The Horni – Marbelite – GTE Signal Timeline

A Collectors’ Reference

The timeline on this page traces the modern “sectional” traffic signal design that evolved under three different manufacturers, namely, Horni, Marbelite and GTE, from 1938 to 2014.   This page does NOT try to document all of the signal models that were offered by these companies.


Horni Pre-Sectional Signals

For historical context, below is a high-level overview of the signal designs Horni offered prior to introducing their sectional signals in 1938:

  • mid-1920s : The earliest signals that Horni manufactured came in various designs, including designs with:
  • approx. 1928-1935 : A new design using 8″ lenses on hinged doors became very popular across New Jersey and nearby states. The adjustable signals have a solid body with a tapered shape. The molds for these signals were later re-branded as RULETA for New York City. Ruleta was advertised as an “associate company” to Marbelite.
  • approx. 1935-1938 : Horni updated their adjustable signals from solid bodies to a tie-rodded design – for example, see the Hoboken Horni.

1938-1947 : Horni Sectional Signals

In 1938, Horni Signal Mfg Corp. evidently recognized a good idea from one of their competitors (General-Electric), and introduced their own sectional signal design.

Exterior features:

  • Each section has a gracefully tapered cross-section that remains the same throughout this timeline.
  • The sections are bolted together through three drill points on the top and bottom.

  • The Horni script logo is on back of each section, with a small dimple above and below.

hornimarb_bottom
  • The “lipless” doors sit inside the housing.
  • The circular lens collars are an inch deep.
  • There are sixteen dimples surrounding the bottom wire entrance hole.  I’m not sure what they were for; perhaps a hardware fitting mated with these dimples for adjustable positioning.

horni39crop
  • The sheet metal visors are typically “tunnel” style, with a straight profile (i.e., not slanted downward), and measuring 7″ at the top of the tunnel and 6 5/8″ at the corners.

Interior features:

  • The doors are seated in a groove in the housing with a wick gasket.
  • Reflectors are medium thickness glass with a deep bowl shape.
  • Reflector frames are 3-leg cast baskets, hinged on the back of the doors, and embossed HORNI TC-19145 by the socket sleeve. Older frames were thicker (compare the frames in the two photos above).
  • A brass retaining wire bolted to the door keeps the reflector frame secured behind the lens.


1942?-1945 : Horni War-time Bakelite Signals

bakelite2way

The first gap in this timeline was during the war years.  Horni, like other manufacturers, paused their production of aluminum signals for a time during World War II. Horni is the only brand that I know of that produced a war-time signal made of Bakelite. Some other brands, like GE, were known to have used steel or other alloys.  These ultra-rare Bakelite Hornis have been seen by a few contemporary collectors, including this light that still serves in East Rutherford, NJ.

Horni most likely resumed production of their sectional aluminum signals  when the war ended in 1945, but sold its traffic signal division to Marbelite by April 1947 (see below).


1947-1948 : Marbelite Acquires Horni

In 1947, The Marbelite Company acquired the traffic division of Horni Signal Mfg. Corp. The newly-acquired signal molds replaced Marbelite’s old tie-rodded signals (as depicted in this 1946 announcement of the takeover of Signal Service Corp), and helped established Marbelite as one of the biggest brands in traffic equipment.

Exterior features:

  • Except for swapping in the MARBELITE logo on the back of the sections, these signals are virtually unchanged from Horni.

Interior features:

  • The reflector frames are embossed TC-19145 by the socket sleeve (the word HORNI has been removed).

TD-19143HS
  • Cast ID TD-19143 H.S. is faintly embossed on the inside floor of the housing.

A slight door change:

Soon after the transition to Marbelite, probably by 1948, a thin lip was added around the door edge. The retaining wire mount on back was changed to a simpler design wherein a bent piece of wire was hung, rather than bolted, onto the door.


1948-1950 : “Phantomless” Reflectors

Marbelite ad, 1948 ~ with some graphics from the 1940 Horni ad

In or around 1948, Marbelite introduced the “phantomless” optical unit to reduce the reflection of ambient light from the signal.  This was accomplished with shallower reflectors. The glass is also thinner than the previous generation’s.  A deep collar in front of the reflector seats the mirrors farther back from the lens. The frames have a 4-spoke design with “Dzus” fasteners.

The body of the signal did not change; this was only a change to the door mounts and reflectors. Cast ID TD-19143 H.S. is still embossed on the inside floor of the housing.

A Marbelite fixed-face 4-way from the 1948-50 period is shown on the right.  The doors and reflectors are the same between fixed-face and adjustable signals.


1950-1953 : The First “Patent Pending” Marbelites

A patent for the new reflector system was applied for on 25 Feb 1950.  This change is another one that was evidently catalyzed by General-Electric, who introduced their own in-housing reflector system in 1949.

  • No more door-mounted reflectors. The patented reflector system is mounted to the inside of the housing, swiveling on a bent brass wire.  The reflector glass is unchanged, and I believe aluminum reflectors started being offered.
  • PAT. PEND. and NEW YORK, U.S.A. verbiage was added to the logo.
  • Cast ID TD-19143 H.S. is still embossed on the inside floor of the housing.
  • The lens collar on the door was reduced from about 1″ deep to about 1/2″, and there is a slightly rounder profile to the raised corners inside the lip of each door.
  • Visors (either tunnel or cutaway style) were 7″ or 8″ length with a downward-slant profile.
  • The dimples by the logo and around the bottom wire entrance were removed at some point during this period.
1058.door.JoeC

Note: The door shape changed again at some point in this period to a deep profile with no lip, and with no hinge bosses across the face (see above).  This new door shape carried through the Model 1058 generation.


{ Finned Marbelites }

The early patent pending Marbelite signals (1950-1953) could optionally be retro-fitted with decorative end plates and tie rods, ostensibly to comply with outdated specs in certain municipalities (e.g., Baltimore).  The end plates were merely attached to the top and bottom sections with a single bolt, and then run through with two tie rods.  These were not a functional necessity, although they do add a graceful touch.  The fins came in at least two varieties, a flatter fin with three vertical bars, and a more peaked fin with five bars.  These are known as “Finned Marbelites”, or “Marb-Decos” among collectors.


1950s-70s: Marbelite L Series (12″ Lens) Signals

The 1950s saw the introduction of signals with 12″ lenses. Marbelite called their 12″ signals the “L Series”. The first L Series Marbelites were the same shape as the 8″ signals, and had dual welding strips across the back of each section. These early Type Ls are rarely found in service or in collections.

The L Series signal was soon redesigned to a more complex and materially efficient shape, with recessed ends for drainage, rounded doors and a domed back. This design was widely produced starting at least as early as 1963. The older signals of this period have a flat door, and the newer signals have a raised ridge around the perimeter of the door.


1953-1965 : The Marbelite “Model 1058”

  • This is the end of the “Flat Top” period, as the sections now have a recessed top and bottom with splined wire entrances, and a rain notch in back for improved water drainage. (see photo on left)
  • The logo on the sections continues to have the PAT. PEND. | NEW YORK, U.S.A. verbiage.
  • The doors have the “deep” profile with no lip, and no hinge bosses across the face.
  • Cast ID has changed: TD-19260 is now embossed on back inside wall of housing.
  • Although three raised drill points were provided to bolt the sections together, it started to become commonplace to fasten the sections together with rings and carriage bolts at the wire entrance holes during this generation.


1965-1970?: A Lighter Cast

  • The basic sectional shape and dimensions remained the same from the previous model, but the cast is slightly thinner.
  • The three drill points on the roof and floor of the sections have been removed; sections are always fastened together by rings and carriage bolts.
  • The logo changed to a down-slope parallelogram.
  • Cast ID TE-19408 is embossed on the inside wall of the housing.
  • The doors have a rubber gasket on the back (no gasket on the housing).
  • The door shape is a smooth square with rounded corners and squared bases at the visor mounts.
  • The reflector frames are spring-loaded, rather than sitting on a brass wire.

At this time, Marbelite stopped producing fixed-face 4-way signals.

This is also the time when Marbelite offered visors with a tunnel cut on one side and a full cutaway on the other.  Long-time collector John Reitvelt coined the term “tunnaway” for these years ago on his website.  The slightly damaged tunnaway signal pictured above may still be in service today in North Haledon.  I remember seeing them in other towns, including Metuchen and Berkeley Heights.


1970?-1978 : Last-Gen Marbelites

  • The logo is changed to rectangular “Traffic Light” design.  The PAT. PEND. verbiage has been removed.
  • Back plate mounting nibs have been added behind the latch and hinge mounts.
  • The cast ID TE-19408 is embossed on the inside wall of the housing (unchanged since 1965).

This was the last era of manufacture of Marbelite-branded aluminum vehicular traffic signals.  I believe that Marbelite went out of business at this time, and then re-started at a later date.


1997?-2014 : The GTE Era

General Traffic Equipment (GTE) of Newburgh, NY acquired and used the old Marbelite TE-19408 signal casting molds starting sometime in the late 1990s. The housings were practically unchanged from Marbelite, except that the Marbelite logo was replaced by the GTE logo. The doors were still embossed MARBELITE on the inside. A representative of GTE told collector Steven Gembara that they stopped using these molds around 2014.

These modern GTE signals are the end of a long line of history, as they have the same cross-sectional shape as the Horni sectional signals of 1938!


Special thanks goes to Joe LiPari of The Marbelite Company, who looked up the years of manufacture of the cast IDs for me in a phone conversation many years ago.  Thanks also goes to fellow collectors, including Jay Jenkins, Larry Currie, Bailey Stumbaugh, Steven Gembara, Phil Glick, Lary Brown, and the late Jesse Vallely, for helping identify the minutae.