For reasons unknown, I've always een fascinated with traffic signals. For the longest time I though I was the only person with this strange obsession.

Early Obsession

My obsession with traffic signals began in the late 1970s when I was 3 or 4 years old. Gladys, the woman who babysat me, had a swag lamp that looked like a traffic light. I'd always have to have it turned on (although it only illuminated the whole globe, it didn't cycle through the colors.)

Over the years, I'd often wondered where she and her husband Ted ever found such a light as I wanted one of my own for my home office. Searches on Google and eBay for such a light turned up nothing. In trying to track Ted and Gladys down, I discovered Gladys had passed away. Any hope of solving the mystery of this light hinged on findng Ted. Unfortunately, I had difficulty tracking Ted down so I gave up.

Then in mid 2006 with a stroke of luck, I ran into Ted nearly 3 decades later. Finally I got up the courage and inquired on the swag lamp's origin and fate. It was a homemade item that he and a friend had only made two of. Unfortunately for me, Ted sold his a few years prior at a garage sale. His friend still has his but apparently isn't intending to part with it anytime soon.

At Playtime

And in Lego, I always had traffic lights at the intersections. At first I used string and drew the lenses on paper with crayon and put it all together with scotch tape, hanging them "Michigan style" (a wire hung diagonally over the intersection, only I substituted black thread). The poles were often furniture legs.

My mother wasn't too happy about this as the string and tape gummed up the vacuum cleaner. I didn't have road plates at the time so my roads were the liing room carpet which still needed vaccuuming.

Then one Christmas I got road plates. I then began using an arm format similar to what is very common in much of the Chicagoland area.

My Collection

I got my first real traffic signal around 1987. It was a Crouse-Hinds 8 inch. An Econolite 8 inch followed in 1989.  Both were signal face units found at garage sales.

For a while, the Crouse-Hinds was hooked up to a homemade controller. It consisted of a 1 revolution per minute motor, some microswitches and some cams on a rotating shaft. While this setup did work, there was no way to adjust the timing without making new cams and there was no flash mode. Plus if the cams weren't perfectly aligned, double indications or blackouts would occur.

The Econolite was operated by three toggle switches, allowing me to have any combination of lights on or off. But I had to manually operate the switches.

The two signals hung independently as two single faced unit in my parents basement until 2000 when I moved the Econolite over to my house from my parents.

The Crouse-Hinds remained at my parents place until 2002 when I joined the two signals together with galvanized pipe fittings to create the two way cluster that they still remain together as.


Also around this time my parents upgraded their electrical service and in the process the old fuse box came into my possession. After wiring in a pigtail cord, I was able to control four of the six lights by turning the four fuses in or out. But this meant no yellow indication was possible.

Going High Tech

I had always figured there had to be a way to use my desktop computer to operate the signals hanging across the room. But the "real world interface" always stumped me.

In early 2002, I put my sanity on the line by deciding to write a computer program that I hoped would eventually control my two signals. I began to write the program still not knowing how to interface to the real world. I knew the secret was in the RS232 interface somewhere so I wrote the program in a way that would allow for adjustments later once this piece of the puzzle was ucovered.

In late 2003, a solution for a real world interface was found online. I ordered one in early 2004 and soon had my signals working under computer control.

The program is dubbed "Traffic Signal Controller" and consists of 2000 lines of computer code written in Visual Basic.

Other Signal and Sign Items I have

I have the Avon aftershave bottle that is in the shape of a traffic light. I also have the Stop sign one. They were two pieces to a three piece set. Piece number three, which I also have, is shaped like a fire hydrant.


Somewhere I have a traffic signal keychain. It's about 1 inches tall and on a side and is yellow and has red and green lenses (no amber). I did find it at one point and take pictures of it but I misplaced the tiny thing.

I also have three throw pillows resembling the street signs "STOP", "DO NOT ENTER" and "SLIPPERY WHEN WET".