Antique Railroad Classification Lamp Values

Lights and Lamps often bear a passing resemblance to Lanterns, but are quite different in their purpose and how they were used. While lanterns were designed to be carried by hand for illumination and signaling, lamps were usually built from heavier metal and often had lenses and large fuel reservoirs. Lamps and lights were usually placed or hung on a post or stand. These were used to mark the front of a train and its type, the caboose of a train, used to signal trains at switches, stations, and in rail yards. These objects hold their value as railroad collectibles even when they do not have a specific railroad’s name on them, because they were manufactured solely for the railroads, and often by the railroads.

Classification Lamps were usually placed on the front of a train to indicate what the status of the train was based on its color. This allowed for safe operation when more trains needed to be run than were listed in official timetables, or when special trains were running that were not listed.

Common colors and their meanings:
White – “Extra” train not listed in official timetables, white was usually used by freight trains when a train full of freight occurred more often than expected.
Green – Indicates a regularly scheduled train, but that an extra train had been added behind, this generally occurred when too many passengers showed up for a single train, so another would be sent along behind. Green would tell operators to wait for the second, or sometimes 3rd, 4th, or 5th trains to clear before proceeding.
Red – Indicates the end of a train, this would usually be on the caboose marker, but occasionally an engine would be at the back of a train and display red from its classification lamp.

Most common manufacturers are:
Adams & Westlake
Hiram Piper
Peter Gray
Pyle National

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