by Kevin Walsh

These handsome lamps were standard issue in the 1950s for very specific purposes: they lit pedestrian walkways on expressways built during that decade. Poles very much like it can be found on walkways over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Clearview Expressway and the Long Island (Horace Harding) and may appear on other expressways. They were never used anywhere else.

In the 1980s, the Westinghouse incandescents, one of which is pictured here, were replaced with higher-intensity sodium Holophane “buckets” and that’s how all of the working ones today are outfitted. Until 2018 or so, a group of Westies survived on this usual pedestrian ramp that actually went beneath the Long Island Rail Road as it crossed the Clearview Expressway. I imagine the Department of Transportation got tired of maintaining it, as it was little-used. I disagreed with the decision, as it now forces walkers and bicyclists to cross the LIRR on Corporal Kennedy Street or Bell Boulevard.

While this pole is gone, others like it are still around, so I’m happy about that.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”



Mike February 25, 2021 - 12:41 pm

6.6 amp incandescent series lamps were fun to work on

S. Saltzman March 4, 2021 - 2:04 pm

Mike brings up a very interesting point. According to an article in a 1947 American City magazine detailing New York City’s 10 year street lighting improvement plan,2000 of the City’s 5800 miles of roads were lit by series street light circuits. These series street light systems worked just like the old Xmas tree light strings except for having a simple device that kept the other lamps burning should one bulb burn out. I lived near 21st street and 30th avenue in Astoria. Several blocks around that area were lit by the remnants of a series street light circuit and these light were only removed during the mercury relighting of 1964.
Mike, did you work for Con Edison or one of the City’s contractors? Series systems were inherently high voltage so the circuits were the responsibility of the utility, so I always wondered if Con Ed also changed the bulbs.

Kevin Walsh March 4, 2021 - 6:20 pm

Is that article on the internet?

S. Saltzman March 12, 2021 - 2:21 pm

My dear Sister worked at the NYPL and was able to get me only a fair copy of the American City article from microfilm. I can’t find the article right now, but if I recall correctly there were a number of things that NYC was planning over the next ten years.(from 1947).
The first was replacing existing fixtures on existing poles with more powerful/efficient luminairs. Many radial wave fixtures were replaced with a modern open fixture or fixtures with refractors to more efficiently distribute the light. Thousands of existing luminaires on major streets and avenues were replaced with the 3438-3 type luminaire that could be equipped with a much brighter 870 or 1100 watt lamp.
The second was the elimination of the overhead series street light circuits. If you look at those tax photos, you can see that even at fairly large intersections in the outer boroughs, there is only a single radial wave fixture on one corner. The plan was to insure that there would be two lights on diagonal corners at each intersection.
The third was to make the 2500 lumen( about equal to 175 watt incandescent bulb) lamp the minimum size used in NYC. You can imagine how dark it was where the radial wave fixtures were using only a1000 lumen lamp(about equal to a standard 75 watt bulb)
What struck me was that even though mercury vapor lighting had been around for about 15 years, the City apparently did not consider it developed enough to begin to utilize.


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