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 KEROSENE LANTERN PRIMUS No. 1020 MADE IN SWEDEN REGD. OIL LAMP vintage Buy Now »

ANTIQUE KEROSENE LANTERN PRIMUS No. 1020 MADE IN SWEDEN REGD. OIL LAMP vintage

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Vintage ICRR adlake railroad lantern amber lens Bid Now »

Vintage ICRR adlake railroad lantern amber lens

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Vintage WC Hayes Railroad Red Light Aluminum Body Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage WC Hayes Railroad Red Light Aluminum Body

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JD1511] VINTAGE WINGED WHEEL RED LANTERN #350 JAPAN Bid Now »

JD1511] VINTAGE WINGED WHEEL RED LANTERN #350 JAPAN

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Antique Dietz NY USA Little Wizard railroad barn lantern with red globe Bid Now » Buy Now »

Antique Dietz NY USA Little Wizard railroad barn lantern with red globe

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Antique Winged Wheel Japan No. 500 railroad barn oil  lantern Bid Now »

Antique Winged Wheel Japan No. 500 railroad barn oil lantern

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50 mins
antique railroad light Bid Now »

antique railroad light

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Vintage Gem Mfg. Co. Railroad Flare Buy Now »

Vintage Gem Mfg. Co. Railroad Flare

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CLOSE OUT SALE RED RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE  4 1/2 " BASE 3" TOP 2 " Buy Now »

CLOSE OUT SALE RED RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE 4 1/2 " BASE 3" TOP 2 "

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1 hr
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Vintage Red Lantern With Clear Glass Globe By Triangle 10" Tall Bid Now »

Vintage Red Lantern With Clear Glass Globe By Triangle 10" Tall

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KEYSTONE RAILROAD LANTERN THE CASEY DATED 1902 Bid Now »

KEYSTONE RAILROAD LANTERN THE CASEY DATED 1902

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B & O Railroad Lantern Nycs Bid Now »

B & O Railroad Lantern Nycs

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CLOSE OUT SALE GREAT NORTHERN  RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE CLEAR CAST  C N RY Buy Now »

CLOSE OUT SALE GREAT NORTHERN RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE CLEAR CAST C N RY

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Vintage, aluminum Snapit Dual Beam Lantern Bid Now »

Vintage, aluminum Snapit Dual Beam Lantern

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1 hr
9 mins
Vintage railroad light volKano Richberry Electric Co Chicago,USA MODEL475 Bid Now »

Vintage railroad light volKano Richberry Electric Co Chicago,USA MODEL475

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VINTAGE "CITY OF READING" PA USA NO. 100 DIETZ  LANTERN Bid Now »

VINTAGE "CITY OF READING" PA USA NO. 100 DIETZ LANTERN

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1 hr
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Antique rail road lamp europe Buy Now »

Antique rail road lamp europe

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1 hr
16 mins
DIETZ NO 6 BELL BOTTOM LANTERN NEW YORK CENTRAL W/ NYC@HR RR ETCHED GLOBE Bid Now »

DIETZ NO 6 BELL BOTTOM LANTERN NEW YORK CENTRAL W/ NYC@HR RR ETCHED GLOBE

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1 hr
22 mins
Vintage Dietz Little Wizard Railroad Lantern Blue Red Globe Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz Little Wizard Railroad Lantern Blue Red Globe

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Antique Dietz red railroad lantern electrified Bid Now »

Antique Dietz red railroad lantern electrified

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SUPER RARE HISTORIC RAILROAD SIGNAL LIGHT 3 LIGHTS early1900'S UNTOUCHED REAL DE Buy Now »

SUPER RARE HISTORIC RAILROAD SIGNAL LIGHT 3 LIGHTS early1900'S UNTOUCHED REAL DE

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CLOSE OUT SALE NEW YORK CENTRAL RED CAST   RAILROAD LANTERN NYC RR ON A PANEL Buy Now »

CLOSE OUT SALE NEW YORK CENTRAL RED CAST RAILROAD LANTERN NYC RR ON A PANEL

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RAIL ROAD SIGNAL PART. Bid Now »

RAIL ROAD SIGNAL PART.

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1 hr
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old retired large RailRoad Track Station Light with 2 side lamps bracket train Buy Now »

old retired large RailRoad Track Station Light with 2 side lamps bracket train

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1 hr
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VINTAGE SMALL BLACK ELECTRIC LANTERN W/ DIAMOND SHAPED LENS GERMANY CIRCA 1935 Bid Now »

VINTAGE SMALL BLACK ELECTRIC LANTERN W/ DIAMOND SHAPED LENS GERMANY CIRCA 1935

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Antique Dietz Monarch Red Glass Oil Lamp Traffic Lantern Train Light??? Bid Now »

Antique Dietz Monarch Red Glass Oil Lamp Traffic Lantern Train Light???

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VINTAGE GREEN OIL LAMP/LANTERN Bid Now » Buy Now »

VINTAGE GREEN OIL LAMP/LANTERN

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2 hrs
1 min
CSX Railroad Lantern (conger Style) Bid Now »

CSX Railroad Lantern (conger Style)

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VINTAGE AUTO-LITE LANTERN Bid Now »

VINTAGE AUTO-LITE LANTERN

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2 hrs
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ANTIQUE RARE H.L. PIPER BRASS WALL MOUNTED KEROSENE LAMP LOOK! Bid Now » Buy Now »

ANTIQUE RARE H.L. PIPER BRASS WALL MOUNTED KEROSENE LAMP LOOK!

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2 hrs
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Vintage Dietz No. 8 Air Pilot Oil Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz No. 8 Air Pilot Oil Lantern

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2 hrs
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Vintage Paulls Leader Hot Blast kerosene lantern globe Bid Now »

Vintage Paulls Leader Hot Blast kerosene lantern globe

Bid: $17.50
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$24.00
2 hrs
16 mins
RAILROAD LANTERN W&L.E.R.R   RELIABLE NEW YORK CHIAGO PHILA RED GLASS GLOBE&IRON Bid Now »

RAILROAD LANTERN W&L.E.R.R RELIABLE NEW YORK CHIAGO PHILA RED GLASS GLOBE&IRON

Bid: $76.00
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2 hrs
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Original Antique Caboose Stove Bid Now » Buy Now »

Original Antique Caboose Stove

Antique coal stove
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2 hrs
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ORIGINAL TIN? GEM MANUFACTURING CO. RAILROAD TORCH/ GREAT LOOK Bid Now »

ORIGINAL TIN? GEM MANUFACTURING CO. RAILROAD TORCH/ GREAT LOOK

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VINTAGE ANTIQUE Adlake Kero CNR Railroad Lantern Bid Now » Buy Now »

VINTAGE ANTIQUE Adlake Kero CNR Railroad Lantern

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2 hrs
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Vintage Rayo No.2 cold blast kerosene lantern globe Bid Now »

Vintage Rayo No.2 cold blast kerosene lantern globe

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2 hrs
22 mins
NYC (New York Central) Railroad Lantern Adlake Red Globe Bid Now » Buy Now »

NYC (New York Central) Railroad Lantern Adlake Red Globe

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2 hrs
23 mins
ANTIQUE EMBURY No. 1 LANTERN EMBOSSED STAR on bottom / Red Dietz Lens Buy Now »

ANTIQUE EMBURY No. 1 LANTERN EMBOSSED STAR on bottom / Red Dietz Lens

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2 hrs
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Dietz No. 2 D-Lite Lantern BARN FIND Bid Now » Buy Now »
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Dietz No. 2 D-Lite Lantern BARN FIND

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2 hrs
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Antique Adlake Erie RR Railroad Lantern w/ Embossed E.R.R. Co. Clear Globe ORIG! Buy Now »

Antique Adlake Erie RR Railroad Lantern w/ Embossed E.R.R. Co. Clear Globe ORIG!

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2 hrs
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DELTA ELECTRIC CO. LANTERN Buy Now »

DELTA ELECTRIC CO. LANTERN

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2 hrs
30 mins
Vintage Embury No.20 Red kerosene lantern globe Bid Now »

Vintage Embury No.20 Red kerosene lantern globe

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2 hrs
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Justrite no. 42 w Electric / Railroad  Lantern  JUSTRITE Manufacturing Chicago Buy Now »

Justrite no. 42 w Electric / Railroad Lantern JUSTRITE Manufacturing Chicago

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2 hrs
32 mins
Delta Powerlite lantern from the Delta Electric Co. Bid Now »

Delta Powerlite lantern from the Delta Electric Co.

Bid: $10.53
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2 hrs
32 mins
Vintage Dietz No. 8 Air Pilot Railroad/Barn Blue Kerosene Lantern Bid Now »

Vintage Dietz No. 8 Air Pilot Railroad/Barn Blue Kerosene Lantern

Bid: $35.95
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2 hrs
34 mins
Vintage Gem Cold Blast Buggy Lantern C.T.Ham Mfg.Co. Bid Now »

Vintage Gem Cold Blast Buggy Lantern C.T.Ham Mfg.Co.

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CLOSE OUT SALE   RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE RED FRESSNEL GLOBE 3 3/8 : TALL Bid Now »

CLOSE OUT SALE RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE RED FRESSNEL GLOBE 3 3/8 : TALL

Bid: $45.00
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2 hrs
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Vintage DIETZ Little wizard kerosene lantern globe Bid Now »

Vintage DIETZ Little wizard kerosene lantern globe

Bid: $19.50
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$26.00
2 hrs
46 mins
C.N.R Railway Clear GLOBE for VINTAGE RAILWAY LANTERNS Buy Now »

C.N.R Railway Clear GLOBE for VINTAGE RAILWAY LANTERNS

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2 hrs
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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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