Tilley lanterns

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Neil McRae got this Model PL52 (on the left) out of an old stable. This lantern dates to the mid 1930’s and is outfitted with a reproduction mica globe and finished as it would have been originally. The Model PL53 (right image) dates from WWII and differs from the PL52 in that it has the glass globe and a steel fount. Both of these 300 cp kerosene lanterns are in Neil McRae’s collection.


This PL53 was made during WWII for the military as evidenced by the blue grey painted fount. The fount was made of tinned steel due to the shortage of brass. The fount decal alerts users to the care necessary to protect the fount from moisture. This lantern is in Geir Wilhelmsen’s collection.


The Tilley EX4 lantern was made and exported in the 1930’s and perhaps the late 1920’s. An early version, in Kenny Connolly’s collection (left), had a combined tip cleaner and air release valve (center) which was later replaced with the familiar control cock and separate air release screw (right) (Jim Dick, Tilley The Versatile Vapour Lamp, 2000). Neil McRae dates his EX4 (right) to 1936-40, which he got from Australia. This model was replaced by the Tilley EX100 (below).


Another 300 cp kerosene lantern, this EX100 model was made for export from 1938-46. It shares the same steel fount as the PL53 above. This model shows up in countries such as Australia and Canada. Neil McRae made a new shade (and ventilator) for his lantern by taking a disk spun to the right shape, cutting slots and attaching the steady lugs.


Tilley Model PL55 dates to the later 1930’s Instead of the usual 1.75 pint capacity fount, this model has a 2.5 pint fount (Jim Dick). This lantern is in George Burl’s collection.


Model SDR, which may stand for Short Double Reflector, is unusual in that it has a circular parabolic reflector above and below the mantle. The burner is the standard 300 cp but Tilley claimed 400 cp for this lantern. This lantern was expensive when it was produced from about 1945-46 (left) and 1946-52 (right). These lanterns are in Neil McRae’s collection.


The first version of Model X246 was made in 1946-47 and had a short handle that heated the user’s hands too much while holding the lantern by the handle. Note the large bail attachment and protective ring below the globe. George Burl restored this lantern that is in his collection.

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Tilley made several versions of the original Model X246 storm lantern with a “pork pie” shaped ventilator  between 1946 and 1950. The next version (left and center-running) also has a brass globe cage and ventilator and a brass globe support ring as the first version above rather than a wire ring (right image). A later version of this model (right) also has a steel globe cage and wire bail attachment to the frame. The earlier model is in Will Nelle’s collection while the later model is in Neil McRae’s collection.

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Three later versions of the Model X246, 300 cp kerosene lantern with round top founts: the version on the left was made from 1950 – 54; note the bail attachment to the frame; the version in the center was made from 1954 – Oct. 57. The Tilley name is now stamped on the side of the fount. The version on the right was made from October 1957 – April 1961 and are date stamped on the bottom of the fount. The lanterns on the left and center are in Neil McRae’s collection while the lantern on the right is in Steve Clark’s collection.


In the 1950s Tilley also made De-Lux versions of the above X246 lanterns. These were plated in Speculum over the brass. The late John Findlay found this about Speculum in a book about metal alloys: 16.5 parts tin, 32 parts copper, 4 parts brass, & 1.25 parts arsenic. Neil McRae, in whose collection this 1950 – 54 lantern is in, believes that Speculum was only used by Tilley during the 1950s and perhaps until 1963, when they moved from Hendon, U.K.


Tilley made the X246A with straight frame legs for several months in 1961 (McRae). This X246A, in Jason Tyler’s collection, is date stamped August 1961; the model number is stamped in the side of the fount. Jason replaced the burner, vapourizer, washers, and control cock.


By November 1961, Tilley had changed to bent frame legs from the straight leg version above. this lantern is in Alex Swanson’s collection.

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Model X246A (left) was made until 1964; this one is dated March ’62. The original gold paint was removed. Model X246B, right, was made from about Sept. ’64 on. This lantern, dated Jan. ’91, only produced 188 cp vs. 300 advertised cp. These lanterns are in Neil McRae’s collection.


Model X359 is the same as X246A except that it has a preheater torch (using kerosene and air under pressure from the fount) and thus does not use the usual meth spirits torch for preheating. This lantern, in Steve & Jill Wood’s collection, is dated Nov 1960. According to Jim Dick in his book on Tilley, this short lived model was introduced in 1959 and was likely Tilley’s only model to feature a preheater torch.


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This Model BR49, in George Burl’s collection, is dated November 1960. This lantern was made for the British Rail Southern Region in 1960 and may have had a black enameled ventilator originally (McRae). A brass handled valve, lower right in the two lower images, allows the user to draw kerosene from the fount to soak the wick for preheating. Raising the basket (lower left) allows the user to light the kerosene to preheat. Once lit, the basket can be lowered (lower right) to preheat and run the lantern.

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Models  BR49A, left, and BR49B, right. The BR models differed from the X246 models in having the preheater device and an extended cage. The BR49A was made from 1961 to ’64, while BR49B was made from around 1964 to ’70. This BR49B was made in Jan. ’69. These lanterns are also in Neil McRae’s collection.


These are (l-r) a Tilley X458 “Flounder Fishing” model, X410A, and X460; three small fount lantern models that Tilley made primarily for export. All are 200 candlepower vs. their standard 300 cp and date to the early ’60’s. Model X410A came with the CH1 conversion head with 3 air intake tubes (compare to Model X410 below). These lanterns are in Neil McRae’s collection.


This Tilley X410 is date stamped July 1957 and predates Model X410A above. This lantern, in Ralph Trask’s collection, includes the optional shade ring. The slightly longer 1865 vapourizer provides room for the meth spirits torch and allows the shade ring to rest on the rim of the ventilator. Model X410 has the same burner as Tilley Model AL15 and has 2 air intake tubes (McRae).

© 2000-2023 Terry Marsh