Railroad lanterns that were used by the Railroad had various uses and meanings. Some lanterns had different colored glass globes which had different meanings. They were used as signals and messages by all the railroad personnel.
Caboose lantern (kerosene) with shade hung inside the Caboose Car for light. It is made to swing or sway with the train as it travels down the track.
Carbide Inspections lamp was used by the rail car inspectors and the Engine inspectors from 1890 – 1940.
Trouble Shooting lantern and a Trainman Signal lantern were used from 1925.
Caboose Marker lamp was used on the end of the caboose. When the Caboose was no longer in use, this lamp was replaced by a red marker at the end of the last car on the train.
In 2018, Randall Magnusson a Chattooga County and Northwest Railroad Historian and Retired General Manager – Chickamauga Railroad Company was the special speaker at the Chattooga County Historical Society Meeting in Summerville, GA on February 8, 2018. He spoke about the history and the use Railroad lamps, in particular the Marker Lamp.
Summerville has honored Mr. Magnusson by naming a portion of the Railroad there in his honor.
Below is part of Mr. Magnusson’s presentation from a handout that he made available to all those who attended the meeting. His vast knowledge comes from his railroad career, research and love of the railroad and wanting to preserve it’s history for future generations.
“The Marker Lamp…Trains operated by train order, which was a paper issued by the Train Dispatcher, authorizing train movement over a given section of track. This ‘order’ authorized a train to move over this section of track. It also directed a train moving in one direction to ‘meet’ another train moving in the opposite direction. In order for trains moving in opposite directions to ‘meet’, the order would direct one train to ‘hold the main track’ and the other train to ‘take the siding’. All trains carried two devices on the rear of the Caboose, or in the case of Passenger Trains, on the rear of the Coach called ‘Marker Lamps’. These were essentially the ‘tail lights’ of the train.
The importance of these markers cannot be over emphasized. Many Times there would be more than one train operating in the same direction on a single track (one following the other). If the first train had to stop, there were two safety measures that were supposed to be in place. First, the Flagman was to get off the rear of the train, equipped with a hand lantern with a Red Globe, a Red Flag, Track Torpedoes and Signal Flares (fuses) and start walking back down the track to “Flag” a second train if it overtook the stopped train. If, for any reason, the Flagman was unable to stop the following train, then the RED LIGHT from the Marker Lamp could very well be the only thing standing between the train crews and “Eternity”.
The Marker Lamps were vitally important and, over the years, saved many tragic collisions from happening.
Each train crew was assigned a pair of Maker Lamps, and they were the responsibility of the Conductor. Before each trip, he would make sure that the wicks were trimmed and the founts were full of kerosene (or coal oil in Railroad parlance). At the end of the trip, he would take the Markers down from the rear of his train and store them until his next trip.
There were several companies that manufactured these beautiful old lamps. Adams & Westlake (ADLAKE), Armspear and Dressel, just to name a few.
Sadly, in these modern times, the Caboose is gone on freight trains. There is still a flashing, battery powered device carried on the rear Coupler (car). Passenger Trains, what few there are, also have an Electric light on the rear.
With modern equipment, such as radio communications, automatic Signals, etc., rear end Maker Lamps are not considered nearly as Important as they once were. Still there was something special and Nostalgic about the flickering flame that powered the old Marker Lamps, not to mention the aroma of burning kerosene. These old lamps were special to the train crews of yesteryear………”.
A “Thank You” goes to Mr. Magnusson, for sharing his knowledge and this information with us.
Some of these lanterns are on display at the Seven Springs Museum for visitors to enjoy and see of times gone by. The Museum also has on display the uniform of Mr. Glenn Mitchell who was a Flagman on the Southern Railroad as well as various other Railroad items.