Adams & Westlake "Heritage" Lanterns
by Ted Douthitt Jr. and Jerry Gorzoch

In our previous article "A&W Kero Lanterns: The Last Stand", we described the variations that are found in the last short-globe lanterns that the Adams & Westlake Company (A&W) made for commercial railroad use. These were designated as Model #300 and were marketed under the general name of the Adlake "Kero".

Above:The top of an A&W Heritage lantern marked for the Chicago Tunnel Co. Photo by Phil O'Keefe.

Starting about 1965, A&W began making #300 Kero lanterns for noncommercial use. By this time, railroads were turning exclusively to electric, battery-operated lanterns, and sales of the kerosene-fueled Kero's were steadily decreasing. A&W thought that marketing these lanterns to railroad clubs, museums, and tourist-train operations might be a way to increase sales and maintain the Kero as a viable product. This new direction was successful, and the Adlake #300 Kero, which was first made in 1931, is now the last kerosene railroad lantern still being made in the United States. We refer to such lanterns produced for souvenir or collectible purposes as "Heritage Lanterns" to distinguish them from lanterns which were actually sold to the railroads for train service.

The first documented use of Heritage Kero's was probably by the Colorado Railroad Museum in the early 1970s. These lanterns were marked "GC&SJ RR," for The Golden City and San Juan Railroad, which was the narrow gauge line that runs around the museum. These were sold with unmarked globes but in four different colors. In 1994 a second run of lanterns were made, but marked "Colorado Railroad Museum" not the GC&SJ.

Above: A CSX Heritage Kero with a green etched globe. These rather striking lanterns were reportedly given to shippers as a promotional item.

Since then a large number of different Heritage Kero's have been produced. We now have documented the markings shown in the list below. Most of these have been ordered or sponsored by museums or historical associations, although at least one has been associated with a current railroad -- CSX. See the CSX footnote below.

  • Arcade and Attica [Note 1]
  • GC&SJ RR (Colorado Railroad Museum)
  • R&GV (Rochester and Genesee Valley RR)
  • Chicago Tunnel Co.
  • Mid Continent Railroad (Mid Continent Railroad Museum)
  • AE&FRE (Aurora, Elgin, & Fox River Electric Co) [Note 2]
  • Pioneer RailCorp
  • Sandy River & Rangely Lakes ( Maine Railroadiana Club)
  • Territory Ahead RR (Promotion for a Santa Barbara Clothing Co.)
  • Rio Grande Southern (Rico) made by Handlan in the 1960s)
  • White Pass and Yukon Route
  • Lionel Lines
  • New Hope & Ivyland RR
  • Wanamaker, Kemton & Southern
  • CSX Corporation [Note 3]
  • United Transportation Union (w/amber unmarked globe)
  • M. & O. (w/etched globe)
  • K. & S.W.
  • Sumper Valley Railway (S V Ry)
  • BRSR (Buffalo Ridge Scenic Railway)
  • TCA 40 YEARS (Toy Train Collectors Association)
  • Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad [Note4]
  • Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway [Note 5]
  • GSMR (Great Smoky Mountains Railroad) [Note 6]
  • B&LE RR 1997 M OF W DEPT
  • WGHSES - Williams Grove Historic Steam Engine Society [See Note 7]
  • Over a period of ten years, the Sunshine Railroadiana & Collectors Association contracted with Adlake to produce a limited number of Kero lanterns commemorating short line railroads from the South. These lanterns were produced in very limited numbers and have now become collectors' items. Harry Oldford of the Sunshine Railroadiana & Collectors Association kindly supplied the following information detailing these lanterns. All lanterns have #300 oil pots.

Railroad # Made Marking Globe
Aberdeen & Rockfish RR (NC) 54 A&R RR red yes
Apalachicola Northern RR (FL) 34 AN RR amber no
Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay RY (GA) 95 ASAB RY amber no
Atlantic & Gulf RR (FL) 27 AGLF RR red yes
Chesapeake & Albermarle RR (NC)
C&A RR clear yes
Dunn Erwin RY (NC) 24 DE RY clear yes
Florida Central RR (FL) 23 FCEN RR clear no
Florida Midland RR (FL) 37 FMID RR amber yes
Florida Northern RR (FL) 36 FN RR blue yes
Florida West Coast RR (FL) 33 FWC RR amber yes
Gulf & Ohio RYS (OH) 17 G&O RYS clear yes
Hartford & Slocomb RR (MS) 14 H&S RR clear yes
Mississippi Delta RR (LA) 14 MSDR RR clear yes
Pee Dee River RY (SC) 47 PDR RY amber yes
Port of Palm Beach District RR (FL) 34 PPB RR red yes
Valdosta Southern RR (GA) 25 VSO RR amber yes
Wiregrass Central RR (AL) 16 WGCR RR clear yes


Since the first Heritage Kero appeared, there have been many changes in markings and to some extent in the style of the lantern itself. The most noticeable change was the "Bald Top" (No ridges on the smoke dome) which came about in 1969. At that time the lantern was also not marked as an Adlake product, and the burner was the only place where the Adlake tradename was evident. (It should be noted that some "real" lanterns share the "Bald Top" design, such as B&O, WM.RR, BN Inc.) In later years the markings on the top of the dome reappeared, and current lanterns are top-marked "Adlake Kero Railroad." The new lanterns also have an indentation in the bottom of the font holder to allow electric lighting.

For the most part, Heritage Kero's can be seen as a legitimate evolution of an item that has basically outlived its original purpose. However there is a dark side. Since many of these lanterns have either historical railroad names or historical-sounding names, they have the potential of being mistaken for true railroad artifacts by unknowing collectors, either now or in the future. In fact, the popularity of the internet auction makes this problem all the more likely, and heritage lanterns show up constantly in such auctions, often with descriptions that imply real railroad use. The only defense against this is for collectors to educate themselves in identifying Heritage Kero's. These lanterns have features that easily date them as modern items, even though the markings may have a historical ring to them. In addition, sharing information on new markings that show up will help to keep the list of such lanterns up to date so that collectors in the future will not be misled.

When the Adams & Westlake Company was first formed in 1874, it's doubtful that the founders foresaw the sale of their lanterns as souvenirs or collectibles, and it's even more doubtful that they anticipated the enthusiasm of collectors in acquiring their products. But given the growing popularity of collecting railroad artifacts, it appears that the Adlake Kero has found a new life. What once was an obsolete, industrial tool now seems certain to continue its evolution into the next century as a reminder of all that people love about railroading.


1.Kero Lanterns marked for the Arcade and Attica Railroad were actually used for both train service and sales to the public. Ken Hojnacki kindly gave us permission to post these comments: "I was the regular weekend fireman for the 1975-77 seasons. At that time, we didn't run when it was dark so no reason for lanterns. However, I think in 1976 we made a couple of after hours runs to Java Center with specials. Because I had already worked a 10 hour day, I couldn't work the night trains as train crew. However I did ride and help with passenger loading and unloading. I used one of these Keros, which I still have and a couple of the train crew did, also (trainmen worked shorter hours to avoid the hog law). It was well after dark when we arrived back in Arcade and the lanterns were our only source of light for the departing passengers. I think we did that two or three times while I was there, using lanterns."

We have seen an example that appeared to be the 1964 version of the Kero, based on the characteristics of that style.

2. This common carrier is the interurban operated by the Fox River Trolley Museum.

3.CSX is of course one of the major Class I railroads. Subsequent to publishing this article, we received an email from J Garland Coates who kindly gave us permission to post the information that he provided. He states,"Concerning the so called CSX hertitage lantern, IT IS NOT A PROMOTIONAL ITEMS GIVEN TO SHIPPERS. These lanterns were designed by me and produced by Adams and Westlake with full knowledge and permission of CSX legal and copyright department etc. Why were these lanterns made? I am a signal maintainer on the Piedmont Subdivision between Richmond and Gordonsville,Va. We generally received a safety incentive gift every six months. In 1998, myself and two of my friends thought it would be nice to recieve lanterns as gifts for the complete Northeast region... I went to Maryland in 1998 and presented the idea of receiving lanterns as an incentive for the Northeast region but it did not pass muster, unfortunately. So I pursued this for our safety team and after getting through all the red tape I had a prototype made for approval... I had forty eight????? 1998 editions made. The year 1999 passed with no mention of making a 1999 edition, but seeing the year 2000 approaching I thought it would be nice to have a lantern millenium dated and went thru the process again. I think 86 CSX 2000 lanterns were made...Again I will tell you that every lantern made had the blessings of CSX authority, otherwise I would not have had them produced."

4. In 2001 a special run was made for the Maryland & Pennsylvaina Railroad's 100th anniversary. The run was produced by the M&P Historical Society with the permission of the Emmons Company (which owned the remaining properties of the M&P). 100 tinned lanterns were produced with the marking M&P RR. These are marked just as the original's were although the M&P never had short globe adlakes, only Reliable's and short and tall Armspear's. There is a special comemorative sticker on the bottom of the lantern. [Info provided by C. Stewart Rhine]

5. This is a Maine 2-foot line. This railroad is being rebuilt on the original grade by the WW&F Railway Museum. They even have a web site. This is a very active group that has built a 4 stall engine house with 7 track yard, passenger station, and freight house which is the museum. About a mile and a quarter of track has been put back down so far. The museum owns 26 miles of the original 45 mile line. In 1999 an order was placed with Adlake for 50 tinned lanterns and 10 brass plated lanterns. The intent was to keep 15 of the tinned lanterns for the train crews and sell the rest as a fund raiser. The railroad runs at night and all switching and signaling is done with kero lanterns. It was decided to have company lanterns for the brakemen and keep them on a lantern rack in the station house. All lanterns are marked WW&F Railway and are numbered on the bottom. The numbering was done in the WW&F shop. The brass lamps are numbered 1-10 and the tin lamps are 50-99. These lanterns were purchased for use by the railroad and many of them have been purchased by museum members and train crew. The remaining lanterns have been sold to the public in the gift shop. There are maybe 6 or 8 tinned lanterns left unsold at this point [November, 2002].[Info provided by C. Stewart Rhine]

6. The GSMR is a recent short line that was formed after the abandonment of the Murphy Branch of the Southern Railway by the Norfolk Southern. GSMR is a recent RR, post 1989 and mostly known for its excursions on the Murphy Branch from Dillsboro NC to Bryson City and beyond. Its year round business is a few freight customers along the branch. [February, 2004].[Info provided by George W. Armistead]

7. We received an email in early 2019 as follows: "There is a small group outside of Gettysburg Pa called Williams Grove Historic Steam Engine Society. In the 1990's they contracted with Adlake to have custom stamped lanterns reading WGHSES. These were supplied in both galvanized and brass plated versions with multiple lamps being shipped with colored globes. Since I don't know the exact number of the production, I don't know if this is any value to your list. I do know there were less than 40 produced. I personally owned two brass versions with a red and blue globe in them. Unfortunately I have since sold them back to members of the association. [Info provided by Jack E]

Acknowledgments: Thanks to everyone who contributed information!