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.
Horni Type 250 signals with 6″ lenses are suspended by guy wire masts at an unknown location in the 1920s. Notice the signals heads are touched up. The signage on the buildings are for Marmon Cars and Mills Sainte Claire, small auto manufacturers from Indianapolis and Marysville, MI, respectively.
Photo provided by Mike Natale.
Union City and other neighboring towns in Hudson County are like a place that signal time forgot. Unfortunately, time eventually caught up with this lone Horni/Marbelite cluster from the 1930s or 40s. But it stood valiantly at the corner of 47th and New York Ave until sometime soon after the 2007 Google image above on the right. The image on the left was probably taken around 1960 from a slightly more distant vantage point.
More guy wires from Union City. These are all very old installations from before the ’50s. Hudson County was one of the most progressive regions for early signalization. The sign on the mast arm in the photo on left reads: MOVE ON GREEN ONLY. This is also seen beneath the Edgewater signal on the Pedestals page.
Moving south from Union City, 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. and 3 Feet from the Street
unmarked photos by Kevin Mueller
And moving a bit further south, we arrive in Hoboken, where we find a traffic light that is almost legendary among vintage signal fans – this 1930s vintage 4-way cluster signal in Hoboken, made by Horni Signal Mfg. Corp.
This lone cluster controlled the corner of Washington & 1st Streets without any alteration for over eighty years. It was finally replaced by new signals in April 2018. A few months later, 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. The inline-arrowed Marbelite clusters from the ’50s or ’60s lurking behind the Eaglelux are really cool, and beyond them are horizontal signals. This photo represents pretty well the odd mixes of signals from different eras that could be found all over Jersey back then. As a kid, I was keenly aware of the signals and other details of the streets we drove on, so I could usually tell exactly where we were if we’d been there before. I would sometimes navigate from the back seat if my parent driving the car got lost.
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. The photo of the police officer is not from the RC Maxwell Digital Collection.
Crouse-Hinds 4-ways… The first four 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.
Elizabeth was the home of Amercian Gas Accumulator, and its successor, Signal Service Corporation. The photos in this section all feature AGA/SSC signals.
Above, we get a rare glimpse of the progression of signals at an Elizabeth intersection over several years. 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. In the center, 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. On the right, by 1946, the signals had been repainted from silver to dark green.
Wonderful shots from downtown Elizabeth, both of the above photos are circa 1950. The Kodachrome photo features a 3-way cluster set up between its controller and a lovely street lamp. The B&W photo shows a fixed-face AGA (circular doors indicate it is from before the SSC transition) with a NO TURNS sign box beneath.
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.
On the left are two views of Monument Square in New Brunswick, from 1958 and the late ’70s. I can’t quite tell the make of the silver guy-wired signals that existed then.
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 show silver 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.
Newark favored GE signals for many years. This 1950 photo shows an early 1930s GE Novalux setup on short horizontal guy wire masts. Click the image for the full size, or click here for a cropped detail.
Newark’s mix of horizontal and vertical signals was typical of the larger cities of NJ. On the left are GE “Groove Backs” on early ’50s guy wire masts. The center photo (by Wernher Krutein) shows a lovely set of 4-way clusters, one with a pendant left arrow. The photo on the right shows how Newark looked in the 1980s when I worked and went to school there. Guy wire masts in the foreground and background support aging GE and/or Marbelite heads. Many assemblies like these were still around Newark into the 21st Century.
Trenton / Ewing
Still more from the RC Maxwell collection; here are a few guy wire mast signals in Trenton and nearby Ewing Township.
An AGA cluster and what appear to be Horni signals with louvered attachments in Trenton in 1949. Note the very cool cluster hardware and the decorative seashell covers on the pole base.
March 1939: An early installation of Horni sectional signal clusters at the corner of Pennington Road (old NJ Route 30) and Parkway Avenue on the Trenton-Ewing border. The illustration on the right, published by Horni Signal in the 1941 Municipal Index, appears to be the same intersection. 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).
A mere 7/10ths of a mile to the north, at the corner of Pennington Rd and N. Olden Avenue in Ewing Township, these photos were taken three years apart, in 1946 (l.) and in 1949 (r.). I believe this signal was probably installed at the same time as those in the 1939 Trenton photo above. I’m not sure if this was a common pattern, but these lights, like those in the Elizabeth photo series above, were 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.
The two 4-way signals above (a GE and a Marbelite) are not mine, but they have a special place in my heart, you could say. They had served at the corner of Mill & Grand Streets in Paterson from the late 1940s until approximately 1974, when a car knocked over the Marbelite’s guy wire pole. The retired electrical contractor who salvaged these signals kept them in storage until 2019. He explained to me that Paterson contractors traditionally used to pool the proceeds from the signals they scrapped and then they would spend that money on an annual celebration. This changed in the early 1970s when Mayor Thomas Rooney claimed that money for the city. Some contractors, like the one I met, snubbed this policy by keeping some of the equipment they removed, rather than scrapping it. Case in point with these lights.
The wild part of the story is not that the contractor had them in storage for 45 years, but that when I saw them in 2019, I immediately recognized them from my early childhood. My five-year-old brain had stored photographic memory of these two lights at that corner. Now, if I can only remember what I need to get done today…
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 the late 1930s or 1940s, at 20th Ave and E 31st Street. Another steel pole and mast is across the street, but with newer signals.
Westwood / Twp. of Washington
photos 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.
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.
Westfield: Zoom in to find two very old and interesting horizontally-mounted signals on guy wire masts. This is a crop from a 1990 photo from Todd Jacobson’s Flickr page.
A 1950s postcard from Manasquan with beautiful 4-way Marbelite clusters and a corner pedestal.