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France Wigwags

Samual Rachdi sends in these photos along with this information:
Joined to this mail are two drawings, one about French wig wags the other one about a purely French invention, not like a wig wag, not like a Griswold. About the real wig wags I will make further investigation of their exact placements (those as illustrated in drawing wig wag France1). This which you find under Wig WagFrance2 is probably a French speciality. It is called "Signal Automatique Ervy.le-Châtel" (automatic signal Ervy-le-Chatel-type). It was first  installed and tested at the grade-crossing 359 on the Busseau-sur-Creuse - Ussel secondary SNCF line in Soth-Central France West of Clermont-Ferrand in 1947 (not at Ervy-le-Châtel!). The intention of SNCF was to reduce the very high number of manually operated gates. The speciality of this equipment was that it had a moveable part. On the top the half-round banner with the indication "Attention au train DANGER" was of two parts. In the normal position, when no train was expected this displayed just the warning notice and the flashing lights have been dark. When a train was approaching the flashers began to light on, the bell in the middle was ringing and the two parts of the banner on the top have commenced clapping open and closed (like as clapping hands). The ministerial aprouving of this equipment was in 1948 and it was described as as a train announcing installation comprising a half-round mouveable banner of two halves displaying the words "Attention au Train Danger". Two flashing lights and a very loud bell! The second such equipment was really installed near Ervy-le-Châtel station on the secondary Troyes - Saint Florentin-Vergigny line a bit more than 50 miles Soth-East of Paris. This time the banner was in one part, but rotating with a motor of the Mors type (later also by a Thomson type motor). from now on this type was called "Signalisation routière automatique" (Automatic road signalisation). In 1951 3 grade-crossings have got this new type of signalisation. Then within 3 years 400 to 500 grade crossings got this equipment, but from 1955 on all have been converted to automatic half-barriers and common flashing lights as still in use in France, so none of this have ever survived into our days.

Concerning wig wags, they have first arrived from the United States in 1925 when some secondary, they privatley or publicly owned railroads of lesser importance commenced to equip important grade crossings with a new type of signalisation. The Compagnie Générale de Signalisation (General Signalisation Company) imported some wig wags from Westinghouse in the USA. The following wig wags have been then installed (in 1925 to 1928) :
Chemin de Fer du Morbihan at Locminé and Vannes (both in Southern Brittany)
Chemin de fer Départemental at Meaux (just East of Paris)
Société Générale des Chemins de fer Economiques at Bourbon-l'Archambault (North of Clermont-Ferrand)
Chemin de fer de la Mure at La Roizonne (South of Grenoble in Southeastern France)
In about 1930 one grade crossing on a main-line between Ermont and Valmondois (just North of Paris) has also been equiped with a wig wag. All wig wags desapeared in the 1935 to 1938 period when most of the scondary lines have been closed, this of the Valmondois line must have been removed about during WWII, so the French history of ths type of signalisation has ended very early. The French wig wags showed like the US ones, but with the indication "Attention au train" on the box of the banner and "HALTE" on the banner.

The information about France are from the book "Histoire de la Signalisation Ferroviaire Française", by Alain Gernigon, published by  La Vie du Rail, Paris 1999.

Samual Rachdi


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