Railway signalling was extremely important, especially as railways began adding more trains, and more tracks. One problem the industry had was making the signals brighter at night, as well as being windproof. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, there were many different inventions and changes to signals, many of which were short lived. The Piper’s being the forefront of railway lighting here in Canada, developed their new way of providing the most reliable lighting for signals, by simply using lanterns that weren’t made for railways.
It in many ways was that simple. Tubular lantern, especially cold blast lanterns already had the best light output, and were already wind proof so it made perfect sense. However, they weren’t for railway use, so Piper needed something else. What they came up with was a case that the tubular lantern was placed in. These cases opened from the top, and could be fitted with any combination of signals needed. The added light output of the cold blast meant a brighter signal, and the case plus the lantern meant a completely wind and weather proof signal. This new design of Piper’s was extremely well received, quickly becoming the dominant signal type across Canada, used at stations for train order signals, and even used on switch stands. Even post 1910 they were still being made. Eventually, they were phased out for the significantly smaller and easier to handle lamps Piper started making, with an included fount in the lamp.
Piper made two modifications to the lanterns they used in the cases. Firstly, a shorter bail that could be folded down in the case was fitted. Secondly, and the main modification was a unique, flat bottomed cylindrical fount. This fount was perfectly sized to fit in the case and being of a specific size meant railways needed to buy replacement lanterns from Piper, and also uniformity across their various models of cases. The lanterns used by Piper varied through the years. I’ve seen lanterns from E.T. Wright (the one below), Sheet Metal Products, Ontario Lantern & Lamp, and Kemp.
My Piper modified Wright dates to 1905-1908. The shortened bail is still there, along with the unique fount. On the fount is a Piper Maker Toronto mark. Another unique thing on it is the “witches hat” fuel cap. Piper used these on their other products, but this is the first I’ve seen one used on a cold blast like this. A number of slight changes were also made on this one, chiefly being the pin lift was moved from the front of the lantern originally, to the left of the lantern. Tis has caused the globe plate to be turned 90 degrees from where it was originally. Early in my collecting, I owned a Piper case lamp, however I traded it away for another piece I really wanted. Naturally, I wish I had kept it. Hopefully someday I’ll once again have a case lamp to go with this cold blast.