This page documents the traffic signals made by Horni Signal Manufacturing Corp. of Newark, NJ and New York, NY. Horni manufactured all sorts of mechanical equipment for civilian traffic control, fire alarms, and for military applications from 1924 to 1947.
The Type 250 (mid 1920s)
The Type 950 (mid 1920s)
The Type 491 (mid 1920s)
Solid-Body Hinged-Door Signals (approx .1928-35)
Later branded as “Ruleta”
In New York City, thousands of these hinged-door Horni signals were installed – along with GE signals – in the first wave of the city’s signalization. However, as most vintage signal collectors know, the majority of the NYC traffic lights of this era were actually branded as “Ruleta”. Apparently, Horni sold the molds to Ruleta (an “associated company” to Marbelite ~ click ad on left) at some point – I assume no later than 1938, once Horni had developed their new closed sectional signals (see further below). Given the fairly high ratio of NYC-retired Ruletas versus Hornis we’ve seen in the colleting community, I wouldn’t be surprised if the rebranding actually occurred before 1938. A small number of the NYC signals have also been found branded as “Interflash”, or, like the signal in my own collection, with no branding at all.
By the early 1930s, your municipality could run its modern Horni signals with a super-modern “Vehitrol” actuated control system by Horni (click image on right).
Open Sectional Signals (approx. 1935-1938)
Closed Sectional Signals (1938-1947)
In 1938, having recognized a good idea in General Electric’s “Groove Back“ signals, Horni followed with their own closed sectional design that did away with tie rods and end plates.
Exterior features (single-face heads only):
- Each housing section has a gracefully tapered cross-section.
- The sections are bolted together through three drill points on the top and bottom.
- There are sixteen dimples surrounding the bottom wire entrance hole, apparently to allow for variable positioning of one section from another (carriage bolts would be necessary for this). I have not seen this done.
- The Horni script logo is on back of each section, with a small dimple above and below.
Exterior features (all heads):
1. “Lipless” doors have raised hinge bosses and sit into the housing.
2. The lens collars are 1″ deep.
3. The sheet metal visors are typically (not always) “tunnel” style, with a straight profile (i.e., not sloping away from the light). The visor length is slightly greater at the top than at the corners.
- Doors are seated in a groove around the opening 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. The frames were trimmed down at some point in time; note the difference in frame thickness between the two photos above.
- A brass retaining wire bolted to the door keeps the reflector frame secured behind the lens.
Bakelite Signals (WWII aluminum rationing)
While heavily involved in wartime procurement contracts, Horni continued to produce traffic signals during World War II. While some manufacturers opted for steel in lieu of aluminum, Horni is the only brand that I know of that produced a war-time signal made of Bakelite (with steel visors). 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 aluminum signals when the war ended in 1945, but they would be bought out by Marbelite by early 1947.
Horni Signal was on a successful trajectory while traffic signal demand was skyrocketing after World War II, so why did Horni fold and sell out to Marbelite in 1947? Undoubtedly, the nefarious habits of its owners contributed to this bad fortune. Credit to Randy Trezak for sending me this 1946 NY Times article about the shady Horni brothers.