Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Options for crossing flashers and gates

1208 views
12 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 1,922 posts
Options for crossing flashers and gates
Posted by John-NYBW on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 12:10 PM

I want to add working flashers to most of my grade crossings and if possible working gates as well. I'm looking for reasonably priced options but of course they must work reliably as well. I was looking through some offerings on ebay and I found a number of what I would call reasonably priced. Most of them are imports from China and I wonder about the quality of these items. One is for a pair of flashers with a gate but it doesn't look to me like the gate is automated and there is very little in the description. Shipping time is another issue with estimated arrival sometime from August to October. 

I'm wondering what others have used including options with gates. Do any offer operating gates and flashers together or are these generally purchased separately? I believe I'll also need a controller for each crossing as well. I'm not looking to automate the flashers but instead activate them with a toggle or slide switch. 

  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Morristown, NJ
  • 713 posts
Posted by nealknows on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 1:07 PM

John, since I can't message you, I'l post it here.. 

East Coast Circuits makes a grade crossing flashing unit that works 2 tracks bi-directional. It will handle up to 16 LED's per circuit. One of the other forums did a review on it. This may help you decide. 

https://eastcoastcircuits.com/PDF/Crossing%20Signal%20Circuit.pdf

FYI, I bought some of the crossbucks off Ebay they look pretty good and will work with their circuits.

  • Member since
    April 2021
  • 15 posts
Posted by wvgca on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 1:45 PM

the flasher circuit isn't hard to do, even ebay can get you that for a buck .... harder is the detection part, so it turns on and off automatically

  • Member since
    February 2018
  • From: Flyover Country
  • 4,277 posts
Posted by York1 on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 2:04 PM

This is off topic for your question, but it may be something you would consider.

When I wanted flashing crossing signals, I decided to build my own.

To do that, I had to learn how to build and use circuits with Arduinos.

I'm old, and I did not have any computer coding background.  But with Youtube, I learned how to build and program the simple circuits needed.

I have a double mainline, with trains approaching the crossings from each direction.  With arduino programs, it was simple to have the flashers turn when a train approached from either direction, stay on while the train moved across the crossing, and turn off a short time after the train cleared the crossing.

Mistakes I made:

1.  My first purchases were actual Arduino pieces.  I found out that there are many, much cheaper alternatives.  I was able to buy Nano boards for $2.00 each that are the brains of the system, and photo cells were $1.50 for ten of them.  Resistors, LEDs, etc. are all very cheap.

2.  I used photo cells for the detection signal.  While not a big mistake, it took a lot of work to adjust each so that it would not turn on the flashers in ordinary light.  However, if the room got even a little darker, the flashers would come on.  I have not yet changed them, but I'm going to take Mel's advice and put in infrared detectors instead, which wouldn't be affected by room light.

3.  I didn't put my full effort into this, with the result it took me several months.  With some concentration, I could have done it in a couple of days.

I would have liked to put in operating gates, but decided it was too hard for me to do at the time.  It would involve putting some servos into the circuit so that the gates would operate with the flashers.

 

Now, after that whole explanation, it would be much easier to just buy the stuff.  It's not expensive, and Neal's source is a good one.

York1 John       

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 1,922 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 2:12 PM

wvgca

the flasher circuit isn't hard to do, even ebay can get you that for a buck .... harder is the detection part, so it turns on and off automatically

 

That's why I'm going with manual control.

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 1,925 posts
Posted by kasskaboose on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 5:36 PM

Does it matter if the layout is DC or DCC operated?

  • Member since
    February 2018
  • From: Flyover Country
  • 4,277 posts
Posted by York1 on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 5:56 PM

kasskaboose

Does it matter if the layout is DC or DCC operated?

 

 

In my case, no.  The crossing flashing lights are on their own dc circuit, as are all the other lighting setups.

I can't imagine complicating the DCC operation with adding in crossing signals.  I can barely operate one locomotive at a time.

 

York1 John       

  • Member since
    August 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 14,442 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 5:37 AM

I have one working crossing signal and another in the works with gates. The one that has been operating is on a two-track main and has flashing lights and an ITT bell.

 Century Pass by Edmund, on Flickr

The other is a three track (actually four but the siding will be activated by the local switchman) and it will have operating gates actuated by a Tortoise machine and two remote linkage kits. I've used these kits for operating semaphore signals so the gates won't be uncharted territory for me.

My flashing, dinging and gate activation are all handled by Logic Rail Grade Crossing Pro circuit boards. These have performed flawlessly, as well as the signal animators for many of the block signals, for years. The two track crossing signals were put in probably fifteen years ago and I might have had to adjust the photocells (today I would use the I-R detectors) maybe once or twice probably due to dust and gunk getting on them.

https://www.logicrailtech.com/xcart/home.php?cat=260

I 'think" my gates were made by Tomar. If not they're NJI. Tortoise makes the remote linkage. The Grade Crossing Pro uses pairs of detectors and will lower the gates and start the flashers well before the train approaches (set the length by your usual track speed) and the signals clear as soon as the last car clears the crossing.

 PRR_9854_FP7 by Edmund, on Flickr

I like the setup and it has never given me any troubles.

 Muncie_Crossing by Edmund, on Flickr

GCP-2 documentation is here. Opens as a .pdf.

Good Luck, Ed

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 1,922 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 2:39 PM

gmpullman

The other is a three track (actually four but the siding will be activated by the local switchman) and it will have operating gates actuated by a Tortoise machine and two remote linkage kits. I've used these kits for operating semaphore signals so the gates won't be uncharted territory for me.

This is the part that I am interested in. I had read about others using a Tortoise to operate the gates but without any detail as to how it is done. I have a pair of stand alone gates that I would need to add flashers for. The gates operate with a thin bare wire which runs through the bottom of the base and raises and lowers the gate by pulling down on or pushing up on the wire. I'm thinking that a Tortoise could be used to move that wire up or down if the Tortoise was turned on its side. Is that how you do it? I'm trying to figure out a way to use one Tortoise to operate both gates. Given the current cost of a Tortoise, using two for one crossing gets expensive, especially considering I have four crossings I would like to add operating gates for.

  • Member since
    August 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 14,442 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 4:00 PM

John-NYBW
I had read about others using a Tortoise to operate the gates but without any detail as to how it is done.

I'll see if I took any photos of the semaphore installation I made using the remote linkage. Here is the instruction sheet that comes with the remote actuator:

http://www.circuitron.com/index_files/INS/800-8100ins.pdf

I do recall they have a provision to link two of these to one Tortoise so that you can drive a pair of gates. They are tedious to get adjusted properly but once you're there they function very well.

There is a series of holes where you can choose the "throw" of the wire using bell cranks and stiff "Bowden" cable in Teflon tubing.

Here's my semaphore actuator:

 Circuitron Remote Actuator by Edmund, on Flickr

If you look closely at the "slider" where the actuating wire is attached you can see where a second actuating wire would go. I wrapped the Tortoise in foam to reduce the motor noise.

This is the other end of the Bowden cable directly under the signal (or gate) where the motion is transfered from side-to-side to up and down, with adjusting stops.

 Circuitron Actuator by Edmund, on Flickr

https://tonystrains.com/product/circuitron-800-8101-cable-actuator-for-remote-signal-activator

 

https://yankeedabbler.com/circuitron-6100-remote-tortoise-mount-circuitron-scale-all-part-800-6100/

 

Of course you can manually run the Tortoise and decide to integrate it into a crossing circuit at a later time.

Good Luck, Ed

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 20,554 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Saturday, July 16, 2022 1:00 PM

I installed a set of crossing flashers at one intersection and a set of flashers and gates at a "busier" one.  I used the Rob Paisley circuits for controllers, Oregon Rail Supply crossbucks for the flashers, and New Jersey International crossing gates.  The gates required a Tortoise machine and a Circuitron add-on to drive two gates.  They were not finicky and went together well.  I had to redesign the NJI linkage because the original ones broke, bt they just took a small drill and a piece of wire.

These have worked well for years.  They use optical visible light detection, and work in my normal train-room-dark nighttime lighting as well as normal daylight.  My original plan to use IR detection was not necessary.

I should have paid a bit more to add a ringing bell and drive that from the circuit as well.  Next time.  Actually, a friend gave me a REAL crossing bell that operated at 12 volts, just like my circuits.  We did hook it up, and it worked.  I worried about the current so I disconnected it, but dang, a real crossing bell in my train room?  That thing was LOUD! 

This is the Circitron add-on to drive the crossing gates from a single Tortoise, plus the two NJI gates.

The Rob Paisley circuits directly operate the Tortoise, the flasher lights and the bell, incidently.  Here is a single modified NJI gate.  I added the wire to the outside, because the one they had inside the housing was weak and flimsy and never made it to the layout.

 

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    November 2006
  • From: NW Pa Snow-belt.
  • 2,124 posts
Posted by ricktrains4824 on Monday, July 18, 2022 3:00 PM

I did get a pair of flashers from the 'china listing', just to check quality versus my Tomar set. The Tomar set is all metal, while the China made flashers are metal and plastic. The China version is shorter than the Tomar, but matches the height of the new Walthers ones. (Walthers are also plastic.)

But they are very well done for the price.

(The gated versions look like they would require work to automate the gates So I have not gotten them, but I already had a gated signal set from Tomar, and wouldn't need another at this point.)

Ricky W.

HO scale Proto-freelancer.

My Railroad rules:

1: It's my railroad, my rules.

2: It's for having fun and enjoyment.

3: Any objections, consult above rules.

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 1,922 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Monday, July 18, 2022 8:51 PM

I have one four track crossing that I definitely want to have both gates and flashers installed. I have a couple stand alone gates that I hadn't figured out how to use a Tortoise to automate them but Ed's and Mr. Beasley's posts seem to answer that question. All the others I could get by with just flashers but might add gates if I could find working gates at a reasonable price. Considering that the Tortoise alone is now selling for around $24, adding a $50 set of two flashers with gates is more than I want to spend. That's the price I found for NJI. I hadn't looked at Tomar to see what is available and the cost. The plastic flashers from China seem like a reasonably priced alternative even if they are going to come on a slow boat. The estimated delivery time for these is sometime between August and October. That's OK because I'm not in a big hurry to get this done. I'm working on other projects right now. They are much cheaper than the Walthers flashers which last I looked were about $30 for a pair. 

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

There are no community member online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!