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 RAILROAD LANTERN   L.V.R.R. Bid Now »

VINTAGE RAILROAD LANTERN L.V.R.R.

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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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Antique 1895 Bell Bottom Railroad Lantern Pennsylvania Lines Adams & Westlake NR Bid Now »

Antique 1895 Bell Bottom Railroad Lantern Pennsylvania Lines Adams & Westlake NR

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Dietz Little Wizard No 1 Lantern, Rare Frosted Globe, Made in Hong Kong Bid Now » Buy Now »

Dietz Little Wizard No 1 Lantern, Rare Frosted Globe, Made in Hong Kong

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Kero Railroad Lantern Adams & Westlake No. 250 Buy Now »

Kero Railroad Lantern Adams & Westlake No. 250

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"PSC"-PULLMAN STANDARD CO-TALL-RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE-RED FLASHED-EXTENDED BASE Bid Now »

"PSC"-PULLMAN STANDARD CO-TALL-RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE-RED FLASHED-EXTENDED BASE

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Lehigh Valley  LVRR Railroad Torch Can Oil Lamp antique Bid Now »
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Lehigh Valley LVRR Railroad Torch Can Oil Lamp antique

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Vintage Dietz Lantern No. 40 Traffic Gard  Syracuse NY Buy Now »
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Vintage Dietz Lantern No. 40 Traffic Gard Syracuse NY

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LIGHTMASTER LANTERN SEARCHLIGHT Bid Now » Buy Now »

LIGHTMASTER LANTERN SEARCHLIGHT

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Official Trainman Lantern Model 992AG Train Lantern Light Bid Now »

Official Trainman Lantern Model 992AG Train Lantern Light

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New York & New England Tall Globe Lantern Bid Now »

New York & New England Tall Globe Lantern

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Pyle National 4 Lamp Caboose Light / Railroad Marker - New! (3 Amber - 1 Red) Bid Now »

Pyle National 4 Lamp Caboose Light / Railroad Marker - New! (3 Amber - 1 Red)

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Railroad Post Office Car Candle Lamp Brass Brackets - Live Steam, Railroadiana Buy Now »
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Railroad Post Office Car Candle Lamp Brass Brackets - Live Steam, Railroadiana

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Vintage Delta Red Light 6 Volt Railroad Lantern Bid Now »

Vintage Delta Red Light 6 Volt Railroad Lantern

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STEAM LOCOMOTIVE FRONT BOILER LAMP W/ BEVELED # BOARDS - CAST IRON BASE #804  Buy Now »

STEAM LOCOMOTIVE FRONT BOILER LAMP W/ BEVELED # BOARDS - CAST IRON BASE #804

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Antique Dressel B&O Railroad Lantern with Orange Kopp Globe Bid Now »

Antique Dressel B&O Railroad Lantern with Orange Kopp Globe

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Early NP Northern Pacific Railroad Lantern nice clear globe Family estate item Bid Now »

Early NP Northern Pacific Railroad Lantern nice clear globe Family estate item

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VINTAGE STARLITE TRANSISTORIZED WARNING LIGHT Buy Now »

VINTAGE STARLITE TRANSISTORIZED WARNING LIGHT

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Original Vintage Dietz Vesta New York New Haven Hartford Railroad Lantern Lamp Bid Now »

Original Vintage Dietz Vesta New York New Haven Hartford Railroad Lantern Lamp

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RP2029 Vtg Adlake Kero Railway Coal Oil Lantern Red Glass Globe Bid Now »

RP2029 Vtg Adlake Kero Railway Coal Oil Lantern Red Glass Globe

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Scarce L & N Louisville Nashville Railroad amber globe Lantern Family estate WOW Bid Now »

Scarce L & N Louisville Nashville Railroad amber globe Lantern Family estate WOW

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RP2030 Vtg Premier Lamp Co Carbide Railway Lantern Crestella Leeds England Bid Now »

RP2030 Vtg Premier Lamp Co Carbide Railway Lantern Crestella Leeds England

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Vintage Barn Lantern Lamp-Electric-Rustic Lamp-Post Mounted-Large Size-Glass-#1 Buy Now »

Vintage Barn Lantern Lamp-Electric-Rustic Lamp-Post Mounted-Large Size-Glass-#1

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Railroad Lantern FONT Adams & Westlake Bid Now »

Railroad Lantern FONT Adams & Westlake

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Corning Glass Railroad Lantern Lens 6 3/8 D x 3 3/4 F Bid Now »

Corning Glass Railroad Lantern Lens 6 3/8 D x 3 3/4 F

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lot of FIVE (5) antique railroad lanterns west german and dietz beacon dash lamp Bid Now »

lot of FIVE (5) antique railroad lanterns west german and dietz beacon dash lamp

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 EARLY Dietz Vesta LVRR Lehigh Valley Railroad embossed globe Nice Lantern Bid Now »

EARLY Dietz Vesta LVRR Lehigh Valley Railroad embossed globe Nice Lantern

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 VINTAGE VERY CLEAN NEW YORK CITY #39 DIETZ LANTERN WITH RED GLOBE Buy Now »

VINTAGE VERY CLEAN NEW YORK CITY #39 DIETZ LANTERN WITH RED GLOBE

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Antique Green 5" Corning Glass Round Railroad Signal/Lantern/Marker Lens.   #323 Bid Now »
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Antique Green 5" Corning Glass Round Railroad Signal/Lantern/Marker Lens. #323

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Unmarked 11" Tall Glass Globe Beacon Light Lantern Street Marker Railroad DIETZ Bid Now »

Unmarked 11" Tall Glass Globe Beacon Light Lantern Street Marker Railroad DIETZ

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DIETZ ACME INSPECTOR LANTERN*Rare*Early 1900S Buy Now »

DIETZ ACME INSPECTOR LANTERN*Rare*Early 1900S

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Vintage Winged Wheel Lantern No. 400, Red, Railroad Kerosene Hurricane, Japan Buy Now »

Vintage Winged Wheel Lantern No. 400, Red, Railroad Kerosene Hurricane, Japan

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Unique Adlake Electric RailRoad Battery Operated Switch Lantern Bid Now »

Unique Adlake Electric RailRoad Battery Operated Switch Lantern

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Vintage E J & E Rw Railway Oil Can   Antique Railroad Gas Tractor Rail Road 6719 Buy Now »

Vintage E J & E Rw Railway Oil Can Antique Railroad Gas Tractor Rail Road 6719

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VINTAGE CHALWYN "FAR EAST MKII" KEROSENE LANTERN Bid Now »
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VINTAGE CHALWYN "FAR EAST MKII" KEROSENE LANTERN

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Vintage ADLAKE 4 Way Switch Lamp Light Cast Iron Base Railroad Cannonball Style Bid Now »

Vintage ADLAKE 4 Way Switch Lamp Light Cast Iron Base Railroad Cannonball Style

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3 hrs
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Vintage British Kenyons Serilght Lens 72 Lamp Road Lantern/Lamp/Light Bid Now »

Vintage British Kenyons Serilght Lens 72 Lamp Road Lantern/Lamp/Light

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Exceptional  CCC&STL Bell Bottom Lantern By Dietz. Bid Now »

Exceptional CCC&STL Bell Bottom Lantern By Dietz.

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3 hrs
33 mins
Antique Railroad Lantern Waterloo Iowa Illinois Central Buy Now »

Antique Railroad Lantern Waterloo Iowa Illinois Central

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36 mins
1905 dietz buggy lamp Bid Now »

1905 dietz buggy lamp

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3 hrs
41 mins
Delta, RR Train Lantern  Powerlite Bid Now »
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Delta, RR Train Lantern Powerlite

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Nice Adams&Westlake(ADLAKE) Lantern With Embossed AT&SF Ry Globe. Bid Now »

Nice Adams&Westlake(ADLAKE) Lantern With Embossed AT&SF Ry Globe.

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VINTAGE DIETZ FITALL NEW YORK USA CXII CLEAR LANTERN GLOBE Bid Now »

VINTAGE DIETZ FITALL NEW YORK USA CXII CLEAR LANTERN GLOBE

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 Dressel  Arlington railroad lantern switchlight tank font burner, looks good Bid Now »

Dressel Arlington railroad lantern switchlight tank font burner, looks good

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NOS Conrail Railroad Lantern - Starlite 222 - Rare Estate Find - No Reserve... Bid Now » Buy Now »

NOS Conrail Railroad Lantern - Starlite 222 - Rare Estate Find - No Reserve...

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Vintage Ruby Red Swirled IRRIDESCENT Barn, Railroad Lantern Globe Bid Now »

Vintage Ruby Red Swirled IRRIDESCENT Barn, Railroad Lantern Globe

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Dietz Night Watch Fresnel Antique Lantern | Syracuse, N.Y., U.S.A. Bid Now »

Dietz Night Watch Fresnel Antique Lantern | Syracuse, N.Y., U.S.A.

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Adlake Illinois Central Railroad marked frame with Amber Globe Buy Now »

Adlake Illinois Central Railroad marked frame with Amber Globe

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VINTAGE WC HAYES RAILROAD SIGNAL TRAIN CROSSING TRAFFIC SIGNAL LIGHTS Bid Now »
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VINTAGE WC HAYES RAILROAD SIGNAL TRAIN CROSSING TRAFFIC SIGNAL LIGHTS

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Antique Railroad  Lantern, Red Lens, Marked "Handlan" Buy Now »

Antique Railroad Lantern, Red Lens, Marked "Handlan"

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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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