Willis Lamm's
Traffic Signal Collection


Here are some examples of signals in the collection and how they could properly be used in period appropriate set decorations. Click the links to go to more detailed description pages describing each signal. Since illumination sequences varied in the earlier days of electric traffic control, period correct controllers are available.

Early signals were typically painted dark hunter green, black or gray, with a trend towards school bus yellow starting in the late 1950s. Early suspended signals often used cutaway or "ball cap" visors to make it easier for pedestrians standing on street corners to observe the light sequences.

Click on each photo to see a larger view of each signal.

1920s 4-Way Signals

W.S. Darley & Co.

W.S. Darley & Co's Model C-810 C-811 signals were patterned after the traffic signal designed by Detroit Traffic Police Superintendent William Potts. Potts is credited with designing and installing the very first three color electric traffic signal that was hung over the intersection of Woodward and Michigan Aves. in October, 1920. The C-811 is Darley's three color version and the C-810 is the two color model.

The Darley signal was designed for commercial sale and was more advanced than the Potts signal. It had more prominent sun visors, wider angle diffused lenses, and an automatic controller. However it still employed Potts' idea of operating with only three bulbs, with each bulb shining in four directions. In order for the light to regulate traffic, the main street had what we consider the conventional arrangement of red on the top and green on the bottom, while the cross street had to have green on the top and red on the bottom, which actually was not that uncommon in the early days of traffic signals. These signals were produced through World War II.

C-811 and C-810.
C-810 hanging in Hazard, KY.
View C-810 construction details.

View C-811 construction details.


Most of the really early traffic signals were fashioned after railroad signal designs. Except in circumstances where one lamp shone in all four directions, such as with the Darley signals pictured above, green was typically placed at the top of the signal and red at the bottom.

Harrington-Seaberg produced signals from the mid 1920s to early 1930s and their earlier models were configured in this "railroad style." Years later the lenses in many of these signals were reoriented with red placed at the top once a national standard for traffic signals was adopted.

Many of these early designs included clear "down lights" designed to illuminate a traffic policeman that might be standing beneath the signal guiding traffic.

View construction details.

1930s 4-Way Signals

Eagle Signal

Eagle Signal bought out the Harrington-Seaberg traffic signal line in the early 1930s. Eagle's earlier signals were branded "Eaglelux." Eagle made two color, three color fixed face and adjustable single face signals.

Based on internal details, his particular signal was probably manufactured in the late 1930s or earlier 1940s. Eagle's exterior design did not change noticeably until they ceased production of fixed 4-way signals in the early 1960s.

These signals were also called "Eagle Pagodas" due to the pagoda shape of the signals' top plates.

View construction details.

Signal Service Corporation (SSC)

Signal Service Corporation of Elizabeth, NJ took over the traffic signal line of the American Gas Accumulator Company. SSC signals were large and elegant looking, with distinctive visors. There was no doubt when looking at an SSC signal as to what make it was.

SSC signals were produced from the mid 1930s through World War II, when the line was taken over by Marbelite. Although most were phased out in the 1960s, there are still a handful of SSC signals still in service on the streets today.

View construction details.

Southern Autoflow

The Southern Autoflow signal was made by Southern Switch Co. of Shreveport, LA. Autoflows were particularly popular in small southern towns. These were internally controlled signals that had what we would consider by today's standards as "sloppy" controllers. There was not a great deal of timing accuracy as the signal changed colors, however lack of precision was common in many of the "stand alone" signals. Also it was very common back then for the green light to stay on during the yellow interval.

This particular signal was probably manufactured in the 1940s however we've seen this model advertised as far back as 1930.

View construction details.

Signals can be repainted for specific set requirements. Many can either be wire hung or adapted for post mounting.
Additional models and designs can be located for specific requirements.

Continue to Part Two

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