While browsing the Internet's many Road Geek type sites I found an old friend's (well, we've never met, but I have read his posts on MTR for years and we have exchanged email) photos from the Bristol VA area. H. B. Elkin and I share a fondness for road signs, especially old and unique ones. After seeing his pages some time ago I started collecting photos of odd, wrong, old or otherwise unusual signs. To that end my wife and I made a point of going to Bristol VA since there are so many signs that meet my preferences. See HB Elkins main web site at http://www.users.mis.net/~hbelkins/index.html or go directly to the Old Road Signs Page at: http://www.users.mis.net/~hbelkins/oldsigns.html
On 3-13-2000 my wife and I, while visiting relatives in the area, road out to western Virginia to look for these old style road signs. We found plenty! Most of the following pictures were taken off the main highway on Business Routes in towns. The main highways used to go thru towns in the area, such as Wise, Norton and Bristol, but over the years they were rebuilt as bypasses. The old roads thru the towns often remained posted as "Business Routes" keeping the old number.
In Virginia and Kentucky almost everything paved has a state route number on it of some sort. While KY uses the same "Circle in a square" sign on the secondary routes as they do on the primary routes Virginia uses different markers. For primary routes VA uses a curved triangle. Older style signs used a cutout 3 sided sign, while newer signs use the triangle design on a black bordered square blank. On VA Secondary routes there are 2 style markers. The most often seen one is a small rectangle with the 3 or 4 digit number. On main roads V-DOT often uses a common "Circle in a square" sign to indicate an upcoming Secondary route. Occasionally they will use directional banners on these signs, but not often.
During this trip I located many signs that were of old or incorrect styles. My assumption is that these are posted or maintained by the local or county authorities. Driving thru Wise, Norton or Bristol may make an experienced roadgeek like myself think I had gone back in time. While this area is remote, the main roads all have current style markers, only in the cities did I find large concentrations of old style signs.
On this trip we left Elkhorn City and took US-23 south from Pikeville KY. We crossed into VA near Pound, and made our first foray off the main road at Wise. We found a couple of square Secondary Route markers on VA-640 that should have used either the circle or rectangular markers. The same square marker was used for Business US-23 instead of a US route shield. We also found a couple shield shaped US markers as well as some current style signs. Next to the State Police post on the south edge of town we found a Business US-23 and SSR757 marker assembly that had fallen from it's post and been propped up on the ground.
At. Norton we found a rare "Dual Bannered" route. "Business Alternate US-58" is the old road thru town, and the main Alternate US-58 takes the bypass. At St. Paul and Coeburn what had once been Business Alternate US-58 was no longer posted as such. Also in Norton we found some shield shaped US-23 and Alternate US-58 markers, a sign pointing to "Old Alternate US-58" and shield shaped VA-74 markers.
We stopped along the way to Bristol at a couple spots for photos. At Bristol we found the promised land for old fashioned road signs. We first came in on I-381, a short spur off of I-81 that has no entrance or exit ramps. It only runs a mile or so and then after the expressway portion ends it becomes VA-381. Coming SB into Bristol there is a large rack of 7 or 8 different route markers, all shield shaped. The rack is put together in an Erector Set style, extending over the sidewalk. Walk around the intersections in Bristol (on the Virginia side that is) and you will find these signs all over. On the Tennessee side of town regular square route markers are used.
At Gate City we found markers for Business US-23, 58 and 421 coming off the main road (which carries all 3 numbers). Within town though only Business US-23 is posted.
The entire area is a roadgeek's paradise with shield shaped signs, split US routes, business routes and a variety of route types rarely found in a small area.