Restored wig wags prompt Point Richmond festival Sunday

The restored wig wags on Railroad Avenue in Point Richmond. Photo credit: Facebook

A festival in Point Richmond this Sunday will celebrate the restoration and reactivation of two historic wig wags at the BNSF Railway crossing on Railroad Avenue.

The free festival will occur from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the front lawn of Mechanics Bank, 4 West Richmond Ave., and will feature food, live music, local artists, children’s activities and train art exhibits.

Wig Wags were used in the early 1900s to alert folks that a train was coming after manned crossings were phased out, according to the Point Richmond History Association. Wig wags were later phased out by flashing light signals and crossing gates, but they remained in Point Richmond, thanks in large part to efforts of dedicated neighborhood residents who opposed their removal, arguing for their historical value (see more about their effort in this Bay City News report).

BNSF installed crossing gates in 2004. But the community raised funds to restore the wig wags, which will be activated only on special occasions: for example, a festival.

Dan Furtado, hired in 2015 to restore them, remarked it was “the only case I know of anywhere in the country where the old crossing signals were allowed to be kept in place after being retired in favor of new technology.”