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Long-burning signal lamps

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Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby Eardington Lampman » Sun Jun 21, 2015 9:55 pm

Hello,

I'm a relatively new working volunteer on the Severn Valley Railway, and I am trying to understand the workings of the long-burning signal lamp which must have been very common prior to electrification of signal lighting. Among the lamp collection we have one operational example of a long-burning lamp, which apparently would run for eight days on a single filling of fuel, but the purpose of the second 'wick' eludes me at present! The central adjustable wick actually burns the paraffin, but the second fixed wick is wound around the outside of the central wick tube and is, in turn, contained within the outer cap, but plays no part in the actual combustion.

The reason for my interest is that I am also a member of the Historic Lighting Club and am a vintage lighting enthusiast. I have restored all the oil lamps at Eardington Halt (currently closed to SVR passengers but maintained by a volunteer group of Friends) and I would like to write an article for the newsletter explaining the inner workings of some of the lamps. Eardington Halt has no electricity supply and is the only oil-lit station on the SVR.

If anyone has knowledge, drawings, patent details etc relating to these lamps then I would be most grateful to receive any information. Many thanks,

Phil
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby Andrew Waugh » Tue Jun 23, 2015 11:41 am

I can't help you with the second wick.

Long burning lamps were an American innovation, so you might like to try the US sites such as http://www.railroadiana.org/.

Here is a link to a set of instructions on lamp use - it describes the difference between one-day and long-time lamp burners:
http://www.railroadiana.org/lamps/pgLamps_Maintenance.php

Here is a link to an Adams & Westlake bulletin on long-time burners for signal lamps:(http://www.railroadiana.org/library/cat_AW_40s/aw_burners.pdf)

Here is a link to what appears to be the master patent for flat flame long-time burners (these are referenced in the bulletin above). Note that the patent is quite clear that long-time burners are not new at that time. https://www.google.com.au/patents/US864803. If you search google patents for 'lamp longtime burner' quite a number of patents turn up.
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby Eardington Lampman » Tue Jun 23, 2015 7:22 pm

Many thanks for that, Andrew, which has coincidentally answered another query, namely the identity of a small glass chimney which I now recognise as a type 55L to fit an Adlake long-time burning lamp. We have one such burner and also some of the special felt wick referred to in the A&W bulletin.

However the Adlake is not the same burner as the one I'm working on, which I believe may be of the type known as Welch's patent and I think of British rather than American origin. It definitely has two wicks. I have some images somewhere, extracted from some old GWR Station Instructions, and I'll try to post them here shortly.

Thanks again,

Phil
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby RichardH » Tue Jun 23, 2015 7:48 pm

As you suggest they consist of a central ¼” wick that is consumed/trimmed so requiring regular replacement, and a thicker feeder wick wrapped around the base of the tube. What isn’t immediately obvious is the hole in the side of the tube that enables oil to transfer between the wicks, so that the flame is supplied even when the central wick tails don’t reach the bottom of the reservoir.

The modern burners allow several different types of brass or ceramic burner cone to be fitted to the same wick base depending on the purpose of the lamp, so ground signals would have a small flame that might use only a pint a week, while running signals might burn more than twice that.
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby JRB » Tue Jun 23, 2015 9:42 pm

I only half remember about Welch lamps, but I have the impression that the LSWR used them to shine the usual light through the spectacles and also illuminate a an arrowhead or sideways V alongside. This could explain the two wicks.
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby Eardington Lampman » Tue Jun 23, 2015 10:29 pm

Thanks Richard, that makes sense. I had noticed the slots in the inner wick tube, so I guess the idea was to prevent wastage of wicks. Fascinating. Servicing signal lamps must have been very labour-intensive and lamp wicks were no doubt costly consumables.

JRB, the double wick arrangement only produces a single flame, visible by the driver through the spectacle and also by the signalman via the tell-tale. I'm afraid I haven't seen the sideways arrowhead that you mention. I don't think these were used on the GWR.

Can you tell me if it's possible to attach pictures to posts? I can't see how to do it, or whether the Forum permits it. :?:
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby JRB » Tue Jun 23, 2015 11:03 pm

Only the LSWR as far as I know.
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby Andrew Waugh » Wed Jun 24, 2015 7:08 am

Eardington Lampman wrote:However the Adlake is not the same burner as the one I'm working on, which I believe may be of the type known as Welch's patent and I think of British rather than American origin. It definitely has two wicks. I have some images somewhere, extracted from some old GWR Station Instructions, and I'll try to post them here shortly.


Ahhh...

Try this patent. It's the US version of a British patent to one William Welch... https://www.google.com.au/patents/US840674

To quote "An auxiliary wick, which may lead to the oil reservoir or may derive oil from the burner-wick, is coiled around the upper perforated part of the burner tube and serves to keep the wick cool and prevent or retard charring and also act as a storage chamber, continues to provide oil for combustion when the burner-wick is unable on account of charring to supply the oil required to maintain the light."
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby RichardH » Wed Jun 24, 2015 8:20 am

Andrew Waugh wrote:
Eardington Lampman wrote:However the Adlake is not the same burner as the one I'm working on, which I believe may be of the type known as Welch's patent and I think of British rather than American origin. It definitely has two wicks. I have some images somewhere, extracted from some old GWR Station Instructions, and I'll try to post them here shortly.


Ahhh...

Try this patent. It's the US version of a British patent to one William Welch... https://www.google.com.au/patents/US840674

To quote "An auxiliary wick, which may lead to the oil reservoir or may derive oil from the burner-wick, is coiled around the upper perforated part of the burner tube and serves to keep the wick cool and prevent or retard charring and also act as a storage chamber, continues to provide oil for combustion when the burner-wick is unable on account of charring to supply the oil required to maintain the light."

That is very interesting showing the second wick has several functions. Also of note is that the patent drawings show the typical LSWR/SR type of lamp which has the additional side lens for the Coligny-Welch indicator mentioned by JRB.
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby Eardington Lampman » Wed Jun 24, 2015 8:31 am

Spot on! That's the lamp. I am very grateful for your help in finding this information :D
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby meldrum » Mon Jun 29, 2015 8:49 pm

Hi everyone,
I have been reading this with interest and found the references to the various patents very interesting.
I thought that some of you might be interested to see some different instructions regarding signal lamp maintenance on the Cheshire Lines but I assume it varied little from company to company or am I wrong?
I have copied several different CLC instructions from 1883, 1907 and 1935 and put them on Flicker.
Apparently long burning lamps appeared (on the Cheshire Lines at least) during WW1 'about 1917' according to one old lamp man. This fits in with the labour shortages at this time.
Prior to this lamps were taken into the lamp room, cleaned and returned to the signal every day as per the rules. This was strictly enforced by the inspector or station master.
When I started my railway career in the 1970's I was for a while a full time lamp man. By this time of course it was quite acceptable to clean and fill these long burning lamps at the foot of the signal.
Here is a link to the Flicker page,

https://www.flickr.com/photos/73239639@N07/

Hope this is of interest.
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby Eardington Lampman » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:05 pm

Hi Meldrum, and thanks for posting that interesting information.

Sadly, the last two pages headed 'Petroleum oil lamps' and 'Long burning signal and disc lamps' are of slightly too low a resolution to be read clearly; any chance you could upload higher resolution images, please?

I would also appreciate the opportunity to chat off-line with you about your experiences as a full-time lamp man! I'm new to this role, and only work one day a fortnight...
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby meldrum » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:15 pm

Sorry about the low res scans. I will try and correct it in the next few days.
Not certain I can offer much information regarding my days as a lamp man but yes feel free to PM me about it.
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby meldrum » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:24 pm

Just had a look at the images I put on Flicker. After clicking on an individual image on the Photostream clicking on it again brings up a very large clear view. I'm not too good explaining these things so hope this makes sense.
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Re: Long-burning signal lamps

Unread postby Eardington Lampman » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:33 pm

Thanks, it's probably my fault as I'm viewing on a Kindle. I will have another look on the PC when I get home next week, and drop you a PM at the same time. Thanks again!
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