Traffic Control Signal - Marshalite, 1940-1960 Object Reg. No: ST 028827

Clockface type traffic control signal, designed by Charles Marshall in 1936-37 and manufactured by his manufacturing engineering firm Charles Marshall Pty Ltd, of Fitzroy. This type of signal was used at about 35 Melbourne intersections between the late 1930s and the 1960s. The signal has two large discs, each approximately 3-ft (1 metre) in diameter set at right angles at the top of a 15-ft (4.57 metre) high mast with dial faces on either side of each disc designed to face the oncoming traffic on all four roads at a right-angle crossroad intersection. A large white indicator hand or pointer on each the dial face swept through red, yellow and green sectors of the face to indicate stop and go intervals.

The prototype Marshalite unit was installed at the intersection of Gertrude Street and Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, in 1937, at the expense of the company with the permission of the Fitzroy City Council. It lasted only a short period before having to be dismantled after falling foul of the law. A Fitzroy councillor who had been booked for driving against the signals contested his fine in court and won on the grounds that the signals were not the property of the Fitzroy Council and therefore were operating without legal jurisdiction and so where ordered to be removed. The Second World War then intervened hampering further development and it was not until 1945 that a second example was installed (with appropriate approvals) on the corner of Johnson and Brunswick Streets, Fitzroy. Over the next 15 years a number of Marshalite signals were installed at main road intersections in Fitzroy, Clifton Hill, Northcote, Coburg, Richmond, Malvern, Camberwell and along the Neapan Highway through Chelsea. Originally the dials on the Marshalite signals had only green and red sectors, with a rotating indicator lamp instead of the pointer, but later an orange or amber sector was later added at the request of the Traffic Police to give motorists approaching the intersection at speed a warning of the impending change from green to red, and a plain white pointer was used instead of the rotating lamp, with the whole dial illuminated by an overhead lamp at night. Contrary to popular misconception, Marshalite signals always operated in conjuction with more conventional traffic lights positioned on each corner of the intersection, which were connected as slave signals controlled by the operation of the master Marshalite signal, which stood on either in the centre of the intersection or on the most prominent corner. Initially these traffic lights had only two lamps showing green and red, with a third amber lamp added when the intermediate colour was also added to the Marshalite dials.

The Museum's Marshalite was donated in 1973 by the Eagle Signal Co. in poor condition. It was restored to operating condition and repainted in 1991 for use in the first Scienceworks exhibition. It is now displayed at Melbourne Museum.
Tall metal stand supporting large dial with two faces. Both stand and faces are painted. The mechanism inside the stand causes the hands on the faces of the dial to rotate. On the top of the signal are four arms which extend outwards in front of the faces, holding lamps which illuminated the dials at night.
Acquisition Information:
Donation from Eagle Signal Company Australia Pty Ltd, 1973
Discipline: Technology
Dimensions: 4800 mm (Height), 1550 mm (Width)
Dimension Comment: METAL BASE PLATE MEASURES 96.0 x 96.0 (cm)

More information

Tagged with: traffic controls, marshalite, inventions, traffic control signals, innovation design
Themes this item is part of: Engineering Collection, Transport Collection
Primary Classification: ROAD TRANSPORT
Secondary Classification: Traffic Management & Safety
Tertiary Classification: traffic signals
Maker: Charles Marshall Pty Ltd, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia, 1938-1950
Restorer: Mr Tom Myers - Vivian Expositions Co. (Vic.) Pty Ltd, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia, 1990-1991

The traffic signal was restored to operating condition and repainted in original colours by Tom Myers of Vivian Expositions, Fitzroy, prior to it going on display in the original exhibitions at Scienceworks in March 1992.
References: The Argus, 12 Jul 1954, p.13, 'The Red Turned Against Them',


Roger Hyland Posted on 19 May 2013 10:17 PM
last one i remember was at Chelsea. still there in the early 80's i think
Terry Cole Posted on 10 May 2014 1:57 PM
I wish to report a slight error in your description of the last Marshalite traffic signals operating in Victoria. Your description syas they were last installed in Nepean Hwy Seaford. In actual fact they were last installed in Aspendale, within the former City of Chelsea. These signals are still standing in Bicentennial Park Chelsea as heritage items. I was employed by the City of Chelsea at the time and clearly remember these signals. I cannot recall ever seeing Marshalite traffic signals at Seaford.
Russell Watts Posted on 27 Aug 2014 2:41 AM
I grew up in Aspendale in the 60's and must have pushed the button on that traffic clock thousands of times, it stood on Nepean Highway right next to Aspendale railway station. Every time I went to the beach I crossed using the clock, I can still remember the noise of the motors running as I'd wait to cross the Highway!

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