Fixed-Globe Lanterns

Above: Fixed-globe lanterns from the 19th century featuring marked, cut-glass globes. The lantern on the far left has a globe marked "C&M RR" (Concord & Montreal Railroad); the one on the far right has a globe marked "P&K RR". Photo by Bill Kajdzik taken at the 2000 Gaithersburg show.

Fixed globe lanterns date back to the earliest days of railroading. Their main characteristic is a globe that is fixed, that is, cemented into the lantern frame. Many companies made fixed globe lanterns. The heyday of this lantern type -- roughly the decades before, during, and after the Civil War -- preceded the era when a few large companies came to dominate the industry with standard models. The large number of companies in the business meant a wide variety of frame characteristics and globe shapes, since each small manufacturer came up with its own innovations and product development. This was the time period when railroad construction in the U.S. was most active in the Northeast, so most railroad markings found on fixed globe lanterns are from lines in this region. Moreover, the large majority of these are from New England.

The earliest fixed globe lanterns tended to lack guard wires, that is, wires that formed a "cage" surrounding the globe. According to Tom Walsh, "The addition of a cage to protect the globe can be documented as early as 1850... Whether or not a railroad used caged lanterns seems to be a matter of geography and lantern manufacturer, than of the time period it was made. It seems New England makers did not generally make caged lanterns until the late 1870s. During this same time period, lantern makers in New York State and the Chicago area made caged lanterns more often than their New England counterparts. Since most railroads purchased lanterns from local suppliers, New England railroad lanterns tend to be cageless more often than lanterns used elsewhere. By the 1880s almost all railroad lanterns had globe guards of some kind. " *

Gradually, fixed globe lanterns were superseded by lanterns with removable globes, a real advantage in dealing with breakage. The 1890's are generally considered the end of the fixed globe lantern era, although there is evidence that the Boston & Albany Railroad used such lanterns later than this period.

Above Left: A C.T. Ham fixed globe lantern with a globe marked "B. & A. R.R." (Boston & Albany Railroad). Photo by Paul Koren. Above Center: A fixed globe lantern made by Sargent with an unmarked globe. It has a brass tag that indicates a patent date of Sept. 17, 1861. Photo by Kevin Kruger. Above Right: A fixed globe lantern made by Star Headlight & Lantern with a red cast globe marked "B. & A. R.R." (Boston & Albany Railroad). Photo by Tom Stranko.

*Notes: Information sources are Barrett and Tom Walsh's article "A Treatise on Fixed Globe Lantern Fastening Techniques used in Early lanterns," published in Key, Lock & Lantern Issue #94, Winter, 1989, Pages 1875-1876.