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REVO Junior Sol-Etern C15161

Genre: Enclosed Horizontal Traverse Tubular Fluorescent Lantern

After the invention of the tubular fluorescent lamp in 1937 by GE of America, its application to street lighting was immediately recognised, but all development was delayed by the Second World War. After hostilities ceased, trial installations using tubular fluorescent lamps were installed in Dublin (using trough reflectors) and a year later in Rugby and London (using scientifically designed lanterns).

The advantages of fluorescent tubes was immediately apparent. The fluorescent tube was ideally suited for road lighting, casting a wide beam across the road surface and was relatively unaffected by wet conditions (which lead to streaks from more compact light sources). It's non-dazzling white light (due to the low surface brightness of the tube itself) made it an ideal solution for the lighting of high streets, promenades and civic areas, with smaller units used for residential streets. The only problem was the size of the tubes, which in turn lead to large lanterns.

The first fluorescent lanterns were huge, bulky affairs, their size dictated by the bulb lengths, the enormous gear and the limitations of the raw materials of the late 1940s: the lanterns consisted of plate glass panels and metal frames. The optical system was also complex treating each lamp as individual source and concentrating its beam in one area using parabolic polished metal reflectors. Their large size, and equally large capital cost, made lighting authorities hesitant to use these lanterns.

Fluorescent's popularity increased as new aluminium alloys allowed lighter one-piece canopies to be cast, which in turn supported new plastic moulded bowls. The optical systems changed again with all the tubes contributing to the whole: a primary system of lightweight plastic refractors directed the flux onto the road surface and fashioned the main beams; whilst a secondary system (comprising of white over-reflector) directed light above the horizontal back to the refractor plates.

Therefore the lanterns became simpler to manufacture and, in turn, their purchase price decreased. They were still an expensive option, but authorities could justify their use due to their excellent white light (as compared to the more "artificial" coloured mercury and sodium lanterns). Fluorescent lighting was especially popular in new town developments and many manufacturers pointed this out in advertisements.

The lantern's large size was still a problem and manufacturers took a tip from European practise and angled the lantern slightly to disguise its length. Whilst this threw the light further across the road, it was usually done for cosmetic reasons alone.

The 1950s and 1960s were the age of the fluorescent lantern: it's white light seen as an energy efficient replacement for ageing tungsten and gas lighting. As gear sizes were gradually decreased, the manufacturers took advantage by streamlining the lanterns further. Optical systems became simpler until they eventually consisted of no more than the tubes themselves with a small over reflector.

The energy crisis of the 1970s prompted a rethink. The complex white light fluorescent lantern, usually burning multiple tubes, was seen as an expensive luxury: a unit burning two 40W bulbs could be replaced by a single low pressure sodium lantern burning a 35W bulb. The idea that orange light was unsuitable for residential areas and high streets was swept away by economic necessity. Therefore, as an energy saving measure, the tubular fluorescent lantern was gradually removed, to the extent that hardly any exist on public streets anymore.

The use of the tubular fluorescent lamp for street lighting was over. (Although the future looks bright for the compact fluorescent lamp but that's another story...)

Name: REVO Junior Sol-Etern C15161
Date: Circa Late 1950s - Early 1970s
Dimensions: Length: TBA, Width: TBA, Height: TBA
Light Distibution: Non Cut-Off (BSCP 1004:1952)
Lamp: 2 x 40W MCFE/U


REVO were well known for their fluorescent 'experimentation'. Not content with simply positioning fluorescent lanterns across the road, they produced lanterns which were axial with the road (the Eastbourne prototype) and post-top mounted (such as the Festival).

The Sol-Etern range was well established in the early 1950s, but by the end of the decade it required modernising and redesigning. Having produced a 'conventional' new Group-A lantern (called the New Sol-Etern) REVO could've just rested on their laurels; their lantern was equal to competing models from the GEC and the AEI group of companies.

It would appear that someone in REVO was influenced by the design of the Atlas Alpha One, particularly the Opticell which was a revolutionary one-piece bowl which attached to the lantern's body. Therefore REVO designed a range of fluorescent and sodium lanterns, modelled in part on the Opticell, in which the bowl and canopy became a completely removable part of the lantern (which REVO called the 'envelope'). These lanterns shared the same styling with their white plastic canopies and unique daytime appearance.

The sodium range was called the Sol D'Or (the Golden Sun) whilst REVO reused the Sol-Etern name for the fluorescent lanterns. This lantern, the Junior Sol-Etern was designed for Group-B installations, whilst an enormous scaled up version (known to collectors as the REVO 'Tube') was made for Group-A lighting.

Unfortunately despite this (now) classic design, the new ranges never really took off. Perhaps they were simply too complex when the other manufacturers stuck with the standard design of bowl and hinged canopy? It appears that by the end of the 1960s, REVO had ditched their fluorescent range completely and replaced the unpopular sodium Sol D'Or range with the Lucidor.

Therefore, it's believed the Junior Sol-Etern was the last fluorescent lantern designed by REVO.


Whilst it was an elegant, streamlined lantern, it never enjoyed the same popularity as its main competitors (such as the Thorn Beta 6 or GEC Z8260). Its relative obscurity could have been due to its complicated structure and engineering (especially when compared to its competitors) and its post-top mounting style.

It was installed in huge numbers around Cambridge (where it was used as the city's Group B lantern) and sizeable numbers existed in Blackpool. No other large installations are known.


The lantern has extremely characteristic shape and is easily identified. The maker's name and catalogue number range are cast into the base of the metal casting on which the lantern's components are bolted.

Optical System

The lantern's optical system was characteristic of the era with both a primary and secondary system of light control. The primary system consisted of two plate refractors incorporated into the bowl; these essentially focused the light from the upper tube into two main beams to illuminate the road surface. The bottom tube's light flux was uncontrolled and was designed to light the area around the lantern itself. (The designers were able to do this for the bottom tube as the fluorescent tube has a low surface brightness and doesn't require any diffraction of the light to reduce glare.)

The secondary system consisted of a small white over-reflector which simply reflected some of the flux emitted above the horizontal back down towards the ground.


The lantern was fitted with REVO instant-start gear and a power correction capacitor. As it was fitted with this type of gear, with 40W tubes, then the catalogue number is C15161.

The bi-pin fluorescent connectors are earthed, suggesting the lantern could also use MCFA/U lamps.

The REVO Junior Sol-Etern C15161 In My Collection

facing profile

This lantern originally stood at the back of the Trading Standards Offices in Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire where it lit the back car park. When the buildings were demolished, I obtained permission from the demolition contractors to remove the lantern.

front profile

Unfortunately dating the lantern was made impossible as all the labelling on the capacitor had rusted away (capacitors always have their year of manufacture printed on them). Therefore, I'd guess that this lantern was probably installed in the 1960s.

trailing profile

After being in service for 30 years, the lantern was in need of a thorough strip down and restoring. But it cleaned up extremely well.


The lantern incorporated an angled bracket arm (to give the lantern a slight incline as was fashionable for fluorescent lanterns). This engaged with a cast metal hoop onto which all the other components of the lantern were fixed. The rest of the canopy was made with rigid white plastic.

thumb screw

The lantern was fitted with a white plastic endcap. The large knurled thumbscrew could be unscrewed to gain access to the various release catches which allowed the bowl and/or gear tray to be removed. (Note how REVO designed this lantern with the release catches under a protective endcap whilst the similar Sol D'Or lantern had the release catches exposed to the elements).


REVO cast their name and lantern identification into the base of the metal hoop. The catalogue number, C15158-60, referred to a range of lanterns which only differed with respect to the wattage and gear they took. (And it should actually be C15158-61).

pedestrian view

The REVO Junior Sol-Etern was a post-top mounted lantern with the bottom of the angled arm screwing into the top of the column. This gave the lantern a very distinctive daytime appearance.


This vertical view clearly shows how the base of the gear tray acted as the secondary optical system - painted white, it acted as a small over-reflector.

endcap removal #1

Access to the interior of the lantern was obtained by removing the endcap by unscrewing the knurled thumbscrew. A small length of string prevented the endcap being dropped when the thumbscrew was fully unscrewed.

endcap removal #2

The end of the gear tray/over-reflector can be clearly seen in this shot. To the top right can be seen another thumbscrew which allows the gear tray to be slid out of the lantern if it's unscrewed. To the bottom left (below the gear tray and slightly obscured by the cable) is one of the sprung toggle hooks which hold the bowl in place. By pushing these and turning them, the hooks holding the bowl are disengaged.

bowl removal

In the literature, REVO showed how the toggle hooks could be turned to release the bowl which could then be slid off the lantern. (This is called the second servicing method). Note how the bowl and canopy was all one unit (which REVO called the 'envelope').

bowl removed

In this shot, the bowl has been completely removed. Despite being sealed to its canopy, the bowl was easy to clean as the opening for the lantern was fairly wide.

control gear

With the bowl removed, the gear could also be serviced. Unfortunately, after years of use, all the identification text on both the fluorescent instant start gear and the capacitor had rusted away, but it's assumed both were REVO originals. The wiring is also original.

gear tray removal

This shot shows the first servicing method which REVO recommended; by unscrewing the thumbscrew, the gear tray could be slid out the lantern with the bowl still in-situ. Unfortunately REVO didn't point out that this method required either the wiring to the terminal block to be disconnected, or lots of slack in the supply cable, otherwise the cabling prevents the gear tray being removed.

REVO Junior Sol-Etern C15161: As Aquired

Whilst the REVO Junior Sol-Etern was confined to the juristriction of Cambridge City Council, three escaped the city boundaries and lit the car park of the Trading Standards Offices in Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire. Two were mounted on the walls of the building, whilst the other stood in the car park.

Demolition started on the site in 2007. Of course, I was on holiday at the time, so missed the two lanterns on the building, but rescued the third after obtaining permission from the demolition company. Unfortunately, after collapsing the column (a flimsy AEI Leader 15ST which had already been partly sheered) and leaving the lantern to get more tools (no more than half-an-hour), someone smashed the canopy.

Despite its complete appearance, the lantern was sellotaped together for this picture. Its full restoration is documented here.