What Happened To Painted Guard Rail Posts?

- jim Young

A lot of the changes are so gradual that they don't even qualify as news, or even as interesting: they're so mundane that we just take them for granted. - Robert D. Kaplan

As we drove along Highway 522 today I noticed several of the guard rail posts along the way had been replaced. The new posts stood out like a sore thumb mixed in amongst the older weathered ones. It was raining heavily which brought my attention to the need for these guard rails. What if a chipmunk or deer decided to cross the road in front of me, leading me into an unexpected out of control skid?

I was happy to see the new posts as it was reassuring that someone was taking notice of their condition and replacing the damaged and weak ones proactively.

Then I wondered how long it would take for the new posts to weather and change colour until they blended in with the older ones?

Newly replaced guard rail posts on Highway 522 near Port Loring, Ontario 2023

It’s funny how some changes in life are so gradual, they are never even noticed. When I was much younger I never noticed when new guard rail posts were installed. But then it occurred to me that it was likely because guard rail posts were always painted black and white before being installed, so the contrast between the new posts and the old posts wasn’t as drastic.

“When did they stop painting guard rail posts?” I wondered to myself. I guess it was such a gradual change that I hadn’t even noticed. I like to think there was at least a good reason for it. Probably it was cheaper and involved less man hours but hopefully the decision to quit painting them was not based solely on cost. Had the decision to quit painting them been studied to assure that unpainted posts were just as effective, visible and lasting as painted ones?

Black and White Guard Rail Posts on Highway 103 (later Highway 69 then Highway 400) near Port Severn, Ontario 1961

I never like to hear the justification that “the cost difference was negligible” if the context implies the “number of casualties involved would be “minimal”. No casualty is minimal.

Guard rails have evolved over the years. Many are now made with metal posts and rails of steel while others are made of solid concrete. Yet there are still many highways that use the old style of wooden posts with heavy wire rails. It’s nice to know that at least some things of days gone by are still as effective today as they were yesterday with very little changes, except perhaps a coat of paint.

Yes, my friends… Those were the days.

- 30 -


Do you have some pictures or memories of the proverbial “good old days” that you would like to share? If so, please send them by clicking on this link, Those Were The Good Old Days.


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