As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are temporarily closed. We are not announcing a reopening date at this time and will provide updates on our website and social media.

Railroad Hand-Signal Lantern, 1950s-70s

Railroad Hand-Signal Lantern, 1950s-70s

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
This battery-powered signal lantern was manufactured by the Star Headlight & Lantern Company of Honeoye Falls, New York beginning in the 1950s. The lantern has a metal body with a fixed rubber-coated handle, allowing for better grip during signaling as well as a insulating the handle from electricity. The lantern has sockets for two bulbs; one equipped with a reflector used for signaling and a smaller adjacent socket that makes a focused beam that could be used as a flashlight.
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. Hand lantern signals are still used in situations when radio intercommunication is impractical. 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
associated institution
Louisville and Nashville Railroad
Star Headlight & Lantern Company
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Henry Taylor
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Railroad
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object