M995.48.56.1-4 | Lantern

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Creative Commons License
1890-1900, 19th century
33 cm
Gift of Dr. Huguette Rémy
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Lantern (2)
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Keys to History

The conductor, standing on the rear platform of the train, used a lantern to send signals to the engineer.

In the early days of the railway, employees signalled with their arms. Then a variety of instruments were devised to help them. At stations, the conductor used a flag during the day and a lantern at night to signal to the engineer. Lanterns were also used to signal an accident on the track to a moving train.

Detailed safety rules governed train movements. All along the way, the train crew had to stick to speed limits at certain places or yield to priority trains. Similar rules are still in force today.

  • What

    This oil lamp could be used to signal go (green glass) or stop (red glass).

  • Where

    From 1856 on, railway companies installed a telegraph in each station to transmit departure orders and monitor the progress of trains along the line.

  • When

    In the 1870s, the Intercolonial Railway put up the first signs at level crossings.

  • Who

    In addition to train crews, railways employed many people in other kinds of work: laying track, building rolling stock, maintenance, rail traffic control and marketing, to give but a few examples.