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 L&N Rail Road (The General) Set Of Two Pins In Box With Lil Story Bid Now »

Vintage L&N Rail Road (The General) Set Of Two Pins In Box With Lil Story

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Vintage 4" Corning Red Glass Railroad Switch Lantern Lenses Buy Now »

Vintage 4" Corning Red Glass Railroad Switch Lantern Lenses

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Original Paull's Lantern Antique Glass & Tin  1890 & 1903 Pat Dates Bid Now » Buy Now »

Original Paull's Lantern Antique Glass & Tin 1890 & 1903 Pat Dates

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Old Urbana Ohio MP RY Railroad Kerosene Torch Lamp Lighter Buy Now »

Old Urbana Ohio MP RY Railroad Kerosene Torch Lamp Lighter

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 LANTERN   GLOBE RED STANDS 3 7/8 " BASE 3 1/4 " TOP 2 3/4 " Bid Now »

LANTERN GLOBE RED STANDS 3 7/8 " BASE 3 1/4 " TOP 2 3/4 "

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VINTAGE CLEAR LANTERN GLOBE 4 3/4 " TALL 3 1/2 " BASE TOP IS 4 "  RAILROAD Bid Now »

VINTAGE CLEAR LANTERN GLOBE 4 3/4 " TALL 3 1/2 " BASE TOP IS 4 " RAILROAD

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New York Central Bellbottom Railroad Lantern Cast Globe Bid Now »

New York Central Bellbottom Railroad Lantern Cast Globe

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Keystone Casey Bottom Fount, Pot and Burner Bid Now »

Keystone Casey Bottom Fount, Pot and Burner

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Vintage NYCS New York Central System Lantern Dressel Arlington NJ Red Globe Bid Now »

Vintage NYCS New York Central System Lantern Dressel Arlington NJ Red Globe

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Antique LOT - Union Pacific Torch 17" x 6" & Great Northern Oil Can 12" x 6" Buy Now »

Antique LOT - Union Pacific Torch 17" x 6" & Great Northern Oil Can 12" x 6"

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Antique Old Metal Bell Bottom New York Dietz No 6 Train Railroad Lantern Bid Now »

Antique Old Metal Bell Bottom New York Dietz No 6 Train Railroad Lantern

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VINTAGE Embury Supreme No.160 Railroad Lantern Warsaw NY Bid Now »

VINTAGE Embury Supreme No.160 Railroad Lantern Warsaw NY

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ALADDIN METAL RAILROAD CABOOSE OIL LANTERN W/BRACKETT Bid Now »

ALADDIN METAL RAILROAD CABOOSE OIL LANTERN W/BRACKETT

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aladdin 21c caboose lamp with extra chimneys, burner and mantles. lot Bid Now » Buy Now »

aladdin 21c caboose lamp with extra chimneys, burner and mantles. lot

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VINTAGE ANTIQUE DIETZS BEST 1886 DASH ATTACHMENT UNIQUE RARE HISTORICAL RR Buy Now »
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VINTAGE ANTIQUE DIETZS BEST 1886 DASH ATTACHMENT UNIQUE RARE HISTORICAL RR

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ANTIQUE MARINE LANTERN Buy Now »

ANTIQUE MARINE LANTERN

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1900 Vtg. Carriage Auto Dietz Union Driving Lamp Lantern Model T Buggy Rail ? Buy Now »

1900 Vtg. Carriage Auto Dietz Union Driving Lamp Lantern Model T Buggy Rail ?

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Antique Vintage Dietz Little Wizard Orange Rusty Lantern Rustic Barn Cabin Decor Bid Now »

Antique Vintage Dietz Little Wizard Orange Rusty Lantern Rustic Barn Cabin Decor

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Genuine Old ADLAKE Railroad Cannonball CABOOSE Switch LANTERN Light LOOK! Buy Now »

Genuine Old ADLAKE Railroad Cannonball CABOOSE Switch LANTERN Light LOOK!

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Vintage red tin railroad or carriage lantern brass and tin 8 inches tall Bid Now »

Vintage red tin railroad or carriage lantern brass and tin 8 inches tall

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Vintage NOS Dietz Ruby Red Glass Railroad Lantern Globe Orig label New Old Stock Buy Now »

Vintage NOS Dietz Ruby Red Glass Railroad Lantern Globe Orig label New Old Stock

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Lehigh & New England railroad lantern Bid Now »

Lehigh & New England railroad lantern

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ANTIQUE DIETZ LANTERN BUCKEYE DASH BACKSTOP Bid Now »

ANTIQUE DIETZ LANTERN BUCKEYE DASH BACKSTOP

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antique Alantic Coast Line RR. Co. toolbox Buy Now »

antique Alantic Coast Line RR. Co. toolbox

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CNR Canadian National Railroad Lamp Lantern Bid Now »

CNR Canadian National Railroad Lamp Lantern

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Antique Dressel Railroad Train Lantern Clear Globe Light Electrified Table Lamp Buy Now »

Antique Dressel Railroad Train Lantern Clear Globe Light Electrified Table Lamp

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1902-03~PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD~P.R.R.~TALL GLOBE~KEYSTONE~"THE CASEY"~FRAME ONLY~ Bid Now »

1902-03 ~ PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD ~ P.R.R. ~ TALL GLOBE ~ KEYSTONE ~ "THE CASEY" ~ FRAME ONLY ~

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B&M Railroad Lantern and Globe - NICE CONDITION Bid Now »

B&M Railroad Lantern and Globe - NICE CONDITION

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propane lantern, schotts made in germany globe Bid Now »

propane lantern, schotts made in germany globe

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B&M Railroad Globe - Red - GREAT CONDITION Bid Now »

B&M Railroad Globe - Red - GREAT CONDITION

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DRESSEL - PENN CENTRAL RAILROAD LANTERN - WITH RED GLOBE Bid Now » Buy Now »
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DRESSEL - PENN CENTRAL RAILROAD LANTERN - WITH RED GLOBE

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Collectible Railroad Lantern Dietz Little Wizzard Oil Lamp NY USA Buy Now »

Collectible Railroad Lantern Dietz Little Wizzard Oil Lamp NY USA

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VERY RARE, VINTAGE PAIR OF DIETZ LITTLE WIZZARD OIL LANTERN LAMP Buy Now »

VERY RARE, VINTAGE PAIR OF DIETZ LITTLE WIZZARD OIL LANTERN LAMP

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ANTIQUE ADLAKE TRUCK COACH OIL LAMP LANTERN Railroad? Bid Now »

ANTIQUE ADLAKE TRUCK COACH OIL LAMP LANTERN Railroad?

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NORITAKE STANTON CHINA VEGETABLE BOWL 5407 Buy Now »

NORITAKE STANTON CHINA VEGETABLE BOWL 5407

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ANTIQUE   Clear Theatrical Fresnel lens, from a Color-tran ? Lens 8" with dots Bid Now »

ANTIQUE Clear Theatrical Fresnel lens, from a Color-tran ? Lens 8" with dots

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DIETZ COMET RED RAILROAD CONDUCTORS OIL LANTERN Buy Now »
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DIETZ COMET RED RAILROAD CONDUCTORS OIL LANTERN

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The Adams & Westlake Railroad lantern Reliable Buy Now »
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The Adams & Westlake Railroad lantern Reliable

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Antique Rustic Clear Glass Shade H35 Dietz Victor Tubular Barn Lantern Lamp Bid Now »

Antique Rustic Clear Glass Shade H35 Dietz Victor Tubular Barn Lantern Lamp

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VINTAGE Embury No. 40 Traffic Gard Lantern Light Railroad Train Warsaw NY Buy Now »

VINTAGE Embury No. 40 Traffic Gard Lantern Light Railroad Train Warsaw NY

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Pennsylvania Railroad DRESSEL Arlington NJ Keresone Railroad Lamp Buy Now »

Pennsylvania Railroad DRESSEL Arlington NJ Keresone Railroad Lamp

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Antique Dietz Vvesta Railroad Lantern with Red Globe Buy Now »
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Antique Dietz Vvesta Railroad Lantern with Red Globe

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RARE! VINTAGE DIETZ W. C.  Embury No 40 RED STOP Railroad Train Light Buy Now »

RARE! VINTAGE DIETZ W. C. Embury No 40 RED STOP Railroad Train Light

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ANTIQUE VINTAGE ADAMS & WESTLAKE ADLAKE RAILROAD TRAIN CABOOSE LAMP LANTERN Bid Now »

ANTIQUE VINTAGE ADAMS & WESTLAKE ADLAKE RAILROAD TRAIN CABOOSE LAMP LANTERN

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Antique Dietz Vesta Railroad Lantern, with Clear Lens, New York USA, no handle Buy Now »
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Antique Dietz Vesta Railroad Lantern, with Clear Lens, New York USA, no handle

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Antique Railroad Lantern by Dietz, Missing Globe Buy Now »
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Antique Railroad Lantern by Dietz, Missing Globe

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Antique Copper Smudge Pot Bid Now »

Antique Copper Smudge Pot

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VINTAGE DIETZ ACME INSPECTOR  LANTERN LAMP Bid Now »

VINTAGE DIETZ ACME INSPECTOR LANTERN LAMP

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Big Beam No. 1000 Railroad Light, Vintage Light Bid Now »

Big Beam No. 1000 Railroad Light, Vintage Light

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Rare Adlake Antique Railroad Lantern Large & Heavy 1 Red - 3 Blue *Free S&H USA* Buy Now »
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Rare Adlake Antique Railroad Lantern Large & Heavy 1 Red - 3 Blue *Free S&H USA*

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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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