Tipperary Hill Traffic Signal
I guess it’s one of those things that I’ve just taken for granted. I mean, for a traffic signal enthusiast, we’ve always known that red is on the top and green is on the bottom. There are a couple of exceptions that have to do with some interesting history. But every other vertically-mounted signal in the United State is set up with the red on top. With the increasing popularity of motor travel in the early 1900s, many firsts had emerged. The first center line appeared, the first stop sign popped up, the first official route signs were laid out, and the first traffic signal became part of the landscape. By 1927, a committee called the American Society for Municipal Improvements recommended that red be on top and green be on the bottom. These requirements were published in the 1930 urban MUTCD. So basically, for the last 90 years, traffic
The green lens looks blue when not illuminated by an incandescent light bulb.
I got an email from Les who picked up an older GE traffic signal for his man cave. Personally I think it’s a great addition to any room of the house, but if I want to stay married, I’ll have to keep the signals in the garage. Anyway, Les has been browsing eBay, looking for a green lens because his traffic light came with a blue lens. Fortunately, Les doesn’t have to worry about looking for a replacement. What he has is the correct color. Wait, what? Traffic lights are red, yellow, and BLUE? Well, sort of. Although you may not perceive it, “white” light can give off different colors. This coloring of the light is known as color temperature, which is measured in degrees Kelvin. There’s a detailed article about color temperature on Wikipedia if you’d like to learn more. For example, a common household light bulb may have
Attica Traffic Signal, circa 1927

August 29, 2017

My Attica Traffic Light

My Attica traffic light I love the internet. The ability to type anything into a Google search and find out all kinds of information from people all over the world is a very powerful thing. I’ve gotten used to being able to do that. So when I acquired a traffic light by the Attica Traffic Signal Company, I was looking forward to finding out all kinds of information about it. I wanted to learn about the history of the company, find out when these signals were made, and see photos of them in others’ collections. So what did I find out? Almost nothing. Scranton, PA’s 1920 Report of Controller First, I’ll talk about the company history (or lack thereof). Attica Traffic Signal Company was headquartered at 330 Paxtang Avenue in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I wasn’t able to find any incorporation dates, which doesn’t surprise me since there’s no mention of “incorporated” in the name,
3-bulb W. S. Darley traffic signal with built-in controller, circa 1938
My latest traffic light acquisition is a four-way three-bulb W.S. Darley Simplex C-811 from Colorado. I thought I was almost done with collecting 4-way signals (Who am I kidding?), and my wife wishes I was done with them too, but the uniqueness and history of the Darley Simplex signals intrigued me and I couldn't resist. Since the 1930s, a committee called the American Society for Municipal Improvements recommended that red be on top and green be on the bottom. And since the 1950s, the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) has stated that all vertically mounted traffic signals must have indications of red on top, yellow (or amber) in the middle, and green on the bottom. This is a standard to make sure there's no confusion when approaching intersections, especially for the color blind. The only exception is one intersection in Syracuse, New York. Up until this time, it was
Older 116 watt traffic signal bulb
Which light bulbs do I need for my traffic light? I received an email from George, a visitor to MyTrafficLights.com, looking for information on what kind of light bulbs are needed for the traffic signal he recently picked up. In the real world these days, modern traffic signals are now assembled with LED modules that contain an array of LEDs which will gradually fail over time, usually many, many years, rather than all at once like a regular light bulb. LEDs also use much less electricity, saving towns on their electric bills over time, especially if there are hundreds of signals in a jurisdiction. But that doesn’t help George. I mean, he could get an LED insert to retrofit his signal. That would involve sourcing an LED insert from ebay or a local contractor, disconnecting and removing the socket, reflector, and lens from the head, then wiring up the new
Horni 4-way traffic light
In May of 2015, I bought a traffic light from a gentleman (Ed) at his garage sale. (Read my previous post about that) It wasn’t much to look at. The light was nothing but a sand blasted shell with a cardboard box of loose lenses. He said that if I was going to restore it, he’d like to see it once it was done. The Horni the weekend I bought it. Restoration began when I scrubbed the oxidation off of the aluminum body. I knew it would be difficult or impossible to remove much of the hardware without damage, so I opted to just tape them off with painter’s tape. I sprayed the body with an aluminum primer, then gave it a nice coat of Hunt Club Green paint. The reflector doors had been broken off at some point. Without these, there was nothing to hold the reflectors in place
Merissa’s photo of her traffic signal I love it when people contact me with questions about traffic lights after stumbling into my website. I love it even more when I can answer their questions, and Merissa’s was a gem. Like any red-blooded, level-headed American, she bought a traffic light. Odd thing about it was that one of the sections had, what appeared to be, a clear light, and she wanted to know why. The person she bought it from thought that it may be from a railroad. Sorry, my dear Watson, but that “clear” light will actually light up green. Many of the LED manufacturers offer tinted and clear options. Generally, the only light that will always be tinted is the red, although I have seen a signal with an clear red. A few years ago, traffic lights began being assembled with LED inserts rather than a single light bulb
Ceramic Traffic Light Bank
The old saying, “Hindsight is 20/20” has meaning here. Today I look back and think, “Wow, I was an idiot when I was a kid.” Fortunately for me, my parents realized that I’d make stupid decisions. I was about 10 years old and my family was spending time at the Jersey shore like we did every year. After spending the day playing in the sand and jumping through the waves, we’d walk into town after dinner and check out the local stores, maybe looking for a t-shirt, new toy, or towel. While rummaging through one such five-and-dime, my parents came across a great little ceramic bank of a traffic light with a police officer holding his hand out giving a stop indication. In the meantime, I had found a sweet squirt gun that I thought was absolutely cool. Was it special? No. It was like any other crappy, cheap squirt
Glow-in-the-dark chain pull from the late 60s-early 70s, made by the Idemin Manufacturing Company in Brooklyn, New York and was Style TLC. I've had this since I was about 5 years old.

September 4, 2015

Bob’s Mom.

Part of the idea behind my blog is to provide some history behind some of the signals in my collection. This is one of them that I’ve had for many years that has a great story behind it. I showed my interest in traffic lights at an early age. I think my parents first saw my fascination in this street furniture when I began drawing them everywhere. (If you haven’t already read my brief bio on the Me and MTL page, it’s mildly entertaining.) Like most kids, I had a toy that I cherished over everything else and would likely enter severe depression if it was ever taken away. For me, that was my ceiling fan/light chain pull. Found in many homes in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this little, glow-in-the-dark piece of molded, hard plastic didn’t get a second look, other than when it smacked you in the head
New York City's Red and Green Lights: A Brief Look Back in Time, by Steven Gembara
In the tight-knit world of signal collecting, I’m lucky to be able to chat with many other collectors and industry experts on forums and at meets, and there are a good number of them who really know their stuff. There are a couple of guys who will forget more than I’ll ever know when it comes to controllers. A few of them can tell you what kind of signal is in a photo, the year it came out, what company bought out that company, the year that company was bought out, and the year that company closed down. And I’ll likely need both hands keep track of the guys who can instantly tell you the brand of a lens by the pattern in the glass, the years they were manufactured and used, and what signals they were used in. New York City’s Red and Green Lights: A Brief Look Back
traffic signal behind me

May 29, 2015

They know me.

It’s behind me. Isn’t it? This goes back to the whole idea of letting others know what kind of hobbies you’re in to. I found out that the son of our pastor is into Pez dispensers. I had one laying around that I really had no desire to hold onto any more so I gave it to him. If I didn’t know he was into those things, it would have been thrown into the recycle bin or garbage. Well, the same goes for my situation, too. A few weeks ago, a friend and his boys were driving past a garage sale and noticed an old 4-way traffic light for sale. They immediately thought of me because of an event our church had called “Bring Your Other Passion to Church”, which I talked about in a previous post. I had to run out to pick up some lawn-and-leaf bags at the
Eaglelux Wait-Walk pedestrian signal from the 1940s
Unless someone else is a collector of something normal, it can be a little difficult to admit that you collect something as odd as traffic lights. Some people look at you like you wear polka dots every day. But I’ve recently learned that admitting that can open some pretty cool possibilities. In the 1950s, Stadco made a little traffic light that you’d hang int he back of your car. The green would come on when you had your foot on the gas, yellow would illuminate if you were coasting, and red would come on when you hit the brakes. I have one. It’s a neat little piece. But I’m looking to sell it because I recently found one on Craigslist that included the original box and instruction sheet. Very cool. But there’s more to this than just a little traffic light. Eaglelux Wait-Walk pedestrian signal from the 1940s The guy
Old signal cluster for MTL
My website is an outlet for me to talk about and show off my collection – All of my wearable traffic lights, all of my toys, my real ones, and my decorative signals that only come out once or twice a year. But there’s a key word in all of this: “My”. But aside from the ones on my homepage slider, there is one signal on my site that is not in my collection. As a signal collector I will notice old, tattered, worn-out, and new signals. Some of them immediately jump out at me. Others take a few passings by. Some are striking and some are subtle. But one kind of fell in the middle. It’s the photo of the 4-way cluster that adorns the top of my site. This cluster is on West Passaic Street in Rochelle Park, New Jersey. You can see it here… https://goo.gl/maps/VaiC7B9Z2Ts I don’t know exactly what it is about this signal.

December 5, 2014

Fine Art Signals

When I was a young lad dreaming about owning my own traffic light, I tended to draw them. Sometimes they were part of an overall scene, but more than that, they were just the light by itself. Despite my father being an art teacher, I never really did get very good at drawing. This isn’t the case with Sean Gallo. “STOP!” A picture by Sean Gallo, at SeanGallo.com While surfing the web for signal images (yea, I do that) I came across one of his great pieces of art on his website SeanGallo.com. It appeared to be an impressionistic oil or water color painting of a signal, but created in Photoshop. I contacted Sean to find out the back story of this piece and his style of his artwork. “Stop!” as he calls this particular piece was a commission from a DJ/Entertainer friend who was writing a blog. “He calls
traffic signals of all kinds
Brought my passion to church When you have a hobby so uncommon as mine, it’s very rare that you get to openly talk to others about it, let alone have someone ask you about it and be able to see much of it. Any moments like that are very few and far between – and thoroughly enjoyed. My church had a little event last weekend called “Bring Your Other Passion to Church”, highlighting collections, skills, or hobbies of some of the church members. I was supposed to have to work all weekend, but the job got cancelled last-minute. I didn’t mind because I don’t get paid any extra if I have to work over the weekend. The church had one last table available for a display so I signed up, excited for the rare opportunity to show off my odd hobby. I schlepped in a few of my signals, big
Red GE traffic signal lens
Before I talk about how to make your traffic light work, I’m starting this with a disclaimer: If you don’t have a basic understanding of electricity or you’re the least bit uncomfortable about working with electricity, PLEASE ask a trained electrician to set this up for you. I’m not a licensed electrician, but I have a good understanding and a healthy respect for electricity. You can cause serious damage to yourself or your surroundings if you screw this up. Use this as a guide. It is YOUR responsibility to wire it up correctly or find someone who knows what they’re doing to do it for you. Now, with that, here we go! A lot of guys like to have big, heavy things hanging in their man caves, garages, barns, sheds, and bedrooms (OK, maybe not a bedroom, especially if they’re married) and the traffic light seems to be a popular
Every week for a couple of months in 2004, I drove back and forth from my home in northern New Jersey to Buffalo, New York. There was a particular section of 690 at which traffic would have to cross the highway certain times of the year when festivities were happening at the fairgrounds on the southern side of the highway. To help with traffic control, temporary signals were used. Span wires were used with disconnects in place, allowing the easy hook-up and take-down of traffic lights whenever they were needed. Below are two photos I took during my travels. [ezcol_1half] I’m curious as to when the signals were hung. I’m guessing it was done at a time when closing down a lane or two of traffic wasn’t going to cause any major delays. But I have to say, I wouldn’t mind watching the process of setting them up or taking
Checker traffic signal
Bob H. came across a single section traffic signal at an auction and wanted to know more about it. His plans were to wire it up and put it in his garage. [ezcol_1third] [/ezcol_1third] [ezcol_1third] [/ezcol_1third] [ezcol_1third_end][/ezcol_1third_end] I was not familiar with the logo on this one so I called upon my fellow gurus over at the Highway Divides forum for their expertise. It turns out that this is from a company called Checker. From what I understand (as one story goes), the signal company Singer were in financial ruin in the 1970s. Fearing unemployment, a group of employees started making their own signals under the name Checker. Unfortunately, their signals were cheaply made outside of the United States with very thin casting and were of low quality. Problems with chipping and fading paint, easily broken door hardware, and rust doomed the new company. Bob’s signal is in very good
Traffic Signal Panorama

August 10, 2014

Spousal Acceptance Factor

I know for most guys, there’s a something in their lives that they’re into. Something that takes up spare time. Something that helps to keep some level of sanity. Maybe it’s a huge screen TV, a motorcycle, a car, a gaming system, trains, or an extensive Star Wars action figure collection. (You know who you are.) All of these items have some sort of, what is commonly called, the Spousal Acceptance Factor – or how much of your “something” is tolerated by your significant other. For me, traffic lights have a relatively low SAF. I have a small house so I have to be creative when it comes to finding places for them. For the full-size signals, I’ve been relegated to the shed, outside under a tarp, and in the corner of the garage. I don’t keep my smaller signals in the main living area of the house. All of
William Potts’ 4-way signal from 1920, now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan.
William Potts’ 4-way signal from 1920, now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. If you like this image, you can buy it from the Henry Ford Museum. I’ve decided that there’s more to this hobby than just looking at my collection, so here it is. It’s My Traffic Lights Blog. Never thought I’d actually start a blog. I feel so… 2005. Although you’ll find conflicting information on the web resulting in dates from 1886 to 1920, August 5, 2014 marked 100 years of traffic control devices as we know them today and many are celebrating the first officially-functional traffic signal being placed into service on August 5, 1914. You can learn more about it in this article. There are other implementations of traffic control devices, and you read about them on Wikipedia. There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to the world of traffic control devices
scroll to topThe green lens looks blue when not illuminated by an incandescent light bulb.