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Common Railroad Item: Uncommon History

June 23, 2008





While working at up at Tilden one day, I struck a conversation with one of our numerous passengers, as I usually do. This particular individual and I started talking about railroad topics as I usually do, which led to this story, and eventually the Item you see before you.

It’s probably one of the most widely produced lanterns produced for railroad use in the Mid-20th Century. It was Manufactured by the Conger Lantern Company of Portland, Oregon (Patent No. 2653218 ) in 1940. The Lantern uses two small round incandescent bulbs in the bottom, similar in size to a large Christmas light bulb, one larger than the other. Powered by an unusual 6V battery I’d imagine it has a good deal of power for a long time.   The Flashlight Museum appraises this particular model at a whopping $15.00 in value.

 Interestingly, each of these lanterns have stamped metal reporting marks indicating which railroad bought them originally. Obviously mine is stamped for the AT&SF. If you look closely below, you can spot the lettering at the far left, just above the seam in the chromed metal.  

 Hopefully, the entire history of this lantern will appear in this space tomorrow, Stay tuned.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2008 2:17 am

    Tahnks for posting

  2. Jill permalink
    February 6, 2010 6:12 am

    I have one of these lanterns , but ther is no stamp on the seam.
    could this be just a rep? or did they all have stamps.

  3. Gwendy permalink
    March 21, 2010 5:20 pm

    I have one of these lanterns too, but like Jill’s there is no stamp on the seam. It was nice to see some information about it though, I think it’s a very cool piece.

  4. Fergie permalink
    April 17, 2010 4:15 pm

    I have one of these, exactly with all the numbers, etc., that are displayed in the photos above (For many years). My wife’s father was a railroader throughout the early 1900s.

  5. Jackie Bennett permalink
    June 24, 2010 2:25 am

    my grandfather was head roadmaster on the union pacific railroad in the 1930’s and 40’s and I to have one of these lanterns along with many items from the railroad some of which I have passed down t my children and some they do not want it is funny how some don’t know the history of itms and it is interesting to know and have some of the items from that era

  6. Sue Villareal permalink
    August 4, 2010 9:49 pm

    I have two laterns–one belonged to my father who worked for the Southern Pacific during the middle of the 20th century. I purchased the other at an antique store. I want to get them in working order, but of course the batteries are long gone. I need a bulb replacement, too. Does anyone know where I can get these parts?

  7. Mark Danford permalink
    January 2, 2011 3:00 am

    I was issued a Conger lantern when I started working for the Rock Island Railraod in 1972 as a switchman. The Conger was the standard 9v electric lantern used in the United States Railroad industry from the 1940’s to the mid 1980’s. It was issued to “Operating Employees” brakeman,conductors and switchman. I do not belive it was issued to engineers. The metal conger was replced in the early 1980’s. With a plastic orange lantern. Mark.

  8. Bill permalink
    January 2, 2011 8:09 pm

    i have one of these as i was a brakeman on the monon railroad from 68 to 73. it still works with both bulbs

  9. February 2, 2011 9:29 pm

    I have one from my dad. Same patent # etc. and it has the at&sf stamp….where he worked for 42 years…

  10. Jim Vetor permalink
    February 21, 2011 10:30 pm

    I Started with the New York Central in 1967 as a brakeman and they did not issue Conger lanterns to us. We were issued the orange plastic lanterns which was larger in size then the Conger. If we wanted a Conger we had to order them and pay for them out of our own pocket which I did and carried one most of the 22 years I worked on the railroad. I owned two of them over the years wearing both out and reverting back to the old plastic issued a little while before I was forced onto disability retirement. They were a fine lantern.

  11. Robert permalink
    April 6, 2011 6:47 am

    I have one that an Ex Espee coworker gave to me. I use at work on trips that I know I’m not going to need to use it much. (ie not on a local.)

  12. Dean Smith permalink
    April 15, 2011 12:00 am

    I have one of these lantern I purchased at Brookstone. On the bottom of mu lantern it has printed Conger Lantern Co. honeoye Falls NY

    • DIANNE permalink
      May 28, 2012 7:51 pm

      I have one just like yours, did you find out what yours is worth?

  13. Pam permalink
    May 25, 2011 5:50 pm

    I have one of these lanterns, mine is from Portland Ore. It has a
    stamp but only of a 4 digit number…What would that mean ?

  14. phillip permalink
    June 6, 2011 3:42 pm

    I have the same light but without the rail road company markings. can you tell me about it and why it was never stamped with the those markings?

  15. Jeff Feltman permalink
    November 14, 2011 2:19 am

    The lantern I have was used by my grandfather when he worked for the railroad in Alabama, sorry I don’t know the company. It uses the “box” 6v battery but my father acquired a plastic insert that 4 “D” cell batteries are used instead of the 6 volt. Works the same though.

  16. JB Deese permalink
    January 7, 2012 3:10 am

    I bought one like this without the RR markings for $8.00 at local auction. Interested in dates of manufacture as it has same patent number but others have talked about being mad until the 70’s??? any infor appreciated

  17. K Gardner permalink
    February 15, 2012 10:24 pm

    I picked up my Conger Lantern at a yard sale. Inside was a typed note from the owner to his daughter Emily:
    “Dear Emily: this is the last lantern that I carried. I obtained it from the SP in Bakersfield. It was furnished by SP. I carried it for 21 years before retiring. The Lantern was the way we talked to the engineer at night. The brakemen and the conductor used lanterns. It saved my life over many thousand times. The rubber ring inside was used to put in between the air hoses you see hanging from one car to another. Carrying our lanterns saved us a long walk to the engine or caboose. The caboose was done away from all trains in 1982. They did away with the fireman and brakeman at that time, leaving only the Engineer and Conductor. It just did not seem like a railroad after that time. Even the public driving hi-ways lost interest in the railroads. They done away with passenger trains in 1970. I worked the last passenger train out of Los Angeles, March 4, 1970. I should say the last night train called The Owl. On the RR we called it No 57 going into San Francisco. We came through two sets of mountains. It was a beautiful night ride. 472 MILES each trip. It took us 12 hrs & 32 mins to make each trip. We carried US mail Express Sleeping Cars. Usually our train pulled 10-11 cars with four engines, first it was steam, then diesel. My wish is that you keep all the railroad stuff I have given you until you pass on. Then leave it to your kids.”
    What a shame Emily wasn’t interested, I love the old thing!

  18. IRMA PERRIS permalink
    March 10, 2012 2:39 pm


  19. Joyce Ballinger permalink
    March 27, 2012 6:07 pm

    I have one that my father carried when I was just a kid. I’m now 73 yrs. old. Dad worked on the N & W (Norfolk & Western) after he worked on the Nickel Plate R.R. I can’t believe how cheap you can buy these on eBay & other places….. it’s a part of our American history !!!
    I would never sell mine, it goes to one of my kids & hopefully on to theirs. A lot of good info. on where to buy batteries & bulbs. Think I would like to see if mines still works.

  20. Harry Shrum permalink
    August 24, 2013 6:02 pm

    I have one that has two letters along the seam. They are N&W. I assume this was used at the Norfolk & Western..

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