Fakes and Reproduction RR Lanterns: New Production

Attempts to completely fabricate railroad lantern frames from scratch have been relatively rare but seem to be increasing. Most of these appear to be made overseas and imported into this country as "new antiques". For the most part, the quality and appearance of these imports are obvious clues as to their origin. However, someone who is unfamiliar with genuine railroad lantern styles and appearances may be fooled. Worse, the possibility for further "weathering" and alterations is reason to be wary.

The following information on newly produced lanterns has been obtained from various sources judged to be knowledgeable and accurate. The information is presented with "honest intentions"; however we cannot guarantee complete accuracy, so please use this information as advisory only -- see disclaimer.  Also, see information on lantern frame alterations and a page on the W.T. Kirkman lantern website covering various fake lanterns.

The lantern at right is a fabrication of a early New England fixed globe lantern. It was found in an antique store with a price that suggested it was clearly being sold as a reproduction. In fact it even has a "Made in India" sticker on the bottom! In addition to the sticker, other telltale clues are the fresh plaster used to cement the globe into the frame (see image below) and the somewhat shoddy construction. In addition, the frame has no fount or burner. While this kind of reproduction may be relatively harmless, there is a danger that alterations could be made to make it appear more authentic.
A brass "barn lantern" style lantern marked "Pennsylvania Railroad" has been produced overseas relatively recently and imported into the USA. There was a legitimate "barn style" lantern used by the PRR, but the counterfeit version has "Pennsylvania Railroad"spelled out on the base rather than the keystone logo, which is reported to be on the legitimate version. Also, examples usually look new (although they could be "weathered" with a chemical treatment). The example shown here has an attractive aqua globe, although we do not know if all examples come with such a globe.
The lantern at right is a modern reproduction. Numbers of these came from Taiwan and were sold for about $25.00 each in boxes of four during the late 1970's or early 1980's. Most came with cheap clear globes with an indentation for the wick raiser to pass through. They were even advertised in "Antique Trader," a weekly newspaper in the antique business. The frames are fabricated in the style of an Adams & Westlake "Reliable" model but there are absolutely no markings whatsoever on them.
The lantern at right has a tag that identfies it as the "New Vigilant Railroad Lamp" made by the Scott Lamp Co. of San Francisco, California. It is a fake, possibly one of the plague of recent brass railroadiana imports.There are also fake lanterns similar to this with a tag that reads "Pullman Silver Palace Car Company". There never was a company with this exact name although there was a Wagner Silver Palace Car Company.
A brass tubular lantern with a tag reading "Central Union & Pacific RR Property" has surfaced. There was no such railroad. These lanterns are probably recent imports.
A different category of non-authentic, new lanterns is the commemorative lantern produced for souvenir or hobbyist purposes. These are usually not intended to be deceptive, but there have been instances of collectors being fooled by them. For example there are Handlan short-globe lanterns marked "DURANGO R G S R" and "SILVERTON R G S R" that were never produced for or used by the Rio Grande Southern Railroad. According to Sue and Bill Knous, these were sold by a shop in Durango in the 70's as souvenirs but have subsequently been purchased by unknowledgeable collectors for as much as $300. There are also short globe lanterns marked "G.C. & S.J. R.R." that were ordered and sold as souvenir items by the Colorado Railroad Museum for their museum railroad -- the Golden Circle & San Juan Railroad. To date, a substantial number of similar lantern markings have been documented, the vast majority of them produced by the Adams & Westlake or "Adlake" Company. These are discussed and listed on a separate web page: A&W Heritage Kero's.

Thanks to Tom Stranko, Rich Hendricks, Bill Kajdzik, Samuel Stott, Doug McIntyre, Bill and Sue Knous, and others.