When traffic lights were first being installed around the country, it was most common for the signals to be mounted on top of pedestals about 8 feet tall on the corners, or on “islands” in the middle of the street. They also could be mounted on the side of utility and streetlamp posts, sometimes with only one light facing each approach. These methods are still used today (the islands are extremely rare), but usually in an auxiliary way with the main signals hanging overhead. This page features some New Jersey applications in the pedestal era.
- Vintage Pedestal Photos
- Pedestal-Era Survivors
- Summit: Safety Zone Beacons – NJ’s Oldest Signals in Service
- West New York: Pedestal 4-Ways
- East Rutherford: War-Time Bakelite Hornis
- Pedestal Hornis – A Rare Collector’s Find
- Union: The Last Hornis?
Vintage Pedestal Photos
In this section, I will post vintage photos from around the state, mostly culled from the RC Maxwell advertising company’s archive kept online at Duke University. Click these photos to see the full size version.
In many busy intersections of the early years, the simple flashing island beacon was used to keep traffic flowing where it was supposed to. The American Gas Accumulator beacon on the left was photographed in Jersey City in 1927. The graphic on the right, from an AGA advertisement, provides a reminder that children once freely roamed the planet.
Circa 1928-36 Horni pedestal signal clusters control a trolley crossing in Newark around 1950.
Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park
In 1926, Horni Manufacturing Corp. of Newark NJ and NYC, an early pioneer in traffic control, equipped Asbury Park’s Ocean Avenue with these cool variations of their Type 950 pedestal signals. These lights, with their small, uniquely shaped lenses, were specifically selected for their looks, as well as their integrity with the decorative lighting standards in the middle of the avenue. This installation was documented in a small article in The American City Magazine in July 1926.
Based on the photos I have seen from the RC Maxwell collection, these signals were removed sometime before 1945, and were not immediately replaced. It must have been difficult having no traffic signals on Ocean Avenue, and by 1949, it was re-designated as a one-way street, thus creating what was known locally as “The Circuit”. However, even with this traffic pattern, the steady increase in volume meant that traffic lights would ultimately return to Ocean Avenue.
A Horni Type 491 signal stanchion controls traffic and keeps everyone, well… safer, at the bend where Asbury Ave meets Ocean Ave in Asbury Park. This was essentially a crosswalk signal application.
I believe we are looking at Essco signals in both of the above photos. Essco was more widely used in the Midwest than the East Coast. On the left, we see Essco 2-way clusters in Palmyra in 1937, with a 1927-spec NJ Route S-41 shield also visible just before the railroad underpass. On the right, a 4-way signal that looks Essco-ish adds a lovely touch to the scene at the corner of Lafayette Ave and Diamond Bridge Ave in Hawthorne in 1930.
Any reader who knows the meaning of the OUT ON GREEN ONLY sign in the Palmyra photo, or who can positively identify the make of the 4-way signal is encouraged to send me a note through the Contact page.
This is the intersection of US-1 (then NJ Route 25) with Milltown Road in North Brunswick. The intersection was once controlled by pedestal-mounted signals (looks like AGAs on the left and Hornis facing the camera). Today, it is a multi-lane overpass with ramps. Cook College, my alma mater, is about a mile ahead of this location.
Just a few miles up the road in downtown New Brunswick, we find circa 1920s Crouse-Hinds Type T signals with decorative hardware at the corner of George & Albany Streets.
The mosaic above is from four Trenton intersections in the 1930s-40s.
- A handsome GE Novalux 4-way signal on a fluted steel pole made by Union Metal.
- Crouse-Hinds Type T signals on the left corner and fixed-face on the right.
- Less-often seen, shallow porthole-style signals by Crouse-Hinds. Are these older than the solid cast Type T signals, or did they come in between the Type T and Type D. I believe they may be older, although that would mean Crouse-Hinds went from a tie-rod design to a solid cast design then back again.
- Pedestal-mounted adjustable signals by American Gas Accumulator
There are lots of other spectacular treats, including street lamps, fire alarm boxes, business signs and murals and guide and route signs.
The changing of the guard in Vineland… A very old porthole-style signal on an island pedestal, seen in operation ca. 1960 on the left, is being replaced by a modern set of horizontal signals with 12″ lenses in the 1972 newspaper clipping on the right. The newspaper caption mentions the prohibition of truck parking in the center lane, which we see an example of in the earlier photo.
An old police-operated 4-way (Essco?) still in use in Burlington in the ’50s.
Four-way signals on Union Metal poles in Jersey City, looking a little worn already in this photo from the ’50s or early ’60s… The signal in the foreground is a GE Novalux with angled doors.
The two postcards above were photographed in Somerville a short time apart in the 1960s. The original signals are pedestal-mounted AGA heads, possibly dating back as far as the 1920s, with only one signal per approach. In the 1968 photo on the right, the upgraded intersection features brand new Marbelite signals on truss rod masts.
Bound Brook has lots of good Mexican food these days, but no more pharmacies with a soda fountain, nor any finial-topped AGA signals like this one controlling the corner of Main & Hamilton.
Linden grammar school students in 1950 cross the street at a Horni signal that is much older than they are.
Summit: AGA Safety Zone Beacons – NJ’s Oldest Signals in Service
These late 1920s American Gas Accumulator “safety zone” signals, likely the oldest signals in service in New Jersey, are still operating in Summit, retrofitted with LEDs. The 4-way beacon in the top image row is still beautifully maintained by the city at the corner of Maple St and Union Pl.
The beacon the second row is on Broad Street. While it is not quite as pretty as the other, due to that modern signal section slapped on top of it, it is still quite lovely. The blank doors are cool – interestingly, one of them is incorporated into the housing while the other two are latched.
West New York 4-Ways
Kevin Mueller photos
The old urban municipalities in Hudson County are known by signal fans as one of the best enclaves of old signals in service in the country. These photos of old 4-way pedestal signals were taken in 2017 by Kevin Mueller.
The photos above show Marbelite signals from the late 1940s. The blank doors with the “X” are a rare bird indeed. I have only seen one other signal, in the town of Rye, NY, with these blanks. The short, horizontal cutaway visors and the stubby finial are typical of the older Horni signals that Marbelite inherited in 1947. The cracked emerald green No. 6540 lens seen in the middle photo comes from the early days of Marbelite.
More pedestal 4-ways from West New York by Kevin Mueller, including two slightly more “modern” Marbelites and an AGA-style signal that could have been made by either AGA, SSC or Marbelite. We would need to see the ID tag to know for sure.
War-Time Horni Bakelite Signals in East Rutherford
Several years ago, New Jersey collector Chris Sebes posted an unusual looking pair of old signals that were mixed in with newer heads at an East Rutherford intersection. After some discussion among several collectors, we identified them as Horni Signal heads made of Bakelite (an early form of rigid plastic) during the war-time restrictions on aluminum. No doubt these are the last of their kind…an exceptionally cool find! The three Google images below are of the pair that Chris spotted:
A couple years later, collector David Prince made his way to this intersection with camera in hand, and although the dual lights (above) were gone, he spotted another Bakelite signal tucked away next to a telephone pole across the street, which he got great photos of (avove), along with this video.
Pedestal Hornis – A Rare Collector’s Find
Here’s a rare collecting score…Ohio collector Jay Jenkins acquired a pair of ca. 1928-36 solid-body Horni signals with cast tunnel visors like those seen in the black and white photo from Newark above. His signals came from New Jersey, perhaps Newark, and it is the only survivor like it that I know of. Be still my heart!
My Pedestal Signal Photos
Signal heads from the pre-WWII era were still around in decent numbers when I was growing up, but they were nearly gone by the time I ever tried to photograph any of them. Here are the few classics that I was able to capture.
Union: The Last Hornis?
In 2003, I discovered this pair of ca. 1928-36 solid-cast Horni signals at the corner of Vauxhall Road and Glenn Avenue in Union. They are the same model as Jay’s signal above, except with cutaway visors. The working head had the original red and emerald green Kopp #27 lenses and a replacement amber. The other head was wrapped in plastic due to the reversal of the one-way direction on Glenn Ave.
Incredibly, these survived for about another ten years after I took the photos. Heaven knows, I tried to get a hold of these signals by contacting Union Township and Union County several times, but to no avail. These were likely the last solid-cast Hornis left in New Jersey. Maybe they’ll show up for sale one of these days…
Newark: The Last GE Novalux?
GE signals were very popular in Newark. In 2005, I spotted this solid-cast 1930s GE Novalux still going there. The lenses were the original GE Holophane “spider web” glass lenses. Sadly, his light was replaced soon after I found it. There are still many modular GE signals in Newark today, but I’m not sure if any solid-cast Novaluxes are left.
Mahwah: AGA on Union Metal Pedestal
When I worked in Bergen County in the early 2000s, I discovered an early 1930s single-face AGA signal on a classic Union Metal pedestal at Franklin Turnpike and Miller Road in Mahwah. I am surprised that any signals were installed so long ago in Mahwah (when it was part of the former Hohokus Township). What’s more amazing was to find this light still standing more than 70 years later.
The original lenses were large bead Cornings, but I did not take photos until they were replaced by LEDs. The original photos I took of this signal are lost, but the first two shots here are lower-resolution copies I recovered later. The two closeups of the American Gas Accumulator tag on the right were taken by Ed Tapanes. This signal was, sadly, removed in 2007 or 2008.
A similar AGA-style signal that served in Bergen County was recently found at an estate sale.