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1930s two-color traffic signal from New York City

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Travel and Highway Signs62 of 265Collection of New York City pedestrian signalsOld Buttoncopy CA freeway sign
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    Posted 3 years ago

    (49 items)

    Before standard three-color (red, amber, and green) traffic signals existed, two-color (red and green) traffic signals were once what was considered as the norm for New York City intersections for a large portion of the 20th century. Automatic devices to control traffic became a reality in the Big Apple in the mid-1920s to replace traffic towers, in which police officers manually directed motorists and pedestrians with illuminated signal indications. Several manufacturers of these traffic signals appeared on New York City streets, such as General Eletric, Crouse-Hinds, Ruleta, and Horni. Out of the four, Ruleta and Horni, both once New York City-based companies, were responsible for a large percentage of these vehicular signals to be produced and installed citywide from the late 1920s until the 1940s.

    From the factory, the traffic signals themselves were originally black. Years later, in the 1950s, many were repainted dark olive green. Then, after 1962, those that still remained in service were required to be painted yellow per the city's DOT.

    My traffic signal above was made by the Ruleta Co. for New York City in the 1930s, and it was originally pole-mounted, as evident on the bottom of the unit. I was told it came from somewhere in Brooklyn. The traffic signal is three-sided, and a pair of blank doors exist on the fourth side. Blank doors were used on four-way traffic signals typically at intersections that had one-way streets in use. The traffic signal, of course, was originally black, but it was repainted yellow. So, I believe it was removed from service before 1970.

    Because only red and green signal indications exist here, the original form of caution (amber) called for a dark-out period, in which both indications remained unlit for at least 4 seconds prior to the change from green to red. Then, in 1952, the New York City's DOT revised this original form and devised the overlap. Red overlapped green, and both colors appeared illuminated for two seconds before the green light appeared dark.

    As three-color traffic signals became the new standard in New York City after 1955, two-color traffic signals slowly dwindled, and, by the 1970s, many of them were non-existent. The last two-color traffic signals that met their fate occurred in the mid-2000s in areas of Queens, New York, namely Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, and the Rockaways. Thus, the obsolete equipment of the past are now no more.

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