What is a Marbelite “Flat-Top”?


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The term “Marbelite Flat-Top” refers to the Marbelite 8″ signal housing with cast ID number TD-19143 H.S., which has a flush top and bottom.  Later Marbelite 8″ casts (i.e., TD-19260 and TE-19408) had a sunken top/bottom and a notch in the back for improved drainage.

The difference can be seen in this photo of two housing casts placed side-by-side.  Click the photo for a larger image.


The Horni – Marbelite – GTE Modular 8″ Signal Timeline*:

So, when were these signal housings made, you ask…  This timeline covers the line of modular 8″ signals originally made by Horni Signal in 1938, and later adopted by Marbelite in 1947 after the takeover of Horni’s traffic signal division.  Marbelite actually manufactured their own lineage of signal heads before 1947, which are not part of this timeline.  I have no information about these “Pre-Horni” Marbelite signals, but examples can be seen in this 1945 advertisement, and this photo detail from Philadelphia.

  • 1938-1953 Cast ID: TD-19143 H.S.

    • First Generation (made by Horni Signal Mfg. 1938-1947)
    • Second Generation (made by The Marbelite Company, starting 1947):  Due to the brand name change, this generation is often referred to as the “Marbelite 1st Generation Flat-Top”.

     

    • Third Generation
    • Fourth Generation
      • Slight housing changes (e.g., dimples removed from the back and around bottom entrance of housing)
      • Brass catch added in housing to retain reflector frame.
      • There are two door shapes in this generation.  The shape changes at some point to a deep, inset design with a flat face and no flange.
  • 1953-1965 : Cast ID: TD-19260

    • aka the “Model 1058” in Marbelite catalogs
    • Introduction of “sink top” housing with rain notch in back
    • Cast ID TD-19260 embossed on back inside wall of housing
    • Same deep, non-flanged doors as used at the end of the previous cast.
  • 1953-1965 : Cast ID: TE-19408

    • First Generation
      • A slightly thinner and lighter cast overall
      • Logo changed to Down-slope parallelogram
      • Cast ID TE-19408 embossed on back inside wall of housing
      • Rubber gaskets on door
    • Second Generation
      • Very subtle change: Slightly thicker outer lip of housing cast.
    • Third Generation
  • Post 1978

    General Traffic Equipment (GTE) of Poughkeepsie, NY acquired and resurrected the use of the Marbelite 8″ signal housing for a while starting sometime in the 1990s, long after Marbelite ceased their signal production. These housings looked almost exactly like the Marbelite TE-19408 housing, but with at least one difference; the change in logo to the GTE logo. I have no further details on these at the current writing.


* 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 Phil Glick, Jay Jenkins, Larry Currie, Bailey Stumbaugh, and the late Jesse Vallely, for helping identify the minutae.