“…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 These old devices use outdated but fascinating technology, implemented in a variety of ways, to run signals.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. The only adjustment I made was to bend the contacts on the timer dial a little bit to reduce the duration of the contacts, and thus remove the loud buzz with each cam advancement.
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!
The highlighted detail in the photo on the left is a mechanical flasher with two fingers for alternate flash. It was kind of interesting that such a new controller still used this sort of mechanism rather than a solid state flasher.
When I first got my NYC red-green signal, I configured the B3 to run it: