Billups Neon Crossing Signal
Coordinates: The Billups Neon Crossing Signal was a prototypical grade crossing signal installed at a dangerous Illinois Central crossing on Mississippi Highway 7 (now Mississippi Highway 332) in Grenada, Mississippi.
It was installed in the mid-1930s by inventor Alonzo Billups over growing concern due to numerous train versus motor vehicle accidents at the crossing. Like nothing before, the Billups signal was a large gantry spanning the highway and was likely the first such use of a gantry-style crossing of the type now in relatively common use. Upon approach of a train, a giant neon sign lit up with the words "Stop-DEATH-Stop" beneath a lighted skull and crossbones. Flashing neon arrows indicated the direction of oncoming trains and an air raid siren in lieu of bells provided aural warning. As a backup, standard railway flashers were mounted below the neon sign. The signal was known locally as the "Skull and Crossbones."
The onset of World War II brought about a scarcity of neon which, when coupled with maintenance problems with the signal (often manifesting themselves in the siren going off and not shutting down until a crew arrived) meant that no further signals were produced. The prototype was removed after less than thirty years of service.
- Kalmbach Publishing, TRAINS Magazine, May 2003, Stop-DEATH-Stop, "Railroad Reading"
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