Best Railroad Lanterns – Comprehensive Guide and Type Comparison

Railroad lanterns were used during the past times by the rail workers for several purposes. They were used for lighting and communication, mainly when trains were being directed during operations.

Railroad lanterns could communicate different signals among workers, stations, and trains. The loud sounds produced by trains in motion made communication through speaking difficult since not everyone could yell out loud.

Every worker in stations and train operators were required to have a clear understanding of each signal.

Here below is a brief intro including types and best railroad lantern brands.

What Is a Railroad Lantern?

adlake lantern

A railroad lantern is made of a globe surrounded by a caging or a metal frame with a fuel source. Earlier, the lanterns used oil as fuel but later, it upgraded to kerosene.

Railroad lanterns were portable, and therefore it was easy to move them to a strategic place for visibility. It was a beneficial lighting source that could be noticed from a distance.

A railroad worker would swing and move the lantern in various directions to make different signals related to the message they want to pass across.

In addition to that, other color globes had different meanings with different signs.

But today, with the brass design and some of the homeowners make it a decorative piece.

Top 7 Railroad Lanterns for Decoration on the Market

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Dietz #76 Original...image Dietz #76 Original Oil Burning Lantern (Green) Buy On Amazon
Vela Lanterns Decorative...image Vela Lanterns Decorative Moroccan Candle Lantern Holder for Decor, Blue Glass, Medium Buy On Amazon

What Are the Types of Railroad Lanterns?

You should know and understand the difference between railroad lanterns and oil lamps before buying.

Lanterns were used for passing messages through signals, but lamps are metal covered with lenses used for light transmission from an interior source.

Therefore, when looking for the best railroad lanterns, you should clearly understand the 10 categorized railroad lanterns that classify lanterns. They include:

  • Fixed Globe Lanterns

These are the earliest railroad lanterns; the name originated from its design where the globe was firmly fixed in a frame and could be easily removed.

The lantern was very famous during the decades when civil wars emerged. It is not known when precisely the removable globe lanterns replaced this type of lantern.

The latter did not seem to attract people’s attention; even after its invention, people still preferred the fixed globe lantern.

At those times, there were small manufacturers of this type of lanterns; later on, industrial standardization occurred, and people started manufacturing different styles of fixed globe lanterns.

The best feature attached to this lantern is that it is long-lasting, and its breaking chances are meager. Therefore, if you are looking for stable lanterns, this category is models should be your consideration.

  • Tall Globe Lanterns

They have one distinguishing feature among the other categories: a removable globe of about 5 to 6 inches in height.

The removable globe feature made it preferable to the fixed globe lanterns since it was more convenient then. The globe size well suited the fuel combustion, thus favoring more signal oil, which was essential to feature back then.

They are always in demand by collectors due to their design, size, and variety. Their manufacturing process represented significant technological advancement. It has a lot of models and happens to be the most sought after railroad lantern.

  • Short Globe Lanterns

They are characterized by short globes of about 3 to 4 inches. They succeeded the tall globe lanterns since railroads switched to kerosene as fuel sources after the First World War.

The shorter burning chamber best suited this source of fuel. The two distinguishing features that made them likable are their light weight and were portablility.

Collectors always refer to this category as less desirable but more common because they quickly got invented to fit kerosene when steam power was getting popular.

  • Conductors’ Lanterns

They are unique lanterns used by conductors; thus, their name; they are also known as presentation lanterns. This category of the lantern was used sometimes to elaborate markings giving honors to specific persons.

In general, these lanterns are considered to be fancier than the other styles. They are equipped with brass or nickel plating, and the globes have ornamental lettering. The unique qualities directly reflected the authority of the user.

Today these lanterns are considered to be the most valued collectibles. Therefore if you want a fancy railroad lantern, you should consider models from this category.

  • Inspector’s Lantern

These lanterns were characterized by a unique utilitarian design meant to examine rolling stock. They were made of a sheet of metal with a metal or glass reflecting surface that focused light in one direction.

Nevertheless, the globe was meant to enclose the flame. They are made in different sizes, but the model didn’t vary from one dimension to another.

  • Aladdin Railroad Lantern

For the first time, Aladdin lamps were manufactured by the Aladdin Lighting Company in the early days of the First World War. They are available in many different models, such as brass and glass.

They can work in different lighting colors and pass several messages. They were used for communication in railway stations, but they have been upgraded with much technological advancement.

Now they can be used for light illumination purposes or decorations in different ways. Their prices range from as low as $9 to above $260; it depends on the model and the suppliers’ interests.

  • Rock Island Railroad Lantern

It is a unique lantern with many different models. Its most popular models have lines in the box panel covering the glass. The lantern frame is always made to be strong, with a smooth metal as it is the lantern’s central pillar.

These railroad lanterns were mostly used in the rock island railway line, and they have the Rock Island Railway symbol on top of their globes. Generally, most Rock Island lanterns and other related products are cheaper than all others.

Therefore, if you are searching for more affordable lantern products, this is the best option.

They go for about $7.5 up to $250, varying from different models to manufacturer and supplier.

  • Vintage Kerosene Railroad Lanterns

Vintage kerosene railroad lanterns are among the best lanterns one can use for lighting, for both the day and night.

It can be used either outside or indoors, at night, it produces plenty of light for clear vision and has beautiful dim lights during the day. Most of its models are handcrafted, therefore, adding extra beauty to your place.

It serves the following purposes: garage and backyards lighting, Halloween props, camping, and even country landscaping. Some models can be hanged on walls, and the other design is meant to be placed on a table.

The prices always vary depending on different reasons such as models and materials used to make them. The range is from$20 to $360; other suppliers charge different prices depending on their source and distance.

  • Electric Railroad Lantern

Electric railroad lanterns were invented to replace the oil and kerosene, after the revolution whose power source is corded electricity. They mostly serve decoration purposes since they fit in almost all décor designs; a few still use them for lighting.

They are creatively crafted with metal and glass; most models take after the antique railroad lantern. They use bulbs of up to 40 Watts, equipped with a liner thumbwheel of about 92 inches long used to turn them on and off.

The prices range from about $40 to $400 and above; it depends on the manufacturer and the materials used.

  • Old Fashioned Railroad Lantern

Old fashioned railroad lanterns are still the town’s talk even though they were used a long time ago. They are made in various sizes and colors; they happen to be among the cheapest railroad lanterns.

They use kerosene as their primary fuel source, and kerosene is recommended to be used only outdoors. You can prefer to use them for lighting or decorations; they have been used at weddings, parties, among other celebrations.

The cheapest cost about $10 and goes up to $30. Each color suits a different occasion and the type of décor to be done on them.

Who Makes the Best Railroad Lantern?

Dietz Company is a well-known company for manufacturing lighting products. Dietz lanterns were made between 1915 and 1956.

They became famous when they started producing cold blast and hot blast kerosene lamps and lanterns. It was found in 1840 and had its headquarters in Brooklyn, New York.

It has manufactured the Dietz Railroad Lantern, which is most outstanding than the other lanterns. It is equipped with three candle power; it can provide light for as long as ten hours with a 6oz fuel capacity.

Its design features to protect the glass globe with a protective cage around the glass. It is very convenient for saving fuel as it burns at 3 cents of oil per hour.

The three candlepower is a unique feature since it has timeless twinkles of light in the darkness; therefore, if there are no signals from coworkers, communication will still be there.

Dietz railroad lantern prices tend to vary from suppliers, models, and manufacturers’ preferences. The cheapest Dietz lantern is about $16, which is used for decoration purposes, known as the Dietz Red Lantern Decoration.

The most expensive one goes for about $200; in some cases, shipping costs are added to suppliers’ actual price, thus making a difference between different outlets.

Best Vintage – Dietz Oil Lantern for Indoors and Outdoors

How to Refurbish an Oil Railroad Lantern?

antique railroad lanterns

Most Railroad lanterns were used during ancient times and probably those who used them passed away, during your daily activities you found one and wants to restore it. Here are the steps you should follow for easy restoration:

Step 1: Taking Apart

It is dismantling the whole thing; this should be done more carefully to avoid breaking the glass. Remove all the parts and place them aside; take a piece of wet cloth and start cleaning the lantern with it.

Step 2: Dust Removal

It is advisable to use a liquid dust remover rather than scratching off the metal cage’s dust in this step. Coat the lantern with the liquid, leave it to soak for some time, and then use medium-grit sandpaper to smoothen the surface.

Step 3: Painting

Think about your best color that suits the lamp and paint all the lantern’s smoothened surface. Leave to dry for some days. After it has well-dried, fixes back the parts, you removed such as the handles and glass.

What Does a Railroad Switch Lantern Cost?

Railroad switch lanterns costs are different depending on the model; the cheapest one is about $20.00, the Kopp Glass Amber railroad switch. The most expensive one goes above $320. Some suppliers choose to include extra shipping costs, and others do not.

What Fuel Can I Use in Railroad Lantern?

During the earlier times when railroad lanterns were invented, they used signal oil, later after the revolution, they started using kerosene as the fuel source.

How to Decorate a Railroad Lantern for Christmas?

Decorating railroad lanterns can be the easiest thing; at the same time, it can be challenging. Several ideas will guide you to a perfect Christmas decoration with railroad lanterns. They include:

  • Hang the Railroad Lantern on the wall. It is the simplest among all; you can choose to hang it indoors or outdoors on a knob. Through the lantern rack with several hooks, hang your favorite Christmas flowers around the lantern.
  • Display the railroad lantern in a vignette. Lanterns have been found out too easily coordinating with all other decors. This idea is about just displaying your lantern on a shelf or table with your favorite Christmas decoration items.
  • Use the lantern as a rustic centerpiece. Remove the globe from your lantern, then place your Christmas ornaments on the spaces. It will look beautiful as most Christmas decors fit nicely in the area.

How to Clean an Old Railroad Lantern?

Cleaning railroad lanterns always depends on the manufacturer and the lantern’s state, either dusty, rusty, or oily. Here is a better way of cleaning most rusty and painted railroad lanterns:

  • Remove all the lantern parts, starting from the fuel cap, globe, and burner.
  • Use Windex to clean the globe.
  • Take out the oil pot and check if the oil tank is corroded.
  • If it is rusted, take white vinegar and something like the square lamp chain and shake the tank to loosen the corrosion.
  • Wash all the vinegar out and check on the wick. Cut it off if it has chared at the top, and if it too short, you can replace it.
  • Take a wet cloth and clean the inside part of the metal cylinder located above the globe. Clean the glass too.
  • Then finally, put back all the removed parts.


Railroad lanterns were of great importance during ancient times; they were the primary communication tool among workers in their noisy environments.

There are still many railroad lanterns but are used for different purposes, majorly used for decorations and display. Being available in many other models, one should look for an affordable one that suits their purpose.

Photo Title Buy
LED Vintage Lantern...image Best Electric - LEDERA Antiqued Battery Operated Copper Flame Light with 2 Modes Buy On Amazon
Metal Square Hanging...image Metal Square Hanging Candle Lantern for Home Living Room Outdoor Outside Garden Yard Patio , Curved Glass Insert Buy On Amazon
zkee 11 Best LED - zkee 11" Vintage Style Decorative Lantern with Flame Effect and 4 Hours Timer Buy On Amazon
Rustic Old Fashioned...image Seasons Rustic Old Fashioned Light Up Lantern with Multi-Colored Buy On Amazon
Dietz #76 Original...image Dietz #76 Original Oil Burning Lantern (Green) Buy On Amazon
Vela Lanterns Decorative...image Vela Lanterns Decorative Moroccan Candle Lantern Holder for Decor, Blue Glass, Medium Buy On Amazon