Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

traffic light configurations

2494 views
19 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 865 posts
traffic light configurations
Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, May 8, 2021 9:41 AM

In the days before overhead traffic lights became the norm, traffic lights were placed on poles at the corners of an intersection. I'm having a hard time finding photos of these and the one example I remember was at 40th and California streets in Omaha. There was a light at each corner but I can't recall if these were single facing lights or faced both north/south and east/west. It seems to me that vehicle traffic could get by with a single facing light at each corner but pedestrians could go either way on the crosswalks and would need a light facing them as well. I'm pretty sure these lights didn't have WALK/DON'T WALK lights on them when I lived there so I'm thinking that there would have been double facing lights at each corner. 

Google Earth tells me that there are now overhead lights at this intersection which is to be expected. We lived there until 1966. Does anyone have any photos of these old style traffic lights showing the configuration at each intersection or knows of documentation that would tell how the lights would be configured. 

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • From: Potomac Yard
  • 2,461 posts
Posted by NittanyLion on Saturday, May 8, 2021 10:15 AM

I'd suggest looking for pictures of Washington DC in the 1960s. DC has always required the lights to be on the corners rather than overhead. That could give you a "close enough" reference.

DC still uses them and there's enough paint slathered on them that I suspect many of the posts date back 50+ years, even if the signal heads are newer.

  • Member since
    May 2004
  • 7,100 posts
Posted by 7j43k on Saturday, May 8, 2021 10:29 AM

If the traffic lights were on the corners, there'd typically be one on each corner (4), and they would face the lane(s) of traffic each was supposed to control.

Here's a typical early semaphore style:

 

Here's a color photo that indicates the blade colors:

 

 

It's easy to see there originally was no yellow indication.  In 1950, I was in New York City, where I saw some of these still in use.  I had been in Los Angeles previously, and likely THEY had mostly the later three-color style.  I say this because the semaphore made quite an impact.  I DO see that the color shot was taken in LA, but I think that one was more a nostalgic remnant than typical of the city.

 

For quite awhile, traffic signals were either on the four corners or there was a single on suspended over the center of the intersection.  Those had four faces.  I think the suspended ones tended to be used for intersections with less traffic.  I'm sure they're cheaper, but the post-style help keep your eyes more forward, and seeing the traffic in the intersection. 

"Multiple" traffic lights (more than 4 per intersection) came pretty late, maybe starting in the fifties, but not widespread.  The pedestrian signals started in the sixties, I think.

 

I believe there MUST be zillions of photos of traffic signals incidentally included in on-line photos.  For a start, I'd pick out my "date" of interest.  If 1945, I might do an image search for VJ Day.

 

I also suspect someone somewhere has put up an excellent history/timeline for traffic lights--just gotta find it.

 

 

Ed

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • 6,307 posts
Posted by RR_Mel on Saturday, May 8, 2021 11:17 AM

 Here is a search link to early traffic lights.

https://www.google.com/search?q=historical+traffic+control+devices&tbm=isch&chips=q:historical+traffic+control+devices,online_chips:traffic+light:TRBHu6O3Ce0%3D&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiH2N_AvLrwAhVOmp4KHYDbAvgQ4lYoA3oECAEQIA&biw=1506&bih=679

Maybe you can find something close.

Mel
 
Modeling the early to mid 1950s SP in HO scale since 1951



My Model Railroad    
http://melvineperry.blogspot.com/
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 865 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, May 8, 2021 1:23 PM

NittanyLion

I'd suggest looking for pictures of Washington DC in the 1960s. DC has always required the lights to be on the corners rather than overhead. That could give you a "close enough" reference.

DC still uses them and there's enough paint slathered on them that I suspect many of the posts date back 50+ years, even if the signal heads are newer.

 

I'm modeling 1956 so the 1960s would be close enough. If DC is still doing it the old fashioned way, maybe Google Earth will tell me what I want. Almost 50 years I drove into DC and just about went crazy trying to move around. So many One Way streets, No Right Turn, No Left Turn, etc. I knew which way I wanted to go and they wouldn't let me. I started to wonder if I was going to do my own version of Charlie and the MTA. 

The next time I visited DC I parked outside the city and took mass transit or walked wherever I wanted to go. It made life much more simple. 

  • Member since
    August 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 13,314 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, May 8, 2021 4:38 PM

Omaha, courtesy Shorpy:

https://www.shorpy.com/node/24871?size=_original#caption

https://www.shorpy.com/node/22488?size=_original#caption

Colorized:

https://www.shorpy.com/node/9194?size=_original#caption

 

Careful scrutiny turns up a few traffic signals.

It looks like the signals were eventually painted yellow:

 16th_street_omaha_nebraska by Ryan Khatam, on Flickr

 

Good Luck, Ed

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 20,115 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Saturday, May 8, 2021 4:51 PM

Are you looking to make these functional lights or just decorative?  You might look at the lights you're interested in to see what you can actually get.

I've done 3 intersections with Walthers HO scale lights.  Most of the light configurations were either straight across, 180 degrees apart, single-direction or a single 4-way light that really didn't match the era of the rest.  I found the lights themselves and the Walthers sequencer all worked perfectly.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 865 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, May 8, 2021 6:40 PM

MisterBeasley

Are you looking to make these functional lights or just decorative?  You might look at the lights you're interested in to see what you can actually get.

I've done 3 intersections with Walthers HO scale lights.  Most of the light configurations were either straight across, 180 degrees apart, single-direction or a single 4-way light that really didn't match the era of the rest.  I found the lights themselves and the Walthers sequencer all worked perfectly.

 

Last I checked the Walthers traffic lights were out of stock. I found a source on Amazon for single faced pole lights, considerably cheaper than Walthers is offering. They came with resistors but sparce on instructions. I'm guessing that the resistors are to reduce the voltage. I'll need a controller and I see some reasonably priced ones on Amazon. I was going to ask this in the Electronics forum but I'll throw it out here. If I just plug the controller to the WS Just Plug system, will that work without having to use the resistors? I don't know much about electronics but I am aware that LED systems require low voltage. I also want to tie some inexpensive street lights to the Just Plug system.

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 865 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, May 8, 2021 6:56 PM

Thanks for those great views of Omaha. I didn't get to go downtown that often during the 14 years we lived there (1952-1966) but it was always a big deal when I did and I remember Brandeis department store quite well. My mother was a loyal Brandeis customer. 

Looks like the traffic lights faced two directions and I'm betting the ones at 40th and California were the same. I do remember they were painted yellow. My Dad's VW got broadsided by a dump truck that ran the light at that intersection and miraculously he walked away. The rear seat on the driver's side was completely caved in. He was very lucky that the impact was right behind him. We lived on 41st a few houses north of California and one of the neighbor kids came running down to tell us about the accident. We all ran up there and he was sitting on a railing calmly smoking his pipe.

  • Member since
    August 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 13,314 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, May 8, 2021 7:14 PM

Thanks. The same fellow has a collection of city-scene post cards from all over that may be a good reference to urban modelers:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/timetravelnow/albums/72157624061494559/page2

Fun Stuff!

Ed

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 865 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, May 8, 2021 7:32 PM

gmpullman

Thanks. The same fellow has a collection of city-scene post cards from all over that may be a good reference to urban modelers:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/timetravelnow/albums/72157624061494559/page2

Fun Stuff!

Ed

 

Wow, that is a great source of pictures of bygone days. Looks like the double faced pole traffic lights were common in that era with examples of both yellow and black lights. Those pictures also are great for showing what store fronts looked like in those days. In addition to the store sign, there was lots of advertising, especially Coca-Cola, and awnings over windows were also a common sight. I'm guess that was from the days before airconditioning became commonplace. 

Thanks for that link. 

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 20,115 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Sunday, May 9, 2021 12:54 PM

Be careful with traffic light controllers.  I bought a brand X controller which seemed to have the right specs, but it had polarity that was reversed from the Walthers traffic lights, so they didn't work.  It was a common-anode vs. common-cathode problem.

The Walthers controller uses GYR sequencing, so if you're planning RG lights without yellow, you need to be aware that they may not be quite right for you.

I believe the Walthers controller says it will handle two intersections.  I have one intersection with 4 streets and two intersections with only 3 streets, and it handles them all fine.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    August 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 13,314 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, May 9, 2021 3:13 PM

John-NYBW
Wow, that is a great source of pictures of bygone days.

Flickr is one of my favorite places to explore. Many of the photos are of a higher resolution than found elsewhere and some can be downloaded for personal use.

The Library of Congress has a few helpful albums:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/albums/72157686396348231

https://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/albums/72157603671370361

 

And if you like WPA posters:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/albums/72157628703260971

Also the National Archives has some interesting and historical photos:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/albums

It's all about the research Geeked

Regards, Ed

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 17,973 posts
Posted by Overmod on Sunday, May 9, 2021 5:04 PM

Many places in New York all through my childhood used the two-color heads, which were compact in size and placed atop a fairly short cast column of their own on the sidewalk near the corner.  Both red and green would come on together to signal 'yellow' for a few seconds, which might be done by connecting the Y sequencer to both R and G together... or having it close a relay that lights them both at proper brightness.

This was long past use of any electrical semaphore 'trafficator' actuators that New York may have used in the early days.  If I recall correctly the earliest signals were actually manned, and companies made ornate brass gantries with a kind of crows-nest for a traffic officer.

Here is a mention of some of the two-light installations - read the comments too.

http://konreioldnewyork.blogspot.com/2014/06/ruleta-clusters.html?m=1

On Manhattan these were all replaced in what now seems an astoundingly short time in 1965, with some modern IBM computer to run all the delays and timing that the mechanical 'brain boxes' would previously have done.  These were 'normally' overhead-suspended, and as I recall the old system worked right up until the new ones were activated.

I distinctly remember the period before one-way traffic in the region around Columbia and up in the 160s around Columbia-Presbyterian and Babies Hospital.  Two lanes of parked cars, double-parkers west, double-parkers east; you had to veer backward and forward to get through with people veering the other way.  Still not sure how it was ever done, but it was a relief when the one-way conversion was done.

I find I don't remember how the old street signs were supported or arranged.  It would have been more logical to carry these on the light standards had they been taller.

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 865 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Sunday, May 9, 2021 5:47 PM

gmpullman

 

 
John-NYBW
Wow, that is a great source of pictures of bygone days.

 

Flickr is one of my favorite places to explore. Many of the photos are of a higher resolution than found elsewhere and some can be downloaded for personal use.

The Library of Congress has a few helpful albums:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/albums/72157686396348231

https://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/albums/72157603671370361

 

And if you like WPA posters:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/albums/72157628703260971

Also the National Archives has some interesting and historical photos:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/albums

It's all about the research Geeked

Regards, Ed

 

More great stuff, Ed. I really liked the pictures of the drive-in movies. It's a shame there are so few left. I always thought it was a great way to see a movie. When I was really young, that's how our family went to the movies. It saved my parents the cost of a baby sitter. Of course I would usually fall asleep shortly after the movie started. I remember seeing the start of Bridge on the River Kwai and Moby Dick. When I got a little older I was able to stay awake for whole movie.

Some of the vintage gas stations remind me of when I drove part of the old Route 66 a few years ago. I took it from just west of St. Louis to Williams, AZ. Of course once you got west of OKC, the old highway just paralleled the Interstate highway, but the stretch across Missouri and Kansas was very interesting. 

  • Member since
    November 2007
  • From: California
  • 1,840 posts
Posted by HO-Velo on Sunday, May 9, 2021 9:30 PM

gmpullman
Flickr is one of my favorite places to explore.

Thanks for the links Ed, truly the stuff that piques the imagination and leads to unique scratch builds and kit bashes.  Regards, Peter

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 10,063 posts
Posted by dehusman on Sunday, May 9, 2021 10:35 PM

Also remember that the 16th St. picture is a one way street and 40th & California was probably both ways on each street.

I think I have an Omaha "then and now" book, I'l see if I can dig it up and see if it has any traffic light pictures.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    September 2002
  • 7,158 posts
Posted by ndbprr on Monday, May 10, 2021 7:50 AM

I didn't read through all the posts but traffic lights that were red and green only would light both lights before switching to either one as a warning it was changing. Not good to be old enough to remember that.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: California - moved to North Carolina 2018
  • 4,407 posts
Posted by DSchmitt on Monday, May 10, 2021 7:56 AM

Traffic Signal Locations 1948 MUTCD

I tried to sell my two cents worth, but no one would give me a plug nickel for it.

I don't have a leg to stand on.

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 865 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Monday, May 10, 2021 8:31 AM

Excellent. That is just what I was looking for. Thank you.

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!