Antique Railroad Lanterns and Lamps
In the days before city lights and GPS, railroad lanterns served a very important purpose: they communicated signals at night between trains and stations. Sometimes, a timely lantern signal meant the difference between life and death. In one romanticized 19th-century story, for example, a 15-year-old girl named Kate Shelley saved the Fast Atlantic Express from a broken bridge by alerting a station agent, whose lantern signal to the train averted disaster.
In the most basic sense, railroad lanterns have four components: a base, a wire guard (or cage), a chimney, and a glass globe housing the light source. The cage protects this globe from damage, but, even so, antique lanterns with intact globes are rare.
Lanterns can be divided into a few basic categories. The first is the fixed-globe lantern, the earliest type. These were most popular from the time of the Civil War to a few decades afterward. Most of those that have survived were used on railroad lines in the northeastern United States, which had older lines than other parts of the country