I Saw the Sign

Where did it all start?

On December 10, 1868, the world’s first traffic light was born and installed at Parliament Square in London. The system was composed of two mobile signs attached to pivoting arms that were manipulated by a lever. The post was topped with a gas-lit semaphore to ensure visibility. However, the traffic light exploded less than two months later.

When electricity use became widespread, the first dual-coloured traffic light, using this new energy, was installed in Cleveland in the United States. Detroit and New York added yellow (slow down and prepare to stop) between red (stop) and green (go) in 1920. Pedestrian signals then appeared after the tri-coloured traffic lights.

Wellington’s Pedestrian Crossing Lanterns

Do you know? A series of pedestrian crossing lanterns of famous Wellington figures and icons have been installed around Aotearoa New Zealand’s capital to shine a light on their achievements.

Learn about the stories here!

The Walking Green Man in Spain

Check out this fun pedestrian crossing signal in La Coruna, Spain!

The Traffic Light System

Learn how the Auckland Transport Operation Centre uses data and an adaptive traffic system to manage the city’s busy intersections.

Watch the video here!

It’s time to dance with the Traffic Light Song!

MOTAT recently acquired a set of automated traffic lights. They still work! Here you can see them changing colour to the Traffic Light Song by Dream English Kids that we are using in the digital space for our Tech Tok as part of Tech Week 2023.

MOTAT Tram’s Special Traffic Light

Did you know our Tram has its own special traffic light that is a white ‘T’? Originally white was used instead of green in traffic lights, however after an accident when the red lens fell from a light leaving it white, they changed it to Red, Yellow, Green. The tram’s traffic light is controlled by a sensor in the ground that will measure the metal above it and stop traffic to that the Tram can pass safely. Here are some photos of when it was installed in October 2006.

MOTAT Traffic Signal Collection

Check out these interesting collection items that helped keep Aotearoa New Zealand’s roads and railways safe!

Before light emitting indicators were part of safety regulations on vehicles, drivers would put their arm out of a vehicle’s window to let others know if they were turning or stopping. This could be a dangerous procedure if not properly visible to other road users. This object was made to help make manual indication safer.

Learn more here.

These Rail signal flags were used throughout railways in Aotearoa New Zealand, for communicating to train drivers and other track users whether to stop or go. 

Learn more here.

What’s your favourite traffic signal item? Share with your friends and family, or tell us on social media using #motatfun


Manual Signal Indicator, 2022.56. The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT).

Flags [Rail signal flags], 2001.344. The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT).