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
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.
Among the coolest signals I’ve ever seen are these early pedestal-style Horni Signals with small semi-rectangular lenses. The ad on the left and the 1931 photos on the right are all from Asbury Park. Amazingly, a signal of this same type showed up on eBay some years ago. I recently found this 1926 article about these Horni signals in Asbury Park.
Continuing with Asbury Park, this was another kind of 1920s Horni island pedestal. These signal heads had a rather boxy shape, and apparently have 8″ porthole lenses.
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.
To anyone familiar with US Route 1 in Middlesex County, this 1937 photo might blow your mind. This is the intersection of US-1 (then NJ Route 25) with Milltown Road in North Brunswick. Back then, the intersection was controlled by pedestal-mounted signals. Today, it is a multi-lane overpass with ramps. I believe those are solid-cast Horni signals facing the photographer and American Gas Accumulator signals facing Milltown Road on the left. 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 color photo looks south along Albany Street (before it was widened), while the black and white photo looks west along George Street.
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. I’m not sure, but the signal in the background (facing left, with two visors missing) looks like it could be a porthole Horni as seen in the “Makes ‘Em Stop” ad above.
- 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.
A newspaper clipping from 1972 shows the changing of the guard in Vineland. A very old porthole-style signal on an island pedestal is about to make way for a modern set of horizontal Crouse-Hinds Type R signals with 12″ lenses.
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 finial-topped AGA signals like this one, formerly installed at the corner of Main & Hamilton.
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 unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere. 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 “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 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 (below), 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 1920s – ’30s solid-body Horni signals with cast tunnel visors like those seen above in the 1946 photo from Newark. His signals came from New Jersey, perhaps Newark, and it is the only survivor like it that I know of. Be still my heart!
Union: The Last Hornis?
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.
In 2003, I discovered this pair of 1920s/30s 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…
Summit: The Last Safety Zone Signal
Still there!! These images are Google screen grabs of what is likely oldest signal in service in New Jersey. This is a 1920s American Gas Accumulator “safety zone signal” with amber lenses (now LEDs) all around, beautifully maintained by the city of Summit at the corner of Maple St and Union Pl.
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.