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Save Richmond wigwags!
Point Richmond Wigwag information


Point Richmond wigwags have been deactivated. New gates have been installed at the
crossing, however, the wigwags will remain for now, just not operational. Wayne Nishioka,
attorney for the City of Richmond, had this to say:

"As you know, after our hearing before the PUC, the administrative law judge held in our favor but he PUC reversed that opinion and said the wigwags had to be removed and the City was poised to ask for a reconsideration by the PUC and if denied, we were prepared to appeal the matter to the Court of Appeals.  
        In the other lawsuit brought by BNSF, the City received a negative decision by the superior court on the historic deisgnation of the wigwags.  The City appealed that case to the Calif. Court of Appeals, but just before oral argument, the City settled the case with BNSF.
         The settlement allows the gates to be installed and the wigwags will be left in place but inoperative except for ceremonial purposes.  The City has an option to buy the land adjacent to the wigwags as part of the settlement."

BNSF Prevails in latest ruling...

The CPUC recently  ruled in favor of BNSF, allowing them
to continue with the crossing upgrade. As soon as I can locate the paperwork that
was just sent to me (I just moved), I will quote some of it here. I will
also find out what will happen to the wigwags, if they will be preserved
at the crossing or moved elsewhere.

On my most recent visit (2/04) nothing has changed at this crossing.
Still waiting to hear what will happen.

On April 30, 2003 the CPUC ruled in favor of the City of Richmond. BNSF can not
upgrade the crossing without approval from the CPUC, which the railroad did not
apply for. In a nutshell, here is the actual ruling...

1. Summary
We grant the request of the City of Richmond (City) to prevent removal of the wigwag warning devices
(wigwags) at the Richmond Avenue crossing (Crossing) by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Company
(BNSF), because BNSF did not apply for or receive Commission approval of the work
on the Crossing that includes removing the wigwags. BNSF may not undertake any work on removing,
changing the type, or adding to the automatic warning devices at the
Crossing until it has received approval from the Commission. This proceeding is closed.

BNSF has 30 days to appeal. We'll see what happens...

The hearing between BNSF, the City of Richmond and the CPUC
took place as planned on 12/12 and 12/13. Both sides presented their
witnesses before the CPUC. A decision will be made by March 2003.

Article in San Francisco Bay Crossings
Going Wiggy over Wig-Wags
A Wig-Wag worth going wiggy over, in historic downtown Richmond.
Pt. Richmondís Wig-Wag Controversy
By Jim Mallory

Richmond mulls wigwag rail crossings' fate   (5/24/02)

By Greg Cannon
RICHMOND - The City Council will decide tonight if it will appeal to a state commission for a public hearing on the fate of the Point Richmond wigwag rail-crossing signals. Four months after the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tried installing crossing gates where its train track crosses Richmond Avenue, the gates still aren't up, but the wigwags they were meant to replace are, thanks to pressure from city officials and local residents. Since the city issued a stop-work order in January, the council has granted the wigwags historic status and residents have formed the Save the Wigwag Committee. The historic designation means public hearings would have to precede the wigwags' removal. The committee recently issued a long report detailing the controversy and refuting railway arguments for the need to install gates. But railway officials insist safety dictates that the outmoded wigwags be replaced with gates. In recent meetings with city officials, they presented a compromise that would install crossing gates, leave one wigwag in place and move the other elsewhere for display. The council's public safety committee passed on the plan last week and will instead ask the full council to call on the state Public Utilities Commission for a public hearing. The council will consider the issue as part of its consent calendar, a section of the agenda reserved for routine items requiring little or no discussion.

A Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokeswoman urged against a PUC hearing, saying it would further delay making the crossing safe. "We made a compromise that makes the crossing safe and preserves the wigwags," said railway spokeswoman Lena Kent.

In a May 8 letter to Mayor Irma Anderson, Assemblywoman Dion Aroner, D-Berkeley, urged the council to continue its opposition to crossing gates. Aroner alluded to the absence of a record of vehicle vs. train accidents and wrote that the issue could be resolved if the railroad abandoned the crossing.

Kent says alternatives were investigated but are not feasible. In a recent internal memo, Interim Planning Manager Bob Brown told council members that the railroad had threatened the city with legal action, but Kent said, "I think at this point we're still wanting to work with the city."

To Point Richmond Online
Posters like this and others are available from Bette Tarr.

Ph. (510) 233-8188 or email-

Proceeds benefit the Wigwag Defense Fund.

Also be sure to check out Point Richmond Online for more information.

"Burlington Northern Santa Fe - Richmond's wigwags gotta stay!"
-Rally held to save the wigwags in Pt. Richmond
Images from the rally that took place on January 28th...

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Pt. Richmond's wigwags wait out their fate.
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Among the many people that showed up at the rally (Monday January 28, 2002) to save the wigwags was Evan Werkema. 
Here's his take on the event:
The rally got underway around 12:30pm near the West Richmond Ave. crossing protected by the wigwag, on the lawn in front of the Richmond Plunge (a public swimming pool, ironically also endangered).  I didn't count, but I'd say over 100 people were there, carrying prepared signs that said things like "We Want Wig Wags" (with the words sharing a common W), "Save Our Wigwags," "Wigwag Love," etc. They had several speakers who spoke to the crowd through a bullhorn from the bed of a pickup, including former Richmond Mayor Rosemary Corbin. The talk was mostly about the good safety record of the crossing (therefore an upgrade isn't necessary for safety reasons), how both trains and cars move slowly through the crossing (therefore...) and how the wigwags are part of the area's image. They even had a "wigwag chant," to be shouted while waving a picture of a wigwag banner over your head: 

"Burlington Northern Santa Fe - Richmond's wigwags gotta stay!" 

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It remains to be seen whether the wigwags can be legally preserved in place and in service. There are federal rules about these things, and apparently the Public Utilities Commission wants the crossing upgraded. There was to be a city council meeting on 1/28/02 where the issue of 
"placing a work moratorium on demolition and installation of crossing devices at the intersection of West Richmond Avenue and Railroad Avenue" would be discussed. 


It will be interesting to watch this play out. Some of the fans in attendance at the rally were shaking their heads and marveling that ordinary citizens could get this worked up over an obscure (but charming) form of crossing protection.

-Evan Werkema

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Virtually every utility pole and storefront had flyers posted on them.

Above photos by Dan Furtado (1/28/02)

More info on these wigwags...

In the news...

San Francisco Chronicle article (1/26/02)

I've been getting some e-mail on this. Here are a few of them:

Hello everyone,

The effort to save our wig-wags continues at a frantic pace!  Attorneys are being consulted, media alerted, politicians contacted, and city staff have been responsive to the emergency at hand.  Thank you to all who have pledged financial support as well as personal time and energy.  As soon as the account is established I will provide you with an address so you can send your much needed contributions.  Following are some key dates and times.  Public support is essential.

-Thursday, January 24 the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee will have a public hearing at 7 PM in the Richmond Library Whittlesy Room to consider recommending to the City Council placing the wig-wags on the Richmond Register.  If that recommendation is affirmative, then the City Council will review the issue on January 29. 

 -Friday, January 25 there will be an article on the wig-wags in the West County Times.  It may be in the special "West County Weekly" section, so if it is not on page A3, look for it there. 

-A big rally is being planned to support saving the historic wig-wags on Richmond Avenue at the BNSF grade crossing in Point Richmond at 12:30 PM this Monday, January 28.  Some signs will be available; however, participants are asked to bring their own placards if possible.  The staging area will be the front lawn of the Plunge.  Our Richmond Police Substation Commander, Lt. Wilson has been apprised of the planned activity and will be present as a matter of public safety. 

-On Tuesday, January 29 the wig-wags will be on the agenda (if the January 24 hearing was successful) for the City Council meeting at 7 PM.  If this is successful, it will invoke protection under Richmond Municipal Code (Chapter 6.06 and Section 15.04.930.020.D).

Please tell your friends and neighbors.  Spread the word.  Let's humiliate BNSF into submission!

Lee Wright
Hello Dan,

We need your help. BNSF is trying to take our Point Richmond Wig-Wags and replace with crossing arms. We are mounting a defense siting that prior to removal or alterations, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) must be addressed as well as the historic and cultural significance of the Wig-Wags to the Richmond location. The Point Richmond neighborhood -- and the Wig-Wags -- are listed as part of the Point Richmond National Historic District.

I am looking for any supporting information concerning the history of the Wig-Wags and when they were installed. I also understand our Wig-Wags could be Northern California's last working Wig-Wag signals -- can you confirm this?

On the operation of the Wig-Wags -- it was suggested that BNSF will make the claimed that repair parts for the Wig-Wags are not available. Do you know of a source for Magnet Signal Co. Wig-Wag parts?

We go before the City Council on Tuesday January 29. The Wig-Wags are an important asset to our neighborhood and our history.

Thank you for your help saving the Wig-Wags.

Ms. Kristen M. Gates

Saw your wig-wag site. We're about 1 block down the street from the
Richmond wig-wag. They're a special part of our community-if removed,
it'll be a very damaging blow to BNSF/Richmond citizen relations. I
think there will be a big turnout at the Monday rally. 

Scott Stanfield


Point Richmond, Ca

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