JeffPo's Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul Railroad Lantern Page

Last update:  03/15/16


This is a tall style lantern for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, otherwise known as the Milwaukee Road.  The lid is embossed with C.M.&.St.P.Ry. This is an older, bellbottom style lantern, used in the later part of the 1800s and the early part of the 1900s.  Patent date on the lid is May of 1895.  While there are no manufacturing marks, I've seen this style lantern classified as an Adams & Westlake model.  Notice that the handle has a coating/tube on it.  Some railroad worker added that to give it more comfort and better handling.

This lantern is unique in my collection because it has a brass top.  The assumed purpose of a brass top was to control corrosion, given brass will tarnish but will not rust and deteriorate like steel.  Most brass top lanterns were manufactured in the latter decades of the 19th century.  You can find a few that were made just after 1900.  They were probably phased out as a cost saving measure.  Plus new tin and solder coatings made lanterns more corrosion resistant.  The brass top does have a stylish look.  When polished, they add a bit of class to a common rail yard tool.  Instead of having a spring inside the lid, the globe retainer could be adjusted up and down by a ratchet type setting.

The fuel fount is part of the twist-off bell bottom base.  Notice that the wick adjuster for the burner is on the inside of the globe, just like a Dietz No. 6 lantern.  This means that the flame height had to be adjusted before twisting the bell bottom base back on.

The teal color globe of this lantern is etched with CM&StP.  The teal color globe actually shines a signal green color when lit. The yellow flame and the aqua blue/teal globe color make the color green, just as if you were mixing paint.  The signal green globe means it was used as a "proceed with caution" tower signal, or by those tending the switches, or by a wreck master.

This particular lantern was a bit of a diamond in the rough.  I found it nestled in a bunch of other lanterns on a table at the Gaithersburg, Maryland railroadiana show.  It had lots of surface rust.  Also has lots of dings and the bell bottom is a bit warped, and doesn't sit flat.  But I think that gives this 100+ year old lantern some character.  It was a hard working lantern, not some pretty shelf decoration.  While I suspected, I wasn't sure the top was brass until I got it home and applied some Brasso to clean it up.  Really shined up nicely.

Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul Railroad

Milwaukee Road 4-6-0 locomotive, Davenport, Iowa, June 1925

The Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul Railroad (CM&StP) was a railroad that operated in the midwest and northwest regions of the United States from 1847 until 1980.  It was often referred to as the Milwaukee Road.  The railroad started in 1847 as the Milwaukee and Waukesha Railroad.  It was soon changed to Milwaukee and Mississippi, with the first passenger train running in February of 1851.   Through receivership and mergers, the line was named the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul in 1874.  The railroad expanded to the Pacific in the 1890s, crossing several mountain ranges while laying 2300 miles of track. 

Milwaukee Road class ES-2 (built 1916 to 1919)

The railroad began electrifying in 1914 and by the late 1920s it was the largest electrified railroad in the United States. 

Milwaukee Road "Little Joe" electric locomotive E70 in Montana

But the costs of electrification were very high and and eventually the railroad went into bankruptcy.  The great depression of the 1930s hit the railroad hard such that it operated under trusteeship until the end of 1945.  The railroad saw good success after World War II and dieselized in the mid-1950s.  The railroad began to decline in the 1960s.  The Milwaukee Road couldn’t adequately maintain all its equipment and faced many competing railroads.  While the railroad gained traffic in the 1970s, the lack of maintenance soon began to take its toll.  The lack of reliable rail cars meant turned away business.  Another blow to the railroad was that they de-electrified just as the 1973 oil crisis happened.  The electric locomotives could have operated at half the cost of the diesel ones. 

Poor revenue, bad track, and cars and locomotives needing service caused the railroad to file for bankruptcy for the third time in December of 1977.  The Milwaukee Road was merged into the Soo Line Railroad in the 1980s.  In the 2000s, the Soo Line was consolidated into the Canadian Pacific Railway.

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