As traffic volume, average vehicle speed, and accidental fatalities increased in the 1920s and ’30s, it became common to suspend traffic signals above the road for better visibility. Steel, and later, aluminum, mast arms, stabilized by guy wires (hence, the title of this page) were used in 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 horizontal case. A number of guy wire masts are still scattered around the state, although nearly all of these survivors have newer signals attached to them.
The Hoboken Horni
photos by Kevin Mueller
The most well-known traffic light in New Jersey among vintage signal fans might be this 4-way signal in Hoboken, made by Horni Signal Mfg. Corp. in the mid 1930s. Most signal collectors are familiar with the Crouse-Hinds “Art Deco” and Eagle “Eaglelux” signals that are held together by tie rods and end plates. The Horni adaptation of this design was much less commonly seen, but here is a beautiful example of one. The Horni design used three tie rods per head, unlike CH and Eagle, which used two rods. My guess is that these tie-rod Hornis were made for only a few years before the modular model was introduced in 1938.
This lone signal controlled the corner of Washington & 1st Streets without any apparent alteration for over eighty years. It was finally replaced by larger signals adhering to current specs in April, 2018. Thankfully, the old Horni was not tossed in the dumpster, however. 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!
photos by Brandon King
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 had seen this light once over ten years ago, and I am glad to know it’s still going…and still commanding this intersection alone!
Below are some of the amazing 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.
For all the images that open up in “slider” mode, I recommend using the “view full size” button (in the lower right corner in full desktop layout) to see these images best.
The photos above show a mast-hung American Gas Accumulator adjustable 4-way. All of these photos also include at least one square-lens GE 4-way in the background!
Take a close look at the AGA, and you’ll notice the bottom indication is lit in all directions. This strange signal featured on the Signal Oddities 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.
Above, in the left-hand column, are two views of Monument Square in New Brunswick, from 1958 and the late ’70s, showing silver guy-wired signals that I can’t identify with certainty…the hanging lights look more like Crouse-Hinds portholes than anything to me, but the hardware looks like Horni Signal.
The middle photo was taken just two blocks west of Monument Square, at George Street and Paterson Street, and the right hand 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 Flat-Top 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 (present day NJ Route 31) and N. Olden Avenue in Ewing Township in 1946 (left) and in 1949. The silver (or white) Horni signals were repainted dark green sometime between the photos. However, notice that the controller boxes got the opposite treatment!
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 just like these; horizontal heads on single-pipe mast arms, held from steel poles with guy wires, and (re)painted yellow. My brother, our cousin and I would stand on the corner like baseball umpires, calling drivers “Safe!” if they entered the intersection on amber or “Out!”, for running a red light.
The photos above show two views of the 5-way intersection of Main, Broadway and W. Broadway, circa 1950. Notice the low-hung mast arm on the left side of the first image, obviously placed for pedestrians in the crosswalks. Also interesting is the hardware fastening the side-of-pole heads in pairs with one brace around the pole. These green Horni signals would be replaced by green horizontal Marbelite signals later in the 1950s, which were subsequently re-painted yellow in the ’60s.
As of this writing, Paterson has only one intersection remaining with signal equipment from this era, at the corner of 20th Ave and E 31st Street. There are still two of the old steel poles there, one of which still has the original pair of 1940s GE “Groove-Back” signal heads, retro-fitted with LEDs.
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.
Here David’s Youtube videos of this intersection:
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 are David’s Youtube videos of this intersection:
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.