Railroad lanterns like this one were used for many of the most common tasks on a train. Their light would be used for everything from inspecting wheel bearings to writing in log books. In particular this is a R.E. Dietz lantern meaning it ran on kerosene.
After the U.S. Civil War railroads expanded rapidly in Kansas. Traveling through the state on train was one of the safest and fastest ways to cross the country. Over a hundred years later railroads still frequently roll across the plains. For more information please visit: https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/railroads-in-kansas/15120