Railroad Hand-Signal Lantern, ca. 1850

Railroad Hand-Signal Lantern, ca. 1850

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This railroad hand-signal oil lantern was likely used on the Concord Railroad during the middle of the 19th century. The metal lamp has a glass globe with the initials “C.M.&L.” engraved around the middle. These initials likely stood for the Concord, Massachusetts, and Lawrence 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."
Object Name
lantern, hand signal
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
America on the Move
America On The Move
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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