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 Neverout Insulated Kerosene Safety Lamp with Red Glass Gems Buy Now »
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Vintage Neverout Insulated Kerosene Safety Lamp with Red Glass Gems

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Vintage Dietz No.50 Red Lantern Hong Kong Untested Parts Repair Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz No.50 Red Lantern Hong Kong Untested Parts Repair

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Dietz Original 76 Oil Lamp Burning Lantern Black with Gold Trim Buy Now »

Dietz Original 76 Oil Lamp Burning Lantern Black with Gold Trim

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Antique Shapleigh Hardware Co St. Louis, Norleigh Diamond Lantern No. 30 E Globe Buy Now »

Antique Shapleigh Hardware Co St. Louis, Norleigh Diamond Lantern No. 30 E Globe

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Vintage JUSTRITE Railroad Trainmen Electric Lantern Double Bulb Clear Lens Buy Now »

Vintage JUSTRITE Railroad Trainmen Electric Lantern Double Bulb Clear Lens

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VINTAGE DEITZ FITZALL MONARCH BARN RAILROAD LANTERN RED GLOBE LOC KNOB NICE Buy Now »
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VINTAGE DEITZ FITZALL MONARCH BARN RAILROAD LANTERN RED GLOBE LOC KNOB NICE

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Vintage Northern Pacific Railroad mirror Buy Now »

Vintage Northern Pacific Railroad mirror

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Vintage Adlake Battery Operated 11-1/2" Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Adlake Battery Operated 11-1/2" Lantern

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Pair of Antique Railroad Car Candle Lantern Sconces Brass Train Lamp Torch Bid Now » Buy Now »

Pair of Antique Railroad Car Candle Lantern Sconces Brass Train Lamp Torch

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Vintage Ecolite Railroad Lite Buy Now »

Vintage Ecolite Railroad Lite

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SIGNED HENRICH GILLET EDENKOBEN CARBIDE RAIL ROAD SIGNAL LANTERN RED 1959 Buy Now »

SIGNED HENRICH GILLET EDENKOBEN CARBIDE RAIL ROAD SIGNAL LANTERN RED 1959

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VINTAGE GOLDEN GLOW HEADLIGHT PACKARD CADILLAC DODGE FORD CHEVROLET HUDSON BX2 Buy Now »

VINTAGE GOLDEN GLOW HEADLIGHT PACKARD CADILLAC DODGE FORD CHEVROLET HUDSON BX2

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Vtg GB Inc Amber Railroad Lantern Lens Signal Lamp 8 3/8" Dia Glass Traffic Buy Now »

Vtg GB Inc Amber Railroad Lantern Lens Signal Lamp 8 3/8" Dia Glass Traffic

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Vintage Adlake Adams & Westlake Co. C.M. ST P&P RR Lantern 10" Tall Buy Now »

Vintage Adlake Adams & Westlake Co. C.M. ST P&P RR Lantern 10" Tall

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Antique Embury No. 2 Air Pilot City Of Rochester NY Red Metal Lantern Buy Now »

Antique Embury No. 2 Air Pilot City Of Rochester NY Red Metal Lantern

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Dietz Monarch Red Glass Globe Lantern Buy Now »

Dietz Monarch Red Glass Globe Lantern

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Railroad Lantern - FAST SHIPPING Buy Now »

Railroad Lantern - FAST SHIPPING

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Lantern - Vintage HOPE Oil Kerosene Hurricane Lantern No. 500 Buy Now »

Lantern - Vintage HOPE Oil Kerosene Hurricane Lantern No. 500

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Vintage  Hong Kong Original Lantern Lamp Heavy Buy Now »

Vintage Hong Kong Original Lantern Lamp Heavy

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World Light Vintage Yellow Globe Hurricane Lantern No. 505 Used As Decoration Buy Now »
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World Light Vintage Yellow Globe Hurricane Lantern No. 505 Used As Decoration

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 4 Vintage Railroad Torch Spotlights Lamps Norfolk Southern Conger Handheld Buy Now »

4 Vintage Railroad Torch Spotlights Lamps Norfolk Southern Conger Handheld

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Vintage Handlan St. Louis Utility Lantern Red With Red Globe & Side Handle 10" Buy Now »

Vintage Handlan St. Louis Utility Lantern Red With Red Globe & Side Handle 10"

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Vintage Starlite 292 Amtrak Railroad Train Flashlight With Wood Handle & Stand Buy Now »

Vintage Starlite 292 Amtrak Railroad Train Flashlight With Wood Handle & Stand

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Vtg Purple Kopp Glass Railroad Lantern Signal Switch Lamp 30 Degree Spread Light Buy Now »

Vtg Purple Kopp Glass Railroad Lantern Signal Switch Lamp 30 Degree Spread Light

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Dietz No. 40 Red Traffic Gard Lantern Syracuse NY. Ohio Fuel Gas Co. Buy Now »

Dietz No. 40 Red Traffic Gard Lantern Syracuse NY. Ohio Fuel Gas Co.

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Vintage Red Kerosene Lantern Light- Miner Railroad Rustic Americana 13” H Japan Buy Now »

Vintage Red Kerosene Lantern Light- Miner Railroad Rustic Americana 13” H Japan

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Antique Dressel RAILROAD RED GLOBE LANTERN Arlington, NJ Buy Now »

Antique Dressel RAILROAD RED GLOBE LANTERN Arlington, NJ

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 Dietz Lantern NO.100 NY USA Red Globe Vintage  Buy Now »

Dietz Lantern NO.100 NY USA Red Globe Vintage

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Vintage Railroad RR Train Light Lantern Lamp Metal  USA UNTESTED Buy Now »

Vintage Railroad RR Train Light Lantern Lamp Metal USA UNTESTED

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Dietz Fitzall Monarch 4 H Loc Nob NY USA Globe Hurricane Vintage Lantern Buy Now »
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Dietz Fitzall Monarch 4 H Loc Nob NY USA Globe Hurricane Vintage Lantern

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PRR US&S Position Signal Buy Now »
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PRR US&S Position Signal

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Vintage  DIETZ "Monarch" Tubular Barn  Lantern ..."RUBY RED" Globe......SALE Buy Now »

Vintage DIETZ "Monarch" Tubular Barn Lantern ..."RUBY RED" Globe......SALE

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VINTAGE CPR HIRAM L. PIPER CO. LTD RAILROAD OIL LAMP w/ ORIGINAL GLASS GLOBE(RR) Buy Now »
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VINTAGE CPR HIRAM L. PIPER CO. LTD RAILROAD OIL LAMP w/ ORIGINAL GLASS GLOBE(RR)

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SafeTran Red Railroad Railway Light Lamp Train Trains VINTAGE Buy Now »

SafeTran Red Railroad Railway Light Lamp Train Trains VINTAGE

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VINTAGE DIETZ N.Y. USA RAILROAD OIL LAMP w/o ORIGINAL GLASS GLOBE OR WICK (RR) Buy Now »
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VINTAGE DIETZ N.Y. USA RAILROAD OIL LAMP w/o ORIGINAL GLASS GLOBE OR WICK (RR)

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Dad's Electric Lantern Buy Now »

Dad's Electric Lantern

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2 EA.    RAILROAD BATTERY SWING/SIGNAL LANTERNS Buy Now »

2 EA. RAILROAD BATTERY SWING/SIGNAL LANTERNS

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Dietz Comet Lantern Frame for parts Buy Now »

Dietz Comet Lantern Frame for parts

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Red Vintage NYCS Dietz No. 999 Railroad Lantern Buy Now »

Red Vintage NYCS Dietz No. 999 Railroad Lantern

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Adams & Westlake, 1921-1923, Antique Vintage PRR Railroad Lantern Clear Glass Gl Buy Now »

Adams & Westlake, 1921-1923, Antique Vintage PRR Railroad Lantern Clear Glass Gl

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Vintage Union Switch & Signal US&S Railroad Signal Light Buy Now »

Vintage Union Switch & Signal US&S Railroad Signal Light

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  • Item Condition: Used
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Amtrak Vintage STAR HEADLIGHT & LANTERN CO. Railroad RR Lamp Lantern Untested Buy Now »

Amtrak Vintage STAR HEADLIGHT & LANTERN CO. Railroad RR Lamp Lantern Untested

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Tonawanda, NY, USA ZIP 141**
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Corning Large 5 1/4" Blue Glass Globe for Railroad Lantern Antique Vintage Heavy Buy Now »

Corning Large 5 1/4" Blue Glass Globe for Railroad Lantern Antique Vintage Heavy

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Caledonia, MI, USA ZIP 493**
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CNW RAILROAD ADLAKE KERO SWITCHMAN BRAKEMAN LANTERN 2-1936 NO GLOBE Bid Now »

CNW RAILROAD ADLAKE KERO SWITCHMAN BRAKEMAN LANTERN 2-1936 NO GLOBE

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Kopp Glass 4 3/4" Diameter Blue Railroad Signal Lenses For Railway Train inv 812 Buy Now »

Kopp Glass 4 3/4" Diameter Blue Railroad Signal Lenses For Railway Train inv 812

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Fennville, MI, USA ZIP 494**
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Dietz Monarch NY U.S.A. Lantern oil lamp fitzall LOC-NOB train light Buy Now »

Dietz Monarch NY U.S.A. Lantern oil lamp fitzall LOC-NOB train light

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Vintage Dietz Brand Red No. 40 Fresnel Traffic Gard Lantern Syracuse, N.Y. Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz Brand Red No. 40 Fresnel Traffic Gard Lantern Syracuse, N.Y.

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3 hrs
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Providence, RI, USA ZIP 029**
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Vintage Conger Lantern Co Portland Railroad Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Conger Lantern Co Portland Railroad Lantern

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Brass & Copper Anchor Oil Lamp Nautical Maritime Ship Lantern Boat Light Design Buy Now »
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Antique Kero Railroad Lantern. Red Glass. Buy Now »

Antique Kero Railroad Lantern. Red Glass.

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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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