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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Passumpsic or Pennsylvania Railroad Brass Top Bellbottom Lantern    Exceptional Buy Now »
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Passumpsic or Pennsylvania Railroad Brass Top Bellbottom Lantern Exceptional

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Original CHICAGO RAILROAD FAIR Milwaukee Road Celluloid Pinback Button Steam WOW Buy Now »

Original CHICAGO RAILROAD FAIR Milwaukee Road Celluloid Pinback Button Steam WOW

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Dressel Arlington, N.J. Erie LACKAWANNA Railroad Lantern Red Globe   G-324 Buy Now »

Dressel Arlington, N.J. Erie LACKAWANNA Railroad Lantern Red Globe G-324

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VINTAGE Pennsylvania Railroad Lantern Red Globe Adlake Kero   G-325 Buy Now »

VINTAGE Pennsylvania Railroad Lantern Red Globe Adlake Kero G-325

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Vintage HANDLAN St. Louis Railroad Switch Lamp Train Lantern Signal RR 4-way Buy Now »

Vintage HANDLAN St. Louis Railroad Switch Lamp Train Lantern Signal RR 4-way

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Cracked Safetran 12" Railroad Crossing Lens 040405-22-30 UP BN BNSF CSX NS MP Buy Now »
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Cracked Safetran 12" Railroad Crossing Lens 040405-22-30 UP BN BNSF CSX NS MP

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Safetran 12" Railroad Crossing Lens 040405-22-30 UP BN BNSF CSX NS MP KCS FEC Buy Now »
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Safetran 12" Railroad Crossing Lens 040405-22-30 UP BN BNSF CSX NS MP KCS FEC

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VINTAGE 9" DRESSEL ARLINGTON NJ NYCS (NEW YORK CENTRAL SYSTEM) TRAIN LANTERN Buy Now »

VINTAGE 9" DRESSEL ARLINGTON NJ NYCS (NEW YORK CENTRAL SYSTEM) TRAIN LANTERN

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Vintage JUNIORLITE DELTA ELECTRIC CO Flashlight/Lantern Made Marion Indiana USA Buy Now »

Vintage JUNIORLITE DELTA ELECTRIC CO Flashlight/Lantern Made Marion Indiana USA

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 Rare Vintage Erie Railroad ( E.R.R.Co.) Adlake Reliable Tall Globe Lantern Nice Buy Now »

Rare Vintage Erie Railroad ( E.R.R.Co.) Adlake Reliable Tall Globe Lantern Nice

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VINTAGE RAILROAD LIGHT GENESY ELECTRIC LANTERN CO KANSAS CITY Buy Now »

VINTAGE RAILROAD LIGHT GENESY ELECTRIC LANTERN CO KANSAS CITY

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Richmond Fredericksburg & Potomac RF&P Railroad Lantern ADAMS WESTLAKE CO Buy Now »

Richmond Fredericksburg & Potomac RF&P Railroad Lantern ADAMS WESTLAKE CO

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Dressel D&H Co Delaware Hudson Railroad Lantern Embossed Buy Now »

Dressel D&H Co Delaware Hudson Railroad Lantern Embossed

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Antique Vintage RR Railroad Lantern Corning 5 3/8 x 3 1/2 F.S.O. Glass Blue Lens Buy Now »

Antique Vintage RR Railroad Lantern Corning 5 3/8 x 3 1/2 F.S.O. Glass Blue Lens

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Antique Vintage RR Railroad Lantern 4 1/2 L. 3F KOPP Glass Blue Lens 4 7/16" Buy Now »

Antique Vintage RR Railroad Lantern 4 1/2 L. 3F KOPP Glass Blue Lens 4 7/16"

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Vintage railroad signal light, US&S.Co., 57"H, 34"W, approximately 70lbs. Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage railroad signal light, US&S.Co., 57"H, 34"W, approximately 70lbs.

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Vintage railroad signal light, Harmon, 57"H, 34"W, approximately 70lbs. Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage railroad signal light, Harmon, 57"H, 34"W, approximately 70lbs.

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Red Vintage Freznel Globe For Short Adlake Armspear Dresser Railroad Lanterns Buy Now »

Red Vintage Freznel Globe For Short Adlake Armspear Dresser Railroad Lanterns

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 A Chimney for a DIAMOND CANDLE LAMP  (the Metal part is Stamped DIAMOND CANDLE) Buy Now »
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A Chimney for a DIAMOND CANDLE LAMP (the Metal part is Stamped DIAMOND CANDLE)

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Antique Dietz Southern Pacific Railroad lantern All Original Paint Buy Now »

Antique Dietz Southern Pacific Railroad lantern All Original Paint

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2 hrs
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Vintage Rock Island Adams & Westlake Adlake-Kero Railroad Lantern Only **READ** Buy Now »

Vintage Rock Island Adams & Westlake Adlake-Kero Railroad Lantern Only **READ**

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Vintage 1923 Clear Glass Dietz Lantern Globe Model H9 Fit Z All NY USA 6 5/8" VF Buy Now »

Vintage 1923 Clear Glass Dietz Lantern Globe Model H9 Fit Z All NY USA 6 5/8" VF

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Vintage Embury No. 150 Supreme Kerosene Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Embury No. 150 Supreme Kerosene Lantern

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Vtg NY NH + H New York New Haven Hartford Railroad Embossed Lantern Etched Globe Buy Now »

Vtg NY NH + H New York New Haven Hartford Railroad Embossed Lantern Etched Globe

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Vintage Kopp 5 1/2" Railroad Signal Lenses Red 1935 Ribbed Glass (328A) Buy Now »
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Vintage Kopp 5 1/2" Railroad Signal Lenses Red 1935 Ribbed Glass (328A)

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ANTIQUE ADAMS & WESTLAKE LANTERN Buy Now »

ANTIQUE ADAMS & WESTLAKE LANTERN

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New York Central System NYCS Adlake-Kero Railroad Lantern Clear Globe  35-W Buy Now »

New York Central System NYCS Adlake-Kero Railroad Lantern Clear Globe 35-W

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VINTAGE DELTA POWER LIGHT RAILROAD LANTERN 6 VOLT UNTESTED MARION INDIANA Buy Now »

VINTAGE DELTA POWER LIGHT RAILROAD LANTERN 6 VOLT UNTESTED MARION INDIANA

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VINTAGE 5 5/8 " BLUE AND RED GLASS  LANTERN LENS ALL FOR 1 PRICE KOPP ? Bid Now » Buy Now »

VINTAGE 5 5/8 " BLUE AND RED GLASS LANTERN LENS ALL FOR 1 PRICE KOPP ?

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VINTAGE 5 5/8 "RED GLASS  3 LANTERN LENS ALL FOR 1 PRICE KOPP ? Bid Now » Buy Now »

VINTAGE 5 5/8 "RED GLASS 3 LANTERN LENS ALL FOR 1 PRICE KOPP ?

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PENN CENTRAL Adlake-Kero Railroad Lantern RED Globe  357-X Buy Now »

PENN CENTRAL Adlake-Kero Railroad Lantern RED Globe 357-X

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The Adams & Westlake Co. railroad lantern Buy Now »

The Adams & Westlake Co. railroad lantern

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3 hrs
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BRITISH RAILROAD LANTERN OLD VINTAGE Bid Now » Buy Now »

BRITISH RAILROAD LANTERN OLD VINTAGE

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3 hrs
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Vintage Delta Powerlite Lantern Railroad Top and Front Double Green Lamp/Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Delta Powerlite Lantern Railroad Top and Front Double Green Lamp/Lantern

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4 hrs
1 min
VINTAGE-  RED RAILROAD LANTERN - CNR / CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY- HIRAM PIPER CO Buy Now »

VINTAGE- RED RAILROAD LANTERN - CNR / CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY- HIRAM PIPER CO

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Dietz NY USA D-Lite No. 2 Red Barn Lantern Bid Now » Buy Now »

Dietz NY USA D-Lite No. 2 Red Barn Lantern

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vintage dietz lantern No.8 Air Pilot 7-3/4 X14 Inch Tall Complete Buy Now »

vintage dietz lantern No.8 Air Pilot 7-3/4 X14 Inch Tall Complete

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 LAMP & RR LANTERN WICKS 7/8" Qty. 12 Buy Now »

LAMP & RR LANTERN WICKS 7/8" Qty. 12

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 CABOOSE TAIL LAMP LENS RED KOPP GLASS 6-3/8" NEW Buy Now »

CABOOSE TAIL LAMP LENS RED KOPP GLASS 6-3/8" NEW

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Rock Island Lines Red Cast Tall Corning Globe Double Wire Guard Handlan Lantern Buy Now »

Rock Island Lines Red Cast Tall Corning Globe Double Wire Guard Handlan Lantern

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Lone Star Gas Co Dallas Texas, Handlan Kerosene Lamp, St. Louis, circa 1935? Buy Now »

Lone Star Gas Co Dallas Texas, Handlan Kerosene Lamp, St. Louis, circa 1935?

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Antique Dietz Lantern Buy Now »

Antique Dietz Lantern

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New York Central System Dietz Vista Red Lantern Buy Now »

New York Central System Dietz Vista Red Lantern

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RAILROAD LAMP - THE ADAMS AND WESTLAKE COMPANY1909 -  FREE SHIPPING ! Buy Now »
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RAILROAD LAMP - THE ADAMS AND WESTLAKE COMPANY1909 - FREE SHIPPING !

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Dietz Vesta  New York Central ( N.Y.C.S. ) Short Globe Railroad Lantern , Nice Buy Now »

Dietz Vesta New York Central ( N.Y.C.S. ) Short Globe Railroad Lantern , Nice

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Rare Dietz Ny NH & H Vesta Railroad Lantern New York Haven Hartford Ny Central! Buy Now »

Rare Dietz Ny NH & H Vesta Railroad Lantern New York Haven Hartford Ny Central!

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VINTAGE EMBURY WARSAW NY GLASS #210 SUPREME KEROSENE FARM BARN LANTERN GRAY Buy Now »

VINTAGE EMBURY WARSAW NY GLASS #210 SUPREME KEROSENE FARM BARN LANTERN GRAY

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Vintage Rail Road Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Rail Road Lantern

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VINTAGE - RAILROAD LANTERN - CPR/ CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY- HIRAM L. PIPER CO. Buy Now »

VINTAGE - RAILROAD LANTERN - CPR/ CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY- HIRAM L. PIPER CO.

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VINTAGE-RED RAILROAD LANTERN - CNR / CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY- HIRAM PIPER CO#2 Buy Now »

VINTAGE-RED RAILROAD LANTERN - CNR / CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY- HIRAM PIPER CO#2

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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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