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 N.Y. N.H. & H.R.R.BLUE GLOBE DRESSEL RAILROAD LANTERN Bid Now »

ANTIQUE N.Y. N.H. & H.R.R.BLUE GLOBE DRESSEL RAILROAD LANTERN

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Dressel Railroad Lantern Lamp Switch Light Glass Lens Works Complete Bid Now »

Dressel Railroad Lantern Lamp Switch Light Glass Lens Works Complete

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Antique Railroad Kerosene Lantern Switch Light RR Train Buy Now »
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Antique Railroad Kerosene Lantern Switch Light RR Train

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ORIGINAL ANTIQUE RAYO NO. 39 WB RAILROAD LANTERN W/ ORIGINAL GLOBE & BURNER NR Buy Now »

ORIGINAL ANTIQUE RAYO NO. 39 WB RAILROAD LANTERN W/ ORIGINAL GLOBE & BURNER NR

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VINTAGERAILROAD LANTERN, OIL LANTERN, WHITE FLAME CO. Buy Now »

VINTAGERAILROAD LANTERN, OIL LANTERN, WHITE FLAME CO.

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Antique Keystone Rail Road Lantern Bid Now »

Antique Keystone Rail Road Lantern

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VINTAGE DELTA POWERLITE MODEL A-1530 RAILROAD MINING  LANTERN COMPLETE NEW Buy Now »

VINTAGE DELTA POWERLITE MODEL A-1530 RAILROAD MINING LANTERN COMPLETE NEW

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Vintage Railroad Lantern Rayo no88  Globe is 1914 Dietz LDC-NOB  D-Lite N.Y. USA Buy Now »

Vintage Railroad Lantern Rayo no88 Globe is 1914 Dietz LDC-NOB D-Lite N.Y. USA

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Vintage Swallow Brand # 215 Red Lantern w/ Clear Globe, Made In China Buy Now »

Vintage Swallow Brand # 215 Red Lantern w/ Clear Globe, Made In China

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General Signals Inc. 68-101 Lexan 8 3/8 Red Lens Buy Now »

General Signals Inc. 68-101 Lexan 8 3/8 Red Lens

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1921-1923 CPR RAILROAD KEROSENE HIRAM L. PIPER LAMP RED ADLAKE KERO GLOBE Buy Now »

1921-1923 CPR RAILROAD KEROSENE HIRAM L. PIPER LAMP RED ADLAKE KERO GLOBE

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Vintage Antique Dietz Union Automobile Driving Lamp Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Antique Dietz Union Automobile Driving Lamp Lantern

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 ADLAKE 300 RAILROAD LANTERN FOUNT & BURNER WITH WICK (A) Buy Now »

ADLAKE 300 RAILROAD LANTERN FOUNT & BURNER WITH WICK (A)

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General Signals Blue Plastic Lens Bid Now »

General Signals Blue Plastic Lens

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C&ORY Handlan St Louis 4 Way RR Switch lantern , Marker lamp , Caboose lantern Bid Now »

C&ORY Handlan St Louis 4 Way RR Switch lantern , Marker lamp , Caboose lantern

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Railroad Conductor's Desk Caboose Lamp wall lantern Bracket Adam & West Lake Bid Now »

Railroad Conductor's Desk Caboose Lamp wall lantern Bracket Adam & West Lake

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49 mins
Adlake Kero Railroad Lantern. GTW 1943 Bid Now »

Adlake Kero Railroad Lantern. GTW 1943

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FULL BOX OF VINTAGE DIETZ LITTLE WIZARD RUBY RED LANTERN GLOBES NOS PERFECT Bid Now » Buy Now »

FULL BOX OF VINTAGE DIETZ LITTLE WIZARD RUBY RED LANTERN GLOBES NOS PERFECT

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Vintage Adlake Kero Railroad Lantern Lamp with Red Glass Rubber Lined Handle Buy Now »

Vintage Adlake Kero Railroad Lantern Lamp with Red Glass Rubber Lined Handle

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Antique lantern Bid Now »

Antique lantern

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VINTAGE RAILROAD CONDUCTOR   LANTERN Bid Now »

VINTAGE RAILROAD CONDUCTOR LANTERN

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Vintage Train Railroad Lantern Signed CNR Embossed on Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Train Railroad Lantern Signed CNR Embossed on Lantern

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Handmade Vintage Amtrak Train Caboose Lamp Bid Now » Buy Now »

Handmade Vintage Amtrak Train Caboose Lamp

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CHESAPEAKE AND OHIO LANTERN W AMBER ECTED 250 KERO Bid Now »

CHESAPEAKE AND OHIO LANTERN W AMBER ECTED 250 KERO

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Dietz Vesta lantern NY, NH and H  railroad lantern with clear glass chimney LUD Bid Now »

Dietz Vesta lantern NY, NH and H railroad lantern with clear glass chimney LUD

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ORIGINAL VINTAGE JUSTRITE LANTERN WITH STAND UP BASE. UNUSUAL. Bid Now »

ORIGINAL VINTAGE JUSTRITE LANTERN WITH STAND UP BASE. UNUSUAL.

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GREEN CAST EXTENDED BASED GLOBE 5 3/8 THICK NICE EARLY DARK GREEN Bid Now »

GREEN CAST EXTENDED BASED GLOBE 5 3/8 THICK NICE EARLY DARK GREEN

Obsolete Railroad Keys For Sale trainmastermodels.com
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CLEAR CORNING 3 1/4" RAILROAD LANTERN SHORT GLOBE MADE IN USA ADLAKE KERO Bid Now »
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CLEAR CORNING 3 1/4" RAILROAD LANTERN SHORT GLOBE MADE IN USA ADLAKE KERO

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 Rare CM+STP RY Adjustable double sided wrench Buy Now »

Rare CM+STP RY Adjustable double sided wrench

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CLEAR CORNING 3 1/4" RAILROAD LANTERN SHORT GLOBE MADE IN USA Bid Now »
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CLEAR CORNING 3 1/4" RAILROAD LANTERN SHORT GLOBE MADE IN USA

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Vintage Torch Tool Johnson Urbana Co. Train Track Marking Lantern Buy Now »
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Vintage Torch Tool Johnson Urbana Co. Train Track Marking Lantern

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VINTAGE RAILROAD MEMORABILIA VALUE GUIDE COLLECTORS BOOK Badges Caps Buttons ++ Buy Now »

VINTAGE RAILROAD MEMORABILIA VALUE GUIDE COLLECTORS BOOK Badges Caps Buttons ++

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Dietz Lantern Little Wizard with Clear Embossed Globe stamped US Bid Now » Buy Now »

Dietz Lantern Little Wizard with Clear Embossed Globe stamped US

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Dietz Railroad Inspector Lamp vintage antique patent 1914 Bid Now »

Dietz Railroad Inspector Lamp vintage antique patent 1914

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Vintage Chicago Northwestern Kerosene Railroad Lantern "C&NW RY" Adlake Train Buy Now »

Vintage Chicago Northwestern Kerosene Railroad Lantern "C&NW RY" Adlake Train

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Rail Road 90 lb. switch rail chairs Bid Now »

Rail Road 90 lb. switch rail chairs

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5.5 Vintage Barn Lanterns Dietz Nier plus Others No Globes Bid Now »

5.5 Vintage Barn Lanterns Dietz Nier plus Others No Globes

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vintage dietz lanterns Bid Now »

vintage dietz lanterns

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MAC Truck Hazard Flare Set Kerosene Sump Oil Smudge Pot Torch Kit Buy Now »

MAC Truck Hazard Flare Set Kerosene Sump Oil Smudge Pot Torch Kit

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Red Railroad Lantern Style Table Lamp w/ Matching Shade Buy Now »

Red Railroad Lantern Style Table Lamp w/ Matching Shade

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Vintage Dietz Lantern Bid Now » Buy Now »
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Vintage Dietz Lantern

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Vintage No. 75 RAYO Lantern with Back Shield Clear Globe Nice and Cleaned Bid Now »

Vintage No. 75 RAYO Lantern with Back Shield Clear Globe Nice and Cleaned

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vintage dietz No. 2 D-Lite Lantern Bid Now »

vintage dietz No. 2 D-Lite Lantern

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 Railroad Crossing Signal Buy Now »
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Railroad Crossing Signal

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VINTAGE VOL KANO RAILROAD LANTERN MODEL 475 Bid Now »

VINTAGE VOL KANO RAILROAD LANTERN MODEL 475

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VINTAGE- ANTIQUE PRIMITIVE CANDLE LANTERN-- BARN/HOUSE RARE HARD TO FIND SEE NOW Bid Now »

VINTAGE- ANTIQUE PRIMITIVE CANDLE LANTERN-- BARN/HOUSE RARE HARD TO FIND SEE NOW

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New Haven Railroad Dietz Vulcan tall globe kero lantern Bid Now » Buy Now »

New Haven Railroad Dietz Vulcan tall globe kero lantern

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1906 Brass Rayo Pony 15 Cold Blast Lantern w Rayo Bullseye Embossed Globe Bid Now »

1906 Brass Rayo Pony 15 Cold Blast Lantern w Rayo Bullseye Embossed Globe

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Vintage KOPP GLASS GREEN Smooth Domed RR Railroad Lantern Signal Lens 4 3/4" Bid Now »

Vintage KOPP GLASS GREEN Smooth Domed RR Railroad Lantern Signal Lens 4 3/4"

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Vintage KOPP GLASS RED Smooth Domed RR Railroad Lantern Signal Lens 4 3/4" Bid Now »

Vintage KOPP GLASS RED Smooth Domed RR Railroad Lantern Signal Lens 4 3/4"

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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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