My Traffic Signal Controllers

“Just as God intended!” ~ Buster from the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, when he came across an electro-mechanical controller at a Baltimore intersection

While some of my signals are running nicely on hobby circuit board controllers – Sean Breen in Canada being my favorite provider of these – there’s something special about the look and sound of an electro-mechanical (e/m) controller. These old devices use outdated but fascinating technology, implemented in a variety of ways, to run signals. Here are the street controllers, electromechanical and otherwise, that I have owned.


1960s Eagle EF-20

In June 2019, after five years without hearing that familiar “ker-chunk” of an e/m controller running my traffic lights, I acquired a working 1960s Eagle EF-20 put together by a collector in Ohio.  The controller unit itself (the pale green box with the timer dial window) was legally procured years ago from Lewiston, Idaho surplus by a signal technician/collector in the Pacific NW. The Eagle EF-20 seems to have earned a reputation as a reliable controller, and so there are lots of them and lots of parts for them out there.

My EF-20 was already configured for two-way vehicular and pedestrian motion with solid-state flash, so I only had to wire up the signals and power chord to the panel board and paint the cabinet. I am currently using it simply to run my NYC signal using the old-fashioned sequence of green->dark->red (see video above).


1940s Marbelite Cabinet (with solid-state flasher)

This small cabinet (rounded inner dimensions: 16 x 11 x 7) was originally produced by American Gas Accumulator, probably around 1930, and was inherited by Marbelite when they took over Signal Service Corp in late 1945. The cast IDs for the body and door are AGA1777 and AGA1778, respectively.

These cabinets were used for M15 controllers, and possibly other models, as well as for electromechanical flasher units. My cabinet came to me with a newer solid-state flasher unit and a junky digital timer. The panel board was rotting piece of plywood. I replaced it with a new piece of wood, and mounted the flasher, fuse and terminal strip to it. I’d love to stumble across an M15 or another AGA/SSC/Marb controller that would fit here, but the chances of that are pretty slim. I have it running my Marbelite 2-way blinker for the forseeable future.

The photo on the left, taken from Trackside Gorilla’s Flickr collection, shows one of these cabinets that was recently in service with a full controller in Kingston, NY. If you look closely, the lettering on the door, including the “M” logo, have a different font than my cabinet has.


2000 General Traffic Equipment (GTE)

The previous e/m controller I owned was a General Traffic Equipment (GTE) controller built in 2000 that was retired from Brooklyn, NY.   I picked this one up from the GTE warehouse in Newburgh, NY in 2012.

I had a very cool display going with this controller for a while in my old place. Much thanks to New Jersey collector Steven Gembara for helping me set it up.


1993 GTE Model B3

My first controller was a GTE Model B3 controller made for New Orleans in 1993.  This manufacture date came as a surprise to me – up to that time, I had assumed that e/m controllers ceased to be manufactured sometime around 1970.  I acquired this controller from a very nice collector who shipped it to me from Louisiana in 2003.  I had it running my lights when my kids were just little tots playing around them in the basement…great memories!

When I first got my NYC red-green signal, I configured the B3 to run it in the sequence that NYC used for red-green signals starting in the ’50s. Instead of a dark caution phase, they illuminated green and red simultaneously :