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Author Topic: "Mushrooms" and other road warning lights-- looking for info, locations, etc.  (Read 359 times)

JonasClark

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I'm brand new to this site, which seems to be the only major road infrastructure forum going. I'm a Seattle resident with a personal interest in lighting and lamps, and I'll dive right into what I'm trying to find. As a young child, I noticed some warning lights, all over Seattle, and even in Renton where I grew up. My father pointed them out and liked to claim they were "warning critters" blinking at drivers. The common type has a pair of amber lenses, the lights behind which blink, under a half-round domed cover, and was mounted at the 'nose' of a street island or median. The ones I knew all got removed or quit working over the years.

As an adult, I ran across a working one, and then another, and another. I went out in 2005 and photographed all the ones I remembered, and examined a few up close. The covers are 75+ pounds of cast iron. The lamp boxes are steel, with two sockets inside; some I've looked into have been phenolic, others porcelain. The lamphouse mounts to, and the cover sits in, a back/baseplate (presumably also iron) which is set both into the asphant and onto the flat face of the island. There is no mechanism inside, and I suspect a nearby traffic signal control box contained a mechanical rotary flasher. I lifted a few and examined the inside. At that time, I knew of six working examples. Today, there are two (one a recent discovery, which no longer blinks). Three of the working ones I knew about have been completely removed. With some being part of Aurora/99, I'd hazard a guess that they're pre-WWII.

A friend suggested I use a phone app called Map Marker to ID all the known current and former locations; at this time, I know of 30 of these, including working, not working, and removed. Most in Seattle, two Renton, one Bellingham. I've been told the DOT calls them Mushrooms, and I have no idea what era they're from, or whether they were bought or built. Here's a photo of the one that still works properly, on the East side of Broadway at James.



I'm looking for anything about these. Known locations, current or former. Era. Whether they exist outside of Washington. Anything.

I'm also interested in anything regarding a few similar types. There used two be a plastic mushroom, which looked to me like insect eyes; I knew of one in West Seattle and one at the Sea-Tac Airport, both removed long ago. These may or may not have come with a flasher; the two lights in the airport one flashed independently, probably using "flasher buttons" in the sockets. I now know of a single-light version in Olympia. Then, Seattle has three (that I know of) single-light blinkers, an amber lens set into a concrete bullnose, as shown below:



Seattle also had a "wigwag" type, with two lights that flashed alternately, near the zoo. It has been removed. I've seen remnants of more of these under the viaduct, just north of Pike Place Market, though I never saw them working. The one by the zoo is shown below; the ones under the viaduct were just the rectangular plate that, in this case, was set into a bigger diamond. This one was red, but I don't know about the others.


I also know of a different sort, made by Crouse-Hinds, I suspect intended as an airport runway light. I know of two locations (on the same island) in Lewiston, Idaho which supposedly work, a few (some still there but not working, some removed) in Portland, Oregon, and reports from Salem. I've termed these "low profiles," and they also blink amber/orange.



I've found many old ads for a "mushroom traffic signal," but none show what Seattle has. They're all full domes. Someone told me Tacoma once had a full domre and sent me a blurry Street View shot of it, but that median has been rebuilt.

Can anyone assist?
« Last Edit: March 20, 2018, 03:19:55 PM by Bickendan »
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thefraze_1020

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Really interesting post! When you say there is one in Bellingham, are you referring to Iowa Street at the on-ramp to NB I-5?
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Mapmikey

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There appears to be one in this 1951 photo of Green Lake Way NB and 50th - http://1p40p3gwj70rhpc423s8rzjaz-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/082013-Green-Lake-Presentation_FINAL.jpg

GMSV shows the median removed before 2008.


Here is a picture from 1930 showing a type of mushroom signal in St Louis - http://theoldmotor.com/?p=120126

Here is an undated picture from 1st Ave at unknown cross street in Bremerton - http://theoldmotor.com/?p=60695

A potential set of examples on Wilshire Blvd from the 1930s - http://theoldmotor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/mm5-760x593.jpg

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JonasClark

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Yes, thefraze_1920, that's the one in Bellingham; I know of no others there.

Mapmikey, the round domes are the "mushroom traffic signals" apparently made by Essco in the 1920s and sold all over the US. I have several of their ads, but all show that type (a full, freestanding dome) and not the median-adjoining sort. Thanks a lot for the Greenlake shot, I didn't know about that one! It's on the map now.
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thefraze_1020

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Where was the picture taken of the single amber beacon on the bridge abutment?
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JonasClark

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That's at Seneca & 8th. On Street View, it looks like the lens and bulb got smashed, and I may pop out there and stick a new bulb and a poly lens in it, if it still has power. That one has a traffic signal-type door/front.

There are two others of this sort I know of, both both use a smaller lens, set in a narrow metal ring with no backplate. One of these (which usually works) is at the base of an I-5 South off-ramp down to S. Forest St, just North of the Rainier brewery building. The other is on the North side of 6th at University, between the street and an I-5 North on-ramp, and hasn't worked in about 12 years. I've never seen any others here.
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Rick1962

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These used to be common in Tulsa, usually located at each end of the concrete medians at arterial intersections, and at the beginning of the left-turn bay. The ones used here were similar to the Crouse-Hinds "runway light", mostly installed in the 1960s and '70s. They were very handy, with our chronically under-lit streets, and lasted until sometime in the 1990s, IIRC. The city finally quit maintaining them, and I don't know of any remaining, even derelict. Most of them were removed along with their medians, as the city has torn out most of the medians at intersections to make it easier for people to make improper left turns into QuikTrip.
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