JeffPo's Handlan Engine Tender Lamp Page

Last update:  07/30/11


This is a tender lamp made by the Handlan Buck company.  The tender, or coal car as some call it, provided the fuel for the steam engine.  The lamp stands about 14.5" tall, not including the handle.  The single clear lens is 5 3/8".

Inside the lamp you see the round fuel fount and burner.  At the back of the lamp is a mirrored reflector to reflect the light back toward the front, and out the lens.  The lamp is also designed with slots directly behind the lens, and on the side.  A piece of red colored glass was inserted into the slots.  The slots on the side were used for storage.  The slots directly behind the lens were used to change the color of the signal from white to red.


This lamp was used on the back of a steam engine tender (i.e. coal car), and attached by the bracket you see in the first image.  I'm told that this style lamp was used by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (MKT) and the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR).  When an engine and tender were traveling in the forward direction, it would need a red tail marker lamp on the back.  The red piece of glass was removed from the side storage slots and placed in the slots directly behind the lens.  This red glass between the light source (i.e. the kerosene flame of the burner) and the lens would cause a red signal to be shone outside of the lamp, as shown in the above, second image.

When the steam engine was moving backwards (i.e. tender first), it needed to show a white light.  The red piece of glass was removed from the front slots behind the lens and stored in the side slots, out of the way, thus allowing the unfiltered light from the kerosene burner to shine out of the clear lens.  Not only did the shape of the lens magnify and direct the light, but the shiny reflector behind the flame concentrated even more of the light forward and out of  the lamp.


Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad

Steam Locomotive No. 532 at El Dorado Springs in January 1953. Photo by: Charles Winters.

The Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad (MKT) was incorporated in May of 1870. It was commonly referred to as "the K-T" in the early days, which soon evolved into "The Katy".

An advertisement for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad in an 1881 Dallas, Texas (USA) city directory.

It was the first railroad to travel to Texas from the north. It linked many large cities such as Kansas City, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Austin, Houston, etc. When first incorporated, it acquired the Union Pacific Railway, Southern Branch. It pushed south, laying track and acquiring other small railroads. The Port of Galveston gave it access to ocean-going traffic on the Gulf of Mexico. As a publicity stunt in 1896, The Katy crashed to locomotives into each other, before some 40 thousand spectators. From 1915 until 1959, The Katy operated the Texas Special, a luxury passenger liner, in a joint venture with the Frisco railroad.

The Katy was purchased by the Missouri Pacific Railroad (MoPac) in 1986. MoPac's owner was the Union Pacific. In December of 1989 The Katy was formally merged into the MoPac and became part of the Union Pacific.

A large portion of the Missouri track belonging to The Katy was converted into a Missouri State Park called the Katy Trail State Park. Another section also called the Katy Trail is being converted into a multi-use trail that goes through downtown Dallas.

Pennsylvania Railroad

Pennsylvania Railroad M1a locomotive on display at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

The Pennsylvania Railroad Company was chartered in 1846 and had completed a track to Chicago by 1856. By the end of the 19th century, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company had expanded to St. Louis, Missouri, and Cincinnati, Ohio, in the west and to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Norfolk, Virginia, in the south and east, ultimately becoming a 10,000-mile system. Although it had prospered in the early part of the 20th century, by the 1950's it was losing considerable money annually. In 1968 the Pennsylvania Railroad merged with the New York Central Railroad and created Penn Central Transportation Company, which later absorbed the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company. The company's holdings have since been split among Conrail and Amtrak.

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