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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C.T. Ham Railroad Barn Lantern No. 2 Cold Blast Copper Bottom Red Globe Antique Bid Now »

C.T. Ham Railroad Barn Lantern No. 2 Cold Blast Copper Bottom Red Globe Antique

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Antique Dietz Night Drivers Friend Lantern - Cool! Buy Now »

Antique Dietz Night Drivers Friend Lantern - Cool!

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GRS DWARF rare 1930s 40s  General Railway Light Crossing STOP Railroad Buy Now »

GRS DWARF rare 1930s 40s General Railway Light Crossing STOP Railroad

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Vintage Dressel PRR Pennsylvania Railroad Lantern with Red Fresnel Globe Lens Buy Now »

Vintage Dressel PRR Pennsylvania Railroad Lantern with Red Fresnel Globe Lens

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GRS full wave rectifier General Railway Light Crossing STOP Railroad Buy Now »

GRS full wave rectifier General Railway Light Crossing STOP Railroad

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KEYSTONE MARINE BELLBOTTOM LANTERN w/ RED DIETZ VULCAN EXTENDED BASE GLOBE  Bid Now »

KEYSTONE MARINE BELLBOTTOM LANTERN w/ RED DIETZ VULCAN EXTENDED BASE GLOBE

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58 mins
Vintage Corning Glass, Kopp ,McBeth, Train Lamp Lenses Lot Of 7 locomotive light Bid Now »

Vintage Corning Glass, Kopp ,McBeth, Train Lamp Lenses Lot Of 7 locomotive light

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SS CNR Junction 30s 40s Switch box Railroad Crossing light LOCK  stop Vintage Buy Now »

SS CNR Junction 30s 40s Switch box Railroad Crossing light LOCK stop Vintage

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Vintage Ash Flash Railroad Lantern with Adjustable Handle Buy Now »

Vintage Ash Flash Railroad Lantern with Adjustable Handle

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1 hr
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PENN CENTRAL RAILROAD LANTERN w/ KOPP AMBER / ORANGE GLOBE NEVER FIRED Bid Now »

PENN CENTRAL RAILROAD LANTERN w/ KOPP AMBER / ORANGE GLOBE NEVER FIRED

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PRR LANTERN w/ RED ETCHED PRR KOPP GLOBE NICE USED CONDITION Bid Now »

PRR LANTERN w/ RED ETCHED PRR KOPP GLOBE NICE USED CONDITION

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1 hr
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AMAZING Antique Adams & Westlake Railroad Switch Caboose Lantern Lamp!  1902 Buy Now »

AMAZING Antique Adams & Westlake Railroad Switch Caboose Lantern Lamp! 1902

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2 hrs
37 mins
Vintage Dietz No. 8 Air Pilot Railroad? Lantern Buy Now »
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Vintage Dietz No. 8 Air Pilot Railroad? Lantern

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4 hrs
39 mins
Vtg Embury NO. 1 Little Air Pilot Kerosene Lantern Green USA Railroad Barn Train Bid Now »

Vtg Embury NO. 1 Little Air Pilot Kerosene Lantern Green USA Railroad Barn Train

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Antique Railroad Lantern Replica Buy Now »

Antique Railroad Lantern Replica

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NYNH&H RR Kerosene Torch Lantern Vtg Old Peter Gray New York New Haven Hartford Buy Now »

NYNH&H RR Kerosene Torch Lantern Vtg Old Peter Gray New York New Haven Hartford

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34 mins
Old Urbana Ohio MP RY Railroad Kerosene Torch Lamp Lighter Bid Now »

Old Urbana Ohio MP RY Railroad Kerosene Torch Lamp Lighter

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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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6 hrs
55 mins
Globe Brand Red Oil Lantern No 202 The World Light MFY,LTD Vintage Hong Kong Buy Now »

Globe Brand Red Oil Lantern No 202 The World Light MFY,LTD Vintage Hong Kong

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7 hrs
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Clear Lantern CVII Globe Bid Now »

Clear Lantern CVII Globe

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7 hrs
33 mins
MC RR Lantern Globe Red Glass Old Antique Railroad Michigan/Maine Central MCRR Buy Now »

MC RR Lantern Globe Red Glass Old Antique Railroad Michigan/Maine Central MCRR

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Vintage Red Delta Husky Railroad Lantern Lamp Redbird Dry Cell Light Buy Now »
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Vintage Red Delta Husky Railroad Lantern Lamp Redbird Dry Cell Light

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8 hrs
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Lantern from Dietz Bid Now » Buy Now »

Lantern from Dietz

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8 hrs
21 mins
Antique 1907 Railroad Candle Lantern, brass painted black Bid Now »

Antique 1907 Railroad Candle Lantern, brass painted black

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8 hrs
36 mins
PRR Handlan Lantern with Clear Globe Bid Now »

PRR Handlan Lantern with Clear Globe

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8 hrs
45 mins
Kenyon "Kenlite" Railroad Lantern - Vintage Bid Now »

Kenyon "Kenlite" Railroad Lantern - Vintage

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9 hrs
Railroad Lantern ADLAKE #175 NON SWEATING SWITCH LAMP Bid Now » Buy Now »

Railroad Lantern ADLAKE #175 NON SWEATING SWITCH LAMP

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VINTAGE NEW OLD STOCK KOPP GLASS LENS 5 L 3 1/2 F Bid Now »

VINTAGE NEW OLD STOCK KOPP GLASS LENS 5 L 3 1/2 F

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Antique New York New Haven & Hartford Railroad Train Lantern N.Y.N.H&H RR Buy Now »

Antique New York New Haven & Hartford Railroad Train Lantern N.Y.N.H&H RR

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9 hrs
41 mins
ANTIQUE RAILROAD HIRAM L. PIPER CO LTD RED GLOBE ADLAKE KERO LANTERN Buy Now »

ANTIQUE RAILROAD HIRAM L. PIPER CO LTD RED GLOBE ADLAKE KERO LANTERN

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9 hrs
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Antique Dietz Michigan Central Railroad M.C.R.R Lantern Train Depot Steam Buy Now »

Antique Dietz Michigan Central Railroad M.C.R.R Lantern Train Depot Steam

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ERIE RAILROAD DIETZ IDEAL INSPECTOR LAMP LANTERN Buy Now »
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ERIE RAILROAD DIETZ IDEAL INSPECTOR LAMP LANTERN

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9 hrs
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Poyard railroad lantern 1935 Large brass and tin VINTAGE Bid Now » Buy Now »

Poyard railroad lantern 1935 Large brass and tin VINTAGE

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9 hrs
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Vtg D&H RR lantern embossed red globe Adlake Patented Train Antique Oil Lamp Buy Now »

Vtg D&H RR lantern embossed red globe Adlake Patented Train Antique Oil Lamp

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9 hrs
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Rare Red  P & R Railroad Lantern GLOBE Bid Now »

Rare Red P & R Railroad Lantern GLOBE

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10 hrs
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"Lantern, Pennsylvania Railroad, Antique" Bid Now » Buy Now »

"Lantern, Pennsylvania Railroad, Antique"

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RARE  Genesy Electric Railroad Lantern Patented 1920's Buy Now »

RARE Genesy Electric Railroad Lantern Patented 1920's

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10 hrs
49 mins
OLD C.T. HAM MFG. CO. No.0 RAILROAD LANTERN W/DIETZ FITZALL BLUE GLASS GLOBE-VG. Bid Now »

OLD C.T. HAM MFG. CO. No.0 RAILROAD LANTERN W/DIETZ FITZALL BLUE GLASS GLOBE-VG.

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10 hrs
58 mins
Vintage Old Red Delta  Lantern Lamp Dual Reflection Redbird Dry Cell Flashight Bid Now »

Vintage Old Red Delta Lantern Lamp Dual Reflection Redbird Dry Cell Flashight

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11 hrs
22 mins
ADLAKE RAILROAD LANTERN Bid Now »

ADLAKE RAILROAD LANTERN

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11 hrs
24 mins
Antique Regal No 0 kerosene lantern with clear Dietz globe Bid Now » Buy Now »

Antique Regal No 0 kerosene lantern with clear Dietz globe

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11 hrs
30 mins
ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RAILROAD LIGHTING, VOL 1 & 2 Bid Now »

ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RAILROAD LIGHTING, VOL 1 & 2

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11 hrs
33 mins
D & H RR / Hanland, St. Louis, USA Oil / Kerosene Can Antique Rail Road Bid Now »
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D & H RR / Hanland, St. Louis, USA Oil / Kerosene Can Antique Rail Road

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11 hrs
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Vintage 1940's Conger Lantern Portland ORE - Patent 2653218 Bid Now »

Vintage 1940's Conger Lantern Portland ORE - Patent 2653218

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Antique Dietz Monarch New York ELECTRIFIED Oil Lamp Railroad Red Glass Lantern Bid Now »

Antique Dietz Monarch New York ELECTRIFIED Oil Lamp Railroad Red Glass Lantern

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Vintage 1940's Conger Lantern Portland ORE - Patent 2653218 with bulbs Bid Now »

Vintage 1940's Conger Lantern Portland ORE - Patent 2653218 with bulbs

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OLD  LAMP Bid Now »

OLD LAMP

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12 hrs
Double Angle Lamp, in Nickel, Original Kerosene, Original Elbows & Chimneys (?) Bid Now »

Double Angle Lamp, in Nickel, Original Kerosene, Original Elbows & Chimneys (?)

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Vintage 1940's Streamline Prod Lantern Lebanon MO 65536 Bid Now »

Vintage 1940's Streamline Prod Lantern Lebanon MO 65536

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Vintage Highway Smudge Pots Road Flare lamp-Last ONE Bid Now »
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Vintage Highway Smudge Pots Road Flare lamp-Last ONE

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12 hrs
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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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