“…just as God intended!”
~ a friend watching an electro-mechanical controller run the traffic lights 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 These old devices use outdated but fascinating technology, implemented in a variety of ways, to run signals.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 e/m controllers 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 controller was already configured for two-way vehicular and pedestrian motion with solid-state flash, so I only had to wire the signals and power chord to the back panel and to paint the cabinet. I brushed on Sherwin-Williams Ripe Olive Green in satin. I am currently using it simply to run my NYC signal with the old-fashioned sequence of green-dark-red (Youtube video below).
1940s Marbelite Cabinet
This small (roughly 17 x 11 x 8) cabinet was originally produced by American Gas Accumulator, probably around 1930, and was inherited by Marbelite when they took over Signal Service Corp in early 1946. The cast IDs for the body and door are AGA 1777 and AGA 1778, respectively. These cabinets were used for M15 controllers, and possibly other models, as well as for simple flasher units. This came to me with a later, solid-state flasher unit that I am using (see video below). I’d love to find an M15 or other small AGA/SSC/Marb controller that needs a home, but chances of that are pretty slim.
Above are two examples of the kinds of original equipment that were put into this style of Marbelite cabinet. Left is a mechanical flasher (Gerrit Carstensen). On the right is an M15 full controller (Mark Cheney).
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 Gambara 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 (I think). Instead of a dark caution phase, they illuminated green and red simultaneously :