Railroad Hand-Signal Lantern, ca. 1945

This “Conger” model battery-powered signal lantern was manufactured by the Star Headlight & Lantern Company of Honeoye Falls, New York around 1945. The metal case has rusted and the handle has been wrapped in electrical tape to improve the grip. The lantern has two bulbs; a bare bulb with widely dispersed light used for signaling and a smaller adjacent bulb with a focused beam that could be used as a flashlight. The tape label reads “W.L. Metz” for Wilbur L. Metz, who used this lamp during his career as a freight train brakeman and conductor on the Western Maryland Railroad.
Before the advent of portable two way radios, train crews communicated via hand signals during the day, and lantern signals during periods of low visibility or at night. Specific motions of the lantern convey precise instructions such as “Clear to Depart;" "Move the train Forward;" "Move the train Backward;" "Slow Down;" "Slow Down Further;" or "Stop and Remain Stopped."
Currently not on view
Object Name
lantern, hand signal
date made
ca 1945
Star Headlight & Lantern Company
average spatial: 12 1/2 in x 5 1/4 in; 31.75 cm x 13.335 cm
associated place
United States: Maryland, Hagerstown
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
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Work and Industry: Transportation, Railroad
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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