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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Oil Lantern ~ Feuerhand Sturmfest - Super Baby - No. 175 - Red ~ West Germany Buy Now »
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Oil Lantern ~ Feuerhand Sturmfest - Super Baby - No. 175 - Red ~ West Germany

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SOUTHERN RAILROAD ADLAKE -KERO RED GLOBE MARKED & FRAME ALL ORIGINAL LANTERN Buy Now »

SOUTHERN RAILROAD ADLAKE -KERO RED GLOBE MARKED & FRAME ALL ORIGINAL LANTERN

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  • Item Location: Jasper, AL, USA ZIP 355**
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Antique NYCS DIETZ RR lantern / Handle Glass Globe Good condition. Buy Now »

Antique NYCS DIETZ RR lantern / Handle Glass Globe Good condition.

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  • Item Location: Moosup, CT, USA ZIP 063**
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DIETZ BLIZZARD LOC-NOB H-13 LANTERN GLOBE Pat. 3-10-14 Buy Now »

DIETZ BLIZZARD LOC-NOB H-13 LANTERN GLOBE Pat. 3-10-14

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Vintage Adlake Kero Red Globe EL Erie Lackawana Railroad Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Adlake Kero Red Globe EL Erie Lackawana Railroad Lantern

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ANTIQUE RAILROAD LANTERN EMBOSSED TRRA GLOBE HANLAN LANTERN Buy Now »

ANTIQUE RAILROAD LANTERN EMBOSSED TRRA GLOBE HANLAN LANTERN

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GERMAN CARBIDE RAILROAD LANTERN DB - J. C. Giessing Nurnberg Kohlengasse 6-12 Buy Now »

GERMAN CARBIDE RAILROAD LANTERN DB - J. C. Giessing Nurnberg Kohlengasse 6-12

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 VINTAGE KOPP LAMP LANTERN TRAFFIC RAIL ROAD SIGNAL LENS AMBER 5" DIA Buy Now »

VINTAGE KOPP LAMP LANTERN TRAFFIC RAIL ROAD SIGNAL LENS AMBER 5" DIA

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VINTAGE PRR DRESSEL ARLINGTON NJ ~~RED GLOBE~~RAILROAD LANTERN RR LAMP Buy Now »

VINTAGE PRR DRESSEL ARLINGTON NJ ~ ~ RED GLOBE ~ ~ RAILROAD LANTERN RR LAMP

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VINTAGE Dietz Lantern No 40 Syracuse NY Ruby Red Globe ORIGINAL PAINT Buy Now »

VINTAGE Dietz Lantern No 40 Syracuse NY Ruby Red Globe ORIGINAL PAINT

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Antique Dietz N.Y. No. 100 Kerosene Lantern Blue Paint Red Paint Globe C.O.B. Buy Now »

Antique Dietz N.Y. No. 100 Kerosene Lantern Blue Paint Red Paint Globe C.O.B.

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CSX Railroad Starlite 292 Electric 6V Battery lantern Buy Now »

CSX Railroad Starlite 292 Electric 6V Battery lantern

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Pair of Vintage Blue Antique Dietz Little Wizard Lanterns with Red Globes Buy Now »
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Pair of Vintage Blue Antique Dietz Little Wizard Lanterns with Red Globes

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: New Orleans, LA, USA ZIP 701**
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Vintage Used Glazed Earth Tone Stoneware Pottery Oil Lamp Fount Body Part Old Buy Now »
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Vintage Used Glazed Earth Tone Stoneware Pottery Oil Lamp Fount Body Part Old

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Antique brass medium sized Carbine Lamp with handle Buy Now »

Antique brass medium sized Carbine Lamp with handle

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  • Item Location: Topeka, KS, USA ZIP 666**
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 VINTAGE KOPP LAMP LANTERN TRAFFIC RAIL ROAD SIGNAL LENS  GLASS 5" Buy Now »

VINTAGE KOPP LAMP LANTERN TRAFFIC RAIL ROAD SIGNAL LENS GLASS 5"

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Saugerties, NY, USA ZIP 124**
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Vintage Original LITTLE WIZARD DIETZ Red Glass Lantern No. 1 Hong Kong Buy Now »

Vintage Original LITTLE WIZARD DIETZ Red Glass Lantern No. 1 Hong Kong

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Altamonte Springs, FL, USA ZIP 327**
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Blue Dietz Air Pilot No. 8 Lantern, Clear Glass, Train, Transportation, Vintage Buy Now »

Blue Dietz Air Pilot No. 8 Lantern, Clear Glass, Train, Transportation, Vintage

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  • Item Location: Kenosha, WI, USA ZIP 531**
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Dietz Little Wizard Lantern Antique Buy Now »

Dietz Little Wizard Lantern Antique

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Cleveland, OH, USA ZIP 441**
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  • Seller: rensstore   Feedback: 38 / 0%
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Vintage Railway/Railroad CNR Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Railway/Railroad CNR Lantern

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Canada ZIP R5H***
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Vintage Train Railroad Lantern A C MIDGET Honeycutt Battery Corp KCMO Buy Now »

Vintage Train Railroad Lantern A C MIDGET Honeycutt Battery Corp KCMO

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Double Row Single Position AAR Terminal Strip US&S P/N PC 178388 Buy Now »
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Double Row Single Position AAR Terminal Strip US&S P/N PC 178388

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  • Item Location: Victor, NY, USA ZIP 145**
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  • Seller: nimbypig   Feedback: 2,759 / 100%
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U S & S CO. RAIL ROAD SIGNAL LIGHT AMBER/YELLOW CONE SHAPED LENS Buy Now »

U S & S CO. RAIL ROAD SIGNAL LIGHT AMBER/YELLOW CONE SHAPED LENS

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Bayville, NJ, USA ZIP 087**
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Jacklyn Smith Embossed Glass Small Lantern 5.7" W x 5.7" W x 13" H Buy Now »

Jacklyn Smith Embossed Glass Small Lantern 5.7" W x 5.7" W x 13" H

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  • Item Condition: NewNew Jacklyn Smith Embossed Glass Small Lantern 5.7" W x 5.7" W x 13" H for sale
  • Item Location: Waterbury, CT, USA ZIP 067**
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VINTAGE ARMSPEAR MANF'G RAILROAD LAMP/LANTERN  WITH VISORS HOOD, RED AND... Buy Now »

VINTAGE ARMSPEAR MANF'G RAILROAD LAMP/LANTERN WITH VISORS HOOD, RED AND...

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  • Item Location: Augusta, GA, USA ZIP 309**
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  • Seller: aqurius444   Feedback: 1,595 / 100%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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NYNH&H  New York New Haven & Hartford Dietz Vesta Lantern Buy Now »

NYNH&H New York New Haven & Hartford Dietz Vesta Lantern

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Saint Albans, VT, USA ZIP 054**
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1940's JUSTRITE Electric Lantern Miner's Lamp Light #44S "Watch Video" Buy Now »

1940's JUSTRITE Electric Lantern Miner's Lamp Light #44S "Watch Video"

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Delaware & Hudson D&H Adlake Kero Railroad Lantern Red Globe Buy Now »

Delaware & Hudson D&H Adlake Kero Railroad Lantern Red Globe

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10 hrs
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  • Item Location: Saint Albans, VT, USA ZIP 054**
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Large Dressel Railroad Lantern Fount. Bid Now »

Large Dressel Railroad Lantern Fount.

Bid: $36.00
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10 hrs
42 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Bend, OR, USA ZIP 977**
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VINTAGE ARMSPEAR RAILROAD LAMP/LANTERN WITH VISORS HOOD, 3 AMBER LENS  AND  1... Buy Now »

VINTAGE ARMSPEAR RAILROAD LAMP/LANTERN WITH VISORS HOOD, 3 AMBER LENS AND 1...

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10 hrs
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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Augusta, GA, USA ZIP 309**
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OLD VINTAGE  CANADIEN NATIONAL  RAILWAY FLASLIGHT Bid Now » Buy Now »

OLD VINTAGE CANADIEN NATIONAL RAILWAY FLASLIGHT

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CNR Railroad Hiram L.Piper Co, Adlake Kero Railroad Lantern Red Globe Buy Now »

CNR Railroad Hiram L.Piper Co, Adlake Kero Railroad Lantern Red Globe

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10 hrs
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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Saint Albans, VT, USA ZIP 054**
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Vintage Dietz Monarch Gray Lantern New York NY Ruby Red Dietz Fitzall Globe Buy Now »
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Vintage Dietz Monarch Gray Lantern New York NY Ruby Red Dietz Fitzall Globe

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Vintage Justrite Electric Railroad Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage Justrite Electric Railroad Lantern

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Vintage American Railroad Inspectors Lantern Buy Now »

Vintage American Railroad Inspectors Lantern

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10 hrs
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  • Item Location: Saint Johnsbury, VT, USA ZIP 058**
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OLD RAILROAD SIGNAL LANTERN BY JUSTRITE Buy Now »

OLD RAILROAD SIGNAL LANTERN BY JUSTRITE

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11 hrs
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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Mabank, TX, USA ZIP 751**
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CLEVELAND AKRON & COLUMBUS RAILROAD LANTERN A&W COMPANY CA&C/PCC&StL 1895 Buy Now »

CLEVELAND AKRON & COLUMBUS RAILROAD LANTERN A&W COMPANY CA&C/PCC&StL 1895

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Warsaw, MO, USA ZIP 653**
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  • Seller: railcarhobbies   Feedback: 2,862 / 100%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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Red Spreadlite Corning 5-3/8 Lens 1935 RR Lantern Marker Lamp Antique Railroad Bid Now »

Red Spreadlite Corning 5-3/8 Lens 1935 RR Lantern Marker Lamp Antique Railroad

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  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Clifton Forge, VA, USA ZIP 244**
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ANTIQUE red SMUDGE POT TOLEDO PRESSED STEEL CO Buy Now »

ANTIQUE red SMUDGE POT TOLEDO PRESSED STEEL CO

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11 hrs
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  • Item Location: Edmeston, NY, USA ZIP 133**
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smudge pots Bid Now » Buy Now »

smudge pots

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Clear Glass 'H2' Railroad Lantern Globe - 6 3/4" Tall - 2 7/8" & 3 3/8" Fitters Buy Now »

Clear Glass 'H2' Railroad Lantern Globe - 6 3/4" Tall - 2 7/8" & 3 3/8" Fitters

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11 hrs
58 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Steubenville, OH, USA ZIP 439**
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Rare Antique Dressel Kerosene Railroad Switch Switching Signal Lantern AWESOME! Buy Now »

Rare Antique Dressel Kerosene Railroad Switch Switching Signal Lantern AWESOME!

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12 hrs
3 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Pauma Valley, CA, USA ZIP 920**
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  • Seller: hobbit7   Feedback: 3,765 / 100%
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Vintage Dietz Lantern No. 2 D-Lite USA Made NY Oil Lantern Buy Now »
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Vintage Dietz Lantern No. 2 D-Lite USA Made NY Oil Lantern

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12 hrs
4 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Tulsa, OK, USA ZIP 741**
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  • Seller: steinerbrothers   Feedback: 251 / 100%  Top-Rated Seller Top-Rated Seller
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Lot of 2 Vintage Kerosene Lantern Dietz D Lite No2 Cold Blast Pagoma EUC Buy Now »

Lot of 2 Vintage Kerosene Lantern Dietz D Lite No2 Cold Blast Pagoma EUC

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12 hrs
7 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: Omaha, NE, USA ZIP 681**
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  • Seller: annastone1502   Feedback: 1,311 / 100%
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Railroad Lantern Red Glass Globe 3 1/4" Long x 3" Wide Diameter End Openings Buy Now »

Railroad Lantern Red Glass Globe 3 1/4" Long x 3" Wide Diameter End Openings

Buy: $100.00 Ships:
$8.00
$108.00
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12 hrs
7 mins
  • Item Condition: Used
  • Item Location: USA
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  • Shipping Cost: $8.00
  • Handling Time: 3 business days
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  • Seller: amerikay2   Feedback: 928 / 98.9%
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vintage kerosene B&M railroad lantern (BUNDLE) Buy Now »

vintage kerosene B&M railroad lantern (BUNDLE)

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100% imported silk Vintage Stafford Executive mens necktie Buy Now »
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100% imported silk Vintage Stafford Executive mens necktie

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1925 S I RR Staten Island NY Rapid Transit Lantern New York Armspear As Is Buy Now »

1925 S I RR Staten Island NY Rapid Transit Lantern New York Armspear As Is

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1923 Erie RR Railroad Green Lantern Adams & Westlake Co Adlake E RR Buy Now »

1923 Erie RR Railroad Green Lantern Adams & Westlake Co Adlake E RR

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White Glass Shade For Adams & Westlake, Dayton, and Post & Co Railroad Lamp Buy Now »

White Glass Shade For Adams & Westlake, Dayton, and Post & Co Railroad Lamp

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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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