The Horni – Marbelite – GTE Signal Timeline

The timeline on this page specifically traces the “sectional” signal design that evolved through three different manufacturers; Horni, Marbelite and GTE.  My curiosity about the chronology of Marbelite sectional signals, which were very common to NJ, is what drove me to create this timeline as a collectors’ reference.  This page does NOT try to present an exhaustive list of the signals offered by these companies.

1938-47 : Horni Sectional Signals

Horni Signal faceIn 1938, Horni Signal Mfg Corp. evidently recognized a good idea from one of their competitors (General-Electric), and introduced their sectional signal design, replacing the earlier tie-rodded design (see: The Hoboken Horni). 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.

The Horni script logo is on back of the adjustable modules.  The term “Flat-Top” is sometimes used for these signals referring to the flush surface of the  housing top and bottom.  Modules are bolted together through three drill points on the top and bottom of each module.  I do not know what the dimples surrounding the bottom wire entrance hole were for. Perhaps Horni made a hardware fitting that mated with these dimples for adjustable positioning, but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such hardware.

The access doors are the same in the adjustable and fixed-face signals.  The doors are seated in a groove in the housing with a wick gasket. The circular lens portal on the door is an inch deep. Reflectors are medium thickness glass with a deep bowl shape.  Reflector frames are 3-leg cast baskets, hinged on the back of the doors. Notice there are different thicknesses to the frames.  The thicker frame, seen in the yellow fixed-face beacon on the right, is the earlier design. There is a brass retaining wire bolted to the door to keep the reflector frame secured behind the lens.  The thinner frames are embossed HORNI TC-19145 by the socket sleeve.

Early photos of Horni sectional signals in service ~ both images above were taken in 1939.  Note the straight-profile tunnel visors, and pipe hardware with “ball” joints, typical of the time.  The photo on the left was taken in Trenton, the image on the right is a screen capture from a documentary called The City.

~1942-45 : Horni War-time Bakelite Signals


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 would sell its traffic signal division to Marbelite shortly after the war.

1947-48 : Marbelite Takes Over the Horni Line

In 1947, The Marbelilte Company acquired the traffic division of Horni Signal Mfg. Corp., and continued to produce the pre-War Horni sectional signal design. This design became Marbelite’s big seller, and surely marked the end of their tie-rodded design seen in this announcement of the takeover of Signal Service Corp, and this photo detail from Philadelphia.

Except for changes in the markings, these Marbelite-produced signals are virtually the same as the former Horni Signal counterparts.  The logo has been changed to the block-lettered MARBELITE with no other verbiage. Cast ID TD-19143 H.S. is faintly embossed on the inside floor of the housing.  The frames are the thinner kind, and are now embossed TC-19145 by the socket sleeve (the word HORNI has been removed).

At some point soon after the takeover, I assume in 1947 or ’48, a thin flange / lip was added around the door edge.  The lipped doors have a slightly different mounting for the brass retaining wire, which was changed to a straight piece with a hooked end that is simply seated in, rather than bolted to, the door.

1948-50 : “Phantomless” Reflectors

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. 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 1948 ad above reuses artwork from the 1940 Horni ad.

A Marbelite fixed-face 4-way from the 1948-50 period is shown above.  The doors and reflectors are the same as those of the adjustable signals.

1950-53 : First “Patent Pending” Marbelites

Patent applied for 25 Feb 1950.  The main change, again, is with the reflectors. The patented reflector system is mounted to the inside of the housing, swiveling on a bent brass wire, rather than being bolted to the back of the door.  The reflectors themselves have the same shallow shape as before the “Phantomless” ones advertised in 1948.  I believe this was the point when aluminum reflectors started being offered. PAT. PEND. and NEW YORK, U.S.A. verbiage was added to the logo.  This change is another one that was evidently catalyzed by General-Electric, which first made their own in-housing reflector system in 1949.

The door shape changed subtly at this juncture; There is a shallower lens portal, since the optical units have been moved backward slightly into the housing, and a slightly rounder profile to the raised corners.  Just to keep things hard to classify…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.  This new door shape carried through the next generation (see photos in 1953 section further down the page).

By this time, the visors (either tunnel or cutaway style) were commonly cut to a uniform 8″ length with a downward-slant profile.

{ Finned Marbelites }

During the Fifties, decorative end plates and tie rods were optionally offered, ostensibly to comply with outdated specs requiring these parts in certain municipalities (e.g., Baltimore).  The end plates were merely attached to the top and bottom modules, and were not a functional necessity.   Think of it as a sectional signal adhering to tie-rodded signal specs.   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.

1953-65 : The “Model 1058”

This model featured the “sink top” (my term) design for improved drainage.

The logo on the spine of the housing continues to have the PAT. PEND. | NEW YORK, U.S.A. verbiage. The doors have the “deep” profile with no lip, and no raised bosses across the face. Cast ID TD-19260 is embossed on back inside wall of housing.  The housing has recessed top and bottom with splined wire entrances and a rain notch in back.

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.

1965-70 : A Lighter Cast

The basic housing shape and dimensions remained the same from the previous model, but the cast is thinner.  The three drill points on the roof and floor of the modules have been removed; all modules are fastened 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.

~1970-78 : 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.
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 for a while starting sometime in the late 1990s. The housings were practically unchanged (the doors were still embossed MARBELITE on the inside) but the GTE logo was impressed on the back. A representative of GTE told collector Steven Gembara that they stopped using these molds around 2014.

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 like Jay Jenkins, Larry Currie, Bailey Stumbaugh, Steven Gembara, Phil Glick, Lary Brown, and the late Jesse Vallely, for helping identify the minutae.