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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ANTIQUE HLP MONTREAL CANADA PIPER "SLOW-ORDER" OR YARD LIMIT LANTERN AMBER LENS) Bid Now » Buy Now »

ANTIQUE HLP MONTREAL CANADA PIPER "SLOW-ORDER" OR YARD LIMIT LANTERN AMBER LENS)

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Vintage Adlake Railroad Four-Way Switch Signal Light Buy Now »

Vintage Adlake Railroad Four-Way Switch Signal Light

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VINTAGE DIETZ MONARCH NEW YORK U.S.A LANTERN Buy Now »

VINTAGE DIETZ MONARCH NEW YORK U.S.A LANTERN

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Vintage Dietz Buckeye Dash Lamp Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz Buckeye Dash Lamp

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Vintage DIETZ 70 Hr Kerosene Railroad LANTERN LITTLE WIZARD w Red Glass Globe  Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage DIETZ 70 Hr Kerosene Railroad LANTERN LITTLE WIZARD w Red Glass Globe

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Metaloglobus  Lantern  Nr. 107  ( Made in Germany) Buy Now »

Metaloglobus Lantern Nr. 107 ( Made in Germany)

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Antique Dietz Little Wizard  Lantern  NY USA Bid Now » Buy Now »

Antique Dietz Little Wizard Lantern NY USA

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Antique Dietz No.2 D-Lite Lantern NY USA Bid Now » Buy Now »

Antique Dietz No.2 D-Lite Lantern NY USA

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Antique Dietz Little Wizard  Lantern NY USA Bid Now » Buy Now »

Antique Dietz Little Wizard Lantern NY USA

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VINTAGE ADLAKE 400 FONT / POT & BURNER Bid Now »

VINTAGE ADLAKE 400 FONT / POT & BURNER

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 BARN DIETZ OIL LENTERN  # 2 VINTAGE made in NY. U.S.A. Bid Now »

BARN DIETZ OIL LENTERN # 2 VINTAGE made in NY. U.S.A.

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Vintage road hazard lantern Bid Now »

Vintage road hazard lantern

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Vintage New York Central Lines Dietz Vesta Clear Globe Railroad Lantern. Buy Now »

Vintage New York Central Lines Dietz Vesta Clear Globe Railroad Lantern.

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Dietz D Lite No 2 Antique Collectable Lantern Bid Now »

Dietz D Lite No 2 Antique Collectable Lantern

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Dietz Little Wizard NY Usa Gas Lantern Collectible Antique Parts Bid Now »

Dietz Little Wizard NY Usa Gas Lantern Collectible Antique Parts

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DIETZ NYC USA NO 100 LANTERN COLLECTABLE ANTIQUE Bid Now »

DIETZ NYC USA NO 100 LANTERN COLLECTABLE ANTIQUE

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Antique Vintage Adams Westlake LVRR  Railroad Lantern w/ Red Globe Buy Now »

Antique Vintage Adams Westlake LVRR Railroad Lantern w/ Red Globe

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New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Lantern Dietz Vesta - OWNER'S NAMEPLATE Bid Now »

New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Lantern Dietz Vesta - OWNER'S NAMEPLATE

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DIETZ  No. 40 EDISON TRAFFIC LANTERN ORIGINAL SYRACUSE NY Cr.1940 Bid Now »

DIETZ No. 40 EDISON TRAFFIC LANTERN ORIGINAL SYRACUSE NY Cr.1940

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Antique Dietz Vesta DL & WRR Railroad Lantern NO Globe-FINAL BARN FIND LANTERN! Bid Now »

Antique Dietz Vesta DL & WRR Railroad Lantern NO Globe-FINAL BARN FIND LANTERN!

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Vintage signal lamp Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage signal lamp

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 Vintage Amtrak Railroad Flash Light Lantern Wood Handle Bid Now »

Vintage Amtrak Railroad Flash Light Lantern Wood Handle

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Dressel Arlington Red Globe Railroad Lamp Bid Now »

Dressel Arlington Red Globe Railroad Lamp

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Lantern Dressel Arlington, N, J,8x9 H G, Condition N.Y.C.S Buy Now »

Lantern Dressel Arlington, N, J,8x9 H G, Condition N.Y.C.S

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ANTIQUE ADLAKE "NON SWEATING" Railroad Caboose Lamp Lantern ~  WORKING ~ 110v ~ Bid Now »

ANTIQUE ADLAKE "NON SWEATING" Railroad Caboose Lamp Lantern ~ WORKING ~ 110v ~

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Vintage B&O Railroad Caboose Lamp Lantern ~ GREAT ANTIQUE Cond ~  WORKING ~ 110v Bid Now »

Vintage B&O Railroad Caboose Lamp Lantern ~ GREAT ANTIQUE Cond ~ WORKING ~ 110v

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Vintage Adlake-Kero Railroad Lantern 1965 with Ruby Red Globe Buy Now »

Vintage Adlake-Kero Railroad Lantern 1965 with Ruby Red Globe

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VINTAGE DIETZ NO.60/ TRAIN OIL LANTERN ELECTRIC /TABLE LAMP! RED Bid Now »

VINTAGE DIETZ NO.60/ TRAIN OIL LANTERN ELECTRIC /TABLE LAMP! RED

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 Rare Vintage Dressel Burlington Route ( BR ) Red Globe Railroad Lantern , Nice Buy Now »

Rare Vintage Dressel Burlington Route ( BR ) Red Globe Railroad Lantern , Nice

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VINTAGE WAGR WESTERN AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT RAILWAY SIGNAL LAMP LIGHT Bid Now »

VINTAGE WAGR WESTERN AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT RAILWAY SIGNAL LAMP LIGHT

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US &.S. Co. Railroad Signal Light Bid Now » Buy Now »

US &.S. Co. Railroad Signal Light

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Vintage Dietz Railroad Lantern Ranch Craft FireTruck Converted Wall Sconce Works Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz Railroad Lantern Ranch Craft FireTruck Converted Wall Sconce Works

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ANTIQUE SUN LANTERN MADE IN JAPAN MARKED NUMBER 5000 FROM 1940'S Buy Now »

ANTIQUE SUN LANTERN MADE IN JAPAN MARKED NUMBER 5000 FROM 1940'S

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Vintage Very Rare Fort Worth & Denver City RR Adlake-Kero Railroad Lantern, Nice Buy Now »

Vintage Very Rare Fort Worth & Denver City RR Adlake-Kero Railroad Lantern, Nice

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vintage railroad signal light Bid Now » Buy Now »

vintage railroad signal light

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2 VINTAGE COLEMAN LANTERN 200A 1952 & 1966 WITH WOODEN BOX & FUNNEL Bid Now » Buy Now »

2 VINTAGE COLEMAN LANTERN 200A 1952 & 1966 WITH WOODEN BOX & FUNNEL

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Vintage Railroad Lantern Adams & Westlake Red Globe WPRy Western Pacific Railyar Bid Now »

Vintage Railroad Lantern Adams & Westlake Red Globe WPRy Western Pacific Railyar

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Pyle National Steam Locomotive Headlight #27 Great Condition Bid Now »

Pyle National Steam Locomotive Headlight #27 Great Condition

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VINTAGE DELTA ELECTRIC COMPANY LIGHT Bid Now »
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VINTAGE DELTA ELECTRIC COMPANY LIGHT

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Antique New York Dietz NYCS Vesta Lantern Oil Lamp Railroad Buy Now »

Antique New York Dietz NYCS Vesta Lantern Oil Lamp Railroad

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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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THE ADAMS AND WESTLAKE CO. ADLAKE NON SWEATING BALANCED DRAFT LAMP Bid Now » Buy Now »

THE ADAMS AND WESTLAKE CO. ADLAKE NON SWEATING BALANCED DRAFT LAMP

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VINTAGE   ALADDIN MODEL C    LANTERN  / LAMP Buy Now »

VINTAGE ALADDIN MODEL C LANTERN / LAMP

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VINTAGE RAILROAD OIL CAN, GAS AND OIL CAN Buy Now »

VINTAGE RAILROAD OIL CAN, GAS AND OIL CAN

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VINTAGE WABASH BY CO. RAILROAD OIL CAN, EAGLE RAILROAD OIL CAN Buy Now »

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VINTAGE RAILROAD OIL CAN, NYCS, NEW YORK CITY, GAS AND OIL CAN Buy Now »

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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 RAILROAD OIL CAN, LARGE GAS/OIL CAN, R.R. Buy Now »

VINTAGE RAILROAD OIL CAN, LARGE GAS/OIL CAN, R.R.

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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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