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Welcome to our Question & Answer Bulletin Board -- a bulletin board for collectors and anyone else to post questions about railroadiana. It is moderated (all volunteer) but is not staffed by "experts". Rather it relies on everyone to share what they know. Any question or reply about railroadiana is welcome except the following:

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Latest 25 Questions:

 Q2818 Old N&W Switch Lamp  I have an old Peter Gray lamp that says Boston Gray on the top and has a plate with N&W RR written on it. Do you know about the time period of this lamp? It has a light bulb in it and is wired for 120ac. Put a new light bulb in and a plug and it works! I wonder if it was originally kerosene. It mounts on a post but also has a metal bucket style handle on the top. It's painted black but I would like to restore it. It has two green and two red lenses. But when I plug it in they all shine red. Seems odd to me. Thanks in advance, Bryan Harless Signal maintainer Norfolk southern  Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2014 by BH, NS Signal Maintainer   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Bryan; ..Please send in a photo. Take one with your cell phone if you have to. I suggest taking those lenses out to see what is going on with the red color coming through the green lenses. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. I submitted 3 photos to the admin this morning hopefully they will post them soon. Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2014 by BH

A. Here are the photos.... Link 1  Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014 by BH

A. Bryan, very cool lamp. It is a "later" model Gray-Boston lamp, but I cant give you a date any closer than 1940s to 1950s; ..and that's a guess based on appearance. It looks like there are some spot welds on the dishes around the lenses. Spot welding, though an 1880s technology, didn't see widespread use in industry until the 1930s --- Here's why those lenses look RED; ..they are reflectors and not meant to transmit light from within the lamp! The red color is coming from the barely translucent backing on the lenses, probably either a pink or gray color I'm guessing. -- I have no idea how the lamp got wired for electricity; but here's a guess. It may have been wired for electrical use while still in railroad service; many were. Some lamps were wired with the small bayonet base lamps (much like automotive tail lights), However; some were wired for standard screw in base lamps of either low voltage or even 110v. Railroads have always opted for durability. The low voltage wiring in locomotives and cabooses was very heavy duty; at least as durable as what you'd put in a house, so often low voltage railroad light fixtures are mistaken for 110v applications as they used the very same sort of hardware. Either way the screw in base of the lamp would have been the same as a modern incandescent bulb you'd use at home. If that were the case, the lamp likely would have been once again converted by the railroad by inserting the reflectors in place of clear colored glass optical lenses and then no longer used as a lit lamp, though retaining the electrical wiring. .. The other possibility is that a previous non-railroad owner decided to light it with an electric bulb. -- OR is it a small screw in base like a Christmas tree light?? -- If a small screw in base, it is a post-railroad application. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Yes I should have realized they were reflectors, but it is definately 120vac. I put a plug on it and a new bulb in and it lights. I know most everything these days on the rr is 12v dc with switches being 24v or 110 ac in rare cases. But as far as the lamp goes it has been very professionally outfitted with a white round base with a regular house bulb. It is definately not a hack job. I would like to find some old glass lenses though. So your saying it was originally kerosene more than likely? Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014 by BH

A. Hmmm, after a closer look I don't know about it being kerosene originally. The sliding side door could be for kero or electric. The question is whether or not the lamp originally had a smoke stack on it. Many roads took old kerosene lamps and electrified them just as they were; ..problem was that lots of bugs got into them, just like a porch light. Because of that many roads removed the smoke stack portion of the upper lamp body and welded the original stack cap back on the body to seal it closed. Lamp manufacturers apparently also did something similar; omitting the stack segment and welding the cap on the top of the body at the time of production; hard to say at this late date. -- Regarding the 120v. socket: Railroads USED 120v sockets and plugs and wiring in steam locos and cabooses AND in lamp conversions!! ...they were, however using low volt incandescent lamps in those standard 120v sockets! GE and Sylvania made low volt light bulbs that were otherwise identical in every way to standard 120 volt household ones, same size, same threaded base; ..just low voltage filament inside. ---- ....Red Beard Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Dear BS, You have a rather common, N&W, originally electric switch lamp. It was never Kerosene. This is the only type of lamp made by Peter Gray that the N&W used as far as I have found in 40 years of collecting. The N&W usually used Adlake cannonball electric switch lamps in the yards after they abandoned kerosene Armspear Lamps. These Peter Gray lamps show up in the "smaller" yard locations. Larger yards like Bluefield and Roanoke used Adlake. It was originally fitted with glass red and green lenses, hence the lense hoods. The N&W at the very end of usage put reflectors in some. A good photo of this lamp in use can be found in the book "N&W in the Appalachains: published by Trains Magazine along side a Z steam loco in Norton, VA. Also the same lamp is depicted in a Winston Link photo in several of his photo books and one is in color at night. Hope ths info helps and hope you find lenses and enjoy the lamp!!! GaryP P.S. These were operated on 24Volts D.C. A 110 Volt bulb will work safely as the wiring and socket are rated at that. Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014 by GaryP

 Q2816 Lamp/Lantern ID Needed  I have search and searched and cannot find information on the use of this lantern. It would be great if you folks would take a look at it and see if you can identify the use. Thank you for any information you can give.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, September 21, 2014 by KW   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A.  To save anyonee else the time on this, using Control+ to expand the photo I think the tag on it says Adams and Westlake Company, Makers, Chicago.  Posted Monday, September 22, 2014 by KM

A. KW, I notice on the bottom what appears to be holes to accept a switchlamp fork used by some southwestern railroads. Is this possibly an early switchlamp? Only a guess. Gary Posted Monday, September 22, 2014 by GaryP

A.  Checking in "The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Railroad Lighting-Volume Two-The Railroad Signal Lamp" pages 76 and 77 there are some similar switch lamps from around 1890, but not exactly like this lamp. The lenses and vent holes are different. Your lamp is all braass, and has 4 bulleye clear lenses, a switch lamp should have some colored lenses and usually was made of steel. Bullseye lenses and brass construction make me wonder if this was a marine lamp?  Posted Monday, September 22, 2014 by KM

 Q2815 Odd B&O Item  I am not sure what this item is. It has an odd shape. It is made of thick copper and is approximately 8 inches long. Any help would be appreciated!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Sunday, September 21, 2014 by Atlas   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Perhaps a milk can ID plate identifying the farmer so the empty can could be returned after shipment of the milk. Posted Monday, September 22, 2014 by JFR

A.  This is a tag from a milk can, O. B. Streaker was probably the dairy farmer and the tag identified him as the owner so that when the can was empty it could be returned to him. Searching Streaker and Sykesville leads to Oscar Streaker, and there is a street named "Streaker" in Sykesville, MD. Also see Q 2554,2303,2207 and 1192 in the Archives for other questions about milk can tags. Posted Monday, September 22, 2014 by KM

A. Alot of times when the old milk cans are thrown out, being brass or copper, these tags are the only part that survive.  Posted Monday, September 22, 2014 by DA

 Q2814 Age of Lock?  I just got this Lackawanna lock made by Yale at a flea market. I have similar locks from the B&O and NY,NH&H RR. This particular one had a key hole cover (removed by a previous owner) while the B&O and NH ones do not. Does anyone know the approximate age of these locks? Thanks in advance for any information anyone can give.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, September 15, 2014 by JN   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. These were used as Signal locks, mostly for doors on signal equipment. I believe that they were from the late 50's. Most did not have the spring loaded cover on the bottom. A lot of the ones that did, were removed by the signal maintainers as they would bind up and be difficult to open in bad weather. Most were made by Yale or Corbin lock Companies. RLN Posted Monday, September 29, 2014 by RLM

 Q2813 Unusual Handlan Lantern  Hello! Can anyone help with information on a Handlan Lantern? It is nickel plated and stands 10 1/2 in. tall excluding the bail. I'm curious as to how this lantern was used because even though it has a lot of conductor lantern traits it seems like more a functional display type lantern. There is a Handlan Lantern #112 that is shown as a railroad lantern in their 1918 catalog and hung on a elongated wall mounted hanger. The wall hanger bracket held the top of the bail with a hook and right around where the burner would be there was a spring loaded clamp that held the lantern body. What would be the purpose of such a hanger? emergency use? outdoor lighting? This lantern seems similar to a #112 but because of the fat top on the dome I think it is from a much later time period.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, September 13, 2014 by DF   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. The kind of mount you describe, with the spring clip around the base of the lantern, was commonly used on fire apparatus, where the lanterns normally stayed mounted to the vehicle and had to be protected from banging around when the apparatus was enroute. Since each fire company would have very few such lanterns (relative to RR employees) they would typically invest in a lot fancier equipment. See Dietz 'Fire King' lanterns for examples.  Posted Saturday, September 13, 2014 by RJMc

A. Thank you! RJMc for your information. One other question. Around what year was this Lantern made? I'm not quite sure but I think Handlan Lanterns started with a flat top smoke dome in the 1940's Posted Sunday, September 14, 2014 by DF

A.  See Q2368 in the Archives which is about an Edward Miller fire department lantern. The photo in Link 1 shows the lantern and some of the apparatus mounting bracket. The fire apparatus manufacturers usually made their own brackets,Seagrave brackets had a small hasp on them so that a tiny padlock could be used to keep the lantern secured. Link 1  Posted Monday, September 15, 2014 by KM

 Q2812 Presentation/Conductors Lanterns  Regarding presentation/ conductors lanterns I am wondering if anyone out there can tell me (estimate) what percentage of them were given as retirement gifts or awards VS actually used in service on the railroad, and also why there are so few of these lanterns in existence in general? Research tells me that many of them were used in passenger car service as they were more attractive looking than the standard lantern which as we all know didn't have as nice an appearance when compared to the conductors lanterns, even when brand new. The fancier passenger trains in those days were elegant to say the least, and the brass and nickeled conductor's lanterns fit right in. What surprises me though is how few of them are out there to be bought and how few you would see in a typical collection. Even advanced collectors have very few of these. So the question remains, if there are so few of those type of lanterns out there how likely is it that it was used in 'actual service' given that there were so many passenger trains, and many would have 1st class coaches? If I were to guess, I'd say that most were used in actual service, and the reason why there are so few of these lanterns in general is that they were used almost a century ago and many of them didn't survive to be in today's collections. Am I right???  Posted Wednesday, September 10, 2014 by Steve B.   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. In most earlier periods, if a conductor had a presentation-quality lantern, he had purchased it himself. I doubt that any RR company ever issued that quality of item for daily use; just too expensive. Replacement parts were available, so these would never wear out to the point of being discarded. Those circumstances made them instant 'family heirlooms' and many still reside on family mantles today. Even allowing for retirement or award presentatons, compared to the common hand lanterns very few ever existed. In addition, electric flashlights became commonly available after 1900 so there was absolutely no reason to have a kerosene lantern to do the conductor's work inside a first-class passenger train which also had electric lights by then. In contrast, the common kerosene hand lanterns were inexpensive (they are just stamped tin, after all)and they WERE issued by the companies, and they bought them and handed them out by the case (12 or 24 lanterns at a time)as they were lost, damaged, and wore out. And they were used by larger numbers and more kinds of employees, and issued for use at stations, towers, shops, maintenance gangs, etc etc so there were vastly greater numbers of them to begin with. And they continued to be used even up to the 1960's (Penn Central bought, issued and used kerosene hand lanterns at towers and crossing shanties, for example)so the supply of them continued to be renewed, where for presentation lanterns it was only the retirement and award use that continued much beyond 1900.  Posted Thursday, September 11, 2014 by RJMc

A. Thanks for your reply RJMc, I never really considered that a conductor would buy his own lantern, just to have a nicer one than the railroad provided, and it never occurred to me that there was electric lighting or flashlights for use. It does make sense then that overall, few of these were produced as compared to the standard tin lanterns. Interestingly, I saw an old ad for Conductor's lanterns and the price was $6.50 ea. I used a inflation calculator to see what that would mean in today's world in 2014 compared to 1914, which was $140. Even in 'the old days' those lanterns were expensive, and I can see why any railroad would rather settle for the standard 'tin lantern' to give to it's employees. I think I have an even greater appreciation now for the two CT Ham conductor's lanterns I own, one brass and one nickel plated. Thanks again and happy collecting! Steve B. Posted Thursday, September 11, 2014 by Steve B.

 Q2811 What is it?  I'm just trying to figure out what something is. The UPRR museum told me they don't have time to identify something and suggested you as one place to check. My parents own property that was a railyard until the 1930s. This was found on the property. I think it is a speaker of some kind. Each end is stamped 'Racon Electric Co. New York'. Just trying to figure out what it is other than 'some kind of speaker.' Thank you.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, September 8, 2014 by JS   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. This is a 'Yard Speaker'. These were used for many years before it became economical to give every individual employee a hand-held 'walkie talkie' two way radio, and/or to put a radio on every switch engine -- such as they now have. The speakers were placed at strategic locations all around major yards, such as 'hump' classification yards. The yardmasters were usually located in two, three, or more story glass-enclosed offices where they could observe and direct operations. They talked over the loudspeaker system to direct engine crews and/or ground employees as to which cars were supposed to go into which tracks, for one example. I believe in many cases the speaker could also act as a microphone, so the ground worker could go to the speaker and talk back (always politely, of course!) to the yardmaster to inquire about uncertainties or confirm instructions. In some early (probably 1950's or so) operations, the yardmaster would talk out using the speaker system, and the employees were given 'talk only' portable radios to answer back when needed. Since two way radio prices have dropped dramatically, and the costs of maintaining hard-wired speaker networks have increased dramatically, essentially every RR locomotive has a train radio, and every operating employee and most maintenance employees now have and use a walkie-talkie, including in yards and on the road both.  Posted Monday, September 8, 2014 by RJMc

A. I have to say, I'm surprised and disappointed by the Museum's response, though they did send you to the right place. -- You might want to resend the photo to them along with this information. They need to be able to answer questions like yours. -- JS, would you be willing to tell us where the property is and which yard that was? -- What you have is a two-way Yard Speaker / Microphone. These were placed throughout the yard on poles about seven feet high. They were push-button operated (early 20th century technology). When switchmen needed to ask the yardmaster a question about a specific car or cut of cars, the switchman would push the button which would beep the speaker in the yardmaster's office and show which speaker in the yard the switchman was using; the yardmaster would answer on his desk speaker and the two would talk with each other. At the end of the conversation, the yardmaster would push a button shutting off the yard speaker. (no need to listen to all that noise all day) The yardmaster could also initiate a conversation by activating any given yard speaker with a beep and calling out to the crew. These speakers were a tremendous innovation as before their time, switchmen needed to run back and forth to the yardmaster's office anytime they had a question regarding the switching list they were working off of. -- Prior to switching cars, a yard clerk would go out in the yard and write down a list of all the cars (initials and numbers) on a track. The yardmaster would go through the waybills for those cars and see where they were going and then mark up the clerks list of cars, showing the switchmen which track they were to switch each car to; this then became the switch list. In this process, cars were grouped together that were going to the same destination; they would then be made up into trains. -- (Occasionally the yard clerk would need to ask the yardmaster something as well, and I used these a few times when I worked on the U.P. in Council Bluffs in the 1970s.) -- To the best of my knowledge, some of these are still in use on pars of the U.P. ---- ....Red Beard  Posted Monday, September 8, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. It was a lumber yard that the trains went through. Many of the buildings are still standing and most of the track on the property is still there, buried under years of dirt and gravel. It's located at 40th and Lake St in Omaha, Nebraska. It used to be part of the Western Laminates, Lumber complex. We were told they stopped using it for trains in the 1930s. But it's always possible people were wrong. We've owned the property since the late 90s.  Posted Monday, September 8, 2014 by JS

A. JS, thanks for getting back to me with that additional information. -- Now this is getting interesting! -- Your property was on the old Missouri Pacific Belt Line, (Google: Omaha Belt Line Railroad) The Belt Line served many industries in that part of town, including the old Red "D" Mix concrete plant there on 46th between California and Capitol; some of which is still there. There was a concrete bridge at 46th where the Belt Line went over Dodge street. -- the Belt line was in service into the 1970s, ..maybe early '80s.. An industry like a lumber yard would have received most, if not all, of its materials by rail back in the day. As freight traffic shifted more and more to trucks, industries were able to locate anywhere and were no longer tied to being near a rail line. The 1930s would be much too early a date for that though. --See Q2404 for a little history on this -- Because of the bulk and weight, many building products still move by rail however. Lumber and drywall board are still key components that are shipped on center beam flatcars in the trains we see today. I would bet that the complex you describe got materials by rail nearly to the end of the belt lines service OR until the lumber yard went out of business and another industry took over the property; one that didn't receive materials by rail. See how much history you can come up with concerning prior owners of the land. -- It's not unusual for still active industrial tracks to sink into the dirt to the point where the ties are buried and the rail head is nearly at surface level with the ground; so the track being buried is not an indication of decades having passed since its use. In fact, at a lumber yard, having tracks buried nearly to the rail head makes them much easier to cross and less of a hazard. Also, the industry owns the tracks on its property and therefore has to pay someone to remove them if they are no longer in use; a very expensive process. Burying already sunken rails under a few truck loads of dirt and gravel would be a much cheaper option. -- A lumber yard would have had several switches and tracks running through it, -BUT- it would not require the type of speaker you found and there would be no yard office or yardmaster; just a few sidings that the MoP (Missouri Pacific) crew would have switched cars in and out of. The industry would have been switched at most a few times a week, maybe less. --- Here's My GUESS; Many industries used to use two way speakers to communicate from the office to the work floor or to out buildings. Much like you hear "wet clean-up in aisle seven" at the grocery store today. Many lumber yards had speakers out in the back of the yard so the office could call for materials to be brought up front, or just to check and see if something was in stock. Probably one of two scenarios; either the lumber company bought the speaker from the railroad when they sold off surplus materials. (the UP was known for bringing in no longer needed materials from all over the system, and auctioning them off at the Omaha Annex building) ...or someone "liberated" the speaker out of a UP rail yard one night and put it to use there at lumber company! (lots of things like that did happen) ---- ....Red Beard Posted Tuesday, September 9, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

 Q2810 Smoking/Drink Stands  Hello today I picked up a couple smoke drink stands from a sale. One nearly complete and the other missing the ashtray. The kids of the man's estate that was being sold said that he worked for Santa Fe here in Topeka. When I asked the seller what he thought they were from the kids thought they might have came out of a train car but that he didn't know for sure. I was curious if anyone has seen these In a Santa Fe or maybe an Amtrak car? By comparison to online photos I would imagine these to be much later than what I have seen. I would guess 70s or 80s. It's a chrome base with a solid painted wood top. I appreciate any help in placing it in a time frame and maybe a rail road. Thanks much.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, September 5, 2014 by NG   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Follow-up: I went back the next day and found a circular top that I overlooked and also a couple rectangle table tops of the same material and hard rubber edges. I'm starting to wonder if this guy possibly got these as they were throwing them out as leftovers. They all seen new and unused and a couple of bases are missing interior welds like they weren't yet finished. Thanks for any help.  Link 1  Posted Monday, September 8, 2014 by NG

A. Topeka was the major passenger car shop on the Santa Fe system. When Amtrak started up in the early 1970's they quickly acquired and built up their own Beech Grove Shops at Indianapolis. But well into the 1980's (at least) Amtrak had so much work (converting hundreds of prior-RR cars into the 'Heritage Fleet') that they continued to contract with the Santa Fe Topeka Shops for a lot of passenger car repairs and rebuilds. This kind of smoking/drink stand was commonly used on Amtrak lounge cars. So there were quite a few of these stands involved. I clearly recall riding in the lounge car on the Amtrak Broadway Limited one afternoon. The well-dressed gentleman across from me tried to set his (thin aluminum)can of Coca-Cola into the indent in the top; whereupon it fell straight thru and began to spray Coke onto his well-shined shoes. Those holes are just a little too big for the newer cans! The older style of all-stainless smoking/drink stands had another shelf under the top, so nothing would thru like that.  Posted Monday, September 8, 2014 by RJMc

A. Thank you very much RGM for the reply and all that information. I had a feeling it was probably Amtrak because it didn't look too old. I didn't know Amtrak contracted with the Topeka shops but that makes perfect sense how these ended up in a Santa Fe employees estate. The holders hold a modern can of coke today but just by the skin of its teeth. It was a terrible design just asking for messes haha. Thanks again for your help and information  Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2014 by NG

 Q2809 Lantern Question  I have an old railroad lantern with the markings Eug. Halard const***,(the rest is under a rivet) then paris 17 rue Richard Lenoir. And on the front is SNCF. It is a kerosene lantern made of brass and the dome part or chimney is steal or tin. I was wondering what company made it and what year it was from and exactly what type of lantern it is,is it a conductors lantern, inspectors lantern...? Thank you in advance for any and all information you can provide me on this it is greatly appreciated. Sincerely,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, September 2, 2014 by Stormy   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. It's an acetylene hand lamp of the French National Railway (SNCF), made by Eugene Halard at the Paris address shown, probably sometime between 1938 and 1960. (SNCF was formed when the French railways were nationalised in 1938.) These lamps were used for signalling and general lighting purposes, in the same way as "globe" lanterns in N. America.  Posted Wednesday, September 3, 2014 by JAJ

 Q2808 Headlamps  Can someone please help me with information on these headlamps? Thanks   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Saturday, August 30, 2014 by Clinton   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A.  Here's some crude French to English tranlation for starters. Brevetes means patented, SGDG has something to do with French patents. You might try to do a search through the French patent office website, although I tried and information was only available if I had the patent date and not just the name that the patent was granted to Ferblantier is tinsmith, lampiste is lamplighter. Maison Chatel Jeune Faucon made marine lanterns, I was able to find one shown at Collector's Weekly website but no information on it. That makes sense though. look at those anchors that are on the tag. These do look like French locomotive headlamps that sit on the pilot beam. See Q 1045 and 1153 in the Archives for other questions about lamps from France. Posted Monday, September 1, 2014 by KM

A.  Brevetes SGDG is close to "Patents Aplied For", SGDG translates to Sans Guarantee Du Government. Posted Monday, September 1, 2014 by KM

A. These are a pair of French locomotive headlamps, quite early examples and, assuming that there are no railway initials stamped on them, possibly from minor lines. In spite of some "wear & tear", to be expected, since they are well over 100 years old, they are very attractive and historic lamps.  Posted Monday, September 1, 2014 by JAJ

 Q2807 Bell Question  I have a bell that I believe is from a locomotive but need some help identifying it. It weighs about 60 lbs is marked on the top with this serial # 732418 then the Pennsylvania keystone symbol and then the letter C. The bell was bought in Pennsylvania. It is just the bell with nothing else. Thank you for any help!  Posted Monday, August 25, 2014 by Bill   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q2806 PRR Marker Light  The PRR had the claw footed marker lamps early 1900's. The tops of these have numbers. I have seen some of the bases with numbers running top to bottom. I also saw some of the bases with no numbers. Why is this?  Posted Saturday, August 23, 2014 by TW   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q2805 Signal Green / Kelly Green Globes  Why would a railroad use a Kelly Green Globe instead of the usual Signal Green Globe? Both have a difference under a kerosene flame. What was the significance of this if there is an answer? Thank You.  Posted Saturday, August 16, 2014 by Keith   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hi Keith; can you say a little more about where you have seen Kelly Green globes so we can more specifically answer your question. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Sunday, August 17, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Red Beard, Look on this website under "Globe Basics". It shows both colors side by side. Also on this website under globe markings 5 3/8 inch globes, it lists that PRR as using a Kelly green globe. Under lanterns, a Kettle Valley Adlake Reliable with a Kelly green globe. I also have globes of both colors in 5 3/8 inches along with a Handlan marked 4 1/2 inch kelly green globe. Books do not mention this. I always wondered if this had to do with outdoor weather and surrounding vegetation involving color refraction with the color spectrum so it would not be mistaken for blue. Thank you Keith Posted Sunday, August 17, 2014 by Keith

A. Keith: Great question! -- Thanks for the clarification about them being tall globes. -- SEE: Questions 1730, 1891, & 2020, for some additional discussion on Green Globes. -- Over the centuries, creating colored glass has been an art and mystery full of closely guarded secrets. It wasn't until the early 1900s when Corning Glass invested quite a bit of time, money and scientific investigation into producing colored glass of standardized color and reasonable clarity, that standardized signal colors were made available for railroad signaling. This was the birth of what we now call "Signal Green". Signal Green itself has changed a bit over the years too; becoming a little lighter and clearer (less murky) so it would transmit more light, making the lantern light brighter. -- The document I quote in Q1730, a history of the Corning Glass company, states that in the late 1800s, Corning was producing 32 different shades of green glass for railroad signaling. This was because different railroads had, independently, chosen various shades of green for their own "standard color". -- "Signal Green" was introduced in about 1905. As the short globe lanterns didn't come into existence until, ..what?, the 1920s I think; there are no legitimate short globes in "Kelly Green / Grass Green" colors, as those shades of green were phased out, railroad by railroad, in just a few years after the introduction of the standardized "Signal Green" color; well before the production of the first short globe lanterns. -- Tall Globes are a whole other story. Tall globes were produced in all of the above mentioned 32 different shades of green, and likely a few additional shades of green as well. As tall globe lanterns survived past the introduction of "Signal Green", some globes for those lanterns were produced in the new "Signal Green" color. The darker and "greener" shades of green globes were made prior to the nationwide adoption of Signal Green. The old shades of green that you mention were gone by about 1914 on all American railroads as all American railroads had adopted the new standard colors from Corning by that time.. --- to clear up a misconception about "Signal Green"; the blue-green color was NOT produced to appear "Green" with a kerosene flame. It was carefully chosen to be easily identifiable at as great a distance as possible and still remain the same perceived color at that distance. -- The "Kelly Green / Grass Green" colors of the 1800s tended to be murky, not visible at any great distance and many shades tended to separate and appear yellowish at a distance, literally changing color as you got farther and farther away from the lantern or lamp. "Signal Green" could be seen and identified at a good distance and still retained the same perceived color hue whether close up or far away. ---- .... Red Beard  Posted Monday, August 18, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Red Beard, Thank you very much for all the information. I will take note of all this for reference. About six months ago I found the patent information on the signal green color and cannot locate it again. I remember it was invented by a professor at Cambridge or Cornell University around 1906-08. It also stated why this particular color was chosen in order to get as true a green as possible with a kerosene flame. The signal green even differed between manufacturers. Adlake used a dark blue green or teal color whereas Handlans color is more of a green blue or jade green. I will look up the information you gave and try to find that patent information. Thank you Keith Posted Wednesday, August 20, 2014 by Keith

A. Hey Keith, I think you will enjoy this government document on "Color Designations For Lights" ---- .... Red Beard Link 1  Posted Friday, August 22, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. Note to responders: If you type a web link in, make sure that the full URL is used, including the prefacing "http://" or "https://" . When this part is left off, the server assumes a local path which results in a "404" error -- "not Found". Thanks. Posted Friday, August 22, 2014 by Web Editor

A. Red beard, Link 1 works fine. The article is very interesting in that it divides colors into chromatic separation and how the eye sees the chromatics. Purple is interesting in that railroads never had a true purple. It was always a cobalt that allowed red to mix with the blue in spots creating the purplish color as observed chromatically by the human eye. I saved the article on my permanent screen for reference. Thank you very much. Keith Posted Saturday, August 23, 2014 by Keith

A. Hello Keith and Red Beard,What I found most interesting about this document was the fact that now we know that there were indeed 2 different signal colors-blue and purple.Everyone seemed to call blue lenses,kerosene purple,which was not correct at all.Interestingly enough,I have seen numerous Corning and Kopp signal lenses and roundels,with inspection tags stating AAR Tested PURPLE but never a tag stating AAR Tested BLUE.I worked with this signal glassware for decades and this is my observation.How about you other collectors out there ? Comments ?  Posted Sunday, August 24, 2014 by DJB

A. DJB, That's true you usually only see tags saying, Tested purple, or Tested Lunar White. Most others will say, AAR Tested along with the government number. . Some of the purple and lunar white will have this imprinted on the edge of the glass also. Now........into chromatics. Cobalt when viewed with a light containing blue itself will show a pinkish cast. This allows red wave length absorbsipn, makes the flame appear white and only then allows the color blue to be seen with the eye. On the purple tested this pink color in the glass is left out allowing the red wave length to go thru, mix with the blue and allow that pinkish blue to go thru allowing the eye to see a purplish glow. Red plus Blue = Purple. That is on of the reasons you never see other stickers with, Tested Red, Blue, etc. They already conform to the government specifications and will have the number written below AAR Tested. I have also seen kerosene pink, lunar blue ...........and it seems no one can define these odd or made up colors either. Thank you Keith  Posted Sunday, August 24, 2014 by Keith

A. Hold on to your hats, guys! ...read this Link (LINK 1) ...LOTS more on signal COLOR!! ---- ....Red Beard Link 1  Posted Tuesday, September 2, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. ALSO: ..check out his "Signal" page (LINK 1){ http://www.railroadsignals.us/ } and click on the various signal types for some pretty detailed information (Semaphore, Searchlight, ..etc) ---- ....Red Beard Link 1  Posted Tuesday, September 2, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

 Q2804 Lamp ID Needed  I have a B&O tail or caboose lantern made by Adlake. Most caboose lanterns only have one or two mounting brackets but this one has 4, one on each corner of the lantern. It has me confused as I've never seen one before and can find nothing in any books I have or an internet search. I know we can't ask about value but can you offer how rare or common this is? There are 3 small blue/green lenses and one larger red lens. As always, I appreciate your help.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, August 14, 2014 by JC   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A.  Lamps like yours are rare, unusual and very interesting pieces. These show up on eBay every now and then and I've seen only a half dozen or so over the years; ..which is very few, as I've viewed and studied well over a thousand switch, class and marker lamps on there, and that thousand I've taken the time to really study is a small fraction of the lamps that have been listed on eBay in that time. As I recall, all of these unusual lamps were listed as being B&O, so my best guess is that this was a design unique to the B&O. Why the B&O fancied this particular arrangement is likely lost with the ages, or hopefully, buried in some bulletin a paper collector may have squirreled away somewhere. As far as I know, the football shaped indentation extending above and below the green lenses are unique to these lamps as well. **A photo of the interior of your lamp would be helpful !** -- Notice the legs holding the cap to the lamp; they are on the outside of the vent cone. That indicates the age to be between the early 1900s and the mid 1920s. As I recall, some of the similar B&O lamps I've seen had those cap legs inserted down through the mouth of the vent cone and attached to the inside of the cone. That means those lamps were from the late 1890s to the early 1900s -- Regarding its value: for people who want to insure an item, I suggest doing an ongoing search on eBay for similar lamps (which may take a while for this piece). Join eBay, save the item to your eBay account "Watch List", and track the eventual final sale price through your account, save the page, and see if your insurance company will accept that as a documented insurable value. ..very cool piece!! ---- .... Red Beard  Posted Saturday, August 16, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. I am no expert by any means but you might want to look at as many B&O cabooses as possible for a for a possible photograph of one in actual use or the architecture of a caboose for its possible use. Thank you Keith. Posted Saturday, August 16, 2014 by Keith

A. Red Beard - Thank you so much for the information. It was helpful to know some history and mystery behind the lantern. You brought up some things that I did not notice. It will not allow me to attach a picture so I would be happy to email it to you. My email is rockee40@comcast.net.  Posted Sunday, August 17, 2014 by Red Beard

A.  JC; The round body Adlake lamps (switch, marker or signal) in the late 1890s that had the cap legs inserted down the mouth of the vent cone, were some of the first round bodied lamps railroads used. Earlier lamps had flat sides and a square box like body. Your lamp represents the next easily noticeable design change with the legs on the outside of the vent cone. The early 'round body' lamps were more air-tight than the old square body 'box-style' lamps. -- Take a look at the bottom of the page on 'Link 1' to see early 'box-style' marker lamps. -- The "new" round body markers offered many advantages; one being, you didn't have to cut a hole in the side of the car to accommodate the lamp. - With the advent of the round body, outside mounted markers, came the possibility of being able to rotate the lamp and thusly change which lens pointed to the rear of the train; so the rear facing color could be changed easily. --- The four mounting brackets on your lamp are clearly an early, non mechanically moving, structurally very solid and pretty much fool-proof way to achieve that rotation. -- Railroads liked things that were structurally solid and therefore long lasting and harder to break. They also liked things that were fool-proof. My guess would be that the B&O official that chose this early standard design with four individual brackets, saw it as being very durable and less prone to problems than a lamp that rotated and needed to securely index and lock in position in a round bracket; as do the markers we are more familiar with. -- Other uniquely road specific lamps are well known: The "cookie-cutter cap" home shop made lamps of all kinds on the Milwaukee, the dual mounting arm markers on the AT&SF that would accommodate both the 1800s vintage slotted flat plate style car brackets and the more familiar and smaller cast car bracket, the D&RGW's Handlan Class Lamps with the unique 'Radial Fresnel' lenses { http://www.lanternnet.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=WKL&Product_Code=HRL26&Category_Code=MRG } -- (the address being too long auto-link to!) ** can anybody think of some others?** ---- ....Red Beard  Link 1  Posted Sunday, August 17, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. in the above, I probably should have said "Cylindrical Body" not round body, as some later lamps, such as the 1112 have a spherical, or 'round' section where the lenses attach. ---- ....Red Beard Posted Sunday, August 17, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

 Q2803 PRR Key Manufacturer?  I just purchased a PRR key. It is a coach or caboose key. It is marked S&M Mfg Co. Philadelphia,PA. It that Stuart & Masterson? Any clue to the age of this key? Thank you for any assistance you can supply me.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, August 11, 2014 by JN   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Its actually Stuart & Mattson. I see ads for their products in the 1880's.  Posted Tuesday, August 12, 2014 by DA

 Q2802 Bell  A good friend brought this bell to my shop and asked if I could get it working. He stated that he acquired the bell from his late friend who was a retired railroad fireman. His friend told him it came from a steam locomotive, possibly on the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. Acting on the assumption (seldom a good idea) that the number stamped on the bell might reference the train it was used on, I found a 1921 photograph of a D & RG steam locomotive number 727 on a University of Denver website and, voila! Sure looks like this bell to me! The bell also has the word Brady embossed on the inside, as seen in the attached photo. I assumed this might be the name of the bell's maker, but have been unable to find any information about it. Having made two assumptions already, I decided to make a third and assume you might shed some light on what has been a delightful curiosity for me thus far. Everything I have learned to date has come from perusing your Q & A archives. Wonderful stuff! Thank you!   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Monday, August 11, 2014 by John   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q2801 RR Sign 'Cat Eyes'  I have a white railroad sign with cat eyes, but some are damaged and need replacing. I took one good one off and it is stamped Grote 3F. Are replacement cat eyes still being produced? I want them to match the ones already on the sign. The Grote ones have a screw on the back that is secured by a bolt on the back of the sign.  Posted Saturday, August 9, 2014 by CC   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Check eBay at least twice every week. You should be able to find an exact replacement if you search continuously, as they come up over time. ---- .... Red Beard Posted Saturday, August 9, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

 Q2800 Square Bottom Lantern  My father in law has a lantern. On the top has DIETZ in the center. Bottom has N. Y. U.S.A and 4 stars on the sides, 2 at 2:30 and 3:30, and 2 at 8:30 and 9:30. Any best guest of year? Thank you   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Tuesday, August 5, 2014 by DC   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Woody Kirkman at lanternnet.com can tell you everything you want to know and more about your Dietz lantern. See Link 1 Link 1  Posted Tuesday, August 5, 2014 by JF

A. Several manufacturers made similar style lanterns; Dietz and Handlan among them. Though this looks like a railroad lantern, with the 'bird cage' around the globe, your lantern is a 'Utility' or 'Sewer' lantern; clearly identifiable by the oversize fuel pot base. --- Utility companies, road construction crews and city sewer departments used these lanterns as warning lights at work and construction sites. They were often hung on sawhorses which were set up as road blocks and barricades to keep people from falling into holes where crews were digging up utility and sewer lines, open manholes, closed or washed out bridges, road repair areas and the like. These saw horses were frequently set up with only one upright and a crossbar, making a triangular barricade, with one end of the crossbar resting on the ground. --- The large fuel tank (square on Dietz and round on Handlan) allowed the lantern to burn all week, 24/7, without needing to be refilled; that way they could be lit, placed and left for several days without need for maintenance. Then as now, road crews liked to tear things up and then not come back to repair it for a few weeks. --- Today, when street lights are very bright and placed everywhere, it is hard to imagine how dark streets and roads were at night 50+ years ago. Many city streets were pitch black at night, and country roads were even darker. In such dark conditions, a few red kerosene lanterns drew needed attention to hazards at night and their dim red light was visible at quite a distance, ..even in town. ---- ....Red Beard Posted Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

A. When you go to the Kirkman website listed in the first answer above, look for the '8-Day' Model lantern (see Link below for direct ref.). As listed there that model was manufactured between 1934 and WW II, and there may be a more specific date code stamped into the lantern. And there is a (small) chance it is a real 'railroad' lantern because electric interurbans and street car lines all had to do extensive maintennance on their in-street tracks, often requiring digging out the pavement, and may have used these for the same reasons mentioned above. Any lanterns used this way would likely have been stamped with company ID to try to keep them from wandering away.  Link 1  Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014 by RJMc

A. Since this was also made around WWII it could also be used by the military on there railroads and other areas such as Corps of Engineers, field camp sites etc. but there is no way of telling as the military did not usually mark anything during this time and later such as Korea and Viet Nahm. Most of the lanterns in Quartermaster Supply were plain,simple and functional only. Keith Posted Friday, August 15, 2014 by Keith

 Q2799 ALCO Builder/Number Plate IDs  Do records exist which would show what type of locomotive and and to which railroad a locomotive was originally sold? I recently came into possession of a ALCO builders plate with a date of August 1910 builders # 48250 and I would like to find out what type of locomotive it came off of and what RR owned it.  Posted Tuesday, August 5, 2014 by GB   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. If you have not heard already this plate ALCO 48250 should be a Denver, Northwestern & Pacific 2-8-0 # 123 Posted Thursday, August 7, 2014 by CD

 Q2798 Santa Fe Mason Jar Lids  I see these Santa Fe mason jar lids around. Are these railroad or were they produced by the Santa Fe Foods Company in Arkansas City, Kansas who uses a similar logo? Or is the Santa Fe Foods actually part of the Santa Fe Railroad? Thanks for any insight.  Posted Monday, August 4, 2014 by Nick   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q2797 PEI Brass RR Switch Lock Markings  The hasp on a Prince Edward Island Railroad old brass switchlock has the small letters H.S.A. stamped on it plus a larger S for switch. Are these letters the manufacturer’s mark and what company do they represent?  Posted Friday, August 1, 2014 by DJB   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hi DJB, I'm a Canadian collector of locks and keys and have seen several PEI switch locks but don't recall the H.S.A stamp marks. I was curious so I looked up my index of lock and key manufacturers which has about 30 or so, and did not see a match to what you have there. None of my older locks have those markings either. You have me stumped! On the bright side, the PEI locks aren't too common, so congratulations! If I had to guess, I'd say that H.S.A was the maker's mark, and likely a small obscure company which the railroad contracted to make these. Posted Monday, August 4, 2014 by Steve B

A. Hi Steve,Thanks for your reply to my question.I imagine that the answer to those initials will surface someday or maybe sooner than I expect.Did the CNR go thru and change all the PEI locks to CNR's and if so,about when.I see that they operated this small RR until its abandonment.My lock doesn't look very recent because it has blind,flush rivets and a cast brass chain swivel which are usually tip-offs to an early lock.Thanks again. DJB  Posted Monday, August 4, 2014 by DJB

 Q2796 Adlake Lamp/Lantern  I bought this Adlake railroad lantern recently and would like to ask some questions for the experts. First, why the rust colored paint job? Was it originally black? Other than some minor rust it is in great condition. Would it lessen its value if I took it apart and gave it a good paint job? Next, where might this lantern be used? It has plastic red and green lenses. It appears the round metal base was added for display. What would the approximate time of use be? I'm really tempted to give it a good cleaning and nothing else?   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Friday, August 1, 2014 by JPH   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Update: Upon cleaning, the lenses are 4 1/2" Corning glass not plastic. Posted Friday, August 1, 2014 by JPH

A. Its a pretty common electric switch light which comes up for sale on Ebay just about every week. Your correct about the round bottom base.Clean it, paint it black, rig it with a 4 watt night light and enjoy it. Posted Friday, August 1, 2014 by LP

A.  This may be an Adlake model 1396 or 1406 electric lamp. They had shock absorbong springs built into the base rhat helprd cushion the bulb filament.Sorry I can't give you a timeline for the production of them. Is the paint really rust colored or is it sun bleached red paint? See Q2728 in the Archives which is about a Nevada Copper Belt RR switch lamp that is painted red. I would leave this lamp as is and not paint it. Posted Saturday, August 2, 2014 by KM

 Q2795 Armspear Marker Lamps  I have two pairs of Armspear marker or tail lamps. One pair is known to be N&W and is completely original and unrestored. The second pair has been repainted externally and is missing the founts, burners, and chimneys, but is otherwise identical to the original pair and probably also N&W. In both pairs, the two lamps are set up differently. Facing the red lens and calling this 6:00, the wick raiser on one lamp (on the right in the photo) is at 10:30, and is at 1:30 on the other. I assume this is to allow easy access to both wick raisers when they are mounted on the rear of a caboose. What is interesting, is that in both pairs, the 'right' lamps with the wick raiser at the 10:30 position, have two screws and nuts on the flange joining the top and bottom body halves at the 7:30 position, while the other three flanges on these lamps, and all four flanges on the 'left' lamps, have just one screw and nut. There is no evidence that there was once a centered hole on the two-screw flanges so it is likely they came from the factory this way. Was this perhaps the Armspear method of identifying the right and left lamps, rather than attaching 'right' and 'left' labels as on some Adlake lamps? Thanks for any information about this.   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, July 31, 2014 by GQ   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. GQ; what size are those lenses? Are the red lenses the same size as the yellow? ; they look like they are all the same diameter. -- I have an extensive collection of lamp photos and have gone back through those. I can find no photos of switch lamps with the two screws arrangement. -- I can only find one example of a pair of markers with one having the same paired screws as yours. It too has smaller lenses like yours. On the Armspear Markers with 5 3/8 inch lenses, the flange space between the lenses is so small that there isn't enough flange for two screws; so I'm thinking this could have only been a feature on lamps with lenses of 4 1/2 inch dia. or smaller; and Armspear liked those 4 inch and 4 1/8 inch lenses; ..which is why I'd like to know the size lenses on your lamps. --- Let's focus on the hardware on the lamp, rather than the lens color, as lenses can be switched around, and it's now been over four decades since markers were used on American railroads; so lord only knows who's disassembled, mixed or replaced lenses on any given lamp by this time.. Look at the flip-open top on the lamps; there is a hinge on one side and a hasp on the other, to hold the lid closed. --- As you are describing the layout of the wick raisers, it seems that you are saying that on BOTH lamps, the wick raiser is on the side where the hinge is; that is to say, opposite the hasp. Is that correct? --- In the photos I have of the pair with the "two screw" arrangement on one lamp, the "Right" lamp (two screws) has the wick raiser on the hinge side but the "Left" lamp has the raiser on the hasp side. --- Positioning the raiser on the "inboard" side of the red lens when mounted on the caboose, either left or right, meant that the crew could reach it to adjust the lamp while standing on the platform of the caboose; a significant safety feature. ----- DON'T repaint those lamps! ----- The bright yellow original paint on those is IRREPLACEABLE !! - That deep yellow paint gets its color from Cadmium pigment, which is no longer available. You will not be able to duplicate that beautiful deep yellow color!! --- ---- .... Red Beard  Posted Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Red Beard the Railroad Raider

 Q2794 Rail Car Light  Hi, I have this old lamp from a rail car and am trying to find information on it. Any help you can provide would be a great help. Thank you for your time and assistance,   [Click on image for larger version.] Posted Thursday, July 31, 2014 by RB   Post a Reply  Email a reply

 Q2793 A&W Lantern Latch  Hello, My question is: what year did the A&W company change their lantern lid latch from bent wire, to a flat latch?  Posted Thursday, July 31, 2014 by RDC   Post a Reply  Email a reply

A. Hi, I don't know the answer myself, but Adlake is still in business. If you contact them they can probably help you with your question. JN Posted Thursday, July 31, 2014 by JN