|Transign Changeable Alphanumeric Display
Historical and anecdotal
information about the module
courtesy of Dave Caddick of
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
"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.
[This one] 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 "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.)
|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
CLICK ON AN
while you watch!
SUBSCRIBE TO RG's
|This (Vultron) Transign Translator controller unit
is now part of the Rollsign Gallery collection.
|A Transign Translator operation instruction decal.
(Cropped photo from the collection of Scott Richards.)