E.T. Wright Traction Engine Headlight​

A traction engine is a steam powered self propelled steam engine, used by farmers, construction workers etc. Traction engines predate the tractor, the name tractor derives from the traction engine. I’ve been lucky enough to operate these engines a few times, they’re absolutely fantastic. Headlights were accessories a person could buy for their engine. I personally feel they give the engine the ‘complete’ look. E.T. Wright Traction engine headlight were some of the only ones made here in Canada. Similar styles were also used on railways, such as interurban railway headlights, tender back up headlights, etc. These are a little too small for a large locomotive headlight. I have another headlight that was designed for railway use you can see here.

The lighting part of the headlight slides out of the lantern in one piece, attached it it is the fuel tank, burner, reflector lens and chimney. The burner and chimney acts quite a lot like a table lamp. The wick in these are hollow circular wicks. The reflector is made of copper that was nickel plated.

This headlight was made by E.T. Wright likely sometime in the 1910-1920 period. Remnants of the original stenciling and pin striping is visible on the headlight, which is absolutely incredible. The stenciling on the sides reads “Traction Engine Headlight” and on the front it says “E.T. Wright & Co. LTD. Hamilton Ont.”  On the door of the headlight, there is a small circular hole with a siding door, that is used to access the wick adjuster, so the user didn’t have to open the door to adjust the wick.

If you notice on the rear photo of the headlight, about 2/3rds of it is shiny black paint and the other is quite grimy, that grime was almost entirely covering the top and rear of the headlight. That grime likely saved the paint. It is likely steam oil residue that came out the smoke stack of the engine. I spent quite a lot of time cleaning it off, but decided to leave a little bit to show off just how grimy it was, maybe someday I’ll finish cleaning it off.

I say it a lot, but I absolutely love this piece, original stenciling from an E.T. Wright product is just about cream of the crop for me.


  • trevor black

    I have had a lantern my whole life, I’m 51 it is not a square box but a more lantern look but beautiful just trying to identify it? I have pics but it won’t let me attach Cheers- Trevor

  • David Koukol

    I work at a scrap yard and took mine seconds before destruction. I love it and would like to know some history on them

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