Questions & Answers
Buying & Selling
Unusual CPR Lantern
One of the best aspects of collecting railroad lanterns is running across examples that are unusual. The lantern shown here was initially the focus of question #1156 on our Question Board, but space limitations on the board prevented showing more than two photos. Since the question generated a lot of interest (and controversy), we are showing more (and bigger) photos here. Thanks to RF for the original photos and to all the collectors who have responded. Click on any image for a larger version. The question and answer thread is shown below the photos. Update: We received an interesting image of a Boxall advertisement in March, 2009 from Pete, who posted the original question.
Q1156 CPR Lantern I just purchased a railroad CPR lantern which I believe is authentic. No markings except on top of the lantern which identifies it as: C P Ry The bell bottom unscrews from the top part to expose the fuel container which is part of the bottom. The bottom is appr. 6 inches across. The lamp is appr. 10 to 10.25 inches in height. No patent dates anywhere. The oil container is appr. 2.5 inches in height. The wick holder is made of brass and is the flat style wick. What I found unusual, is that there is no wick raiser or wick turner to adjust the height of the wick. Also, you have to unscrew the flat wick holder from the top of the fuel container to add oil or kerosene. The fact that there is no wick adjuster puzzles me...Is it possible that it is from the 19th century and that it was made to function with sperm oil instead of kerosene? I am a oil lamp collector and whale oil lamps did not have wick adjusters. The globe is the tall style with an embossed rectangular window but no markings or embossed letters in the window. The glass globe glows green under blacklight, sign of old glass. I took a magnet and it does not stick to the hood top so I believe it is a brass top but I can't be sure because it is painted. What is the maker of the lantern and it's age? Also, should I strip the lantern of it's paint to show the brass hood? Any information would be appreciated. Thank you. [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, September 21, 2007 by RF
A. This appears to be made by Star Headlight Company, and it may have been made for Noah Piper Railway Supply Company of Montreal. See Q 844 in the Archives, which has a very good discussion about a similar lantern. And look very carefully just below the ridge in the top for a very fine stamp which says N.L. Piper, that may be obscured by the paint. There are two clues that show in your photo that this is a Star, one is the ears for the bail which are made from the vertical guard wires, and the other is the bead in the top which is just below the CP Ry lettering is rounded. And it is an early Star because it has the three piece top. Also your lantern has a "button" release for the top, not a loop formed out of wire. For example, Adlake uses a more angular straight bead on the top, and made the ears from the last horizontal wire on the frame. And as to the burner, it depends on what resource book you check, in "Lanterns That Lit Our World" (Book One) by Anthony Hobson, on page 17 there is a "sperm or signal oil burner, flat wick, 1860 to 1890" shown. In The Illustrated Encyclopedia of railroad Lighting:Volume One-The Railroad Lantern by Richard C. Barrett on page 190, he shows a similar Star lantern to yours. And on page 311 there is a 1916 catalog page from F.H. Lovell that shows a number one or two burner for signal or lard oil without the ratchet that also looks like your burner. Signal oil was a mixture of lard oil and other lighter oils. The #1 burner had a 7/8 inch thread and a 5/8 inch wick, the #2 had a 1&1/4 inch thread and a 7/8 inch wick. Lovell probably did not make those burners, they were also a jobber or wholesale supplier. Barrett also mentions that Star made the lantern with either a brass or tin top, and that patent or manufacture dates are not shown on them. So a guess as to age, 1890 to 1910. Star was incorporated in 1889, and they are still in business making electric trainmans lanterns, and other specialty lighting. Posted Saturday, September 22, 2007 by KM
A. Hi , I am the one, Pete, that posted the original Q 844. I now have the Question 1154 and noticed this post. I , while accepting , that I am far from the knowledge of many on this forum , was never fully satisfied with the outcome of the answer. For many years , and even yet , there are many Fruit jars and insulators that are attributed to US manufacturers. The Consolidated Fruit Jar Co GEM.(CFJ Co logo) The Hero Fruit Jar Co ( HFJ Co in cross) The DETER , the list goes on and on. These jars were made in Canada under patent licence till the patent ran out then the Patents on the bases were removed. Insulators have the same problem in styles , where because of the GTR crossing the border , the US made both the CD 718 & 740 that are of Canadian design. We on the other hand copied US styles for some signal styles. My point in all this, is to at least keep open the likely possibility , that while the Piper's were working as tinsmiths they could have aquired the specs and the right to produce the Star items here. I'm sure there are some on this site that could see where the dates would apply. I have studied Canadian glass and there is still much to be added and old info to correct. I hope this post is not taken as a unreasoned atack on the current info, but as a possible line of inquiry. Posted Saturday, September 22, 2007 by Pete
A. This lantern has me puzzled. Its construction doesn't bear decisive resemblance to any American mfr. I suggest that it may be a Canadian-made piece, but why aren't there more examples to refer to?? It doesn't resemble any Star lanterns I have or have seen. Comparing features of those manufacturers that I'm familiar with, the brass top looks more like a RR Signal or Kelly, and the upright bends in the bail ears are different from Star's looped ends. The lid contours and the lettering are definitely not standard Star features. The CPRy lettering and the chimney look like Adams and Westlake to me, and the cage is too straight (Star cages have more of a bulged, pear-shape). What has me particularly intrigued is the method of the base attachment to the bottom cylinder. The photo of the base detached is too dark to see the detail of the base collar, but the spring clasp looks different from anything I've seen. I'd really like to see better photos of the base in the collar area, and its underside. Please post a better-exposed photo of the base. A straight-on photo of the lantern would be helpful too. As for the burner, it's a standard lard screw, and requires a pick to adjust the wick height. Early RR lanterns sometimes have a holder for the wick pick in the fount cap, but this one doesn't look to have it. Kerosene was not widely used as a RR lantern fuel until after WWI. I would date the manufacture of your lantern to the 1880-1900 time frame. If you decide to remove the paint, a strong, water soluable paint stripper will work fine, applied carefully with a 1" China bristle brush, followed by a good detergent wash. Always wear proper eye and protective equipment at all times. This lantern looks like it would probably not warrant any further cleaning, as it looks smooth and rust free under the paint. Stripping the paint may reveal some patent dates and possibly a manufacturer's hallmark if you decide to do it. Otherwise, enjoy it the way it is. It's a great piece. Posted Sunday, September 23, 2007 by ASwoyer
A. Hello K.M., Pete and A. Swoyer. First of all, thanks for taking the time to reply. I have sent 2 more photos to the webmaster asking if he would kindly post them. From a collector's point of vue, what would your opinion be as to the black paint...was that the original color or were these lanterns unpainted and if the later, should I strip it? I don't think the paint is original because it's condition is just too good. Posted Sunday, September 23, 2007 by Rick F.
A. Without certainty of the manufacturer, I can't be sure whether the black paint is or is not original. If it's a Canadian piece, I may not be able to say for certain. Most (American-made) RR lanterns were made of tin plated steel because the tin plating provided a basis for easy soldering and provided some measure of corrosion resistance in service. US hand lanterns were typically not painted at the factory, except for the Dressel 1144 and Dietz 999 during WWII. More than likely, the black paint on your lantern was applied later on. I'm hoping that you may be able to enlighten us all by discovering some patent dates or a manufacturer's hallmark somewhere on your lantern. If it's there, it may be hiding under the paint. I'm looking forward to seeing how the base attaches. At the very least, your lantern looks to be unique to what I've seen in 40 yrs of collecting. Why aren't there more examples out there? CP was/is a big RR. Is there a Canadian RR lantern expert that can share their knowledge and enlighten all of us? Posted Sunday, September 23, 2007 by ASwoyer
A. The mystery and intrigue continues. The wire spring retaining catch gizmo is similar to those used on fixed globe lanterns made by the Kelly Lamp Co. I have never seen this on any of Kelly's no. 39 models. I think this might be a Canadian-made piece. The base has brakeman's ("ice") spikes too!! They're different from A&W and others. Nothing matches up with known features of American-made lanterns. Who made this lantern?? Canadian collectors, please enlighten us about this cool piece. Posted Sunday, September 23, 2007 by ASwoyer
A. Here's some info for what it's worth. About a year ago I won a CPR brass-top lantern on the world's greatest auction site. The seller speculated that some of the big guns in the hobby didn't bid because the lantern had some peculiar features -- as if they thought the lantern might be someone's basement fabrication. But the seller kindly forwarded to me an email received from a Canadian collector who said that the lantern was authentic. A subsequent email from this very helpful collector said the following: 'I've got the exact same CPR lantern in my collection, and I had a second one, years ago which a friend restored and now resides in his collection... I do know where there is a nice ICR brass top bell bottom in this style that you bought, only the top holes are shaped exactly like the GTR fixed globe lanterns that I've seen. Some of these fixed globe lanterns are marked J. Boxall Toronto C.W.(Canada West). The lantern you won has some of the features that I notice as being made by Boxall. What is known about Boxall, is they were an early tin ware manufacturer constructing lanterns and many other items during the early GTR days. I'm not sure when they went out of business.' I have forwarded some images to this website for posting. What really surpised me was the thin wire on the base of Rick F's lantern. Mine has the same kind of wire. I had assumed that this was some employee's or collector's modification since it is so flimsy, but it may be 'factory' after all. Bottom line: RF's lantern may be by Boxall. [Web Editor's note: the pictures are posted below]. Posted Sunday, September 23, 2007 by PK
A. I did strip the top. With lots of elbow grease (there was years of grime as the brass was quite tarnished) it now looks much better .Posted Tuesday, September 25, 2007 by RF.
A. I guess a quick look with a flashlight isn't the best to identify a lantern. The ICR ( see pics) lantern that I have is quite like this CPR ( my guess is somewhat older). The spring retaining wire is missing but the solder where it was held is there. The cage of the GTR fixed globe is, as I said supposed to be Boxall made. Because of this post I realise that the ICR must be as well. I originally bought the ICR as a possible base to the GTR, but the diameter of the interlocking base and globe are different sizes. I have never looked at identifying features on lanterns, just picked them up as they came if priced right. I now know I must spend some time to learn the odd ones and not miss a possible worthwhile piece. Posted Tuesday, September 25, 2007 by Pete.