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 GTRM railroad oil lamp Bid Now »
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Vintage GTRM railroad oil lamp

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Antique Handlan Railroad oil Lamp Bid Now »

Antique Handlan Railroad oil Lamp

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DIETZ RED RAILROAD barn LANTERN GLOBE LITTLE WIZARD  new box of 12 antique OLD Buy Now »
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New DIETZ RED RAILROAD barn LANTERN GLOBE LITTLE WIZARD  new box of 12 antique OLD for saleDIETZ RED RAILROAD barn LANTERN GLOBE LITTLE WIZARD new box of 12 antique OLD

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Old Railroad Flashlight Bid Now »

New Old Railroad Flashlight for saleOld Railroad Flashlight

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2 VINTAGE RAILROAD LANTERNS DIETZ VISTA NYC AND UNMARKED W/ ADLAKE 300 FONT & BU Bid Now »

2 VINTAGE RAILROAD LANTERNS DIETZ VISTA NYC AND UNMARKED W/ ADLAKE 300 FONT & BU

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LAKE TERMINAL RAILROAD LANTERN W/ GLOBE 300 FONT & BURNER ADAMS WESTLAKE Bid Now »

LAKE TERMINAL RAILROAD LANTERN W/ GLOBE 300 FONT & BURNER ADAMS WESTLAKE

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ANTIQUE DRESSEL RAILROAD SWITCH LANTERN Buy Now »
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ANTIQUE DRESSEL RAILROAD SWITCH LANTERN

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Dietz No 20 Lantern ( Junior) Bid Now »

Dietz No 20 Lantern ( Junior)

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Railroad Lantern Adlake Non-Sweating Lamp Chicago Bid Now »

Railroad Lantern Adlake Non-Sweating Lamp Chicago

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Rusty Vintage Lantern Bid Now »

Rusty Vintage Lantern

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Old, vintage City of Milwaukee glass lantern, metal, Monarch, Dietz, kerosene Buy Now »

Old, vintage City of Milwaukee glass lantern, metal, Monarch, Dietz, kerosene

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DRESSEL RAILROAD SWITCH LANTERN COMES WITH A HARD TO FIND FONT & BURNER Bid Now »

DRESSEL RAILROAD SWITCH LANTERN COMES WITH A HARD TO FIND FONT & BURNER

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Consolidated Edison Dietz no40 traffic guard lantern converted to electric Bid Now »

Consolidated Edison Dietz no40 traffic guard lantern converted to electric

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OLD RED DIETZ BARN OR TRAIN LAMP ELECTRIFIED,WITH HANDLE,AND WORKS,NO BOTTOM Buy Now »
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OLD RED DIETZ BARN OR TRAIN LAMP ELECTRIFIED,WITH HANDLE,AND WORKS,NO BOTTOM

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VINTAGE EMBURY LANTERN AIR PILOT NUMBER 0 OIL LAMP RAILROAD RED GLOBE GLASS Buy Now »

VINTAGE EMBURY LANTERN AIR PILOT NUMBER 0 OIL LAMP RAILROAD RED GLOBE GLASS

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Vintage Embury Mfg. Co. TRIUMPH No. 2 Kerosene Lantern  Dietz Globe Bid Now »

Vintage Embury Mfg. Co. TRIUMPH No. 2 Kerosene Lantern Dietz Globe

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Adams & Westlake Pennsylvania Line Railroad Lantern, Rare Buy Now »

Adams & Westlake Pennsylvania Line Railroad Lantern, Rare

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Large Dietz Special No. 2 Blizzard Antique Grey Railroad Lantern New York USA Bid Now »

Large Dietz Special No. 2 Blizzard Antique Grey Railroad Lantern New York USA

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VINTAGE HARD TO FIND HANDLAN MISSOURI KANSAS & TEXES RAILROAD LANTERN M K & T RR Buy Now »

VINTAGE HARD TO FIND HANDLAN MISSOURI KANSAS & TEXES RAILROAD LANTERN M K & T RR

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Vintage BIG BEAM No. 164 Beacon Lamp Sealed Beam Chicago No Reserve! Bid Now »

Vintage BIG BEAM No. 164 Beacon Lamp Sealed Beam Chicago No Reserve!

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RED GLOBE Bid Now »

RED GLOBE

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VINTAGE   "HEMINGRAY - 19"  AQUA TELEPHONE/POLE INSULATOR GREAT COND. Bid Now » Buy Now »

VINTAGE "HEMINGRAY - 19" AQUA TELEPHONE/POLE INSULATOR GREAT COND.

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1925 Dietz Vesta C.C.C. & ST.L.  Railroad Lantern with N.Y.C.LINES Clear Globe Bid Now » Buy Now »

1925 Dietz Vesta C.C.C. & ST.L. Railroad Lantern with N.Y.C.LINES Clear Globe

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One Dressel, Adlake, Handlan Switch Lamp Railroad Lantern Day Target Bid Now »

One Dressel, Adlake, Handlan Switch Lamp Railroad Lantern Day Target

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CLOSE OUT SALE   RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE HANDLAN CIRCLE K CLEAR GLOBE A 1 COND. Bid Now »

CLOSE OUT SALE RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE HANDLAN CIRCLE K CLEAR GLOBE A 1 COND.

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Modern "GRAY"  6- 83 TELEPHONE/POLE INSULATOR GREAT CONDITION Bid Now » Buy Now »

Modern "GRAY" 6- 83 TELEPHONE/POLE INSULATOR GREAT CONDITION

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CLOSE OUT SALE   RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE 5 1/2 " BASE 3 1/4 TOP 2 1/2 Bid Now »

CLOSE OUT SALE RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE 5 1/2 " BASE 3 1/4 TOP 2 1/2

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Antique Railway Red Glass  Globe Shade Kerosene /  Lantern Lamp Bid Now »

Antique Railway Red Glass Globe Shade Kerosene / Lantern Lamp

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Antique Clear Glass  Globe Shade Kerosene / Oil Lantern Lamp - Canada Bid Now »

Antique Clear Glass Globe Shade Kerosene / Oil Lantern Lamp - Canada

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CLOSE OUT SALE   RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE PENNSYLVANIA LOGO RED 4 5/8  TALL Bid Now »

CLOSE OUT SALE RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE PENNSYLVANIA LOGO RED 4 5/8 TALL

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Vintage Antique? Brass Railroad? Rail Yard? Kerosene? Torch ? Bid Now »

Vintage Antique? Brass Railroad? Rail Yard? Kerosene? Torch ?

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Vintage Green Rusty Rail Road / Miners Lantern - Delta Powerlite Bid Now »

Vintage Green Rusty Rail Road / Miners Lantern - Delta Powerlite

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Vintage Dietz Monarch Railroad Lantern - Red Globe Bid Now »

Vintage Dietz Monarch Railroad Lantern - Red Globe

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VINTAGE ELGIN KEROSENE LANTERN Bid Now » Buy Now »

VINTAGE ELGIN KEROSENE LANTERN

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Vintage Embury Air Pilot Lantern with red globe. Buy Now »
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Vintage Embury Air Pilot Lantern with red globe.

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Justrite Lantern Bid Now » Buy Now »

Justrite Lantern

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ANTIQUE Traffic Guard Lantern Bid Now »
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ANTIQUE Traffic Guard Lantern

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Wonderful Very Rare Antique M&K R.R. Lantern Morgantown Kingwood West Virginia Bid Now »

Wonderful Very Rare Antique M&K R.R. Lantern Morgantown Kingwood West Virginia

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ORIGINAL Vintage NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD Lamp Lantern with red glass RARE old Bid Now »

ORIGINAL Vintage NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD Lamp Lantern with red glass RARE old

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

Antique Dietz No.2 D-Lite Kerosene Oil Lantern NY USA

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ORIGINAL Vintage MAINE CENTRAL RAILROAD Lamp Lantern with red glass RARE old Bid Now »

ORIGINAL Vintage MAINE CENTRAL RAILROAD Lamp Lantern with red glass RARE old

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ORIGINAL Vintage Railroad Lamp Lantern with red glass RARE old Dietz Bid Now »

ORIGINAL Vintage Railroad Lamp Lantern with red glass RARE old Dietz

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Adlake NOS Railway Railroad Lantern Long Time Burner s Buy Now »

Adlake NOS Railway Railroad Lantern Long Time Burner s

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VTG LOT 2 RAILROAD LANTERN LIGHT STARLITE ADLAKE ADAMS & WESTLAKE TRAIN LIGHT Bid Now »
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VTG LOT 2 RAILROAD LANTERN LIGHT STARLITE ADLAKE ADAMS & WESTLAKE TRAIN LIGHT

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Vintage Ash Flash Railroad Lantern with Handle & Red Lens Hong Kong British Emp Bid Now »
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Vintage Ash Flash Railroad Lantern with Handle & Red Lens Hong Kong British Emp

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Mars Signal Company 8" Coal Car Light Bid Now »
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Mars Signal Company 8" Coal Car Light

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Kopp Glass    Amber  5  in. Dia. 3 1/2 F  F. Bid Now »
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New Kopp Glass    Amber  5  in. Dia. 3 1/2 F  F. for saleKopp Glass Amber 5 in. Dia. 3 1/2 F F.

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Vintage Battery Powered Blue Light Lantern Bid Now »

Vintage Battery Powered Blue Light Lantern

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Very Rare Clear Glass Queen Railroad lens.    Flemington,  N.J.  9 5/8 in. dia. Bid Now »
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New Very Rare Clear Glass Queen Railroad lens.    Flemington,  N.J.  9 5/8 in. dia. for saleVery Rare Clear Glass Queen Railroad lens. Flemington, N.J. 9 5/8 in. dia.

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Glass Railroad Lantern Lenses   One Red    New Old Stock!!! Bid Now »
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New Glass Railroad Lantern Lenses   One Red    New Old Stock!!! for saleGlass Railroad Lantern Lenses One Red New Old Stock!!!

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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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