Transign Changeable Alphanumeric Display
Historical and anecdotal information about
the module courtesy of Dave Caddick of
Bristol, U.K.

The bus it came from is "a Leyland Olympian.
These buses were delivered new between
1982-1984 to Bristol Omnibus (green bus),
which was state run, but was sold off in 1986
to management. This was rename Bristol City
LIne (red/yellow/blue)."

"These buses had the transign destination
equipment. I think by early 1990s they had all
been removed and replaced with conventional
blinds as they were not always reliable. I
remember as a child seeing the destinations
showing incorrect spellings. I remember one
bus, used to show Dark Estate instead of Park
Estate, not sure if the equipment failed or
someone was having a laugh, but as kids we
found this very funny. Picture 3 should say
'Not In Service'."

"On the Bristol buses there were two
controllers, one for the route number, and
one for the destination. The route number
controller had 3 wheels and you turned the
wheels, once you had selected the route
number you pressed set. For the destination,
it had a similar controller, but you entered the
code of the destination and pressed set, and
the destination was displayed on a tiny screen
like a calculator. A list was held in the drivers
cab. One problem in Bristol as new suburbs
were built or a terminus name changed the
equipment was not updated, maybe the
equipment was not available to re-programme
the system or too expensive. So either the old
name would show, or be left blank with paper
sticker in the window.
The "TRANSLATOR" is a motorized rollsign character generator developed by Transign in the
1970s. The basic premise of the system uses several scrolls with segments of letters and numbers
on each scroll. The scroll ends are spring loaded for tension, and each scroll end is connected to a
gear cog. The cogs at the end of each scroll are interconnected so they rotate in unison, allowing
the letter segments to line up forming full letters. The entire assembly was controlled by a motor, and
all the characters in the display were hooked up to a controller at the driver's station. Depending on
the system the transit service had, when a code was entered, a punch card was inserted, or a dial
was turned, the controller would send signals to the motors to rotate each character until the desired
message was displayed.
The biggest customer in North America was AM General in contract with MAN. Nearly every system in
the United States that had MAN articulated buses would have had these characters for the route
numbers on the front sign. Ottawa, Ontario also tested these signs before settling with another
system (see the ad below this text), while Seattle expanded their use by retrofitting some buses with
the fixtures that had the route number modules.
These units were more widely used in the United Kingdom. Multiple systems' buses had these signs
in use, a lot of which were full width displays, not just numbers. Over time though, their reliability
began to waiver and eventually they were replaced with conventional rollsigns.
This is a very interesting piece of destination sign history. Unfortunately very few of these character
modules and even fewer if any of the control devices and motor frames exist today.
Click or tap on the page
links below to take you
to the respective online
patent archive page for
these devices on Google.
(Each will open in a new tab.)
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
To see both online articles
for the patents for these
on Google, click or tap
(Each opens in a new tab.)
Tap on or hover your mouse over this "Translator" ad image to enlarge it.
Each scroll's sign tag reads:

These are the characters that appear on each Translator module, in their order of appearance. Total exposures: 42

Even if it's a
product or service
you may not be
interested in,
while you watch!

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