Tubular "Barn-Style Lanterns

Tubular lanterns are characterized by vertical tubes that flank the globe, as shown by the illustration at right. Although one line of railroad lanterns, the Dietz "Vesta", used this design, the vast majority of tubular lanterns were manufactured for general domestic, farm, and industrial purposes. There were many variations on this general style using both the "hot blast" and "cold blast" combustion design. Many different manufacturers, including R.E. Dietz, Embury, and C.T. Ham, produced tubular lanterns, and some production continues to this day for domestic and specialty markets.

Tubular lanterns are frequently misidentified as railroad lanterns, so much so that railroadiana collectors irreverently refer to them as "barn lanterns". The reality is that railroad companies mostly used other lantern styles specifically designed for this industry. Railroad operations required a particular combination of reliability, durability, and portability that led to the development of specialized lanterns with smaller globes and, in some cases, different combustion properties. Collectors are therefore advised to become familiar with railroad lantern styles, and be especially wary of any claim that an unmarked tubular lantern is a "railroad" lantern.

That being said, some railroads, especially traction companies, did use tubular "barn" lanterns. However, the consensus among collectors is that such lanterns must be explicitly marked with the railroad or traction company name to be considered authentic railroad artifacts. Without such a marking, a given lantern could very easily (likely) have been used for a farm, industrial, commercial, or domestic purpose with no railroad connection whatsoever. See markings below.

Shown below are some examples of traction or railroad-marked tubular lanterns. Note that all of these lanterns have red globes, which seems to be rather typical for such lanterns in traction or railroad service. What were they used for? G.A. Vandercook emailed us to suggest that they probably were used to warn of construction or repair sites on street railways. In other words they may have functioned somewhat like traffic lanterns to warn people of hazards around such sites. There is some photographic evidence to support this theory. Whatever their use, tubular lanterns marked for traction or railroad companies are very collectible.

Above Left: A Supreme No. 210 made by Embury and marked "P.R. CO," for the Pittsburgh Railways Company, the operator of traction services in the Pittsburgh area for many years. The lantern also has an etched globe with the same marking. Above Center: A Little Supreme No. 150 made by Embury and marked "Property of The Cinti. St. Ry.Co." -- Cincinnati Street Railway Company. Photo courtesy of Bob Niblick. Above Right: A Rayo #65 marked "NYNH&H RR Co" for the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, A.K.A. "New Haven". Since the New Haven was a conventional steam railroad, this lantern shows that such railroads did in fact use tubular "barn" lanterns, although there are rather few known markings.


Known Markings

Baltimore Traction (reportedy)
   B.T. Co. (Dietz model)

Boston Elevated Railways
   Boston Elev. (Dietz "Monarch" model)
   Boston Elevated Ry. (Embury "#10 Supreme" model)
   B.E. Ry. Co. (Prichard Strong "Prisco" model)

Cincinnatti Street Railway Company
   Cinti. St. Ry. Co. (Embury #150 "Little Supreme" model)

Connecticut Company
   Connecticut Company (Rayo model)

Detroit United Railway
   D.U.R. (Buhl "Conquest" model)

New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad
   N.Y.N.H.& H. R.R. (Rayo #65 model)
   N.Y.N.H.& H. R.R. Co. (Rayo #65 model)
   NY.NH.& H R.R. (Rayo #75 model)
   N.Y.N.H.& H. R.R. (Dietz model)

Old Colony Street Railway
   O.C. St. Ry (Manufactured by Winfield)

Pennsylvania Railroad
   {PRR in Keystone} * See note 1 below

Philadelphia Rapid Transit
   Phila. Rapid Transit (Dietz "Victor" model)

Philadelphia Traction
   P.T. CO. (Dietz model)

Pittsburgh Railways
   P.R. CO. (Embury "#210 Supreme" model)

San Diego Electric Railway
   SAN DIEGO ELECT. RAILWAY (Embury "#350 Little Supreme" model)

Springfield Street Railway
   Spgfield. St. Ry. Co. (Rayo #65 model)

Union Pacific Railroad
   U.P. (Dietz "#2" model)

Footnotes:

  • In a "hot blast" lantern, partially heated air was mixed with fresh air to promote combustion. The hot air was delivered to the flame by the flanking tubes. In a "cold blast" lantern, only fresh, cold air was fed to the flame. This type of combustion produced a brighter light than a comparably sized "hot blast" lantern. See Anthony Hobson's book, cited below, for details on the two combustion designs.
  • There are reliable reports of a reproduction or fake Pennsylvania Railroad "barn style" lantern, which one source says is made of brass and looks newly made. However, there is a version with a PRR keystone tag that is believed to be legitimate, or at least this is the consensus among a number of collectors.
  • The marking "DW&P" on a "barn style" lantern most likely stands for Department of Water & Power, not Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific Railway. Both frames and globes (etched and cast) are found with this marking, including blue globes. Just what this stands for is unclear. Some collectors have suggested that "DW&P" was a generic marking for "Department of Water & Power" and applicable to many different utilities. But G.A. Vandercook emailed us to suggest that it may simply refer to the Department of Water & Power of the City of Los Angeles. He mentions that this was a large and respected organization known by other municipal lighting experts as marking street lamps etc. with "DW&P". He has further observed that when lanterns with this marking have appeared in internet auctions, most have come from Southern California. So "DW&P" may not be a standard marking but specific to the City of Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. Update: Summer '09: We received the following comment (edited): "I found a "No 210 Supreme" Lantern at my Father-in-Law's house a few years ago.  It has a red lens with "DW&P" cast into the lens and "D.W.&P." on the base of the lantern.  I thought it was a railroad lantern until I read an article on your web site named "Tubular Barn-Style Lanterns".  My Father In-Law lived in Big Bear California at the time I acquired the lantern, and had lived in various places in southern Cal. over the years.  Since it came from So Cal it lends credence to the idea that "DW&P" means Los Angeles Dept of Water & Power." [Thanks to RH]
  • Globes: The listings on this page concern markings on lantern frames, but there are also marked globes that fit these types of lanterns. Markings to date: "P.R. Co." {red etched); IRC" {clear cast for International Railway Company}; PRR keystone logo; "NYC Lines" (fits a C.T. Ham No 0 "Clipper" tubular lantern; P.R.T.Co. (Philadelphia Rapid Transit); U.P. blue globe. Also, see Note 2 above.
  • Although reliable sources have been used for markings, this list may contain errors.   No guarantee is given with regard to accuracy. 
  • To contribute new markings, please give the exact marking, including periods.  Also, please include information on manufacturer and model number, if available. Email us via the Contact Us page with this information. Thanks to contributors of new markings.
  • All markings that are contributed are confidential, and ownership information will not be disclosed under any circumstances. Thanks to everyone who has sent in markings!

Sources:

Hobson, Anthony.  Lanterns that Lit our World: How to Identify, Date, and Restore Old Railroad, Marine, Fire, Carriage, Farm, and Other Lanterns.  (Published: 1993).  Golden Hill Press, Spencertown, NY 12165.