The Hoboken Historical Museum Signal

UPDATE: In October 2021, three years after the installation, the Hoboken Historical Museum invited us to come in and talk about the signal and the fun we had adding it to the museum’s collection. Many thanks to Chris Sebes, webmaster, for editing the video.

After more than 80 years in service, the “Hoboken Horni” traffic signal at the corner of Washington St. and 1st St. was finally replaced in April 2018.  The signal collecting community was keenly interested in the fate of this classic and exceptionally long-lived piece of American road history.  As soon as he knew of Hoboken’s plan to refurbish Washington Street, my good friend Chris McNally (a dedicated volunteer at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum) contacted the city in the hope of working out a plan to preserve the signal.  He got the attention of some historic minded people in the city government and ultimately got the Hoboken Historical Museum on board with saving the light.

Chris, Randy Trezak (a.k.a., 3liteguy), Mike Natale, and I installed the light in the museum on October 20, 2018.  Our gratitude goes out to the kind people at the museum, especially Bob Foster, for graciously making this possible, and for understanding and even sharing in some of our giddy excitement over the project.  We even got a nice little gift from them!

This signal was undoubtedly repainted many times over the years. Although there are many photos of it over its lifetime, it can be tough to tell what color it was painted in the black and white photos. A photo detail from 1988 shows that the light was sporting a traditional NJ silver coat even that recently.

Getting Started

We met up with Bob Foster early at the museum and took a few moments to greet our “old signal pal” before getting to work…

Cleaning and Rewiring

The glass was in great shape, but covered in decades of soot.  Just a quick cleaning made a huge difference.

We replaced all of the feed and interconnecting wires, and put shrink tubing over the socket wiring.  The feed wires were a disaster…amazing this light was still functioning on the street like this!

Randy wired in a custom sequencer made by Sean Breen in Canada, which includes an old fashioned green-amber phase.

The Big Hoist

This signal probably weighs upwards of 200 pounds.  Getting it hung from the museum ceiling was a challenge that had some tense moments.  Randy did a masterful job as we helped from below, but mostly just watched in awe.

Mission Accomplished

It was a long day, but one I’ll never forget.  I look forward to walking the waterfront in Hoboken again soon and stopping by to see the museum.  You should too!