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 RR OIL LANTERN DIETZ NYCS W/ RED EMBOSSED GLOBE, EMBOSSED  CITY OF CINCI Buy Now »

ANTIQUE RR OIL LANTERN DIETZ NYCS W/ RED EMBOSSED GLOBE, EMBOSSED CITY OF CINCI

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Railroad Lantern - - Made in China. Buy Now »

Railroad Lantern - - Made in China.

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6 mins
 Lantern   made in the CZECH REPUBLIC  Bid Now »

Lantern made in the CZECH REPUBLIC

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8 mins
VINTAGE C M S T P & P RAILROAD  DRESSEL   LANTERN WITHOUT GLOBE Bid Now »

VINTAGE C M S T P & P RAILROAD DRESSEL LANTERN WITHOUT GLOBE

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21 mins
RARE DIETZ TRAFFIC GARD NINE MILE POINT CO. RED GLOBE LANTERN Bid Now »

RARE DIETZ TRAFFIC GARD NINE MILE POINT CO. RED GLOBE LANTERN

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$33.80
24 mins
Vintage JUSTRITE Mining Permissible Electric Lantern No 1017 Railroad Navy RUSTY Buy Now »

Vintage JUSTRITE Mining Permissible Electric Lantern No 1017 Railroad Navy RUSTY

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28 mins
VINTAGE UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD 3 1/4" RED GLOBE  ETCHED AND IN EXC. COND. Bid Now »

VINTAGE UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD 3 1/4" RED GLOBE ETCHED AND IN EXC. COND.

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34 mins
Antique Orig Adlake CM&STP Kerosene Railroad Lantern, Came From Milwaukee Road Buy Now »

Antique Orig Adlake CM&STP Kerosene Railroad Lantern, Came From Milwaukee Road

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35 mins
Orig Antique Red Globe Adlake CM & STP Railroad Lantern From Milwaukee Road Buy Now »

Orig Antique Red Globe Adlake CM & STP Railroad Lantern From Milwaukee Road

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35 mins
Vintage JUSTRITE GNRY Great Northern Railway Electric Lantern No 2149 Railroad Buy Now »

Vintage JUSTRITE GNRY Great Northern Railway Electric Lantern No 2149 Railroad

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36 mins
Winged Wheel Red Lantern No. 350 Buy Now »

Winged Wheel Red Lantern No. 350

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37 mins
N & W RY Adlake Kerosene lantern With Red Globe. Norfolk And Western Railroad. Bid Now »

N & W RY Adlake Kerosene lantern With Red Globe. Norfolk And Western Railroad.

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39 mins
Vintage STARLITE Signa Railroadl Lantern Blue Globe 215-CL Nice Works Buy Now »

Vintage STARLITE Signa Railroadl Lantern Blue Globe 215-CL Nice Works

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54 mins
Vintage Electric Railroad Lantern Justrite No. 40 Wooden Handle 1940s 1950s Bid Now »

Vintage Electric Railroad Lantern Justrite No. 40 Wooden Handle 1940s 1950s

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57 mins
Vintage Antique Dietz Little Wizard Lantern Blue N.Y. USA Collectible Decorative Buy Now »

Vintage Antique Dietz Little Wizard Lantern Blue N.Y. USA Collectible Decorative

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ARMSPEAR RAILROAD LANTERN MARKED ERIE RR WITH A ETCHED ERIE GLOBE-MADE BY ADLAKE Buy Now »

ARMSPEAR RAILROAD LANTERN MARKED ERIE RR WITH A ETCHED ERIE GLOBE-MADE BY ADLAKE

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1 hr
30 mins
Vintage Railroad  Lantern Adlake Non-Sweating Lamp Chicago Buy Now »

Vintage Railroad Lantern Adlake Non-Sweating Lamp Chicago

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1 hr
55 mins
RARE TRAIN OIL LANTERN U.T.U.UNITED TRANSPORTATION UNION BRASS Bid Now » Buy Now »

RARE TRAIN OIL LANTERN U.T.U.UNITED TRANSPORTATION UNION BRASS

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1 hr
58 mins
Vintage, Antique Wagon Lantern Bid Now » Buy Now »
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Vintage, Antique Wagon Lantern

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2 hrs
Antique Handlan St Louis C & ORY Railroad Wall Mount Kerosene Oil Lantern Lamp Bid Now »

Antique Handlan St Louis C & ORY Railroad Wall Mount Kerosene Oil Lantern Lamp

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$162.98
3 hrs
24 mins
C.T. Ham Mfg Co  Lantern clipper bulls eye globe Buy Now »

C.T. Ham Mfg Co Lantern clipper bulls eye globe

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3 hrs
50 mins
Antique Pennline Lantern Frame Globe P.C.C. & S. -LRy Railroad Bid Now »

Antique Pennline Lantern Frame Globe P.C.C. & S. -LRy Railroad

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4 hrs
12 mins
N.Y. C. S. NEW YORK CENTRAL DIETZ VESTA RAILROAD LANTERN WITH BLUE ETCHED GLOBE Buy Now »

N.Y. C. S. NEW YORK CENTRAL DIETZ VESTA RAILROAD LANTERN WITH BLUE ETCHED GLOBE

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4 hrs
44 mins
Railroad Lantern, New York Dietz Vesta, P.&.L.E.R.R. Bid Now »

Railroad Lantern, New York Dietz Vesta, P.&.L.E.R.R.

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5 hrs
16 mins
NEW YORK CENTRAL VINTAGE RAILROAD LATERN Bid Now »

NEW YORK CENTRAL VINTAGE RAILROAD LATERN

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7 hrs
50 mins
Old rail road latern Buy Now »

Old rail road latern

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8 hrs
30 mins
GTC Trolley Porte D.orleans Trolley 32X14-1/2 Ing Tall 8 Ing Wide Buy Now »

GTC Trolley Porte D.orleans Trolley 32X14-1/2 Ing Tall 8 Ing Wide

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9 hrs
27 mins
Vintage Antique GEM Mfg Co PA Torch Railroad Flare wick inside Buy Now »

Vintage Antique GEM Mfg Co PA Torch Railroad Flare wick inside

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9 hrs
33 mins
DORCO ECOLITE  PORTABLE ELECTRIC LANTERNS; Mfg. P/N: 200 ~NEW~IN~BOX~ Buy Now »

DORCO ECOLITE PORTABLE ELECTRIC LANTERNS; Mfg. P/N: 200 ~ NEW ~ IN ~ BOX ~

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9 hrs
36 mins
1960 Vintage PILOT STAR FLASHLIGHT & VACUUM Combo - Made in Japan WORKING Buy Now »

1960 Vintage PILOT STAR FLASHLIGHT & VACUUM Combo - Made in Japan WORKING

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9 hrs
41 mins
Small Red Railroad Lantern Vintage Style Reproduction Train Glass Shade Buy Now »
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Small Red Railroad Lantern Vintage Style Reproduction Train Glass Shade

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9 hrs
45 mins
CONRAIL RAILROAD BAG SAFTEY KIT LAMP BATTERYS Buy Now »

CONRAIL RAILROAD BAG SAFTEY KIT LAMP BATTERYS

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10 hrs
6 mins
Antique purple tint glass dietz no3 ny lantern railroad street lamp Bid Now »

Antique purple tint glass dietz no3 ny lantern railroad street lamp

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10 hrs
26 mins
Antique Dietz Fitzall H10 Glass Shade Lantern Lamp Globe Pat'd 3-10-14 LOC-NOB Buy Now »

Antique Dietz Fitzall H10 Glass Shade Lantern Lamp Globe Pat'd 3-10-14 LOC-NOB

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10 hrs
31 mins
Antique Pennsylvania Railroad Red Glass Lantern by Adams & Westlake Co Bid Now »

Antique Pennsylvania Railroad Red Glass Lantern by Adams & Westlake Co

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10 hrs
39 mins
Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Red Glass Lantern by Adams and Westlake Co. Bid Now »

Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Red Glass Lantern by Adams and Westlake Co.

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10 hrs
39 mins
HUGE No Left/Right Turn LED Train Signal Railroad Crossing Sign Light Buy Now »

HUGE No Left/Right Turn LED Train Signal Railroad Crossing Sign Light

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10 hrs
46 mins
Vintage Authentic Railroad Train Crossing Red  Signal  Light by Safetran Systems Buy Now »

Vintage Authentic Railroad Train Crossing Red Signal Light by Safetran Systems

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10 hrs
56 mins
Vintage industrial Pyle National light Buy Now »

Vintage industrial Pyle National light

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11 hrs
15 mins
Rail Road Lantern Bid Now »

Rail Road Lantern

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11 hrs
18 mins
Pyle National flood/search light Buy Now »

Pyle National flood/search light

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11 hrs
18 mins
flat glass lantern lens (turquoise or aqua) 4-1/2" diameter - Kopp glass (?) Bid Now »

flat glass lantern lens (turquoise or aqua) 4-1/2" diameter - Kopp glass (?)

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11 hrs
31 mins
Antique C & N W. RY. Large Kerosene Oil Can Chicago & North Western Railway Buy Now »

Antique C & N W. RY. Large Kerosene Oil Can Chicago & North Western Railway

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11 hrs
45 mins
Antique Dietz Little Wizard Railroad Kerosene Lantern NY USA Red Glass Globe Bid Now »

Antique Dietz Little Wizard Railroad Kerosene Lantern NY USA Red Glass Globe

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12 hrs
24 mins
50s WINGED WHEEL JAPAN RED LANTERN WITH GLOBE - NO. 400 -no globe Buy Now »

50s WINGED WHEEL JAPAN RED LANTERN WITH GLOBE - NO. 400 -no globe

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12 hrs
28 mins
Vintage kerosine lantern globe heavy piecrust lip.   No. 1- LG Buy Now »

Vintage kerosine lantern globe heavy piecrust lip. No. 1- LG

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12 hrs
39 mins
Vintage kerosine lantern globe heavy piecrust lip.   No. 2- MED Buy Now »

Vintage kerosine lantern globe heavy piecrust lip. No. 2- MED

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PENSYLVANIA SYSTEM PS RAILROAD KEYSTONE OIL LAMP LANTERN ANTIQUE Buy Now »

PENSYLVANIA SYSTEM PS RAILROAD KEYSTONE OIL LAMP LANTERN ANTIQUE

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12 hrs
40 mins
Central Railroad of New NJ ?? Brass Lock -  With 2 Identification Flaws @ No Key Buy Now »

Central Railroad of New NJ ?? Brass Lock - With 2 Identification Flaws @ No Key

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12 hrs
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Vtg. Dietz No. 1 Little Wizard Railroad Lantern Red Glass Marked Hong Kong Buy Now »

Vtg. Dietz No. 1 Little Wizard Railroad Lantern Red Glass Marked Hong Kong

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12 hrs
51 mins
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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