Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ruleta Clusters

Location:   New York City
Year:   Twentieth Century

In a city renowned for its dense pedestrian and vehicular traffic, unusual traffic controls were quite common in 20th Century New York City. While three-cluster traffic lights (red, yellow, and green) were common, equally common were two-cluster traffic lights (red and green) known as Ruleta Clusters, named for the company that first originated them. Ruleta Clusters could be found in all five boroughs. Originally installed on less heavily trafficked streets, changing demographic patterns left Ruleta Clusters in some of New York's busiest neighborhoods. In the 1980s, Ruleta Clusters began to be replaced by standard modern LED traffic lights. Few now remain.

A two-sided Ruleta Cluster, Midtown Manhattan 1955

An unusual single-lamp Ruleta Beacon

A Ruleta Cluster in Midtown Manhattan 1977

A four-sided Ruleta Cluster in Brooklyn, 1980

One of the last remaining Ruleta Cluster lights, Forest Hills, Queens


  1. Interesting article.

    New York City first adopted two-color traffic signals in the late-1920s, and they were the norm until 1952. Even though Ruleta, a company once based in New York City, provide a majority of signal equipment to the city, a couple of other manufacturers were the picture as well. Horni, General Electric, and Crouse-Hinds are examples.

    Modern three-color traffic signals ultimately replaced two-color stoplights in 1952, but it took the city nearly 60 years to remove all of its existing two-section traffic signals! The old units, like in your photographs, remained until around 2000, and newer two-section traffic signals installed years after the first ones were succumbed to removal in Queens, New York in 2006.

  2. I love any mention of these old classic signals. I'll add to the earlier comment that the beacon photo on this page indeed shows a GE signal, which can be identified by the twin hinges to the left of the lens. Otherwise, the GE parts seem almost interchangeable with Horni/Ruleta parts. I think Ruleta may have somehow spun from Horni Signal as perhaps a division that serviced NYC alone. Eventually all things Ruleta and Horni were taken over by Marbelite, and they almost exclusively furnished NYC with its lights from the '50s through the '70s.