Willis Lamm's
Traffic Signal Collection

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  Darley Simplex C-811
"Three bulb" 4-way signal

The Darley C-811 was very much like William Potts' first electric traffic signal that he placed in service in Detroit. They both consisted of three vertically stacked compartments. Each compartment was lit by a single bulb which shone in four directions through glass lenses. This design meant that the main street lenses were configured with red on the top and green on the bottom while the cross street lenses were configred green on the top and red on the bottom. Potts' signal was based on railroad technology using Fresnel lenses. The Darley was a bit more advanced having lenses and visors specifically designed for highway traffic use.

Potts' signal was operated by a traffic policeman and it was intended to provide greater visibility than the officer standing in the street. The Darley signal was totally self contained, having a Reynolds controller built into the bottom of the signal.

These signals were produced from the late 1920s through World War II and three bulb signals could still occasionally be found in service in rural areas well into the 1970s.

Darley interior view


This signal had apparently been struck by an overheight truck some time in its service and had been rather cleverly repaired by the Atlanta Traffic Signal Division. They used a combination of bondo and corner brackets in order to keep it in service. Making the signal original once again required a combination of welding, epoxy, a lot of time with a Dremmel tool, and a couple of original replacement parts. Here are some of the restoration steps.
Disassembled for paint stripping.
Repairing a broken bottom plate corner.
New aluminum corner and tabs
to repair a broken corner.
Restored porthole.
The original Darley signals came out in a "natural" aluminum color. From what we could tell the castings were sprayed with an aluminum oxide paint to brighten the finish of the signal and minimize oxidation. The advantage of this was that as the paint wore off, the signal pretty much looked the same.

A number of these old signals were eventually painted yellow or other colors when jurisdictions adopted uniform body color standards for their signals. In this restoration the signal will be returned to its original aluminum color.

Continue to Part Two

Return to Darley C-810

One side panel & set of portholes restored.

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