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 VTG DIETZ #100 Blue Kerosene lantern Red Globe train light rare GLASS Buy Now »

ANTIQUE VTG DIETZ #100 Blue Kerosene lantern Red Globe train light rare GLASS

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Antique Old VTG Dietz No 2 Blizzard Loc-Nob Glass RED Barn Lantern Lamp LIGHT Buy Now »

Antique Old VTG Dietz No 2 Blizzard Loc-Nob Glass RED Barn Lantern Lamp LIGHT

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Vintage Adlake Non-Sweating Carriage Lantern for Parts Bid Now »
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Vintage Adlake Non-Sweating Carriage Lantern for Parts

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16 mins
The Adams and Westlake R/R Lantern No.200 Bid Now »

The Adams and Westlake R/R Lantern No.200

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24 mins
Dietz No 2 Blizzard with Fitzall Red Globe Free Shipping Buy Now »
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Dietz No 2 Blizzard with Fitzall Red Globe Free Shipping

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2 VINTAGE 5 1/2" BLUE GLASS LENS LANTERN SIGNAL TRAFFIC STAGE Buy Now »

2 VINTAGE 5 1/2" BLUE GLASS LENS LANTERN SIGNAL TRAFFIC STAGE

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30 mins
vintage dietz little wizard pole lantern Bid Now »

vintage dietz little wizard pole lantern

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30 mins
PRR Handlan St Louis Mo Lantern Bid Now »

PRR Handlan St Louis Mo Lantern

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Vintage 7 1/2" Red Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage 7 1/2" Red Lantern

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2 VTG MCKEE AQUA GLASS 3 3/4" CVX DIFFUSING RDL LENS  LANTERN STAGE SIGNAL TRAF Buy Now »

2 VTG MCKEE AQUA GLASS 3 3/4" CVX DIFFUSING RDL LENS LANTERN STAGE SIGNAL TRAF

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4  VTG JEFFERSON 3 3/4" AMBER GLASS LENS LANTERN STAGE SIGNAL TRAFFIC Buy Now »

4 VTG JEFFERSON 3 3/4" AMBER GLASS LENS LANTERN STAGE SIGNAL TRAFFIC

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Vintage Dietz #162 Large Embury D-Lite N.Y. USA Red Globe #2 Barn Lantern Bid Now »

Vintage Dietz #162 Large Embury D-Lite N.Y. USA Red Globe #2 Barn Lantern

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 Vintage Dietz / Fitzall Lantern-Star Head Light & Lantern Co. Rochester, NY. Bid Now »

Vintage Dietz / Fitzall Lantern-Star Head Light & Lantern Co. Rochester, NY.

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49 mins
VINTAGE CHALWYN of ENGLAND RAILROAD TRAIN LANTERN KEROSENE LAMP Bid Now »

VINTAGE CHALWYN of ENGLAND RAILROAD TRAIN LANTERN KEROSENE LAMP

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53 mins
ANTIQUE DIETZ NEW YORK CENTRAL NYCS RAILROAD LANTERN DRESSEL ADLAKE GLOBE RAIL Bid Now »

ANTIQUE DIETZ NEW YORK CENTRAL NYCS RAILROAD LANTERN DRESSEL ADLAKE GLOBE RAIL

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56 mins
Antique Embury Midget Cold Blast  Carriage Lantern  for Repair / Rusty Bid Now »

Antique Embury Midget Cold Blast Carriage Lantern for Repair / Rusty

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Vintage Pyle National Locomotive Railroad 360 Amber Warning Light Buy Now »

Vintage Pyle National Locomotive Railroad 360 Amber Warning Light

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1 hr
20 mins
Antique Handlan Lantern Pennsylvania Railroad 1925 Patent Bid Now »

Antique Handlan Lantern Pennsylvania Railroad 1925 Patent

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1 hr
21 mins
Vintage Kopp Miroflector Blue Gray Glass Lens Lantern Signal Lamp Light Old Buy Now »

Vintage Kopp Miroflector Blue Gray Glass Lens Lantern Signal Lamp Light Old

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Vintage Kopp Miroflector 5" Amber Glass Lens Lantern Signal Lamp Light Old Buy Now »

Vintage Kopp Miroflector 5" Amber Glass Lens Lantern Signal Lamp Light Old

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Vintage Kopp Miroflector 5" Clear Glass Lens Lantern Signal Lamp Light Old Buy Now »

Vintage Kopp Miroflector 5" Clear Glass Lens Lantern Signal Lamp Light Old

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Vintage Kopp Miroflector 5" Purple Glass Lens Lantern Signal Lamp Light Old Buy Now »

Vintage Kopp Miroflector 5" Purple Glass Lens Lantern Signal Lamp Light Old

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Vintage Kopp Miroflector 5" Purple Glass Lens Lantern Signal Lamp Light Old Buy Now »

Vintage Kopp Miroflector 5" Purple Glass Lens Lantern Signal Lamp Light Old

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Vintage Kopp Miroflector 5" Yellow Glass Lens Lantern Signal Lamp Light Old Buy Now »

Vintage Kopp Miroflector 5" Yellow Glass Lens Lantern Signal Lamp Light Old

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Philadelphia & Reading PA  Railroad Lantern Adams Westlake Chicago IL Bid Now »

Philadelphia & Reading PA Railroad Lantern Adams Westlake Chicago IL

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1 hr
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Handlan Interior Caboose Kerosene Wall Lantern Line St Louis Railroad Antique Bid Now »

Handlan Interior Caboose Kerosene Wall Lantern Line St Louis Railroad Antique

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Railway Crossing Light - Safetran Systems Hawker Siddeley *** Works! *** Buy Now »

Railway Crossing Light - Safetran Systems Hawker Siddeley *** Works! ***

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Handlan Interior Caboose Kerosene Wall Lantern Line Railroad Antique for Parts Bid Now »

Handlan Interior Caboose Kerosene Wall Lantern Line Railroad Antique for Parts

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Vintage EMBURY LANTERN THE SUPREME pat. 1924 WARSAW NY USA Camping Battery Bid Now »

Vintage EMBURY LANTERN THE SUPREME pat. 1924 WARSAW NY USA Camping Battery

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1 hr
38 mins
Rare Vintage Dietz ACME Inspector Railroad Lantern Clear Glass Kerosene Oil Lamp Buy Now »

Rare Vintage Dietz ACME Inspector Railroad Lantern Clear Glass Kerosene Oil Lamp

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1 hr
38 mins
Antique Railway Signal Lamp Lantern Oil Working Railroadiana $$Rare$$ Bid Now »

Antique Railway Signal Lamp Lantern Oil Working Railroadiana $$Rare$$

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1 hr
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Vintage Rayo RR Train Lantern Oil Kero Fluid Lamp Light No. 39  WB Buy Now »

Vintage Rayo RR Train Lantern Oil Kero Fluid Lamp Light No. 39 WB

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1 hr
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Vintage ADLAKE Carriage Buggy LANTERN Lamp Kerosene Clear Lens Bid Now »

Vintage ADLAKE Carriage Buggy LANTERN Lamp Kerosene Clear Lens

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Antique ADLAKE RELIABLE B&M RR Railroad Lantern ADAMS / WESTLAKE NY CHICAGO PHIL Buy Now »

Antique ADLAKE RELIABLE B&M RR Railroad Lantern ADAMS / WESTLAKE NY CHICAGO PHIL

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GN Great Northern Railroad Lantern Globe embossed 5 1/2" Bid Now »

GN Great Northern Railroad Lantern Globe embossed 5 1/2"

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ANTIQUE HANDLAN ST LOUIS RAILROAD KEROSENE OIL UTILITY LANTERN RED GLOBE Bid Now »

ANTIQUE HANDLAN ST LOUIS RAILROAD KEROSENE OIL UTILITY LANTERN RED GLOBE

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1 hr
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Vintage New York central system railroad lantern Bid Now »

Vintage New York central system railroad lantern

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2 hrs
13 mins
Rare Vintage Dietz ACME Inspector Railroad Lantern Clear Glass Kerosene Oil Lamp Buy Now »

Rare Vintage Dietz ACME Inspector Railroad Lantern Clear Glass Kerosene Oil Lamp

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2 hrs
14 mins
Vintage NY Chicago Philly railroad lantern red Bid Now »

Vintage NY Chicago Philly railroad lantern red

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Vintage Original PC Penn Central Julian McDermott Electric Marker Lamp Buy Now »

Vintage Original PC Penn Central Julian McDermott Electric Marker Lamp

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2 hrs
22 mins
ADLAKE railroad switch lantern long time burner and Pyrex chimney Bid Now »

ADLAKE railroad switch lantern long time burner and Pyrex chimney

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2 hrs
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Dietz Fitzall Loc-Nob H11 Lantern Globe  6 3/4" Tall Buy Now »

Dietz Fitzall Loc-Nob H11 Lantern Globe 6 3/4" Tall

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2 hrs
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Embury Lantern with Red Lamp No 40 Traffic Gard Warsaw NY Buy Now »

Embury Lantern with Red Lamp No 40 Traffic Gard Warsaw NY

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2 hrs
22 mins
Two VINTAGE DIETZ KEROSENE Oil RAILROAD LANTERNS Trains Conductor Monarch  HY-LO Buy Now »

Two VINTAGE DIETZ KEROSENE Oil RAILROAD LANTERNS Trains Conductor Monarch HY-LO

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DRESSEL unused railroad switch lantern burner with Pyrex chimney Bid Now »

DRESSEL unused railroad switch lantern burner with Pyrex chimney

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2 hrs
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ADLAKE 2" long stem railroad switch lantern long time burner Bid Now »

ADLAKE 2" long stem railroad switch lantern long time burner

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2 hrs
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ViNtAgE Railway Railroad Train Lantern Light Royal Dietz New York Buy Now »

ViNtAgE Railway Railroad Train Lantern Light Royal Dietz New York

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ANTIQUE KEROSENE DIETZ HIGHWAY / RAIL ROAD DANGER TORCH SMUDGE POT WARNING TORCH Buy Now »

ANTIQUE KEROSENE DIETZ HIGHWAY / RAIL ROAD DANGER TORCH SMUDGE POT WARNING TORCH

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Brass Nautical Starboard Ships Oil Lantern Made in Great Britain 1969 Bid Now »

Brass Nautical Starboard Ships Oil Lantern Made in Great Britain 1969

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$275.00
2 hrs
46 mins
Vintage CNR Railway Railroad Lantern w Clear Globe Buy Now »

Vintage CNR Railway Railroad Lantern w Clear Globe

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56 mins
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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