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Lantern Colors
by Robert S. Butler


Color Use
White (clear) Signifies safety and is a signal to proceed. Used for general signaling between members of the train crew.
Red Signifies danger. Used to signal immediate stop.
Yellow (amber) Used to indicate reduction in speed. Yard switchmen used in general duties on some roads. Also used to signal engineer for train orders. On some roads the switch tender would use green lanterns to signal train movement in one direction and yellow to signal movement in the opposing direction.
Green Signal to go slowly. Used by switch tenders (see above) also used by wrecking crews. Wreckmaster would use green lantern to signal engineer of wreck train. Only one person per wreck train had custody and use of such a lantern.
Purple Night identification for bunkhouse cars and derails.
Blue Placed on a car to indicate that it cannot be moved because of people working in/around the car.
Green/White Flagstop lantern-indicates train must stop for passenger or other item. Conductors used such globes to direct light down and minimize passenger disturbance when collecting tickets at night.
Green/Red C&NW used as a caution and station signal.
Red/White Conductors lantern-same use as Green/White.

Globe Height

Height Use
6" Used for burning whale or sperm oil. Usually found on early globes. Heavy rounded edges were designed to help control flow of air to the flame.
5 3/8" Introduced when signal oil began making inroads on the whale and sperm oil market. Signal oil, for optimum visibility, required a smaller burning chamber. Smallest globe that can be made with non-heat resistant glass and not break due to heat.
4 1/2" & 4 1/4" Introduced when kerosene fueled lanterns began to be produced.
3 1/4" Designed during WW I for optimum burning characteristics of kerosene. Push to convert to kerosene due to a U.S. government request to minimize the use of edible fats during the war (signal oil was partially made from edible animal fats).
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