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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 ADLAKE DRESSEL RAILROAD SWITCH - MARKER LAMP CHIMNEY NEW OLD STOCK Buy Now »

ADLAKE DRESSEL RAILROAD SWITCH - MARKER LAMP CHIMNEY NEW OLD STOCK

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CPR Canadian Pacific Railway Railroad Clear Etched Short Corning Lantern Globe Buy Now »

CPR Canadian Pacific Railway Railroad Clear Etched Short Corning Lantern Globe

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ANTIQUE SHIPS PIVIOTNG OIL LANTERN  BRASS AND METAL Bid Now » Buy Now »

ANTIQUE SHIPS PIVIOTNG OIL LANTERN BRASS AND METAL

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DEITZ"RED GLOBE", New Buy Now »

DEITZ"RED GLOBE", New

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4 hrs
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VINTAGE  RAILROAD SWITCH LANTERN DAY TARGET RED PORCELAIN 10" - 5" Buy Now »

VINTAGE RAILROAD SWITCH LANTERN DAY TARGET RED PORCELAIN 10" - 5"

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VINTAGE  RAILROAD SWITCH LANTERN TARGET YELLOW PORCELAIN 10" - 5" Buy Now »

VINTAGE RAILROAD SWITCH LANTERN TARGET YELLOW PORCELAIN 10" - 5"

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RAILROAD SWITCH LANTERN DAY TARGET YELLOW PORCELAIN 10" - 5" Buy Now »

RAILROAD SWITCH LANTERN DAY TARGET YELLOW PORCELAIN 10" - 5"

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Railroad Lantern Fount Bid Now »

Railroad Lantern Fount

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5 hrs
26 mins
Antique Dietz Little Wizard Barn Lantern Bid Now »

Antique Dietz Little Wizard Barn Lantern

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MARLBORO COWBOY CHRONICLES OIL LAMP NIB Buy Now »

MARLBORO COWBOY CHRONICLES OIL LAMP NIB

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VINTAGE DIETZ TORCH' KEROSENE ROADSIDE SMUGE POT FLARE W/WICK Bid Now »

VINTAGE DIETZ TORCH' KEROSENE ROADSIDE SMUGE POT FLARE W/WICK

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Pyle National Railroad Light...Very Nice! Bid Now »
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Pyle National Railroad Light...Very Nice!

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7 hrs
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GTW RAILROAD GRAND TRUNK WESTERN ADAMS & WESTLAKE KEROSENE OIL LANTERN RED GLOBE Buy Now »

GTW RAILROAD GRAND TRUNK WESTERN ADAMS & WESTLAKE KEROSENE OIL LANTERN RED GLOBE

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Vintage "Pyle National Co." Train Locomotive Head Light / Lamp No.10K2236 Bid Now »

Vintage "Pyle National Co." Train Locomotive Head Light / Lamp No.10K2236

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Vintage LuoHua & Winged Wheel Hurricane Oil Kerosene Lantern Lamps Buy Now »

Vintage LuoHua & Winged Wheel Hurricane Oil Kerosene Lantern Lamps

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Vintage Toledo Torch Pressed Steel Highway Flare Smudge Pot ...Ohio US Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage Toledo Torch Pressed Steel Highway Flare Smudge Pot ...Ohio US

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Vintage Rail Road Lantern  Red Globe Embossed New York NYC Lines Vesta Buy Now »

Vintage Rail Road Lantern Red Globe Embossed New York NYC Lines Vesta

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Vintage Rail Road Lantern AT & SF Railway Red Lens Buy Now »

Vintage Rail Road Lantern AT & SF Railway Red Lens

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Rail Road Lantern Union Pacific UPRR Red fresnel lens Adlake Buy Now »

Rail Road Lantern Union Pacific UPRR Red fresnel lens Adlake

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Rail Road Signal Lantern Lamp Arlington NJ Dressel Buy Now »

Rail Road Signal Lantern Lamp Arlington NJ Dressel

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Western Pacific Rail Road Oil Gas Can WPRR Rare Eagle Buy Now »

Western Pacific Rail Road Oil Gas Can WPRR Rare Eagle

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Vintage Dietz Red Globe  Lantern, Lamp Railroad Replacement NOS Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz Red Globe Lantern, Lamp Railroad Replacement NOS

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8 hrs
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Rail Road Lens or transportation lenses or Swiviler Spot lamp Buy Now »

Rail Road Lens or transportation lenses or Swiviler Spot lamp

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Vintage Little Wizard Syracuse Red Globe  Lantern, Replacement NOS Buy Now »

Vintage Little Wizard Syracuse Red Globe Lantern, Replacement NOS

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VTG Burlington Route Adlake Railroad Lantern Red Globe 1921-1923 Bid Now » Buy Now »

VTG Burlington Route Adlake Railroad Lantern Red Globe 1921-1923

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**RARE**DIETZ VTG RAILROAD LANTERN GLASS GLOBE IN RED/CLEAR MADE IN USA!! Buy Now »

**RARE**DIETZ VTG RAILROAD LANTERN GLASS GLOBE IN RED/CLEAR MADE IN USA!!

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VTG CB&Q Chicago Burlington & Quincy Adlake Railroad Lantern Red Globe 1921-1923 Bid Now » Buy Now »

VTG CB&Q Chicago Burlington & Quincy Adlake Railroad Lantern Red Globe 1921-1923

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Western Cullen Railroad Traffic Light Signal Lens 12" Red 5359 - 70 Degrees Buy Now »
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Western Cullen Railroad Traffic Light Signal Lens 12" Red 5359 - 70 Degrees

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Western Cullen Railroad Traffic Light Signal Lens 12" Red 5390 15 - 30 Degrees Buy Now »
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Western Cullen Railroad Traffic Light Signal Lens 12" Red 5390 15 - 30 Degrees

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Vintage Delta Electric Company Red Signal Light Railroad Lantern / Lamp Bid Now »

Vintage Delta Electric Company Red Signal Light Railroad Lantern / Lamp

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8 hrs
24 mins
Train Signal Buy Now »
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Train Signal

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2 VINTAGE GERMAN FEUERHAND RAILROAD/UTILITY CANDLE LANTERNS, AMBER GLASS Bid Now »

2 VINTAGE GERMAN FEUERHAND RAILROAD/UTILITY CANDLE LANTERNS, AMBER GLASS

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 "VINTAGE" JUSTRITE Railroad Trainmen Electric Lantern. NICE CONDITION. N.O.S.? Buy Now »
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"VINTAGE" JUSTRITE Railroad Trainmen Electric Lantern. NICE CONDITION. N.O.S.?

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Vintage AMERICAN TRAIN SIGNAL CROSSING LIGHT Buy Now »

Vintage AMERICAN TRAIN SIGNAL CROSSING LIGHT

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 VINTAGE   NEW YORK CITY #39 DIETZ LANTERN WITH RED GLOBE  nice cond. Buy Now »

VINTAGE NEW YORK CITY #39 DIETZ LANTERN WITH RED GLOBE nice cond.

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Vintage lantern industrial Wood Handle Military? Railroad? Lantern Flashlight Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage lantern industrial Wood Handle Military? Railroad? Lantern Flashlight

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GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY Railroad Lantern ADLAKE RELIABLE 1897 G.N.Ry Buy Now »

GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY Railroad Lantern ADLAKE RELIABLE 1897 G.N.Ry

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VTG Railroad Train Signal Lantern Lamp CONGER CO Portland, Oregon Buy Now »
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VTG Railroad Train Signal Lantern Lamp CONGER CO Portland, Oregon

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Crouse Hinds Tender Light Frame/Lens...Restored. Bid Now »

Crouse Hinds Tender Light Frame/Lens...Restored.

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Vintage Fitzall Loc-Nob Glass Railroad Train Dietz Acme Inspector Lamp USA Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage Fitzall Loc-Nob Glass Railroad Train Dietz Acme Inspector Lamp USA

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Dietz #2 D-lite oil lamp Bid Now »

Dietz #2 D-lite oil lamp

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TWO 2 KOPP GLASS RED LANTERN LENSES 4 1/2 BY 3 1/2 Buy Now »

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TWO 2 KOPP GLASS GREEN LANTERN LENSES 4 1/2 BY 3 & 4 1/2 BY 3 1/2 Buy Now »

TWO 2 KOPP GLASS GREEN LANTERN LENSES 4 1/2 BY 3 & 4 1/2 BY 3 1/2

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TWO 2 KOPP GLASS RED LANTERN LENSES 4 1/2 BY 3 & 4 1/2 BY 3 1/2 Buy Now »

TWO 2 KOPP GLASS RED LANTERN LENSES 4 1/2 BY 3 & 4 1/2 BY 3 1/2

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VTG Empire Metal Ware Corp Light Lantern Railroad Miner with Dome Flashlight USA Bid Now »

VTG Empire Metal Ware Corp Light Lantern Railroad Miner with Dome Flashlight USA

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 EMBURY TRAFFIC GARD LAMP No 40 Embossed COLORADO PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY Buy Now »

EMBURY TRAFFIC GARD LAMP No 40 Embossed COLORADO PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY

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1921-1923 Adlake-Kero Railroad Lamp Vintage Antique with original wick!!!!!!!!!! Buy Now »
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1921-1923 Adlake-Kero Railroad Lamp Vintage Antique with original wick!!!!!!!!!!

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Dietz D Lite No 2 Lantern W Glass Bid Now »

Dietz D Lite No 2 Lantern W Glass

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10 hrs
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ANTIQUE ARMSPHEAR manufacturing RAILROAD RR LANTERN YELLOW GLOBE steel guard Buy Now »

ANTIQUE ARMSPHEAR manufacturing RAILROAD RR LANTERN YELLOW GLOBE steel guard

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Adlake Non-Sweating Railroad Switch Lamp Chicago  Wood Lenses Home Garage Decor Buy Now »

Adlake Non-Sweating Railroad Switch Lamp Chicago Wood Lenses Home Garage Decor

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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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