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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VINTAGE ADLAKE RAILROAD LANTERN #1 Buy Now »

VINTAGE ADLAKE RAILROAD LANTERN #1

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General Railway Signal GRS Railroad K 2 glass relay bowl 37380-16 replacement Buy Now »

General Railway Signal GRS Railroad K 2 glass relay bowl 37380-16 replacement

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DIETZ LANTERN LARGE BLIZZARD (SUPER TANKER) Bid Now »

DIETZ LANTERN LARGE BLIZZARD (SUPER TANKER)

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VINTAGE ADLAKE RAILROAD LANTERN #2 Buy Now »

VINTAGE ADLAKE RAILROAD LANTERN #2

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Vintage Dietz Train Lamp Little Wizard, Syracuse New York, USA Bid Now »

Vintage Dietz Train Lamp Little Wizard, Syracuse New York, USA

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VINTAGE WALL MOUNT LAMP PORCH LIGHT LANTERN BLACK Cabin Outdoor Bath HOME Decor Buy Now »
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VINTAGE WALL MOUNT LAMP PORCH LIGHT LANTERN BLACK Cabin Outdoor Bath HOME Decor

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General Railway Signal GRS Railroad K 4 glass relay bowl 37380-1X replacement Buy Now »

General Railway Signal GRS Railroad K 4 glass relay bowl 37380-1X replacement

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22 mins
OCRR RUBY RED LANTERN SHADE - OLD COLONY RAILWAY MASSACHUSETTS ? Bid Now »

OCRR RUBY RED LANTERN SHADE - OLD COLONY RAILWAY MASSACHUSETTS ?

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General Railway Signal GRS Railroad K 6 glass relay bowl 37380-13X replacement Buy Now »

General Railway Signal GRS Railroad K 6 glass relay bowl 37380-13X replacement

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25 mins
Handlan St. Louis Railroad Lantern Font Pot Wick Can Bid Now »

Handlan St. Louis Railroad Lantern Font Pot Wick Can

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35 mins
Vintage 29" Armspear 28A 4 Globe Railroad Lantern Lamp Converted to Electric Bid Now »

Vintage 29" Armspear 28A 4 Globe Railroad Lantern Lamp Converted to Electric

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36 mins
Dietz No 40 Traffic Light Antique Vintage Railroad  Lantern Bid Now »

Dietz No 40 Traffic Light Antique Vintage Railroad Lantern

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37 mins
VINTAGE DIETZ HY-LO RED GLOBE LANTERN OIL KEROSENE Bid Now »
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VINTAGE DIETZ HY-LO RED GLOBE LANTERN OIL KEROSENE

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VINTAGE DIETZ RED NO 40 TRAFFIC GARD KEROSENE OIL LANTERN Bid Now »

VINTAGE DIETZ RED NO 40 TRAFFIC GARD KEROSENE OIL LANTERN

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Vintage Lantern Supreme Embury No 160 For Parts Or Restoration Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage Lantern Supreme Embury No 160 For Parts Or Restoration

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Vintage Made In China Ever-Bright 203 Railroad Lantern 12" Tall Bid Now »

Vintage Made In China Ever-Bright 203 Railroad Lantern 12" Tall

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Vintage Dietz railroad Lantern No. 999  Clear Globe super condition Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz railroad Lantern No. 999 Clear Globe super condition

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Antique Railway Red Glass  Globe Shade Kerosene /  Lantern Lamp Bid Now » Buy Now »

Antique Railway Red Glass Globe Shade Kerosene / Lantern Lamp

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57 mins
3 Lot Green Red Plastic GENERAL Signals 60-1 ESNA No. 2138-01 RAILROAD LENS Buy Now »

3 Lot Green Red Plastic GENERAL Signals 60-1 ESNA No. 2138-01 RAILROAD LENS

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Vintage Dietz Vesta U S A Lantern w/org.Globe Bid Now »

Vintage Dietz Vesta U S A Lantern w/org.Globe

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Vintage Dietz Comet H7 H11 H3 H14 Clear Glass Embossed Railroad Lantern Globe 10 Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz Comet H7 H11 H3 H14 Clear Glass Embossed Railroad Lantern Globe 10

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CORNING NX RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE  3 3/8 BY 3 1/4  Bid Now »

CORNING NX RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE 3 3/8 BY 3 1/4

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VTG NAUTICAL SHIP- Railroad HURRICANE Lantern  LAMP Bid Now »

VTG NAUTICAL SHIP- Railroad HURRICANE Lantern LAMP

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RED  RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE 4 3/8 " BASE 2 3/4 " TOP 2 " MARKED K WITH A CIRCLE Bid Now »

RED RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE 4 3/8 " BASE 2 3/4 " TOP 2 " MARKED K WITH A CIRCLE

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VINTAGE DRESSEL RAILROAD LANTERN REHAB / PARTS   C414 Bid Now »

VINTAGE DRESSEL RAILROAD LANTERN REHAB / PARTS C414

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antique solid copper automobile /  wagon lantern /  carriage Bid Now »

antique solid copper automobile / wagon lantern / carriage

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16 mins
Dietz Little Wizard Barn Lantern Buy Now »

Dietz Little Wizard Barn Lantern

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1 hr
26 mins
Pritchard - Strong Co. TIGER kerosene lantern w/ Prisco No.0 globe Bid Now »

Pritchard - Strong Co. TIGER kerosene lantern w/ Prisco No.0 globe

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Dietz Advance Lantern "RARE" Very Hard to Find Only produced from 1931-1933 Buy Now »

Dietz Advance Lantern "RARE" Very Hard to Find Only produced from 1931-1933

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RAILROAD MEMORABILIA PRICE GUIDE COLLECTOR'S BOOK Buy Now »

RAILROAD MEMORABILIA PRICE GUIDE COLLECTOR'S BOOK

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Vintage Kerosene Lantern Dietz Traffic Gard No 40 Syracuse N. Y. USA Original Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage Kerosene Lantern Dietz Traffic Gard No 40 Syracuse N. Y. USA Original

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Antique Vintage Dietz Lantern Loc-Nob Patd 3-10-14 Blizzard Bid Now » Buy Now »

Antique Vintage Dietz Lantern Loc-Nob Patd 3-10-14 Blizzard

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VINTAGE DB DEUTSCHE BUNDESBAHN GERMAN CARBIDE SIGNAL RAILROAD LANTERN Buy Now »

VINTAGE DB DEUTSCHE BUNDESBAHN GERMAN CARBIDE SIGNAL RAILROAD LANTERN

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Vintage Kerosene Railroad Lantern for the Restorer ! Bid Now »

Vintage Kerosene Railroad Lantern for the Restorer !

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1 hr
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ERIE RAILROAD LIGHT GLOBE LAMP SHADE GAS ELECTRIC ? PASSENGER TRAIN CAR PULLMAN Bid Now »

ERIE RAILROAD LIGHT GLOBE LAMP SHADE GAS ELECTRIC ? PASSENGER TRAIN CAR PULLMAN

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Vintage Handland St Louis railroad Lamp Bid Now »

Vintage Handland St Louis railroad Lamp

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2 hrs
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Railroad Lantern With Amber Globe, Dietz No 2 D Lite Bid Now »

Railroad Lantern With Amber Globe, Dietz No 2 D Lite

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2 hrs
18 mins
Dietz Vesta New York Central Railroad Lantern Bid Now »

Dietz Vesta New York Central Railroad Lantern

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2 hrs
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Dietz Monarch Kerosene Lantern with Red Globe Bid Now »

Dietz Monarch Kerosene Lantern with Red Globe

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Antique Bullseye Signal Candle Lantern Bid Now »

Antique Bullseye Signal Candle Lantern

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Antique DIETZ FITZALL Ruby Red Railroad Lantern Replacement Globe Lens Patd 1914 Buy Now »

Antique DIETZ FITZALL Ruby Red Railroad Lantern Replacement Globe Lens Patd 1914

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Antique - Dietz - Little Wizard - Railroad Lantern - 1927 Buy Now »

Antique - Dietz - Little Wizard - Railroad Lantern - 1927

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Antique Pioneer Portable Electric Miner's Mining Lamp Lantern Cast Aluminum Mine Buy Now »

Antique Pioneer Portable Electric Miner's Mining Lamp Lantern Cast Aluminum Mine

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VINTAGE RED LANTERN LAMP IN WORKING CONDITION Bid Now »

VINTAGE RED LANTERN LAMP IN WORKING CONDITION

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2 hrs
37 mins
CAR INSPECTOR RAILROAD LANTERN NYC STAR HEAD LIGHT LANTERN CO. ROCHESTER NY Bid Now » Buy Now »

CAR INSPECTOR RAILROAD LANTERN NYC STAR HEAD LIGHT LANTERN CO. ROCHESTER NY

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Vintage Dietz Little Wizard Oil Lantern   City of New York Bid Now »

Vintage Dietz Little Wizard Oil Lantern City of New York

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Handlan No 57 Lantern Red Bid Now »

Handlan No 57 Lantern Red

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old Delta Powerlite Lantern Bid Now » Buy Now »

old Delta Powerlite Lantern

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Vintage Traffic Street Light  Rail Road Crossing Light RED GLASS LENS 12" Bid Now »

Vintage Traffic Street Light Rail Road Crossing Light RED GLASS LENS 12"

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antique  lamp lenses?,three pieces,as-is,glass lenses,marked RECO Buy Now »

antique lamp lenses?,three pieces,as-is,glass lenses,marked RECO

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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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