17 November 2010

The Marshalite

Down at Bicentennial Park in Chelsea the other week, I came across this blast from my past: a mechanical traffic signal.

I was extremely taken with this sign when I was a child, whenever we drove through a particular Edithvale Road / Nepean Highway intersection beside the railway line. This would have been in the mid to late seventies. The sign was still functioning then, its jaunty white arrow eternally making its way round and round, no longer actually signalling traffic since that function had been taken over by traffic lights. It was like a heritage building that no one could bring themselves to tear down.

It has something over the current equivalent in that it clearly shows the driver exactly how long they have to wait. It puts me in mind of the failure of digital speedometers in cars. Drivers want a visual reference and the radial clock is infinitely better for the purpose than the digital display. Take that, technological determinism!

The Bat Computer tells me it was called the Marshalite, designed by Charles Marshall in 1936 and is an Australian original, utterly of its time. The last one running was on the Nepean Highway so no doubt the one I enjoyed as a kid was the last of its kind in the world.

Museum Victoria has a fully restored one on display.

1 comment:

Michael Leddy said...

I like seeing "DO NOT WALK," which I've never seen in the U.S. But then, via the link: the familiar "DONT WALK." I wonder whether that apostrophe is missing in other countries too.