As traffic volume, road width, and average vehicle speed increased, it became increasingly common to suspend traffic signals above the road for better visibility. Steel (and later, aluminum) mast arms stabilized by guy wires were installed at intersections all over New Jersey until the truss rod masts without guy wires were introduced in the mid 1950s. Signal heads could be suspended on the mast either vertically or horizontally, with the red light on the left in the latter case. A small number of guy wire masts are still scattered around the state today, but very few of those still have the original signals attached to them. Interestingly, New York City continues to use guy-wire masts today.
Public announcement: Please click on the photos on this page to get the best views, as in a few cases, the signals are a bit hard to make out, even in heavily cropped images. Whenever you enter a photo gallery, you can get the image in full by clicking on the View full size link (as shown on right).
photos by Kevin Mueller
A traffic light that is almost legendary among vintage signal fans is this 4-way cluster signal in Hoboken, made by Horni Signal Mfg. Corp. between approximately 1935 and 1938. Most signal collectors are familiar with the Crouse-Hinds “Art Deco” and Eagle “Eaglelux” signals that are held together by tie rods. Horni’s adaptation of this design (using 3 rods per head) is a rare find, unlike the aforementioned.
This lone cluster controlled the corner of Washington & 1st Streets without any apparent alteration for over eighty years. It was finally replaced by larger signals adhering to modern specs in April, 2018. Thankfully, it was kept in safe storage, and that October, three fellow collectors and I had the privilege of installing it in the Hoboken Historical Museum!
A two-way Eaglelux cluster from the 1930s or ’40s hangs from a steel guy wire mast in Hoboken in 1973.
Just up the road from Hoboken, the Township of Weehawken still has this wonderful 3-way fixed face GE signal at the corner of Park Ave and 46th Street. Just another reason why Hudson County is still possibly the favorite of vintage signal fans. I saw this light once many years ago, and I am glad to know it’s still alive…and still commanding this intersection by itself.
photos by Brandon King, Jr.
Below are some of the interesting photos of guy-wire masts in Atlantic City from the online RC Maxwell Digital Collection from Duke University.
You can check out the AC span wire photos I have from the RC Maxwell collection here.
The photos above show a mast-hung American Gas Accumulator 4-way cluster. At least one square-lens GE 4-way in visible the background of each photo.
Take a close look at the AGA, and you’ll notice the bottom indication is lit in all directions…more about that on the Weird NJ Signals page.
The photo set above features more of the truly rare GE signals that used square lenses. I would love to find out that at least one of these was saved from the scrap pile.
Crouse-Hinds 4-ways… The first three photos show 3-bulb heads (with reversed colors for side street versus main street) and the last shows a more “modern” 12-bulb Type D.
Just across the marsh from Atlantic City is the city of Pleasantville, certainly one of the first places to experience the headache of Jersey Shore traffic on summer weekends. These images show sectional Horni signals in 1950, along with some lovely cast aluminum highway shields and cast iron guidepost signs. The pendant section hanging from the 4-way cluster on the right appears to be an older, rodded Horni section.
Traffic was already congested in the 1930s along US Routes 1 & 9. The two photos above, taken in Linden in 1936, show late ’20’s/early ’30s vintage solid-body Horni signals hung along the route.
From Rahway, on the left, a pair of 3-way clusters of solid-body Hornis controls an intersection in the early 1940s. In the middle, Navy sailors hitchhike at a corner that has a mixture of sectional Horni and AGA/SSC signals in 1949. Notice that the cross street has pedestal-mounted signals, while the highway gets the masts. All signals on the left side of the highway are Hornis with tunnel visors, while all signals on the right are AGA/SSC signals with cutaway visors. On the right, two dudes do a headstand to try to distract us from the cool silver sectional Horni signals downtown.
Above, we see the progression from pedestals to guy wire masts in Elizabeth. These images show the same view photographed several years apart. On the left, in 1938, pedestal-mounted AGA/SSC signals (look below the Esso sign) controlled the wide intersection at the base of the viaduct. On the right, by 1941, the highway had been upgraded to mast arms, while the cross-street still had the pedestals. While the mast arms were an improvement, it still looked pretty inadequate from a safety standpoint.
A wonderful find from NJ.com, this Kodachrome photo of downtown Elizabeth features a gorgeous hanging AGA cluster between its controller and a lovely street lamp.
On the left, a shiny new Marbelite 4-way cluster draws a crowd at the corner of West 7th Street and Clinton Avenue in Plainfield in 1948. I assume the officer was switching the signal on – or from flash mode to full operation – for the first time. This is the earliest photo I have seen of an aluminum guy wire mast with the slanted arm. This early aluminum post predates the square based posts.
On the right, fast-forward 70 years to an image from Google. The pole with the “milk jug” base is pretty old; probably dating from the 1960s. The signals are much newer, but still only 8″, which is becoming a rarity these days.
Two views of Monument Square in New Brunswick, from 1958 and the late ’70s, show silver guy-wired signals that I can’t positively identify – except that they are way cool.
The third photo was taken just two blocks west of Monument Square, at George Street and Paterson Street, and the fourth photo is from the corner of Somerset Street and Easton Avenue. These last two images are amazing views of Crouse-Hinds Type D clusters…clearly, the lights at Easton Ave have octagonal hardware. I would love to discover that these have been saved in a local garage somewhere.
Still more from the RC Maxwell collection; here are a few guy wire mast signals in Trenton and nearby Ewing Township.
The above signals are from Trenton proper. The first photo shows an AGA cluster in 1949 with very cool hardware, and at least two signals with what appear to be louvered attachments. Note also the decorative seashell covers on the pole base. The next photos show an early (March 1939) installation of Horni sectional signal clusters along with what appears to be the same intersection depicted in an illustration published by Horni Signal in the 1941 Municipal Index. My assumption, which may be wrong, is that the signs saying CAUTION NORMALLY OUT SIGNAL refers to the fact that these signals only operated at designated rush hour times, and were otherwise left dark or in flash mode (image courtesy of Mike Natale).
The photos above are from the corner of Pennington Rd and N. Olden Avenue in Ewing Township in 1946 (l.) and in 1949 (r.). The Horni signals were probably painted silver originally, and then repainted dark green sometime between the photos. Strangely, it appears that the controller boxes got the opposite treatment!
At the time of these photos, Pennington Road was NJ Route 30. In 1953, it was renumbered to NJ Route 69, and then, due to sign theft, it was renumbered again in 1967 to NJ Route 31.
These images from the corners of Straight & Grand (left) and Market & Cianci (right) have sentimental value for me. In the early ’70s, my parents owned a small grocery store in south Paterson, and the signals next to our store were set up in this style. My brother, our cousin and I would stand on the corner like baseball umpires, calling drivers “Safe!” or “Out!”, depending whether they ran a red light or not.
Three views of the 5-way intersection of Main, Broadway and W. Broadway, 1940s and ’50s. The low-hung mast arm on the left side of the first image appears to be for pedestrians. Also interesting is the hardware fastening the side-of-pole heads in pairs with one clamp around the pole. These are either Horni or Marbelite sectional signals, depending on when they were installed.
The oldest signal remaining in Paterson is this pair of GE “Groove Backs” from perhaps the 1940s, at 20th Ave and E 31st Street. Another steel pole and mast is across the street, but with newer signals.
Downtown Passaic in the 1950s. The silver 3-way signals, already at least 20 years old in the photo, would be replaced in the early ’70s by typical Marbelites on truss rod masts. Best I can tell, these appear to be Crouse-Hinds type D signals, as the edges look clean (i.e., no latches/hinges) and the blank sides are simply flat faces.
Westwood / Twp. of Washington
phots by Steven Conboy
Westwood native Steven Conboy captured these images of this lovely 1930s-40s Eaglelux 4-way cluster gracing the center of his boyhood town. As widely popular as Eagle Signal equipment has been across the country, it was always less common in New Jersey, so this is an unusual sight. The pedestal signals look like GEs, probably added to the corner in the early ’50s.
photos by David Prince
GE 1950s streamlined signal heads, the favorite of jugglers everywhere… These are always cool to find, and this Bergen County installation on guy wire masts is the best left in the state. Signal and rail fan David Prince captured these on a 2017 trip to Jersey from his home in the Heart of Dixie.
Below is one of David’s Youtube videos of this intersection. He has posted many good signal videos, including more of these GEs, so be sure to check his channel:
photos by David Prince
Another stop on David Prince’s trip was this beautiful set of Marbelites, looking unscathed since the early ’50s. This setup, with twin 3-way clusters and auxiliary heads on each pole, was once common. I remember seeing several corners set up this way years ago. This is the last survivor I know of.
Here is one of David’s Youtube videos of this intersection. Be sure to check out his other videos as well:
Cinnaminson Police Photos
This set of photographs spanning the 1950s into the ’70s was mostly taken along US Route 130. These signals remind me of what I typically saw in my childhood whenever we drove on the US or state highways. Since most of these photos show guy wire masts, I put the whole photo set on this page. Besides the old lights, I miss the rural feel that has been largely lost in many towns like Cinnaminson.
Each photo view has a “View Full size” option.