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 Headlight Lamp Antique Vehicle Headlight Lamp Lens DB Logo? 9 3/4" OLD! Bid Now »

Vintage Headlight Lamp Antique Vehicle Headlight Lamp Lens DB Logo? 9 3/4" OLD!

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Baltimore and Ohio B & O Railroad Lantern Buy Now »

Baltimore and Ohio B & O Railroad Lantern

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VINTAGE PYLE RAILROAD DIESEL LOCOMOTIVE CAST HEADLIGHT HOUSING Bid Now »

VINTAGE PYLE RAILROAD DIESEL LOCOMOTIVE CAST HEADLIGHT HOUSING

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Vintage Adlake Non Sweating Lamp Lantern 4 Way Railroad Switch Signal Train Buy Now »

Vintage Adlake Non Sweating Lamp Lantern 4 Way Railroad Switch Signal Train

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Antique VTG BELL SYSTEM Lantern EMBURY Mfg #500 WARSAW NY~Orange Metal~Red Glass Bid Now »

Antique VTG BELL SYSTEM Lantern EMBURY Mfg #500 WARSAW NY ~ Orange Metal ~ Red Glass

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17 mins
Vintage Dietz No. 2 D Lite Kerosene Lantern For Parts or Refurbish Bid Now »

Vintage Dietz No. 2 D Lite Kerosene Lantern For Parts or Refurbish

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36 mins
 Adams & Westlake Co. SOUTHERN PACIFIC  Nice condition S.P. Bid Now »

Adams & Westlake Co. SOUTHERN PACIFIC Nice condition S.P.

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43 mins
Vintage Steel Clad Lantern Number 39 - New York - Red Glass - Dietz Buy Now »

Vintage Steel Clad Lantern Number 39 - New York - Red Glass - Dietz

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VINTAGE CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILROAD Hiram Piper Switch Lantern Bid Now »

VINTAGE CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILROAD Hiram Piper Switch Lantern

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1 hr
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DIETZ NO.6 BELL BOTTOM RAILROAD LANTERN ORIGINAL NEW YORK CENTRAL GLOBE! Bid Now »

DIETZ NO.6 BELL BOTTOM RAILROAD LANTERN ORIGINAL NEW YORK CENTRAL GLOBE!

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Armspear Pennsylvania Railroad Lantern PRR Bid Now »

Armspear Pennsylvania Railroad Lantern PRR

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1 hr
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Adams & Westlake Co. Nothern Pacific Railroad Lantern amber globe Bid Now »

Adams & Westlake Co. Nothern Pacific Railroad Lantern amber globe

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Vintage Penn Central Railroad Lantern - Clear KOPP Globe Bid Now »

Vintage Penn Central Railroad Lantern - Clear KOPP Globe

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VINTAGE GERMAN CARBIDE SIGNAL RAILROAD LANTERN Bid Now »
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VINTAGE GERMAN CARBIDE SIGNAL RAILROAD LANTERN

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1 hr
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HANDLAN ST.LOUIS USA RAILROAD LANTERN LAMP TRAIN CABOOSE HANGING LIGHT ANTIQUE Buy Now »

HANDLAN ST.LOUIS USA RAILROAD LANTERN LAMP TRAIN CABOOSE HANGING LIGHT ANTIQUE

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HANDLAN (?) RED HLP M USA RAILROAD LANTERN LAMP TRAIN CABOOSE HANGING LIGHT Buy Now »

HANDLAN (?) RED HLP M USA RAILROAD LANTERN LAMP TRAIN CABOOSE HANGING LIGHT

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Union Pacific Kero Lantern UT Service Unit Bid Now »

Union Pacific Kero Lantern UT Service Unit

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Railroad  Lantern and wrench Buy Now »
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Railroad Lantern and wrench

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36 mins
Vintage Diamond Shapleigh Hardware Co. Lantern St. Louis Mo. U.S.A. Bid Now »

Vintage Diamond Shapleigh Hardware Co. Lantern St. Louis Mo. U.S.A.

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1 hr
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Four 5-3/8" Corning/Kopp Glass RR Railroad Switch, Marker light Lenses & 1 band. Bid Now »

Four 5-3/8" Corning/Kopp Glass RR Railroad Switch, Marker light Lenses & 1 band.

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Adlake non sweat caboose lantern Bid Now »
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Adlake non sweat caboose lantern

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1 hr
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RAILROAD INSPECTION LANTERN Bid Now »

RAILROAD INSPECTION LANTERN

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1 hr
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N.Y.C DIETZ VESTA TALL GLOBE RAILROAD LANTERN Bid Now »

N.Y.C DIETZ VESTA TALL GLOBE RAILROAD LANTERN

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RARE ! Antique British RR Lantern CHAS.  H ANDREWS Lamp Mfg London Railroad Bid Now »

RARE ! Antique British RR Lantern CHAS. H ANDREWS Lamp Mfg London Railroad

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N.Y.N.H.&H. TALL GLOBE RAILROAD LANTERN DIETZ VESTA Bid Now »

N.Y.N.H.&H. TALL GLOBE RAILROAD LANTERN DIETZ VESTA

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Railroad Lantern Northern  used needs restore Buy Now »

Railroad Lantern Northern used needs restore

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DIETZ TRAFFIC GUARD NUMBER 40 LANTERN Bid Now »
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DIETZ TRAFFIC GUARD NUMBER 40 LANTERN

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1 hr
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Railroad Lantern Chrome Glass Red Globe  used needs restore Buy Now »

Railroad Lantern Chrome Glass Red Globe used needs restore

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RUBY GLASS LANTERN Buy Now »

RUBY GLASS LANTERN

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Four 5-3/8" Corning & Kopp Glass RR Railroad Switch or Marker light Lenses. Bid Now »

Four 5-3/8" Corning & Kopp Glass RR Railroad Switch or Marker light Lenses.

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1 hr
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VINTAGE RAILROAD LANTERN, RED, RED GLASS, ADAMS & WESTLAKE CO. ADLAKE KERO 437 Bid Now » Buy Now »

VINTAGE RAILROAD LANTERN, RED, RED GLASS, ADAMS & WESTLAKE CO. ADLAKE KERO 437

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ANTIQUE RAILROAD CABOOSE LAMP Bid Now »

ANTIQUE RAILROAD CABOOSE LAMP

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2 hrs
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Vintage JustRite Electric Railroad Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage JustRite Electric Railroad Lantern

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2 hrs
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Vintage clear glass lamp globe Buy Now »

Vintage clear glass lamp globe

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2 hrs
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Railroad Lantern Dietz Vesta New York train Buy Now »

Railroad Lantern Dietz Vesta New York train

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Antique Engineers Railroad Lantern Red Blue Bevel Glass Green Galvanized Adlake Buy Now »

Antique Engineers Railroad Lantern Red Blue Bevel Glass Green Galvanized Adlake

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Antique railroad lantern Buy Now »

Antique railroad lantern

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Vintage Rare Tin Dietz Lantern Red glass Train Marine Docks Boat army truck ?? Buy Now »

Vintage Rare Tin Dietz Lantern Red glass Train Marine Docks Boat army truck ??

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Vintage Rare Tin Dietz Lantern early 1900's Red glass Train or Marine Docks Boat Buy Now »

Vintage Rare Tin Dietz Lantern early 1900's Red glass Train or Marine Docks Boat

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2 hrs
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 RED RAILROAD MARKER LIGHTS Bid Now »

RED RAILROAD MARKER LIGHTS

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2 hrs
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 PRR Pennsylvania Railroad lantern kerosine green globe Dressel Arlington Bid Now »

PRR Pennsylvania Railroad lantern kerosine green globe Dressel Arlington

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2 hrs
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dietz little wizard embury 350 Train Marine Dock Lantern Lamp Red Glass CL & pco Buy Now »

dietz little wizard embury 350 Train Marine Dock Lantern Lamp Red Glass CL & pco

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Red HLP (plastic)optical quality round lens 5-3/8" diameter. Bid Now »

Red HLP (plastic)optical quality round lens 5-3/8" diameter.

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Red HLP (plastic)optical quality round lens 5-3/8" diameter. Bid Now »

Red HLP (plastic)optical quality round lens 5-3/8" diameter.

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dietz little wizard  Train Marine Dock Lantern Lamp NY USA Buy Now »

dietz little wizard Train Marine Dock Lantern Lamp NY USA

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dietz little wizard Train Marine Dock Railroad Lantern Lamp NY USA Buy Now »

dietz little wizard Train Marine Dock Railroad Lantern Lamp NY USA

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PAIR OF 2 STARLITE 222 LANTERNS FOR TRAINS Buy Now »

PAIR OF 2 STARLITE 222 LANTERNS FOR TRAINS

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Adams and Westlake Co. Red Railroad Lantern Adlake Kero 244 Buy Now »

Adams and Westlake Co. Red Railroad Lantern Adlake Kero 244

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Vintage B&O RR Baltimore and Ohio Dressel Railroad Lantern, Red B&O Globe Bid Now »

Vintage B&O RR Baltimore and Ohio Dressel Railroad Lantern, Red B&O Globe

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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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