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Buckinghamshire Railway Centre
Train Lanterns, Train Postor Art and Nameplates in the cafe at Buckinghamshire Railway Centre
The very nature of operating a train and a train yard means that you have to have a means of communication. During the days of steam locomotives and early diesel, the noise and distance involved with train operations pretty much rules out speaking or yelling, especially since common radio devices weren't yet available. Any device used would also have to be portable, since those working on the line were constantly on the move. While flags and semaphores might work during the day, how about at night? The most effective means of nighttime communications was the kerosene lantern (oil in the earlier days).
The kerosene lantern was a portable, efficient light source, that could be easily seen. Even after electric flashlights began showing up, some railroad workers still preferred the lantern because it lasted longer (i.e. no batteries), gave better light (i.e. the flashlight was too directional), and I've even read about where multiple lamps were used on cold nights to provide for some warmth. At any rate, lanterns have enjoyed a long history with the railroad and today have become collector items for those fascinated with the railroad as a hobby
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