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Two-color globes are perhaps the most desirable type of globe in railroadiana collecting. The two-color globe is distinguished by two bands of color, with one color usually on top the other and separated by a horizontal border. The top color is usually green (deep green or aqua), blue, or red while the bottom color is usually clear. Clear is a color in railroad signaling, sometimes referred to as "white". In very rare instances, these colors are reversed with the clear or white color being the top color.
The origins of the two-color globe can be found in the wording of the original patent documentation issued to William Westlake on Feb. 4, 1868 as follows"
"Patent: A lantern globe, made of or finished into a single piece, having one portion colored and a part clear, substantially as specified. For the use of conductors of railway trains and for other purposes, it is desirable to have different colors shown, and by this arrangement of colors all of the purposes of a signal lantern are subserved, while the light from below is unobstructed by the coloring of the glass or the shading of separate pieces, so that a conductor can collect his fares or tickets with as clear a light as is shown by an uncolored globe or light, and the light thrown upon the floor or upon the ground is not interfered with, so that the lantern is not injured for general purposes, and is equal to any as a signal lantern.
The globe is made with its upper part colored and its lower part clear or uncolored, as shown, and the colored portion is brought down so as to come on a line, or nearly on a line, with the top of the flame, a little distance above or below however, is not material. The globes are made in two ways or modes. By one mode, the globe is blown or made clear, and a separate ring made to fit over it, and stained in the glass by any of the usual modes, and then put over the globe, and annealed, so as to adhere to the glove and form a part of it. The other mode is to make them originally in two parts, the upper portion stained, and the lower portion clear, and anneal them together so as to form a single globe. I prefer the latter method, as it makes a more regular and perfect line between the colored or stained portion and the clear portion than the other mode, and leaves the globe of equal thickness throughout its entire length, and a deeper tint or color can be given, unless the glove in the other process is lined both on the outside and inside. The seam or line of junction may be vertical, so as to give the lantern two fronts." (See Note)
The wording here makes clear that the two-color globe was intended to aid conductors in carrying out certain onboard functions such as taking tickets. There have also been reports that such globes were used for signaling. For example, many rule books prescribe a green and white signal as the indication for a "flag stop" -- a conditional stop whereby a passenger train is flagged down (stopped) at certain stations to pick up passengers. While this could be interpreted as two colors in the same lantern, it seems rather implausible that an engineer could distinguish two colors in one lantern at night and at a distance of several hundred feet. Also former railroad employees say that two lanterns were used. For example, "The practice on Canadian (and I presume American railways} was a green lantern and a white lantern side-by-side. If it was daylight there was a flag, --half white half green -- to use. Every intermediate station had these appliances. As an operator at Canadian Pacific Railway stations I frequently had to do this, since at country and small town stations most passengers trains had to be "flagged" to avoid simply stopping without any passengers to pick up." A similar statement on one of our lantern accounts pages says the same thing [bottom of the page].
A secondary use of the two-color globe was decorative. Because of their striking appearance, two-color globes were often used in presentation lanterns -- lanterns that were presented to railroad employees as gifts or tokens of appreciation, often upon retirement. Sometimes these were also engraved with the honoree's name, initials, and/or other ornamentation. See engraved globe below.
Railroad markings on two-color globes, while rare, do exist. Some known examples are "P.R.R.", (Pennsylvania Railroad), "B.& O. R.R. (Baltimore & Ohio Railroad) and "P. & L.E. R.R." (Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad). Significantly all of these railroads has a large passenger train business and thus a need for many conductors. As far as is known, railroad markings on two-color globes were either cut or etched into the glass, not cast.
The most common combination in two-color globes seems to be green-over-clear, sometimes referred to as a "green-over". Other colors such as blue-over-clear and red-over-clear are much rarer. One collector who has collected and researched lanterns for many years believes that red-over-clear globes were actually more likely to be used by fire departments with the globe being a way to locate the chief on a fire scene. Based on surviving examples, it seems that red-over-clear globes were also used in presentation lanterns (see example below).
Two-color globes are found in a variety of sizes and shapes. There are a number of variations in the "tall globe" size, roughly 5 1/2" high or thereabouts, with shapes ranging from the "barrel" style to the pear-shaped or "#39" style. There are also subtle variations in the smaller sizes that fit conductor lanterns of various manufacturers.
All two-color globes can be considered rare, and values in today's collectors' market reflect this. For perspective, a Dietz catalog from around 1915 listed two-color conductors' lantern globes (red, green, or blue-over-clear) as $30 per dozen. That's $2.50 a globe! Converted to 2002 dollars, that's roughly $45. Today, a nice green-over-clear example of similar size can easily go for $500-$600, and a rarer blue-over-clear example can go for $1000 or more. Ah, for the good old days!
Following are examples of two-color globes.
Special thanks to Sue and Bill Knous, Howard Holland, Michael Ewasko, Bill Kajdzik, and other anonymous contributors to this page.