JeffPo's Armspear Table Lamp Page
Last update: 04/04/17
Image showing the single red lens
First of all, yeah, I know. It's an electrified lamp that should be kerosene powered. Someone took a railroad lamp and turned it into a table lamp. Pure sacrilege! But I didn't do it, and what's done is done. For the record, it's never okay to physically alter a lamp or lantern in order to electrify it. That often removes the collector value, and turns it into a novelty item. Even so, it can still be used to decorate, and educate.
This lamp was manufactured by the Armspear company. While it's missing the
mounting bracket, it is a marker lamp. It has four lenses, one red and
three yellow. A marker lamp was fastened to the end car of a train.
There was usually one lamp on each side (i.e. two lamps on the back of railcar). This lamp
would have been rotated to show either a red light to the rear, or a yellow light to the rear (the red would be facing the railcar,
thus not in use). As the train traveled the tracks, it would keep the red
lens/light facing to the rear, so it functions as a rear of train marker. When
the train would leave the main lines and pull into a siding, they would turn the
lamp to show a yellow signal to the rear (and to the side). This would let any following
trains know that this train was safely off the main line.
Image showing one of the three yellow lenses
The four lenses of this lamp are two different sized lenses. Two opposite of each other are 4 1/2" in diameter, the red lens and a yellow lens. The other two yellow lenses (opposite of each other) are 4" in diameter. I can't figure out a definite reason as to why it has different sizes. I have seen marker lamps in which the red lens was larger than the rest. That made sense, given the main purpose of the marker lamp is to show the end of the train as a warning to following trains. About the only reason I can come up with for the Armspear having different lens sizes is that this base frame was probably also used for their switch lamps, in which opposite lenses would always be the same color. That way, a railroad could for example, have the larger lenses as red because they felt that particular signal to be more important than the green (or the yellow). This is just speculation on my part.
Image showing candelabra bulb inside
In addition to the light bulb contraption on the outside that holds the main bulb and shade, there is also a candelabra socket on the inside to illuminate the lenses (with a separate electrical switch).
There is also a case where the two marker lamps would actually display different colors from each other at the same time. If there are multiple tracks, and the train is going against the normal current of traffic flow, it would display a red (or amber for some railroads) signal to the rear on the outside of the tracks, and it would display a green signal to the rear on the inside next to the track that is the normal current. Consider the above image with two mainline tracks. Letís assume the track on the right side is the normal current flow of traffic for a train going away from us. The train is on the left track. But the normal traffic flow for the direction the train is traveling is actually on the track on the right. So the marker lamps show red on the left side, which is on the outside of the tracks, and green on the inside, next to the normal current of traffic flow track. If the train had been traveling on the track on the right, which would be the normal flow of traffic, then it would display the typical red signal on both sides of the railcar.
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