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!

How are flashers/gates handled on crossings near depots

1192 views
13 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 1,900 posts
How are flashers/gates handled on crossings near depots
Posted by John-NYBW on Sunday, June 26, 2022 8:42 AM

All my passenger stations have grade crossings to one or both sides of the depot. Trains stopping at the small stations just do a quick stop and go but at my two major stations, trains will make an extended stop for a variety of reasons. When a train makes an extended stop between two roads, are the flashers/gates controlled manually so that traffic can cross the tracks while the train is being serviced? Are the flashers/gates then deployed before the train starts to move?

  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: lavale, md
  • 4,115 posts
Posted by gregc on Sunday, June 26, 2022 9:06 AM

in Cumberland, the scenic train sits at the station for about an hour,  the signal must be manually enabled only when the train is ready to leave the Western Maryland station.

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 11,765 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, June 26, 2022 9:38 AM

Yes, as Greg indicated about the WMSR, many stations have or had special controls nearby crossings. Here where I live in nearby Aberdeen, MD, the once B&O station (now undergoing a slow restoration) is right at a grade crossing. When passenger trains still ran on that line, the station agent could override the automatic controls. 

But, it was no doubt complicated since for a while it was double track. He would override it for the stopped train, not for the other track.

Today CSX freights blow thru town at 50 mph - when the lights flash, bells ring and the gates go down, take it seriously.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 10,320 posts
Posted by dehusman on Sunday, June 26, 2022 10:32 AM

Era matters.

Early era, they had manual crossings where a person would manually activate the crossing warnings.

Here is a picture of the crossing "tower" at Lansdale, PA on the Reading Co.  The depot is behind the photographer.

 http://www.trainweb.org/phillynrhs/RPOTW/20071005.CRW_2995_RJ.jpg

Later era, they would either manually activate them or the circuits had a motion detector and when the train stopped, the gates would clear and the warning lights go off, then when the train started to move the system would sense movement and turn the gates and lights back on.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 1,900 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Sunday, June 26, 2022 12:27 PM

Thanks for the replies. It pretty much confirms what I suspected. My layout is set in 1956. My mainline is double track and there are three stations on the modeled portion. I hadn't thought of the potential situation of a manual override of the automated system for a train on one track with another train coming through town at speed on the other track. I'm sure the prototypes would have safeguards to make sure the flashers and gates deployed properly for that situation. 

The largest station on the layout is the easternmost one and there is a four track crossing just west of the station. I've thought of creating an underpass there which is probably what a prototype railroad would consider but for now it's still grade crossing. Trains will have lengthy stops there because in addition to mail and express handling, there is a good bit of switching done as well. The next station west is a commuter/flag stop station that has a grade crossing on either side but any trains that stop there do so only briefly. The western most station is a good sized junction town with a 3 track station. Except for a night train that picks up a sleeper, there is no passenger train switching. Passenger trains will handle a good amount of mail and express so five minute stops are the norm there. There's one grade crossing on the west end and another a short distance out of town on the east end.

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 20,548 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Sunday, June 26, 2022 4:03 PM

I used to live near the station in Concord, MA.  It had grade crossings at either end.  The signals were always active, but the trains only stopped briefly to take on or discharge passengers.

More recently, this became a passenger-only line.  At that point passenger trains from the opposite direction were held outside the station until the train in the station moved out.

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

  • Member since
    May 2019
  • 904 posts
Posted by BEAUSABRE on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 12:42 AM

John-NYBW
I've thought of creating an underpass there which is probably what a prototype railroad would consider but for now it's still grade crossing.

Depends, an underpass is generally more expensive than a level crossing. As a rule of the thumb, if the road was there before the railroad, the railroad pays for the underpass. If the railroad was there before the road, the town eats the cost. 

  • Member since
    May 2008
  • From: Miles City, Montana
  • 2,048 posts
Posted by FRRYKid on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 2:39 AM

As an aside, I have heard stories (Not old enough to have seen it in person) of a station (IMS Fargo, ND) that the NP passenger train engineers had to be very careful when they stopped their trains as to not block the crossings. If they did, there would be some very upset vehicle drivers.

"The only stupid question is the unasked question."
Brain waves can power an electric train. RealFact #832 from Snapple.
  • Member since
    January 2019
  • 1,900 posts
Posted by John-NYBW on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 6:14 AM

BEAUSABRE

 

 
John-NYBW
I've thought of creating an underpass there which is probably what a prototype railroad would consider but for now it's still grade crossing.

 

Depends, an underpass is generally more expensive than a level crossing. As a rule of the thumb, if the road was there before the railroad, the railroad pays for the underpass. If the railroad was there before the road, the town eats the cost. 

 

That's an interesting question. The road ends at the edge of the benchwork but theoretically continues west paralleling the large classification yard around the bend. If that road only goes as far as the classification yard, the railroad would have been there first but if it continues out of town, it likely would have been there before the railroad came to town sometime in the latter part of the 19th century. I'll have to give that some thought.

  • Member since
    March 2013
  • 402 posts
Posted by Colorado Ray on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 4:45 PM

Whether to use an underpass or overpass for the roadway depends on the surrounding topography and the railroad grade.  The "downside" of an underpass is that you have to have drainage from the bottom to a lower point somehere else.  If the railroad is already on an embankment, then a road underpass may be favored.  If the railroad grade is even with the neighboring grade, or in cut, then a roadway overpass is more likely.  Roadway bridges are of "lighter" construction, so would generally be less expensive than an underpass. 

If I remember correctly from my younger days riding/driving through Indiana and Illinois, there were more roadway overpasses than underpasses out in the country (but both outnumbered by at-grade crossings).  The opposite was often the case in the cities. 

My earliest recollections of steam engines were Nickel Plate berkshires crossing US 52 north of Lebanon, Indiana.  I'd always hope that the crossing lights would flash as we approached on the highway.  In later years I-65 took away all the fun of the drive.  Too bad my Dad wasn't a Nickel Plate fan, or we could have easily detoured over to Frankfort, Indiana for some real train action.

Ray

  • Member since
    December 2017
  • From: I've been everywhere, man
  • 4,015 posts
Posted by SD70Dude on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 6:02 PM

Modern "smart crossings" detect how fast a train is moving and time it so the crossing activates the proper amount of time before the train actually enters the crossing, and will also deactivate if the train stops before entering the island circuit (actually occupying the crossing).

A lot of older crossings will activate and remain active until the train moves to the other side of the crossing (two approach circuits and an island circuit), and still others only have a single circuit that extends for some distance on either side of the crossing, requiring a train to move some distance away before the crossing will deactivate on its own.  

Some crossings do have push buttons for train crews to deactivate them, in multitrack territory ours will have a separate button for each track.  From what I've seen our crossings with gates also have a 'manual override' switch that will force the gates up but leave the lights flashing, but this is inside a locked box that only signal maintainers have keys to, not train crews.  

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

  • Member since
    November 2006
  • From: NW Pa Snow-belt.
  • 2,119 posts
Posted by ricktrains4824 on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 7:34 PM

And in some locations, even newly installed signals are still of the old single circuit style. 

The new crossing signals at the Jamestown NY Comedy Center (ex-Erie RR Passenger Station) are that way. That made for an interesting issue the last National Train Day celebration I attended there, with the visiting tank steam locomotive (Viscose 6) needing to be insulated via crushed cardboard boxes under the wheels to remain stopped at the station, otherwise the crossing lights, bells, and gates remained activated. (Would have been okay, as it is only a pedestrian crossing to access Comedy Park, except for the very loud crossing bells....)

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
    August 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 14,424 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 7:13 AM

A great deal of good information can be found in the employee timetables of the road and era you are modeling. I've witnessed some freights pull past the crossing until the conductor and brakeman drop off the caboose then the train backs until the engines just clear the crossing. The conductor will use his switch key to deactivate the gates/flashers and then the whole crew "goes to beans" at a nearby restaurant.

Here are some specifics for public crossings from a random NYCRR employee timetable #2 (the top one on a stack to my left) from October 27, 1957:

 NYC_ETT by Edmund, on Flickr

And a crop of a particular paragraph mentioning key overrides:

 NYC_ETT_key-override by Edmund, on Flickr

Sometimes prayer helps.

 Maintenance Along the Way by Shaun McGinnis, on Flickr

Good Luck, Ed

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • 996 posts
Posted by mvlandsw on Friday, July 1, 2022 4:51 PM

Up until the early 70's when the B&O mainline tracks were moved out of downtown McKeeport, Pa. the crossing gates were activated by watchmen in elevated shanties. The watchmen had to operate an air pump to build up pressure to lower the gates. Since the system was old and leaky they had to pump continously to hold the gates down.  Most of them would stop pumping once a train had occupied the crossing and the gates would rise.

Passenger trains stopping at the station would have at least two crossings blocked. 

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

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!