Crossing Watchman's Lantern

Occasionally a common railroadiana item takes on significance by being an unusual variation on what is normally seen. Such is the case with the lantern shown here -- a 1955 crossing watchman's lantern similar to the familiar "Kero" brakeman's lantern. The Adams & Westlake company made thousands of short-globe "Kero" lanterns for the railroads over a number of decades. In fact , the company continues to make this model for commemorative or souvenir purposes - see A&W "Heritage" Keros.

However, the lantern shown below has some features that differ from the run-of-the-mill Kero. It has blinders and an unusual thumb latch. According to Rob Hoffer who supplied these pictures...'

" The blinders are painted flat black and are designed to fit the lantern. I also believe that the lantern itself was designed to be a crossing watchman's lantern. It has a larger than normal thumb latch designed to clear the blinder. If the blinder is placed on a "normal" Kero lantern the thumb latch will not clear. I also believe the fresnel globe was used for two reasons: (1) It has a smaller diameter than the standard 3 1/4" globe. When the lid is raised to take the globe in or out, it is a tight space because the rear blinder will not allow the lid to open as wide as a "normal" Kero lantern, and (2) the globe magnifies the light providing a better (safer) signal. "

Lanterns like these were used by watchmen employed by railroads to flag automobile traffic when trains were running through busy crossings. At one time, such watchmen were mandated by municipalities for public safety purposes. Today, modern crossing signals generally serve this purpose, and crossing watchmen, along with their lanterns, have passed into history.

First two rows. Front, back, top, and bottom views of a 1955 watchman's "Kero" lantern.
Third row. Comparison of thumb latches on the watchman's lantern on the left compared to a regular "Kero" lantern on the right.

Our thanks to Rob Hoffer for providing these images and information.