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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DIETZ LANTERN, NO 100 Buy Now »

DIETZ LANTERN, NO 100

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  • Item Location: Bakersfield, CA, USA ZIP 933**
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VINTAGE CPR HLP M RAILROAD RAILWAY CABOOSE MARKER SIGNAL LANTERN - 4 BLUE LIGHT Buy Now »

VINTAGE CPR HLP M RAILROAD RAILWAY CABOOSE MARKER SIGNAL LANTERN - 4 BLUE LIGHT

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Antique Railroad/Firemen's Solid Bronze Lantern Merryweather & Sons London Buy Now »

Antique Railroad/Firemen's Solid Bronze Lantern Merryweather & Sons London

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  • Item Location: Baird, TX, USA ZIP 795**
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Vintage Lot Of 2 Railroad Caboose Car Brass Candlelamps w/ Globes & 1 Bracket Buy Now »

Vintage Lot Of 2 Railroad Caboose Car Brass Candlelamps w/ Globes & 1 Bracket

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  • Seller: pilkenton777   Feedback: 617 / 100%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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Vintage 1937 Delta Powerlite Lantern 6V Flashlight and Dome Light Sold As-Is Buy Now »

Vintage 1937 Delta Powerlite Lantern 6V Flashlight and Dome Light Sold As-Is

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Vintage Conductors Railroad Lantern Light Starlite 222 Headlight (Q331 Buy Now »

Vintage Conductors Railroad Lantern Light Starlite 222 Headlight (Q331

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15 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
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Vintage 2 Kerosene Oil Lamps Lanterns Red Glass Lens Carriage Train Automobile Buy Now »

Vintage 2 Kerosene Oil Lamps Lanterns Red Glass Lens Carriage Train Automobile

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Vintage PRR Handlan Lantern turned into a hanging flickering light Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage PRR Handlan Lantern turned into a hanging flickering light

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LPIPE Classification Locomotive Marker Light, Pyle National Adlake & Handlan Bid Now »

LPIPE Classification Locomotive Marker Light, Pyle National Adlake & Handlan

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23 mins
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N. Y. C. S. Amber glass lantern Buy Now »

N. Y. C. S. Amber glass lantern

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D&RGW Adlake Kero No. 300 Lantern with red Etched Corning Short Globe Bid Now » Buy Now »

D&RGW Adlake Kero No. 300 Lantern with red Etched Corning Short Globe

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Two 1945 Black wakefield kerosene Railroad Signal  Lanterns Good Condition  Buy Now »

Two 1945 Black wakefield kerosene Railroad Signal  Lanterns Good Condition 

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1 NEW GENERAL SIGNALS 7112-R PLASTIC RAILROAD SIGNAL LENS 8 3/8" **MAKE OFFER** Buy Now »

1 NEW GENERAL SIGNALS 7112-R PLASTIC RAILROAD SIGNAL LENS 8 3/8" **MAKE OFFER**

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  • Item Condition: NewNew 1 NEW GENERAL SIGNALS 7112-R PLASTIC RAILROAD SIGNAL LENS 8 3/8" **MAKE OFFER** for sale
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ANTIQUE DIETZ # 2  D-LITE LANTERN Buy Now »

ANTIQUE DIETZ # 2 D-LITE LANTERN

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Vintage Brass Lantern W/Reflector carry And Clip On flashlight Rare possibly RR Bid Now » Buy Now »

Vintage Brass Lantern W/Reflector carry And Clip On flashlight Rare possibly RR

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Rare 1954 Chalwyn Tropic Hurricane Lamp Storm Lantern Army Green JA. 12159 (MK2) Buy Now »

Rare 1954 Chalwyn Tropic Hurricane Lamp Storm Lantern Army Green JA. 12159 (MK2)

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  • Item Condition: Used
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  • Seller: richardrumhelle_0   Feedback: 476 / 100%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD ( P.R.R. ) MARKED RAILROAD LANTERN RED GLOBE Buy Now »

PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD ( P.R.R. ) MARKED RAILROAD LANTERN RED GLOBE

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  • Item Location: Hastings, MI, USA ZIP 490**
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vintage barn lantern clear glass globe shade Buy Now »

vintage barn lantern clear glass globe shade

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Fleetwood, PA, USA ZIP 195**
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VINTAGE Embury NO 2 AIR PILOT Oil Lantern KEROSENE LAMP Warsaw NY Barn find Buy Now »

VINTAGE Embury NO 2 AIR PILOT Oil Lantern KEROSENE LAMP Warsaw NY Barn find

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  • Item Location: Terril, IA, USA ZIP 513**
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  • Seller: allpartsplus   Feedback: 814 / 99.6%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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UNION PACIFIC STARLITE 222 RAILROAD LANTERN - Untested Buy Now »

UNION PACIFIC STARLITE 222 RAILROAD LANTERN - Untested

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  • Item Location: Colby, KS, USA ZIP 677**
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Vintage Unmarked Dietz Style Clear Glass Lantern Shade Buy Now »

Vintage Unmarked Dietz Style Clear Glass Lantern Shade

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Pahrump, NV, USA ZIP 890**
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  • Seller: papawsvarietyshop   Feedback: 29 / 100%
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Antique Railroad Traffic light 4 sided Handlan St Louuis USA Buy Now »

Antique Railroad Traffic light 4 sided Handlan St Louuis USA

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1 hr
53 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Lancaster, KY, USA ZIP 404**
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Vintage Red Globe B&O RR Railroad Swinging Oil Lantern 1925 Armspear Mfg. NY Buy Now »

Vintage Red Globe B&O RR Railroad Swinging Oil Lantern 1925 Armspear Mfg. NY

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2 hrs
17 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Brockway, PA, USA ZIP 158**
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Vintage Dietz no.40 Traffic Card Lantern Lamp - Turned into Electric Lamp Buy Now »
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Vintage Dietz no.40 Traffic Card Lantern Lamp - Turned into Electric Lamp

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2 hrs
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NEW Railroad Signal Position LIGHT Ring Target Circle Cowl fits 12" Housing Buy Now »
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NEW Railroad Signal Position LIGHT Ring Target Circle Cowl fits 12" Housing

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2 hrs
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Armspear Railroad Lantern B&M RR Embossed Bid Now » Buy Now »

Armspear Railroad Lantern B&M RR Embossed

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2 hrs
40 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Pittsford, NY, USA ZIP 145**
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  • Seller: robergreendyk_0   Feedback: 70 / 100%
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Adlake Kero Railroad Lantern Etched B&O Corning Globe Bid Now » Buy Now »

Adlake Kero Railroad Lantern Etched B&O Corning Globe

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2 hrs
47 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Pittsford, NY, USA ZIP 145**
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VTG Clear Glass Shade Globe Lantern 2 3/4" x 4" x 5 3/8" Dietz ? Buy Now »

VTG Clear Glass Shade Globe Lantern 2 3/4" x 4" x 5 3/8" Dietz ?

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Lakeland, FL, USA ZIP 338**
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 CPR Glass RailRoad Hiram L. Piper Co LTD Adlake-Kero 1-60 Lantern Buy Now »

CPR Glass RailRoad Hiram L. Piper Co LTD Adlake-Kero 1-60 Lantern

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3 hrs
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Antique Adlake Adams & Westlake Kero Railroad Style Lantern with Original Globe Buy Now »

Antique Adlake Adams & Westlake Kero Railroad Style Lantern with Original Globe

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3 hrs
37 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Chicago, IL, USA ZIP 606**
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Antique/Old Baterlite Mfg.Co.No#18878UnderwritersLab.C67127LightFixture&Globe Buy Now »

Antique/Old Baterlite Mfg.Co.No#18878UnderwritersLab.C67127LightFixture&Globe

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3 hrs
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Vintage Dietz Little Wizard New York silver w embossed globe Buy Now »

Vintage Dietz Little Wizard New York silver w embossed globe

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4 hrs
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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Henderson, NV, USA ZIP 890**
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Vintage Dietz Little Wizard Lantern NY No Globe Buy Now »
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Vintage Dietz Little Wizard Lantern NY No Globe

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4 hrs
27 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Capac, MI, USA ZIP 480**
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  • Seller: harvest_pickers67   Feedback: 2,405 / 99.7%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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Vintage CHALWYN made in England Railroad/St.Traffic KEROSENE Lantern Red w/warra Buy Now »

Vintage CHALWYN made in England Railroad/St.Traffic KEROSENE Lantern Red w/warra

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4 hrs
32 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Portland, OR, USA ZIP 972**
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Railroad Lantern Adlake Kero Clear Globe Buy Now »

Railroad Lantern Adlake Kero Clear Globe

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4 hrs
59 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Algonquin, IL, USA ZIP 601**
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VINTAGE DIETZ LITTLE GIANT - 70 HOUR FOUNT CAPACITY - ONE FOOT TALL Buy Now »

VINTAGE DIETZ LITTLE GIANT - 70 HOUR FOUNT CAPACITY - ONE FOOT TALL

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5 hrs
27 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Long Grove, IA, USA ZIP 527**
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Vintage 1929 NEW YORK CENTRAL Lo-Top Dietz Vesta Railroad Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage 1929 NEW YORK CENTRAL Lo-Top Dietz Vesta Railroad Lantern

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5 hrs
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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Binghamton, NY, USA ZIP 139**
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Vintage glass signal lantern globe red Universal brand Buy Now »

Vintage glass signal lantern globe red Universal brand

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5 hrs
54 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Effingham, IL, USA ZIP 624**
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  • Seller: 6574steven   Feedback: 2,223 / 100%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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Novelty Country Farm Decor Lantern Electric Light Lamp Faux Barb Wire Handle Buy Now »

Novelty Country Farm Decor Lantern Electric Light Lamp Faux Barb Wire Handle

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6 hrs
30 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Lacey, WA, USA ZIP 985**
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  • Seller: acozycorner   Feedback: 1,043 / 100%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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8 3/8" Red Traffic Street Light / Rail Road Crossing Glass Lens - Excellent Buy Now »

8 3/8" Red Traffic Street Light / Rail Road Crossing Glass Lens - Excellent

Buy: $39.99 Ships:
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$49.88
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6 hrs
38 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Barberton, OH, USA ZIP 442**
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  • Seller: stum-robe   Feedback: 234 / 97.5%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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Vintage Delta Electric Company Powerlite Lantern Lamp USA Buy Now »

Vintage Delta Electric Company Powerlite Lantern Lamp USA

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7 hrs
25 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Lancaster, PA, USA ZIP 176**
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Vintage WRRS 950-11 Railroad Crossing Signal-Light RR  Old Railroad Train Light! Buy Now »
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Vintage WRRS 950-11 Railroad Crossing Signal-Light RR Old Railroad Train Light!

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7 hrs
45 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Punta Gorda, FL, USA ZIP 339**
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  • Seller: gambetta71   Feedback: 945 / 100%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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Vintage Star Flasher Model No.215-CL Transistor Warning Light "GREAT COLLECTIBLE Buy Now »

Vintage Star Flasher Model No.215-CL Transistor Warning Light "GREAT COLLECTIBLE

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8 hrs
8 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Idaho Falls, ID, USA ZIP 834**
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  • Seller: ozam1528   Feedback: 261 / 100%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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Brakeman Lantern PRR LOT #2100 Clear Globe Buy Now »

Brakeman Lantern PRR LOT #2100 Clear Globe

Buy: $78.00 Ships:
$20.00
$98.00
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9 hrs
5 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Tire Hill, PA, USA ZIP 159**
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  • Handling Time: 5 business days
  • Seller: bigcityhobbies   Feedback: 1,304 / 99%
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Vintage Handilite Co Lantern/Flashlight - w/ Red Dome -  Buy Now »

Vintage Handilite Co Lantern/Flashlight - w/ Red Dome - 

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  • Item Location: Montesano, WA, USA ZIP 985**
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1907 Antique Adams & Westlake Co. Wall Mounted Railroad Car Candle Sconce Lamp Buy Now »
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1907 Antique Adams & Westlake Co. Wall Mounted Railroad Car Candle Sconce Lamp

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  • Item Location: Albuquerque, NM, USA ZIP 871**
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Railroad memorabilla inspectors lantern, vintage piece for the railroad coltcr. Bid Now » Buy Now »

Railroad memorabilla inspectors lantern, vintage piece for the railroad coltcr.

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Ponca City, OK, USA ZIP 746**
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Vtg Classic Car Light USA Hanging Work Auto Lighter Mechanic Garage PRIORITY Buy Now »

Vtg Classic Car Light USA Hanging Work Auto Lighter Mechanic Garage PRIORITY

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  • Item Location: North Salt Lake, UT, USA ZIP 840**
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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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