Willis Lamm's
Traffic Signal Collection

Special Presentation

  SURVIVORS!
FIXED FOUR-WAY SIGNALS
In the New millennium
Many of us who grew up in the age of fixed four-way traffic signals felt some loss each time one of those trusty and practical signals came down and was replaced with clusters or strings of single faced signals. The old fixed four-ways had a sense of style and were very practical when placed at true right angle intersections.

While their numbers dropped from tens of thousands to a few hundred, fixed four-way traffic signals never completely disappeared. Ironically they are actually making a comeback. A number of cities have discovered that it can be cost effective to extend the service life of existing fixed four-way signals. Many old four-ways are finding themselves included in design plans when historic business districts are being renovated.

This feature will display a few examples of several of the fixed four-way (and three-way) signals that remain in service today, along with some views of how some cities are using both old and new signals in their urban designs.

Please note:

Many of the images that follow were obtained through Google Maps' Street View. The quality of the images vary as a result of ambient light and the angle of the sun when the images were taken. Clicking on each Google Street View image will open the Google Maps program in a new window, providing a movable view at location where the image was taken. In some instances newer street views show clearer aspects or modernization of the intersections. So if you see a location that you like, follow the link to Google Street View and cruise around. Or better yet, take a trip and see these historic artifacts in person!

  Some Old Timers Still Hanging Around

Since the late 1960s the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) required all new signals to have redundancy. That means that generally speaking a minimum of two signal heads are required to face each direction of approaching traffic. If a bulb burned out in one signal head, approaching motorists should be able to view the indication from the second signal head and avoid an accident. In some specific situations, single four section heads were installed, with red indications being displayed from the top two sections.

Signals that were installed before this rule and did not have redundancy were "grandfathered" so long as they remained effective in controlling traffic at the intersection. There are actually quite a few "single signal" intersections still in service, most of them installed in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Oxford, Alabama - Main St. & E. Oak St. (Crouse-Hinds type DT)

Google Street View
Oxford, Alabama - Main St. & E. Oak St., as the intersection appears today.
(The original suspension hanger is still in the center of the cable.)
Selma, AL - Church St. & 1st Ave. (Eagle)

Google Street View
Selma, AL - Church St. & 1st Ave., as the intersection appears today.
(The original Eagle has been replaced with a G.E. retrofitted with LED indications.)
Cohoes, NY - Remsen St. & Columbia St. (Marbelite)

Google Street View
Cohoes, NY - Remsen St. & Columbia St., as the intersection appears today.
Original Marbelite signal retrofitted with LED indications and a traffic cam added.
Cohoes, NY - Columbia St. & Congress St. (A Marbelite with mismatched visors)
Original Marbelite signal retrofitted with LED indications.

Google Street View
Cohoes, NY - Columbia St. & Congress St., as the intersection appears today.
Coleman, TX - Commercial Ave. & E. Pecan St. (Sargent-Sowell)

Google Street View
Coleman, TX - Commercial Ave. & E. Pecan St., as the intersection appears today.
The signal is still present but is currently out of service.
Stop signs were observed at number of these single signals. Many either had words stenciled on the signs themselves or additional signs placed below them that read, "STOP WHEN LIGHT IS OFF." Such signage could serve to remind motorists that they are to stop if a bulb were to burn out or if the signal is set to only operate during part of a 24 hour period.
Selma, AL - Water Ave & Mechanic St. (Crouse-Hinds type DT)

Google Street View
Selma, AL - Water Ave & Mechanic St., as the intersection appears today.
Original Crouse-Hinds signal retrofitted with LED indications.

Continue to Part Two

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