Discuss Detroit DISCUSS DETROIT! Historic Traffic Signals in Detroit Previous Next
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Detroit_signal
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Username: Detroit_signal

Post Number: 67
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - 11:56 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

For about 10 or 12 years I have been documenting the history of traffic control equipment and manufacturers used in the city of Detroit over the last 70 years or so. My travels have taken me all over the city and with over 1,500 photos in my collection, I've been able to gather a lot of information and make some educated assumptions. The city of Detroit was no stranger to experimentation when it came to signals in the 1930s and 40s. Many intersections were controlled using different ways and locations to mount signals. Many different manufacturers were used to supply signals, and so, Detroit had a wide-array of classics. Up until about 3 years ago, you could still find many of these classics in full service (although very neglected) but many have been replaced or eliminated in an effort to modernize and reduce electrical consumption. All new signals now use LEDs for indications instead of regular lamps. Many lamps used in traffic signals consumed 67-115watts, while their modern counterparts only draw 11.5-20 watts, while giving better visibility. ANYWAY... here are some of Detroit's classics:

14th and Ferry Park (still in service)
1940s Eagle Signal-Eaglelux




Adams W and Cass (still in service)
Early 1960s Crouse-Hinds type M signals




Clifford and Bagley (still in service)
Early 1960s Crouse-Hinds type M signals




Beaubien and Owen (flashing red)
1940s Eagle Signal-Eaglelux




Beaubien and Piquette (flashing red)
1960s Econolite signal




Buchanan and Vinewood (removed 2008)
1950s Marbelite Signal




E Grand and Moran (flashing red)
1950s General Electric grooveback signal




Trumbull and Bagley (removed 2008)
1930s General Electric Novalux




JOE
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Raptor56
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Username: Raptor56

Post Number: 725
Registered: 05-2007
Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - 12:27 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

From the ground, 80% of traffic signals look the same. However, when viewed up close (like these) you can see the diferences in contours on the housing. Seems to me, though, they all function the same. Aside from maybe the lenses changing the degree of visability, were there any real functional differences between all these models? Functional as far as the lamp\housing unit and not the controller.
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Beech_cricker
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Username: Beech_cricker

Post Number: 39
Registered: 10-2008
Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - 12:38 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Signal, interesting and well done!
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Detroit_signal
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Username: Detroit_signal

Post Number: 68
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - 12:38 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Biggest difference between models may have only been the diffusion patterns in the lenses. The reflector assembly behind most of these signals are similar, the only difference would be whether they were the older glass reflectors or aluminum reflectors. Broken lenses were replaced with plastic ones starting sometime in the 1970s. Here's a view inside on of my 4-way signals when I restored it 3 years ago:





JOE
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Ray1936
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Username: Ray1936

Post Number: 3837
Registered: 01-2005
Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - 12:56 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Fascinating! Thanks. I wish that signal at 14th and Ferry Park could talk. It saw me many, many times 45 years ago. Old Providence Hospital was just up the street at the Boulevard then. Old Victorian place; shame it was demolished.
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Busterwmu
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Username: Busterwmu

Post Number: 489
Registered: 09-2004
Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2009 - 3:42 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

How about this guy?


harper

Harper & Bellevue
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Detmi7mile
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Username: Detmi7mile

Post Number: 153
Registered: 12-2007
Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2009 - 3:50 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I remember Livernois used to have those traffic lights with the huge red light on them. As a kid, I found this quite annoying for some reason.
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Living_in_the_d
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Username: Living_in_the_d

Post Number: 328
Registered: 01-2008
Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2009 - 4:10 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Yeah, Detroit_signal, can You explain the special bulbs that were used in them?, A buddy gave me one, It looks like a regular bulb,(somewhat rounder and clear glass), But he says they burn forever.
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Kensingtony
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Username: Kensingtony

Post Number: 51
Registered: 09-2008
Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2009 - 6:26 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

As an aside-I had my daughter believing for years that the lights were controlled from inside by "traffic light munchkins".I told her that the munchkins would look through the lenses,count a certain number of cars,flip a switch and the light would change.It wasn't until her early teens that she wised up.
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Detroit_signal
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Username: Detroit_signal

Post Number: 69
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Friday, January 30, 2009 - 10:24 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Buster- I've been by that light many times, truly an oldie...probably mid-1940s Eaglelux.





Living in the D - Traffic signal bulbs just have better filaments to withstand vibration. They also have more symmetrical filaments so they can be perfectly focused in the reflector housing for optimum sight and distance levels. They come in 67,69,115,130 and 150 watts. They are also noticeably rounder like you said.

Kensingtony - LOL!!
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Crystal
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Username: Crystal

Post Number: 374
Registered: 05-2007
Posted on Friday, January 30, 2009 - 10:57 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

These are all really beautiful. I have one that I believe is from the 1940s.

At the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum there is an exhibit showing the insides of one of those old signals. It shows the parts that cycle the three different colors. Very cool.
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Living_in_the_d
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Username: Living_in_the_d

Post Number: 329
Registered: 01-2008
Posted on Friday, January 30, 2009 - 11:40 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Yeah, Thanks D.S., Now I know, I wish My house bulbs were as good.
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The_rock
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Username: The_rock

Post Number: 1504
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Friday, January 30, 2009 - 12:28 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Very interesting thread and photos of old Detroit traffic signals. Reminds me of one of our classic cases when we represented a Checker cab driver in a traffic court hearing and when asked by the judge what was the color of the light before he entered the intersection the cabbie replied "almost green".
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Detroit_signal
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Username: Detroit_signal

Post Number: 70
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Monday, February 02, 2009 - 10:35 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Crystal, if you can post a picture of your signal, I can tell you everything you need to know about it. Was it from Detroit??

JOE
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Bjl7997
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Username: Bjl7997

Post Number: 43
Registered: 03-2005
Posted on Monday, February 02, 2009 - 3:08 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Upgrade ALL traffic signals
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Retroit
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Username: Retroit

Post Number: 976
Registered: 04-2008
Posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 - 11:28 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Here's a Detroit traffic light from 1933. Not very good picture quality, though. Sorry.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/r etroit/3290820986/

Unusual in its post mounting. Post appears to be painted 4 different colors (for visibility?). Enlarged visor (proper terminology?) over the amber light (why?).
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Eastsidedame
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Username: Eastsidedame

Post Number: 663
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 - 2:30 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Those are great. Wish the city could preserve them. A lot of cities are kicking themselves because they didn't keep theirs. A friend of mine told me they are easily retrofitted with energy-saving "inner'ds".
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Detroit_signal
Member
Username: Detroit_signal

Post Number: 71
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Friday, February 20, 2009 - 9:17 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Retroit,

That picture is most likely of an early Crouse-Hinds 4-way signal. the enlarged yellow visors are called tunnels - most signals use them today around here. They were in place so that cross-street traffic could not see when the light was about to change in the other direction. The cutaway or cap visors on the other lights were just standard practice at that time. Another reason why we use tunnels rather than cutaways is to keep as much sun out of the indication during low-sun periods.

Eastsidedame,
There are a few of us in the area who have been able to restore some of these discarded oldies for our personal collections. They really are classics. Yes, all them can be retrofitted with new LED modules instead of bulbs. This cuts energy consumption in a huge way for big cities like Detroit.
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Busterwmu
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Username: Busterwmu

Post Number: 548
Registered: 09-2004
Posted on Monday, March 16, 2009 - 4:23 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Detroit_Signal, apparently that one at Berkshire and Harper was replaced this weekend, and is now gone without a trace. Good to see the investment, but at least in this case, the old guy seemed to be doing his job just fine and not functioning strangely as many other detroit signals are....
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Detroit_signal
Member
Username: Detroit_signal

Post Number: 73
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - 1:07 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I drove by there the other day too. Also just replaced:

Lynch and Eldon
Temple and Second
Temple and Third
Bagley and Cass

Also, new signals are being strung from about Gunston to State Fair E on Gratiot.
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Flanders_field
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Username: Flanders_field

Post Number: 1814
Registered: 01-2008
Posted on Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - 9:35 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I remember seeing traffic signals where there were louvers in front of the bulbs. What about the flashing 4 way red and yellow single bulbs signals?

I also remember that many of the traffic signals in the NE section of Detroit were black, not yellow in the 60s. I think that the flashing 4 way signal at the intersection of Dickerson and Houston-Whittier was black as well. When they began to be replaced with "caterpillar yellow" I did not care for them, and liked the black better. Too bad that cameras were not as sophisticated back then, as they are now with the amount of image storage. In the 60s, I of course had no idea that so much of the unique buildings and homes in Detroit would be gone or abandoned and gutted in 30 years. But the cost of one-flash bulbs and film/developing did not lend itself to inadvertently taking random pictures of things taken for granted like traffic signals without including family members in the picture.

(Message edited by Flanders_field on March 17, 2009)
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Detroit_signal
Member
Username: Detroit_signal

Post Number: 77
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Friday, March 20, 2009 - 9:47 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Flanders,

Here's a beacon like the kind you described, but unfortunately by the time I found it, it looked like this. Shortly after it was removed. Located at McLellan and Moffat



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Beech_cricker
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Username: Beech_cricker

Post Number: 82
Registered: 10-2008
Posted on Friday, March 20, 2009 - 9:51 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Signal,

How old is the signal on Dearborn Avenue, almost directly below I-75, in Delray?
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Detroit_signal
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Username: Detroit_signal

Post Number: 78
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Friday, March 20, 2009 - 10:01 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The two overhead signals at the closer intersection by the bridge are newer polycarbonate replacements (1990s). The overhead signal located just east of that by itself is a 1970s Crouse Hinds type R signal. The signal on the pole next to it is a 1960s Eagle Signal. The controller cabinet located in front of Beepers is an older Eagle Signal EF-20 series electromechanical controller.
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Hpgrmln
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Username: Hpgrmln

Post Number: 679
Registered: 06-2007
Posted on Friday, March 20, 2009 - 10:14 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

How do you know all this? Is there actually a book written on identifying the type and age of traffic lights?
I have to start paying better attention to the small differences in each light I encounter.
Any old ones in SE Oakland county?
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Beech_cricker
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Username: Beech_cricker

Post Number: 84
Registered: 10-2008
Posted on Friday, March 20, 2009 - 10:19 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Signal, I guess it was the poles that caught my eye--they look old. And I didn't realize there was a variety of signals there. I'll have to pay more attention next time through.--Jeff
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Detroit_signal
Member
Username: Detroit_signal

Post Number: 80
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Friday, March 20, 2009 - 10:23 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hpgrmln,

No books...just years of plotting routes and driving the neighborhoods to collect all this information. About the last 10 years or so. By the way, if anyone has any old photos that signals happen to be in (probably not intentionally, LOL), feel free to share and I'll try to tell you a little something about them.

Actually, there are a couple of Eagleluxes made by Eagle Signal still in service at Woodward Heights and Hughes in HP. Also a small stretch of a few oldies along 9 Mile as well.
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Beech_cricker
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Username: Beech_cricker

Post Number: 85
Registered: 10-2008
Posted on Saturday, March 21, 2009 - 8:28 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Signal, what's the skinny on the now OOS signals at McGraw and Lawton, next to the site of Olympia Stadium?--Jeff
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Stosh
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Username: Stosh

Post Number: 184
Registered: 01-2009
Posted on Saturday, March 21, 2009 - 9:01 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Signal, I think that some of the oldest signal devices in the area are probably the ones that are single bulb flashers. I've run across some examples that look absolutely ancient.
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Hpgrmln
Member
Username: Hpgrmln

Post Number: 681
Registered: 06-2007
Posted on Saturday, March 21, 2009 - 6:28 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

"Actually, there are a couple of Eagleluxes made by Eagle Signal still in service at Woodward Heights and Hughes in HP. Also a small stretch of a few oldies along 9 Mile as well."

How old are those? Thats less than a mile away from me
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Detroit_signal
Member
Username: Detroit_signal

Post Number: 81
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Monday, March 23, 2009 - 4:11 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Beech,

Signals at McGraw and Lawton are made by Econolite - vintage 60s and 70s. They've never worked since I saw them 5 years ago.

Stosh,
The oldest signal in service I've seen personally (I'm 27) were the General Electric Novalux models scattered along E Grand Blvd a couple years back. They dated to the 1930s

Hpgrmln,
Those would be 1940-1950 most likely. I beleive Eagle stopped producing that casting somtime around 1950-ish.
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Mcdm
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Username: Mcdm

Post Number: 3
Registered: 03-2009
Posted on Friday, March 27, 2009 - 10:05 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Would Non-Detroit Signals photo's be out of the question for this topic? I have found a few older ones in between 10 mile and 8 mile

(Message edited by Mcdm on March 27, 2009)

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