Tag Archives: grade crossing

Four Quadrant Gates in Michigan City.

Sorry, this is not a pretty picture.

Here we have a potpourri of necessary clutter; a patched well-traveled road, various electrical poles and lines, the cooling tower for a power station, a signal-relay cabinet, a stray street light, and of course an Amtrak P42 Genesis diesel of the much-maligned industrial design.

Not pretty; but portrays a four-quadrant grade crossing gate protecting the highway an Amtrak train from Chicago crosses.

Exposed digitally using a Panasonic Lumix LX7. ISO 200 f3.2 1/1000th second. Image processed from camera RAW using Lightroom.

But this is Northern Indiana, not Tehachapi.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Wisconsin Central and Wig Wags at Fond du Lac.

The old wig wag style grade crossing signal is now virtually extinct. However, in the 1990s, a fair number of these signals could still be found in Wisconsin.

This is an excerpt from my book Railroad Signaling (first published by MBI 2003):

One of the first standard types of automated visual grade crossing warning was the automatic flagman, a signal commonly known as a ‘wig wag’. [This was] adopted as a standard crossing device by the American Railway Association in 1923. A standard wig wag is actuated by a track circuit and consists of a paddle with a red lamp that gracefully swings back and forth in a horizontal pattern when a train approaches [and] usually accompanied by a bell . . . [at one time] the wig wag was the preferred type of grade crossing protection in the Midwest and far west. [They were] largely supplanted by modern flashing signals and crossing gates.
Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 using a Nikon F3T with an f1.8 105mm Nikkor lens.

I was traveling with Marshall Beecher on the morning of August 3, 1996, when I exposed this view of Wisconsin Central’s southward freight ANPR-A approaching a grade crossing on the former Chicago & North Western line in Fond du Lac. This line saw less traffic than WC’s near by former Soo Line mainline over Byron Hill, but the attraction was these antique signals. Notice my use of selective depth of field.

Tracking the Light is Daily.


Wisconsin & Southern Wig Wag Retrospective

At one time the wig wag signal was the standard grade crossing protection.  Now the type is all but extinct.

I learned a few weeks ago that Wisconsin & Southern had finally removed the last of these classic American signals on its former Chicago & North Western line to Reedsburg, which had survived at Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Over the years, I’d photographed wig wags at various locations in Wisconsin.

I made these photographs at Baraboo with John Gruber in February 2008.

Using a Canon EOS3 with 20mm lens, I used a relatively slow shutter speed to help convey the classic motion of the wig wag signal. Fuji chrome slide film.
Using a Canon EOS3 with 20mm lens, I used a relatively slow shutter speed to help convey the classic motion of the wig wag signal. Fujichrome slide film.
Fujichrome slide film.
Fujichrome slide film.

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