Traffic light viewer

Sometimes you see an odd part on an old car. Parked in a restaurant lot was a (I think) 1954 Olds 88 in green and white paint. It’s a nice looking car and must be in good shape. (Its plates are from 1400 miles away.) I love “oddities” on old cars.

Attached to the trim below the windshield was a small piece of glass (similar to a light house lens) on a chrome shaft. I had never heard of a traffic light viewer before… had to look it up. You can see when a light changes, w/o craning your neck. It was close in looks to this modern version.

Some of the older car’s had after market prizim’s that set on the dash so you did not lean forward so far to see when the light changed.

Especially beneficial if car had an exterior sun shield/visor.image

Yeah, I could have it in one of my 90’s cars. The factory tint at the top of the windshield made all lights look about the same color. I’d just never seen one before.

I think a traffic signal viewer may have either been a factory option or at least a dealer installed option on certain GM makes in the early 1950s. There were after-market traffic light viewers as well. Some had a suction cup and were affixed to the windshield and cost less than $1.

Some traffic lights back then were in the middle of the intersection, hanging from a cable, high enough to avoid being struck by any normal vehicle. One rectangular hanging fixture had lights on all four sides.

That was much cheaper to make and install than four separate light fixtures each on their own post - but less likely to be seen.

I suppose I have seen them but really never paid much attention to them. The thing you have to remember is that most cars had visors over the windshield that made it hard to look up to a traffic light. This was especially true before tinted glass became available. I think we had a tinted windshield in the 54 Ford but can’t recall. It was an option for sure, but it did have a visor. So I think somewhere around the middle 50’s tinting became available but not in full use until maybe the late 50’s or early 60’s. Another case where one innovation makes another earlier innovation obsolete. Too bad the guy that came up with the prism idea didn’t jump ahead to tinted glass.

That would have come in handy when I lived in Colorado. There, it was only one traffic light per intersection, high above. Here in San Jose, besides the one above, there are several add’l traffic lights placed 6 feet above ground level; seldom if ever is there a need to lean forward and look up. But it is a cool conversation piece.

Never needed one in my home town it had one traffic light in was movable & was colored blue.

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Evert 49-54 Hudson with a sun visor I ever saw Had a triangular prism on the dash. If you like unusual accessories on old cars, look up pass forward mirrors. My son in law has one on his 50 Chrysler.

When I started driving, New York State had no standard pattern for traffic lights. Some localities had the green at the top and the red on the bottom. Some places had them mounted horizontally , some had them on posts on the street corners and some had a single , 4 sided post in th center of the intersection. New York’s law back then required you to go past the center of the intersection before beginning a left turn. Woe be unto you if you turned to the left of that post.

My home town had no red or octagon shaped stop signs, Ours were concrete posts like a miniature Washington Monument. They were painted yellow with incised vertical letters that spelled STOP that were painted white. They were made at a local concrete plant that also made railroad mile markers.

We were taught that too and were supposed to look for the “man” hole cover. They are all over the place now so don’t look for the cover, just don’t cut the turn sharp. Obviously they aren’t covering that in the driver test anymore given my recent experience.

Yeah, traffic lights were around before cars. I saw most of those, but many were probably in a PA museum, though many were scattered thru that state. Could you imagine being a cop standing in an intersection, in today’s traffic? That “go past the post” was a tide over from city cops. (MPs used to duplicate their street dance.) And, of course, many lenses had stop and go painted on them. (I had to ask dad why. He said it was for farmers who hadn’t been to town in 20 years.)

My favorite was the semaphore signal… a couple loud clangs (ala RR x-ing) as the semaphores were changing from STOP to GO. I remember the horizontal lights and the green/red ones, as well as the “grave post” stop signs. The PA town had switched to red lettering, to meet state requirements, but refused to replace with modern stop signs. One had been broken a couple days before, and it was the talk of the town. Would they give in or carve a new one?

There was even one that was a post in the intersection w/ a colored lens in each direction, yellow or red. The single center bulb “blinked” by a disk rotating inside. They said the bulb had burned for 30 years, replaced when a drunk saw the blinking yellow and fixated on it. At a gong, the lens head would rotate 90 degrees.

That Pass Eye Mirror… what a great idea.

The trouble with the turn left after the center of the intersection was if more than one car each way wanted to turn left, it created gridlock.

NY law was changed a long time ago to turn before the center of the intersection so that opposing traffic can turn left simultaneously without interfering with each other.

At one time state law here followed the" traffic on your right has the right of way" rule for traffic circles and Buffalo city law gave right of way to traffic already on the circle. Buffalo law prevailed inside the city limits.

Wisconsin passed a strange law not too long ago. Traffic in a roundabout has the right of way over entering except for entering trucks over a certain length. Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen to me.

Sometime in the early 70s , NY overhauled their whole vehicle and traffic code and inadvertently left out the part requiring Tractors to have mud flaps on the rear when traveling without a trailer. So for about 5 years we were bobtailing in the rain throwing twin rooster tails worthy of a 5 liter hydroplane.

Interesting… it always seemed to be, can you get in the circle safely, otherwise wait.

For many moons now, in Minneapolis, buses have the right of way so you have to be ready when they just pull out in front of you. And now in Minnesota, garbage trucks are being given the same priority as emergency vehicles on the highway. Gonna have to have a talking computer in the car to keep track of it all.

I wonder if garbage trucks will be given the “magic button” to
change street lights. Many millions have been spent on Emx (bus)
to give them their own lanes and lights, to jump ahead of traffic.
If a bus hits you (at any time) it’s the car’s fault. All this so
the buses can run at 1/4 capacity.

Heh heh. Some years ago there was a bus strike in Minneapolis and everyone expected pandemonium as people needed to find a way to get to work. It was going to be pure chaos as all the additional cars hit the interstate. Of course I always had to drive my 60 miles anyway and never took the bus. The result though was no traffic problem because the traffic moved along without being delayed by the slow moving buses cutting in and out of the traffic. It didn’t get back to traffic jams again until the strike was over. Of course just my experience and may not apply in all cases but thought it was an interesting case. Seeing the results, there were fewer future strikes.

Same thing when a third lane was added on I 35. Made a great difference for a week and then it was designated an HOV lane and the traffic jammed up again as the third lane was hardly used.

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Speaking of aftermarket auto accessories from a few decades ago, here are a couple…

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lol I’ve seen the tail pipe flames as recent as 15 years ago. A car raced past my HMV Freeway, cut in front, and shot 2’ flames. I hit the music horn and played “Game Over” from Pac Man.

The hammock might have been much safer than the average baby carrier. Though, after a panic stop, she might be wrapped like a Polish salami. Well, assuming the clothes hanging clip didn’t break.

Hmmm, I wonder does “non-inflammable” mean it is flammable? The old double negative trick? Inquiring minds and all. That would have been cool on my VW bug but couldn’t afford stuff like that then.