I am trying to build an old casino style sign where the letters are made with bulbs and i want the bulbs to turn on one at a time in sequence with the previous light remaining illuminated. And also, if there is a way to have it reset at the end of the sequence and go black and start over again.
In the old days they used a motor driven system of switches. It usually included a disk or drum with levers and cams which, when it completed a revolution, started the sequence all over again.
Nowadays microprocessors are used with relays (contactors) or solid state "load switches" to actually turn the current on and off for each group of lamps.
Mechanical switches must be spring loaded to snap on or off quickly, or use mercury filled capsules. Drums with contact strips instead of cams don't last long because the contacting is made and broken slowly enough to arc considerably and that wears out the contacts.
Don't let the weatherman string you along. Stick to your lawn watering schedule until it actually starts pouring.