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 Chesapeake & Ohio Railway lantern lamp (2)  (B 3979) Reduced Bid Now »

Vintage Chesapeake & Ohio Railway lantern lamp (2) (B 3979) Reduced

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Antique Adams & Westlake Adlake Brass Lantern Holder Railroad Passenger Car Lamp Buy Now »

Antique Adams & Westlake Adlake Brass Lantern Holder Railroad Passenger Car Lamp

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Proudly Serving Budweiser Draft Beer- Lighted Sign-Red and Gold Buy Now »

Proudly Serving Budweiser Draft Beer- Lighted Sign-Red and Gold

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Vintage Arlington Dressel Railroad RR Caboose Switch Lamp Lantern Fuel Font Only Bid Now »

Vintage Arlington Dressel Railroad RR Caboose Switch Lamp Lantern Fuel Font Only

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Railroad Lantern Conductor & Brakeman Lantern Light Set of Two ***NOTE Buy Now »

Railroad Lantern Conductor & Brakeman Lantern Light Set of Two ***NOTE

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VINTAGE OXWELD NO 215 RAILROAD CARBIDE LANTERN Bid Now » Buy Now »

VINTAGE OXWELD NO 215 RAILROAD CARBIDE LANTERN

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6 KOPP Glass Railroad Lantern Traffic Lens 4 5/8” Diameter 3/16” Thick Bid Now »

6 KOPP Glass Railroad Lantern Traffic Lens 4 5/8” Diameter 3/16” Thick

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VINTAGE LIMOUSINE CARRIAGE PILLAR LAMPS BEAUTIFUL GLASS SET  M-167 Buy Now »

VINTAGE LIMOUSINE CARRIAGE PILLAR LAMPS BEAUTIFUL GLASS SET M-167

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ANTIQUE DL&W RAILROAD TRAIN DIETZ  KEROSENE LANTERN W/ CLEAR GLOBE Etched Bid Now »

ANTIQUE DL&W RAILROAD TRAIN DIETZ KEROSENE LANTERN W/ CLEAR GLOBE Etched

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Dietz #87-1940 Kerosene Torch Smudge Pot Highway/Railroad Buy Now »

Dietz #87-1940 Kerosene Torch Smudge Pot Highway/Railroad

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1935 Vintage Blue Glass Lens For Railroad RR Caboose Switch Lamp Lantern Bid Now »

1935 Vintage Blue Glass Lens For Railroad RR Caboose Switch Lamp Lantern

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VINTAGE ESTATE FIND...... GALVANIZED  KEROSENE FUEL OIL CAN  WITH HANDLE & SPOUT Buy Now »

VINTAGE ESTATE FIND...... GALVANIZED KEROSENE FUEL OIL CAN WITH HANDLE & SPOUT

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Storm King Highway Warning Smudge Pot Torch Kerosene Oil Lantern w/Handle Bid Now »

Storm King Highway Warning Smudge Pot Torch Kerosene Oil Lantern w/Handle

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 NEW YORK CENTRAL Red Kerosene Lantern Clear Globe Stamped NYC Bid Now »

NEW YORK CENTRAL Red Kerosene Lantern Clear Globe Stamped NYC

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Green Railroad Signal KOPP GLASS Lens 4 3/4 original frame Trains Signals Yard Buy Now »

Green Railroad Signal KOPP GLASS Lens 4 3/4 original frame Trains Signals Yard

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Antique Brass Carriage Lamp Buy Now »

Antique Brass Carriage Lamp

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ANTIQUE KEROSENE LAMP EMBURY # 2 MFG., CO. WARSAW-NY-USA AIR PILOT Bid Now »

ANTIQUE KEROSENE LAMP EMBURY # 2 MFG., CO. WARSAW-NY-USA AIR PILOT

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Vintage EMBURY AIR PILOT Barn Kerosene Lantern Warsaw N.Y. Bid Now »

Vintage EMBURY AIR PILOT Barn Kerosene Lantern Warsaw N.Y.

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Vintage Authentic Railroad Train Crossing Red  Signal  Light by Safetran Systems Buy Now »

Vintage Authentic Railroad Train Crossing Red Signal Light by Safetran Systems

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Vintage Original T.P&W. Railway Lantern Burlington Route Adlake Reliable Buy Now »

Vintage Original T.P&W. Railway Lantern Burlington Route Adlake Reliable

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Antique Dietz Monarch Red Train Lantern Bid Now »

Antique Dietz Monarch Red Train Lantern

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B&M RAILROAD LANTERN WITH B&M RED ETCHED GLOBE. DIETZ VESTA. Bid Now »

B&M RAILROAD LANTERN WITH B&M RED ETCHED GLOBE. DIETZ VESTA.

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vintage brass train lamp not working parts only Bid Now »

vintage brass train lamp not working parts only

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Pair 2 Antique Pullman Door Latches? Hardware? Orig Store Tags Treman King Buy Now »

Pair 2 Antique Pullman Door Latches? Hardware? Orig Store Tags Treman King

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Traffic Signal Light Rodded Metal Glass Lens Two Color With Stand Wired 120 V Bid Now »

Traffic Signal Light Rodded Metal Glass Lens Two Color With Stand Wired 120 V

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ANTIQUE  PRR Pennsylvania Railroad  USA Caboose Lantern. PARTS OR RESTORE Bid Now »

ANTIQUE PRR Pennsylvania Railroad USA Caboose Lantern. PARTS OR RESTORE

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OLD 1940 LANTERN - NEW YORK CENTRAL SYSTEM RAILROAD Bid Now »

OLD 1940 LANTERN - NEW YORK CENTRAL SYSTEM RAILROAD

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OLD LANTERN GLOBE RED RAILROAD Bid Now »

OLD LANTERN GLOBE RED RAILROAD

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Vintage 6 Volt Lantern Battery Charger Buy Now »

Vintage 6 Volt Lantern Battery Charger

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PENSYLVANIA SYSTEM PS RAILROAD KEYSTONE OIL LAMP LANTERN ANTIQUE RR Buy Now »

PENSYLVANIA SYSTEM PS RAILROAD KEYSTONE OIL LAMP LANTERN ANTIQUE RR

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 RR Adlake  Lantern clear globe Buy Now »

RR Adlake Lantern clear globe

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Pyle National headlight from DL&W RR (Lackawanna Railroad) MU equipment Bid Now »

Pyle National headlight from DL&W RR (Lackawanna Railroad) MU equipment

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Vintage Justrite Railroad Mining Light Lantern #2108 (F?)   Buy Now »

Vintage Justrite Railroad Mining Light Lantern #2108 (F?)

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RAILROAD FLAGMANS PORTABLE CONTAINER WITH CONTENTS Buy Now »

RAILROAD FLAGMANS PORTABLE CONTAINER WITH CONTENTS

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EMD Class light Diesel Locomotive Railroad classification lamp cover with can Bid Now »

EMD Class light Diesel Locomotive Railroad classification lamp cover with can

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10 hrs
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Old Dietz Oil Kerosene Little Wizard Green Lantern Red Globe Barn RR Decorator Buy Now »

Old Dietz Oil Kerosene Little Wizard Green Lantern Red Globe Barn RR Decorator

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vtg Brushed Aluminum Metal ALADDIN Footed Lamp #23 Kerosene Table Oil Burner Bid Now » Buy Now »

vtg Brushed Aluminum Metal ALADDIN Footed Lamp #23 Kerosene Table Oil Burner

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 (D&H RR) LANTERN W/clear globe dated 3-49 Buy Now »

(D&H RR) LANTERN W/clear globe dated 3-49

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Antique 1923 Dietz Little Wizard Red Matching Globe Lantern Bid Now »

Antique 1923 Dietz Little Wizard Red Matching Globe Lantern

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vintage red glass sewer st.louis landern #57 Bid Now »

vintage red glass sewer st.louis landern #57

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Vintage Dietz Little Wizard lantern with red globe Bid Now »

Vintage Dietz Little Wizard lantern with red globe

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Dietz Vesta New York New Haven Hartford Train Lantern w L.V.R.R. Globe RARE! Buy Now »
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Dietz Vesta New York New Haven Hartford Train Lantern w L.V.R.R. Globe RARE!

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Vintage red painted Dietz Comet lantern Bid Now »

Vintage red painted Dietz Comet lantern

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Rare Pyrex G2 7 1/2 Inch Tall Red Glass Lens~ Railroad ~Ship~ Airport Signal Buy Now »

Rare Pyrex G2 7 1/2 Inch Tall Red Glass Lens ~ Railroad ~ Ship ~ Airport Signal

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vintage Dorco lantern model number 700 Bid Now » Buy Now »

vintage Dorco lantern model number 700

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VINTAGE DIETZ MONARCH LANTERN/ BLUE WITH RED GLOBE/ 1940'S Buy Now »

VINTAGE DIETZ MONARCH LANTERN/ BLUE WITH RED GLOBE/ 1940'S

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U.S. & S. Railroad Searchlight Heavy Cast Iron Restoration Project Buy Now »

U.S. & S. Railroad Searchlight Heavy Cast Iron Restoration Project

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Antique Vintage Dietz Lantern With Tons Of Patina Fast Free Shipping Buy Now »
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Antique Vintage Dietz Lantern With Tons Of Patina Fast Free Shipping

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ADLAKE  SWITCH LAMP FORK TUBE MOUNT DROP FOUNT COMPLETE AND EXCELLENT Bid Now » Buy Now »

ADLAKE SWITCH LAMP FORK TUBE MOUNT DROP FOUNT COMPLETE AND EXCELLENT

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Adams & Westlake Adlake Pennsylvania Lines Railroad Lantern & Etched Globe 1913 Buy Now »

Adams & Westlake Adlake Pennsylvania Lines Railroad Lantern & Etched Globe 1913

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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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