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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Not Union Pacific Railroad Caboose Lantern Adlake Non-Sweating MO PAC Original Buy Now »

Not Union Pacific Railroad Caboose Lantern Adlake Non-Sweating MO PAC Original

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CABOOSE LANTERN Buy Now »

CABOOSE LANTERN

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Antique Railroad Bull's Eye Lantern Buy Now »
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Antique Railroad Bull's Eye Lantern

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Antique L&N Railroad Lantern Dressel Arlington, NJ Buy Now »
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Antique L&N Railroad Lantern Dressel Arlington, NJ

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VINTAGE DIETZ CLEAR LITTLE WIZZARD  LOC-NOB GLOBE NY & Other! Buy Now »

VINTAGE DIETZ CLEAR LITTLE WIZZARD LOC-NOB GLOBE NY & Other!

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AT&SF RY RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE Buy Now »

AT&SF RY RAILROAD LANTERN GLOBE

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Railroad Lantern GLOBE Philadelphia & Reading Railway Etched P & R RY   4 1/2" Buy Now »

Railroad Lantern GLOBE Philadelphia & Reading Railway Etched P & R RY 4 1/2"

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Vintage Railway/Railroad Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Railway/Railroad Lantern

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DIETZ NO. 40 TRAFFIC Guard RED LANTERN authentic genuine red GLOBE RAILROAD Buy Now »
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DIETZ NO. 40 TRAFFIC Guard RED LANTERN authentic genuine red GLOBE RAILROAD

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Vintage U.S.&S. Co Railroad Crossing  Signal Light w/ Visor Train Light Crossing Buy Now »

Vintage U.S.&S. Co Railroad Crossing Signal Light w/ Visor Train Light Crossing

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Vintage U.S.&S. Co Railroad Crossing  Signal Light w/ Visor Train Light Crossing Buy Now »

Vintage U.S.&S. Co Railroad Crossing Signal Light w/ Visor Train Light Crossing

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9 Vintage - 4 5/8" KOPP Lens - Green/Blue/Red with cans/metal holders -Theater Buy Now »

9 Vintage - 4 5/8" KOPP Lens - Green/Blue/Red with cans/metal holders -Theater

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VINTAGE New York Central Railroad Dietz Lantern Marked CNX Globe !! Buy Now »

VINTAGE New York Central Railroad Dietz Lantern Marked CNX Globe !!

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Dietz N.Y USA Convoy Railroad Tail Red Glass Lamp Lantern Buy Now »
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Dietz N.Y USA Convoy Railroad Tail Red Glass Lamp Lantern

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Vtg Dietz No. 40 Traffic Gard Lantern, City of Milwaukee, Red Globe, NY Embury Buy Now »

Vtg Dietz No. 40 Traffic Gard Lantern, City of Milwaukee, Red Globe, NY Embury

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Handlan truck  or utility model #2500 lantern original embosed globe St. Louis Buy Now »

Handlan truck or utility model #2500 lantern original embosed globe St. Louis

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Vintage Star Headlight And Lantern Company Railroad Flashlight Nice Clean Ready Buy Now »

Vintage Star Headlight And Lantern Company Railroad Flashlight Nice Clean Ready

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Vintage White Railroad Lantern Reflector or Day Target Buy Now »

Vintage White Railroad Lantern Reflector or Day Target

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Vintage White Railroad Lantern Reflector or Day Target Buy Now »

Vintage White Railroad Lantern Reflector or Day Target

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ORIGINAL ANTIQUE BUGGY LAMP SET Buy Now »

ORIGINAL ANTIQUE BUGGY LAMP SET

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Vintage KERO Adlake USA Canada RR Railroad Lantern EL Clear Globe Buy Now »

Vintage KERO Adlake USA Canada RR Railroad Lantern EL Clear Globe

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  • Item Location: Columbus, OH, USA ZIP 43230
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Vintage Dietz 100 U.S.A. LANTERN Red Glass Globe Lamp Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz 100 U.S.A. LANTERN Red Glass Globe Lamp

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  • Item Location: Port Saint Lucie, FL, USA ZIP 34953
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4 5/8" KOPP Glass Lens Lot Red 12.3cm Antique RR Light Orig Bubbles Swirls Buy Now »

4 5/8" KOPP Glass Lens Lot Red 12.3cm Antique RR Light Orig Bubbles Swirls

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Flagstaff Coffee Vintage Advertising Clock Bid Now » Buy Now »

Flagstaff Coffee Vintage Advertising Clock

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Dietz Monarch Vintage Kerosene Railroad Lamp Bid Now » Buy Now »

Dietz Monarch Vintage Kerosene Railroad Lamp

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  • Item Condition: Used
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vintage rail road light/lamp,very clean Buy Now »

vintage rail road light/lamp,very clean

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Massapequa, NY, USA ZIP 11758
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Great Northern Railroad Embossed Kerosene Lamp Lantern GNRY Bid Now » Buy Now »

Great Northern Railroad Embossed Kerosene Lamp Lantern GNRY

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  • Item Location: Frankfort, IL, USA ZIP 60423
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GRS Railroad Signal     Color Position Light Signal Bid Now » Buy Now »

GRS Railroad Signal Color Position Light Signal

GRS Color Position Light Signal
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Maxim Lighting 4058HOBU Coldwater 1-Light Outdoor Hanging Lantern - Burnished Buy Now »
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Maxim Lighting 4058HOBU Coldwater 1-Light Outdoor Hanging Lantern - Burnished

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  • Item Condition: NewNew Maxim Lighting 4058HOBU Coldwater 1-Light Outdoor Hanging Lantern - Burnished for sale
  • Item Location: Lakewood, NJ, USA ZIP 08701
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Antique Metal Lantern No 210 Embury Mfg Co Warsaw Ny USA Very Good Condition Buy Now »

Antique Metal Lantern No 210 Embury Mfg Co Warsaw Ny USA Very Good Condition

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Marion, IN, USA ZIP 46952
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Adlake Kero Vintage Train Lantern Red Globe Bid Now »

Adlake Kero Vintage Train Lantern Red Globe

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5 hrs
59 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Mount Vernon, IN, USA ZIP 47620
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 	 Vintage STAR HEADLIGHT LANTERN Lamp ---RAILROAD Buy Now »

Vintage STAR HEADLIGHT LANTERN Lamp ---RAILROAD

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6 hrs
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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Jasper, AL, USA ZIP 35503
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VINTAGE WORKING DELTA POWERLITE LANTERN - RAILROAD - COAL MINER Buy Now »

VINTAGE WORKING DELTA POWERLITE LANTERN - RAILROAD - COAL MINER

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Christiana, TN, USA ZIP 37037
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Maxim Lighting 30506CDOI Portsmouth 1-Light Outdoor Hanging Lantern - Oil Rub... Buy Now »
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Maxim Lighting 30506CDOI Portsmouth 1-Light Outdoor Hanging Lantern - Oil Rub...

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  • Item Condition: NewNew Maxim Lighting 30506CDOI Portsmouth 1-Light Outdoor Hanging Lantern - Oil Rub... for sale
  • Item Location: Lakewood, NJ, USA ZIP 08701
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Maxim Lighting 3427WGOB Carriage House DC 24.5'' H 3-Light Outdoor ... Buy Now »
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Maxim Lighting 3427WGOB Carriage House DC 24.5'' H 3-Light Outdoor ...

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  • Item Condition: NewNew Maxim Lighting 3427WGOB Carriage House DC 24.5'' H 3-Light Outdoor ... for sale
  • Item Location: Lakewood, NJ, USA ZIP 08701
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Vintage DIETZ Red Kerosene Lantern American Camper Original Parts/Glass RK 12 Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage DIETZ Red Kerosene Lantern American Camper Original Parts/Glass RK 12

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7 hrs
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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Elon, NC, USA ZIP 27244
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Vintage Star Headlight & Lantern Company Railroad Light Blue Yellow Steampunk Buy Now »

Vintage Star Headlight & Lantern Company Railroad Light Blue Yellow Steampunk

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7 hrs
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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Tonawanda, NY, USA ZIP 14150
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  • Seller: ie.systems   Feedback: 1,884 / 99.7%
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National Carbide Lantern Lincoln Building New York Bid Now » Buy Now »

National Carbide Lantern Lincoln Building New York

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7 hrs
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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Quincy, KY, USA ZIP 41166
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Dietz Dlite No2 Kerosene Lantern Buy Now »
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Dietz Dlite No2 Kerosene Lantern

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8 hrs
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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Stafford Springs, CT, USA ZIP 06076
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  • Seller: guns28sks   Feedback: 1,876 / 100%
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Antique German Heinrich Gillet Railroad Signal Lamp Lantern Red Blue Glass Buy Now »

Antique German Heinrich Gillet Railroad Signal Lamp Lantern Red Blue Glass

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8 hrs
7 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Oklahoma City, OK, USA ZIP 73170
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  • Seller: fleatiks   Feedback: 2,913 / 100%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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Vintage Red Winged Wheel Oil Lantern No 4000 Made in Japan Buy Now »

Vintage Red Winged Wheel Oil Lantern No 4000 Made in Japan

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8 hrs
19 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Cedar Springs, MI, USA ZIP 49319
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Original Western Cullen Hayes Railroad Crossing Light No Visor Buy Now »

Original Western Cullen Hayes Railroad Crossing Light No Visor

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8 hrs
27 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Nacogdoches, TX, USA ZIP 75965
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  • Seller: ronmac-72   Feedback: 85 / 100%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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Electric 3-light Train Crossing Signal Bid Now » Buy Now »

Electric 3-light Train Crossing Signal

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8 hrs
46 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Palm Springs, CA, USA ZIP 92264
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  • Seller: douglablankenbille-0   Feedback: 409 / 100%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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Antique D&H Delaware & Hudson Railroad Dressel 15.5” Caboose Mount Lamp Lantern Buy Now »

Antique D&H Delaware & Hudson Railroad Dressel 15.5” Caboose Mount Lamp Lantern

Buy: $185.00 Ships:
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$214.33
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9 hrs
6 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Johnston, RI, USA ZIP 02919
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  • Seller: chase06122011   Feedback: 1,008 / 99%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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Home Decor 24” Tall Wood - Glass - Metal Lantern Buy Now »

Home Decor 24” Tall Wood - Glass - Metal Lantern

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9 hrs
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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Fort Worth, TX, USA ZIP 76137
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  • Seller: donofoz   Feedback: 1,647 / 99.1%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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Vintage Adlake No. 31-F Brakeman Railroad Lantern Mustard Yellow Made In USA Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage Adlake No. 31-F Brakeman Railroad Lantern Mustard Yellow Made In USA

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9 hrs
14 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: New Oxford, PA, USA ZIP 17350
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  • Seller: mutant-hippy   Feedback: 207 / 100%
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VINTAGE EMBURY #210 KEROSENE BARN LANTERN With Red Globe Bid Now »

VINTAGE EMBURY #210 KEROSENE BARN LANTERN With Red Globe

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9 hrs
23 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Ironwood, MI, USA ZIP 49938
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  • Seller: olaf77coon0   Feedback: 435 / 99.8%
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Antique SNCF FRANCE RAILWAY OIL LANTERN Large APPAREILS D'ECLAIRAGE PARIS RR Buy Now »

Antique SNCF FRANCE RAILWAY OIL LANTERN Large APPAREILS D'ECLAIRAGE PARIS RR

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9 hrs
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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Flemington, NJ, USA ZIP 08822
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Vintage Handlan Saint Louis Red Hanging Handled Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Handlan Saint Louis Red Hanging Handled Lantern

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9 hrs
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  • Item Location: Saint Louis, MO, USA ZIP 63126
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Antique/Vintage Kerosene Dietz Junior #20 “Comet”  With Globe & Wick Buy Now »

Antique/Vintage Kerosene Dietz Junior #20 “Comet” With Globe & Wick

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9 hrs
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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Palm Harbor, FL, USA ZIP 34685
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  • Seller: michaeljohnb   Feedback: 397 / 100%
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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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