The Hiram L. Piper Co. (Piper) Kero is easily the most recognizable railway lantern in Canada. Starting in the 1920s, sometime likely around 1920 itself, Piper teamed up with The Adams & Westlake Co. (Adlake) to bring the Adlake Kero to Canada. You can read an incredible history about the Adlake kero here. Due to tariffs, the Kero could not be imported to Canada and stay competitive with E.T. Wright, to get around that Adlake sent their lanterns in parts to Piper, and they were assembled at the Piper factory in Montreal. The railway name and the Piper name were added by Adlake at their factory. This set up proved lucrative for both companies. This relationship continued in the same fashion until the 1960s. As Adlake changed their tooling so did the appearance of the Piper model, due to the fact Adlake made the lanterns for Piper.
The first Piper lanterns were the No.200, followed by the No.250. My general rule of thumb is the No.200 dates to 1920-1925, and the No.250 dates from 1925-1930. The 250 was followed up by the No.300 and No.400. In the 1930s, Adlake started dating their lanterns. Dates are located on the bottom and set up by quarter and year. For instance, if the date code was 4-50, it would have been made 4th quarter of 1950. 2-35 would be second quarter of 1935, and so on. The earliest date I’ve seen is 1931.
Obviously, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway ordered the most Kero’s, because they’re by far the largest railways in Canada. However there are other Canadian Railways out there. The Canadian Pacific Railway’s standard order for Kero’s included a wooden handle. This was presumably more comfortable for their employees to carry and use. The Canadian National doesn’t appear to have bought their lanterns with any options like the CPR did. Earlier Kero’s are sometimes found with the Hiram L. Piper name on the globe, but these lanterns almost always have globes cast with Adlake Kero on them. Another purchasing option was a bullseye lens attached to the lantern. This lens would act the same as an inspectors lantern, making it easier to see car numbers or the underside of a rail car at night. Obviously the lens did not work at quite the same strength as a true inspectors lantern, so Piper also sold regular inspectors lanterns too.
This is a page from the Hiram L. Piper Catalogue I own, showing the different variations of the lantern and ordering options.
My Kero Lantern
I only have one Kero lantern, because I generally stick to tall globe lanterns for my collection. This lantern was also the first lantern I purchased, and what really sparked my collection. It’s a Kero No.250 made for the Canadian National Railway. one oddity I haven’t really figured out, is the markings on Piper Kero’s are big letters on the brim of the lid. On Adlake Kero No.250s, the lettering is in small letters on the top of the chimney. On later models the lettering on Piper lanterns stay the same, but the Adlake lanterns are still in small letters on the brim.