.2 Air Pilot lantern 1930's Red Globe Bid Now »

Antique Embury No.2 Air Pilot lantern 1930's Red Globe

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CRI&P RR Tall RAILROAD LANTERN Chicago, Rock Island, Pacific etched globe Bid Now »

CRI&P RR Tall RAILROAD LANTERN Chicago, Rock Island, Pacific etched globe

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UP Union Pacific Railroad Caboose style Unusual Lantern Deep red globe estate Bid Now »

UP Union Pacific Railroad Caboose style Unusual Lantern Deep red globe estate

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Scarce L & N Louisville Nashville Railroad amber globe Lantern Family estate WOW Bid Now »

Scarce L & N Louisville Nashville Railroad amber globe Lantern Family estate WOW

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Vintage Dietz Crescent Kerosene W F S No 129 Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz Crescent Kerosene W F S No 129 Lantern

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Vintage Delta Powerlite Railroad Lantern Flashlight Lamp Bid Now »

Vintage Delta Powerlite Railroad Lantern Flashlight Lamp

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1 hr
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Antique ~ Firehand "Superbaby" Nier Kerosene Lantern with Red Globe ~ Germany Buy Now »

Antique ~ Firehand "Superbaby" Nier Kerosene Lantern with Red Globe ~ Germany

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RARE Delta Powerlite 6V RR Railroad flashlight Lantern 2 Lamps - Flasher - WORKS Bid Now »

RARE Delta Powerlite 6V RR Railroad flashlight Lantern 2 Lamps - Flasher - WORKS

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PENNSYLVANIA LINES LANTERN GLOBE Buy Now »

PENNSYLVANIA LINES LANTERN GLOBE

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VINTAGE DIETZ LITTLE WIZARD GENUINE RUBY RED GLASS GLOBE CHIMNEY  SYRACUSE, N.Y. Bid Now »

VINTAGE DIETZ LITTLE WIZARD GENUINE RUBY RED GLASS GLOBE CHIMNEY SYRACUSE, N.Y.

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2 RAILROAD SIGNAL LENS SEMAPHORE GLASS BEAUTIFUL BLUE TEAL GREEN 8 3/8" Bid Now »

2 RAILROAD SIGNAL LENS SEMAPHORE GLASS BEAUTIFUL BLUE TEAL GREEN 8 3/8"

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VINTAGE RAILROAD LANTERN / LAMP...ELECTRIC!!! STEAMPUNK INDUSTRIAL LAMP LIGHT Buy Now »

VINTAGE RAILROAD LANTERN / LAMP...ELECTRIC!!! STEAMPUNK INDUSTRIAL LAMP LIGHT

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Antique RARE LARGE Railroad Train Lantern Globe Part Lamp Shade Buy Now »

Antique RARE LARGE Railroad Train Lantern Globe Part Lamp Shade

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Lantern Globe for oil lamps railroad navigation fits dietz little wizard  blue Bid Now »
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Lantern Globe for oil lamps railroad navigation fits dietz little wizard blue

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vintage CANDY RAILROAD STYLE LANTERN -- LARGE 5" high  NOS Bid Now » Buy Now »

vintage CANDY RAILROAD STYLE LANTERN -- LARGE 5" high NOS

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 Mid Century - RED - DIETZ - No. 50 - KEROSENE LAMP - Made in Hong Kong Bid Now »

Mid Century - RED - DIETZ - No. 50 - KEROSENE LAMP - Made in Hong Kong

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VINTAGE   ALADDIN MODEL C    LANTERN  / LAMP Buy Now »

VINTAGE ALADDIN MODEL C LANTERN / LAMP

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VINTAGE ALLADIN RAILROAD LANTERN, OIL LANTERN, WHITE FLAME CO. Buy Now »

VINTAGE ALLADIN RAILROAD LANTERN, OIL LANTERN, WHITE FLAME CO.

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LOT #3 VINTAGE PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD OIL CAN, GAS AND OIL CAN, PRR Buy Now »

LOT #3 VINTAGE PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD OIL CAN, GAS AND OIL CAN, PRR

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 LOT #2 VINTAGE PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD OIL CAN, PRR Buy Now »

LOT #2 VINTAGE PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD OIL CAN, PRR

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VINTAGE RED RAILROAD OIL CAN, GAS AND OIL CAN, R.R. Buy Now »

VINTAGE RED RAILROAD OIL CAN, GAS AND OIL CAN, R.R.

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VINTAGE EAGLE PC RAILROAD OIL CAN Buy Now »

VINTAGE EAGLE PC RAILROAD OIL CAN

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VINTAGE ANTIQUE ELGIN KEROSENE RAILROAD LANTERN Bid Now »

VINTAGE ANTIQUE ELGIN KEROSENE RAILROAD LANTERN

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2 hrs
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Railroad Signal Warning Light Lamp VINTAGE Candle Powered Red Glass Metal Case Buy Now »

Railroad Signal Warning Light Lamp VINTAGE Candle Powered Red Glass Metal Case

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Clear Lantern Globe R690B051 Buy Now »

Clear Lantern Globe R690B051

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Cool 1950s New Unused Old Stock Hand Held Multi Color Battery Mini Lantern Buy Now »

Cool 1950s New Unused Old Stock Hand Held Multi Color Battery Mini Lantern

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KOPP GLASS RAILROAD SIGNAL LANTERN RED LENS 5 3/8 D X 3 1/2 F INCHES Bid Now » Buy Now »

KOPP GLASS RAILROAD SIGNAL LANTERN RED LENS 5 3/8 D X 3 1/2 F INCHES

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Lantern Globe 5010000290 Buy Now »

Lantern Globe 5010000290

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VINTAGE ANTIQUE ADLAKE NON SWEATING RAILROAD SWITCH LIGHT LAMP LANTERN KEROSENE Buy Now »
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VINTAGE ANTIQUE ADLAKE NON SWEATING RAILROAD SWITCH LIGHT LAMP LANTERN KEROSENE

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Antique dietz lantern Bid Now » Buy Now »

Antique dietz lantern

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Unique Adlake Electric RailRoad Battery Operated Switch Lantern Bid Now »

Unique Adlake Electric RailRoad Battery Operated Switch Lantern

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COLLECTIBLE-CAST IRON-VEGETABLE-N-FRUIT CART Buy Now »
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COLLECTIBLE-CAST IRON-VEGETABLE-N-FRUIT CART

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In the middle of the 19th century, several innovations took place in lighting technology. Dietz and Company patented a flat wick lantern burner designed to burn kerosene in 1859. Although the railroad industry continued to use lamps and lanterns burning signal oil for some time afterward, the arrival of kerosene presaged future use of the fuel in later railroad lanterns. In 1868, John Irwin received the patent for his "hot blast" type lantern, a design that diverted exhaust gas back down tubes on the sides of the lantern to direct a mix of fresh and hot air at the flame, making it burn brighter. That same year, Dietz & Smith began producing their first hot blast lanterns. In 1874, Irwin patented a similar "cold blast" type lantern, which was designed to force cold, fresh air at the flame, making it burn even brighter than the previous "hot blast" design. By that time, a number of companies were producing lanterns and signal lamps for the railroad industry, including the Buffalo Steam Gauge and Lantern Company and Adams and Westlake, commonly known as Adlake.

Because there were a large number of lantern manufacturers serving the diverse needs of the railroad companies, many different types of lanterns and lamps were produced over the years. An early innovation was to make the globe removable, allowing easier access to service the burner and wick, and allowing for easy replacement of broken globes. The fixed globe lanterns were replaced by tall globe lanterns with red, cobalt blue, green, amber, and clear globes. The different colors were used for signaling and to mark the end of a train, or a train that was stopped because it was being worked on. Different arm motions and color combinations could allow a switch operator or ground man to tell the engineer of a train to stop, slow down, proceed with caution, or could alert him that the train had parted. Track switches and train yards had signal lamps that were designed with lenses to direct different colors of light in different directions, analogous to modern day automobile traffic lights.

Some lanterns were designed for very specific roles in the railroad industry. Conductor's lanterns were generally larger and more ornate than the ones used by engineers and brakemen. The traveling public expected a dignified and well dressed conductor, and a dented and rusty old lantern would not fit the image as well as a shiny brass conductor's lantern throwing a bright light. Particularly fancy ones, called presentation lanterns, were handed out on special occasions and to particularly valued employees.

Railroad inspectors, sometimes called trackwalkers, had bright lanterns designed with a reflective case and lens, made to focus as much light as possible in a small area. They had to check the trains for cracked wheels or axles, damaged couplers, and ensure proper lubrication and maintenance activities were performed on locomotives and rolling stock. The bright light of the Dietz Acme hot blast lantern and the Dietz Ideal cold blast lantern served railroad inspectors for decades.

These signal oil lanterns gave way to kerosene lanterns, and lamp design changed again to accommodate the new fuel. Short globe railroad lanterns of the early 20th century continued in production and use until late in the 20th century, so many fine examples can be found. Though they were shorter, the brighter kerosene flame, sometimes focused using a fresnel lens, was still as useful as long globe lanterns, and for the rail industry represented a far cheaper and more reliable source of portable lighting than electric lights. The same basic designs are still sold and used today to provide lighting in areas with no electricity and in emergencies such as hurricanes.

Collectors looking for antique and vintage railroad lanterns with markings from railroad and traction companies can find new opportunities to buy these historic marker lanterns, semaphore lanterns and switch lamps here daily. For more collectible RR lanterns, visit Vintage Railroad Lanterns, where you can find lamps from Embury, Dressel, Handlan, C.T. Ham and S.G. & L. Co. appear for sale regularly, along with many other railroad lanterns from turn of the century metal shops.

For more information on the various types of lamps and lanterns used on trains and around railroad yards, visit the Railroad Lamps Web Page and the Railroad Lanterns Web Page at Railroadiana Online, where they also have a special section devoted to railroad Inspector's Lanterns. For definitions of the terms used in describing vintage lantern and lamp parts, visit the Lamp Guild. Collectors interested in other antique lanterns and lamps click here!

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