JeffPo's Dressel Crossing Gate Lamp Page
Last update: 09/01/10
This is a crossing gate railroad lamp made by the Dressel company. This lamp should have two red lenses. It should not have a green lens, but I'll discuss that below. Lamps differed from lanterns in both form and function. While lanterns used globes surrounded by a metal frame, lamps were generally had a sheet metal or cast metal body. Lamps also used lenses to amplify the internal light source. Lanterns were designed to be portable while lamps were generally intended to be stationary.
A sliding panel door gives access to the burner inside. The burner and fuel font are nothing more than a glorified candle. The magic is in the lenses. And it needs to be seen in the dark to really appreciate how it works. I lit the lamp in a dark room and was surprised to see how concentrated and bright it made the beams of light. The "green" light produced was so bright it actually caused me to squint! Amazing and cool optical science at work.
Regarding the green lens, as I mentioned previously, this lamp should not have a green lens. This is a crossing gate lamp. A crossing gate lamp of this design should have a red lens on each side. The crossing gate lamp was used to warn motorists of an oncoming train. It would have been used at a manned crossing and lowered into place on the approach of a train. Traffic on either side of the tracks would see the red signal and know to stop. Given this particular lamp has a red and a green lens, I guess someone added the green lens to make the lamp more decorative. I do actually have an extra red lens for the lamp but I haven't installed it.
Incidentally, while the green lens looks like an aqua blue color, it actually casts a green light because of the yellow flame from the burner. This lamp doesn't have any railroad markings so there's no telling which railroad it was used on.
This is an example of a two-way crossing gate lamp. I also have a Dressel four-way crossing gate lamp.
These two images were done with the lamp lit, and the light beam directed straight at the camera lens. This demonstrates just how bright this lamp is, and this is with the flame turned down quite a bit.
This is a screen shot from a 1940 documentary film of a Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) passenger train. Notice the single lens crossing gate lamp hanging on the crossbuck pole, just above the boy that is waving to the train.
For some reason, my cats were fascinated with the lamp. I had to keep shooing them away to take my images.
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