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 CHICAGO RAPID TRANSIT LANTERN Buy Now »

ADLAKE CHICAGO RAPID TRANSIT LANTERN

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VINTAGE NO.2 COKI BLAST LANTERN Buy Now »
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VINTAGE NO.2 COKI BLAST LANTERN

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Dietz Kerosene NYCS New York Central System RR Lantern Railroad Lamp Light CNX Buy Now »

Dietz Kerosene NYCS New York Central System RR Lantern Railroad Lamp Light CNX

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intage Adlake Kero Railroad Lantern Red Globe Train Lamp Fluid Light Buy Now »

intage Adlake Kero Railroad Lantern Red Globe Train Lamp Fluid Light

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Antique Keystone RR Lantern PRR Embossed Pennsylvania Lines Train Light Buy Now »

Antique Keystone RR Lantern PRR Embossed Pennsylvania Lines Train Light

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Vintage Economy Electric Ecolite Lantern Flashlite Buy Now »

Vintage Economy Electric Ecolite Lantern Flashlite

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8 3/8 Red signal light lens Corning 2948-C Type T-3 Bid Now »

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Vintage Adlake Railroad Lantern Bid Now »

Vintage Adlake Railroad Lantern

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ANTIQUE ADLAKE CARRIAGE LANTERN  NON SWEATING ALANO DRAFT IN FANTASTIC CONDITION Bid Now »

ANTIQUE ADLAKE CARRIAGE LANTERN NON SWEATING ALANO DRAFT IN FANTASTIC CONDITION

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1941 Adlake Kero NYCS New York Central System Railroad Lantern Red Globe 1921 Buy Now »

1941 Adlake Kero NYCS New York Central System Railroad Lantern Red Globe 1921

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NEW Starlite Blue Flagging Flashing Lantern Model No.215-TL 6 Volt Blue Lens NOS Buy Now »

New NEW Starlite Blue Flagging Flashing Lantern Model No.215-TL 6 Volt Blue Lens NOS for saleNEW Starlite Blue Flagging Flashing Lantern Model No.215-TL 6 Volt Blue Lens NOS

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Dietz No.2 D-Lite Kerosene Oil Lantern Railroad Lamp NY USA SYRACUSE GLOBE Bid Now »

Dietz No.2 D-Lite Kerosene Oil Lantern Railroad Lamp NY USA SYRACUSE GLOBE

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Adlake 1112 Peephole Repair Kit Buy Now »

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 DORCO Portable EcoLite Electric Lantern Flashlight Cat. No. 200 Buy Now »
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New  DORCO Portable EcoLite Electric Lantern Flashlight Cat. No. 200 for sale DORCO Portable EcoLite Electric Lantern Flashlight Cat. No. 200

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Antique Adlake Non- Sweating Electric Railroad Lamp Bid Now »

Antique Adlake Non- Sweating Electric Railroad Lamp

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Railroad Lantern Vintage Rust Train Rail Yard Old Time Bid Now »
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Railroad Lantern Vintage Rust Train Rail Yard Old Time

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VINTAGE ADLAKE RAILROAD SWITCH SIGNAL ORANGE GREEN 4-WAY LAMP LANTERN #8633 NR  Bid Now »

VINTAGE ADLAKE RAILROAD SWITCH SIGNAL ORANGE GREEN 4-WAY LAMP LANTERN #8633 NR

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Vintage Wooden / Iron Hanes with Brass Balls, / Kerosine Lanteren  Buy Now »

Vintage Wooden / Iron Hanes with Brass Balls, / Kerosine Lanteren

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Small 8" Red Sun Grand No. 3500 Lantern Bid Now »

Small 8" Red Sun Grand No. 3500 Lantern

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Railroad Gas lantern original Maine Estate Find Bid Now » Buy Now »

Railroad Gas lantern original Maine Estate Find

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Clear Glass H17 Lantern  Globe Bid Now »

Clear Glass H17 Lantern Globe

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Clear Glass Lantern Globe Bid Now »

Clear Glass Lantern Globe

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Clear Glass Lantern Globe Bid Now »

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Clear Glass Lantern C8 Globe Bid Now »

Clear Glass Lantern C8 Globe

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RAILROAD KEROSENE CAN JOHNSON URBANA, O. Bid Now »

RAILROAD KEROSENE CAN JOHNSON URBANA, O.

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ADLAKE RAILROAD CONDUCTOR LANTERN  # 31F BRAKEMAN SIGNAL ORIGINAL Buy Now »

ADLAKE RAILROAD CONDUCTOR LANTERN # 31F BRAKEMAN SIGNAL ORIGINAL

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Rustic Antique Embury No. 2 Air Pilot Railroad Lantern Bid Now »

Rustic Antique Embury No. 2 Air Pilot Railroad Lantern

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Vintage Dietz No. 2 D-Lite Kerosene Lantern Bid Now »

Vintage Dietz No. 2 D-Lite Kerosene Lantern

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Antique Dietz Little Wizard  Lantern  NY USA Bid Now » Buy Now »

Antique Dietz Little Wizard Lantern NY USA

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Antique Dietz Little Wizard  Lantern NY USA Bid Now » Buy Now »

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Antique Dietz No.2 D-Lite Lantern NY USA Bid Now » Buy Now »

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DIETZ  No. 40 EDISON TRAFFIC LANTERN ORIGINAL SYRACUSE NY Buy Now »

DIETZ No. 40 EDISON TRAFFIC LANTERN ORIGINAL SYRACUSE NY

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Clear Glass Painted Red Lantern Globe Bid Now »

Clear Glass Painted Red Lantern Globe

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STARLITE 222  RAILROAD LANTERN  BRAKEMAN SIGNAL VINTAGE Buy Now »

STARLITE 222 RAILROAD LANTERN BRAKEMAN SIGNAL VINTAGE

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Original PRR Railroad Lantern Bid Now »

Original PRR Railroad Lantern

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Vintage Winged Wheel Railroad RR Kerosene Lantern Light Lamp Glass 350 Japan Bid Now »

Vintage Winged Wheel Railroad RR Kerosene Lantern Light Lamp Glass 350 Japan

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Red Lantern Bid Now » Buy Now »
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Red Lantern

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railroad collectables Bid Now » Buy Now »

railroad collectables

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VINTAGE RAILROAD DIETZ VESTA NEW YORK USA-N.Y.C.S LANTERN IN EXCELLENT CONDITION Bid Now » Buy Now »

VINTAGE RAILROAD DIETZ VESTA NEW YORK USA-N.Y.C.S LANTERN IN EXCELLENT CONDITION

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Erie RR Armspear Lantern with cracked Erie globe Bid Now »

Erie RR Armspear Lantern with cracked Erie globe

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HANDLAN RAILROAD Signal Lamp ,HANGING Lantern Antique Orig Bid Now » Buy Now »

HANDLAN RAILROAD Signal Lamp ,HANGING Lantern Antique Orig

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Vintage Dietz No 100 NY USA Red Globe Oil Lamp Blue Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz No 100 NY USA Red Globe Oil Lamp Blue Lantern

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VINTAGE ANTIQUE RAILROAD LAMP PRR HANDLAN ST LOUIS RR GLOBE Buy Now »

VINTAGE ANTIQUE RAILROAD LAMP PRR HANDLAN ST LOUIS RR GLOBE

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VINTAGE ANTIQUE RAILROAD LAMP DIEZT FITZALL NY USA LOC-NOB PATD 3-10-14 Buy Now »

VINTAGE ANTIQUE RAILROAD LAMP DIEZT FITZALL NY USA LOC-NOB PATD 3-10-14

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Antique MILLER Drop In All Brass Fount SOLAR Burner Railroad Car Lamp ! Buy Now »

Antique MILLER Drop In All Brass Fount SOLAR Burner Railroad Car Lamp !

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HANDLAN RAILROAD Signal Lamp ,HANGING Lantern Antique Orig Bid Now » Buy Now »

HANDLAN RAILROAD Signal Lamp ,HANGING Lantern Antique Orig

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Vintage Dietz Fitzall Loc Nob Ruby Red Glass Lantern Rail Road Globe 12-4-23 Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz Fitzall Loc Nob Ruby Red Glass Lantern Rail Road Globe 12-4-23

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Old Red Lantern Glass No Marks Unknown Origin. Bid Now »

Old Red Lantern Glass No Marks Unknown Origin.

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CLOSE OUT SALE   RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE CNX 3 5/8 " Buy Now »

CLOSE OUT SALE RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE CNX 3 5/8 "

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Vintage Dietz Red Railroad Lamp Lantern No. 50 Kerosene-Oil Made in Hong Kong Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz Red Railroad Lamp Lantern No. 50 Kerosene-Oil Made in Hong Kong

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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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