Level crossing lights during the steam era in the UK

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JLK2707
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Level crossing lights during the steam era in the UK

Postby JLK2707 » Tue Oct 10, 2017 1:11 am

I am just wondering if the level crossing lights in the UK had a steady yellow before the two flashing red lights during the steam era or if they had only the flashing red with no yellow which illuminated before then.

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Re: Level crossing lights during the steam era in the UK

Postby luckymucklebackit » Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:31 am

JLK2707 wrote:I am just wondering if the level crossing lights in the UK had a steady yellow before the two flashing red lights during the steam era or if they had only the flashing red with no yellow which illuminated before then.


No yellow light in the steam era, this was introduced from 1969 as a result of the terrible accident at Hixon, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hixon_rail_crash

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Re: Level crossing lights during the steam era in the UK

Postby 6C » Tue Oct 10, 2017 1:01 pm

Yep - just a constant red light - pointing at road when train passing ....
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Re: Level crossing lights during the steam era in the UK

Postby JLK2707 » Tue Oct 10, 2017 1:49 pm

So am I to understand that there were just flashing red lights during the steam age in the UK? Also, did the level crossing alarms change in frequency when another train was detected at the same time that the first one was on the crossing during the steam age?

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Re: Level crossing lights during the steam era in the UK

Postby Bufferstop » Tue Oct 10, 2017 1:53 pm

As Pete says a constant usually flickering Guards van type oil lamp perched on top of the centre of the gate. When the gates were opened the lamp faced along the track for what good it would do. In the centre of the gate was a large round red disk facing the road, If it was a four gated crossing the disk would be in two halves across the pair of gates. When the gates were on a busy road, without the assistance of any signal to road users the crossing keeper had to wave down any road traffic to close the gates, where they were controlled from an adjacent signal box the signalman would have to start closing the gates in plenty of time for the train as his only means of indicating to the road users that they were closing was to give them a nudge outwards, rather like nudging your way into a stream of traffic on a busy road.
To begin with it was only when a line was being re signalled that lifting barriers were introduced, and drivers who never had to think about whether or not it was safe to cross on a busy line had to understand that they couldn't drive around the ends of the half barriers.
After the Hixon disaster the GPO my employers at the time very wisely decided that drivers needed to be trained to understand the crossings and what to do if they were driving one of the more unusual construction vehicles. Cable reel carriers had a particularly low ground clearance. As well as classroom sessions with films and graphic displays, they mocked up a crossing in a depot lorry park and we all had to practice crossing it in our own vehicles or for the specialist drivers in a selection of big beasties. Part of the demonstration involved deliberately "stalling" the vehicle on the crossing, pulling the low tension lead off the distributor and timing how long it took to wind the vehicle off the crossing using the starter motor and first gear. My own car (a Vauxhall Viva, with a nearly new battery and fully charged) got me off the crossing with 5 seconds to spare, a worryingly small margin of safety, while some of the ancient Moggy Minor vans, loaded to the roof with tools and equipment were never going to make it, the official advice was get out run to the phone, tell the signallers and if you heard a train approaching run like ****. I never heard of any other organisation putting on similar training. At that time the nearest barrier crossing was ten miles outside the area we covered!
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Re: Level crossing lights during the steam era in the UK

Postby Flashbang » Tue Oct 10, 2017 2:31 pm

Hi

There were virtually none or very few automatic level crossing on BR during the steam era. In fact most AHB (Automatic Half Barriers) were mainly installed later when BR had removed steam and diesel or electric traction was employed. AHBs along with a small number of controlled barrier crossings using an alternate flashing pair of red lights (no yellow) were very uncommon in steam days. Yellow lights illuminating pre the red flashing along with 'Another Train Coming' neon lit signs and six road side public user telephones were all post Hixton disaster installations of the late 1960's onward. Early AHBs with no yellow used a continuous ringing bell to warn pedestrians the barriers were activated which then stopped ringing (not always!) normally when the AHB boom arms were fully lowered. Two telephones were at the crossing located often inside the metal or fibre glass cabinet that covered the AHBs hydraulic systems and electrics.
Post Hixon all AHB crossings were indicated back to the nearest signal box, but only basic indications are provided. Barrier Up. Barriers Failed and Power On indications. The failed indication which included a buzzer sounding to draw the signallers attention was often set to 4-5 minutes from loss of the Up indication occurring. So a slow train in one direction passing a train in the other direction could occasionally trip the failed statues indication! Emergency direct line to signaller telephones where installed too after Hixton. Previously the crossings two phones only connected to the main signalbox phone concentrator and could be left unanswered for several minutes! Several years later and the illuminated neon ATC signs were removed and replaced by conventional metal road signs saying "Another train coming if lights continue to show" Additional "Keep Crossing Clear" signs were added too.

Level crossings where in the main during the steam era gated level crossings with either a crossing keeper or signaller coming out from the crossing hut or adjacent signal box and physically closing/opening the gates to road traffic or they were operated from an adjacent signal box by a mechanical means. No road traffic lights were used. Only a red paraffin lit lamp fitted onto the top of the gates and a red with white boarder round 'target' on the gates was fitted on the approach side gate, later oil lit lamps were replaced with battery or mains power electrically lit red lights. Crossing gates are mechanically locked into the closed to road traffic position via a drop rod on each gate passing into a flush to road locking box. A lever in the controlling box is operated which then A) locks the gates and B) releases the signal lever worked to allow trains to proceed. The small gate used by pedestrians called a Wicket Gate is also locked closed via another lever.

To add in the UK railway traffic takes precedent over any road traffic!

How do I know this? I spent at least ten years after my BR apprenticeship installing new AHBs, upgrading those AHBs that were old and needed post Hixton upgrades and installed new Controlled and CCTV operated level crossings, as I worked for BR S&T department! :D
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Re: Level crossing lights during the steam era in the UK

Postby Bufferstop » Tue Oct 10, 2017 2:45 pm

JLK - seeing your comments I checked the user database and concluded you are an antipodean, so a little information on UK steam age crossings would be appropriate. Whilst most of the world either had no specific hardware at crossings, and those that did used the counterbalanced pole design, the UK having to invent crossings and being saddled by land owners who insisted that the lines were fenced to keep in the trains and the great unwashed hordes that they were bound to carry, opted for gates (movable fences!). These are the two basic designs.
The two gater
twogates.jpg
twogates.jpg (11.96 KiB) Viewed 937 times


The four gated
.
fourgates better.jpg


The two gated crossing was often walked across the line in two moves and was likely to be operated by a crossing keeper, who may have been provided with a cottage (in lieu of most of his meagre wage) adjacent to the crossing. Another feature more common with two gates but not unknown with four, is the tall hinge post with a straining wire or rod to prevent the outer end from sagging
The four gated variety which was used on busy lines (or roads) was mechanically operated by a continuous chain, or rods and gears driven by a wheel resembling that of a sailing ship, and housed in a small hut or the signalbox. As I said the signalman in charge of the four gated crossing would have to start closing it earlier due to having little to indicate that he was going to do so, I believe he was supposed to hold a red flag out of the window, before he started to turn the wheel. Being well off the centre line of a drivers view it couldn't help much. The gates closing early for road traffic, there would still be time for pedestrians to safely cross, so two small gates were provided which remained unlocked until it was no longer safe to do so, when a lever in the box bolted them shut.
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JLK2707
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Re: Level crossing lights during the steam era in the UK

Postby JLK2707 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 2:44 pm

Also, wasn't the Spath level crossing in the UK fitted with flashing red lights and SECOND TRAIN COMING illuminated neon sign during the steam age during the UK?

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Re: Level crossing lights during the steam era in the UK

Postby Mountain » Sat Oct 28, 2017 4:48 pm

Locally we used to have a very interesting crossing,though the crossing was after steam had turned to diesel. It was at a place called Penybedd in the parish of Pembrey. It was a full barrier crossing where it normally remained in the closed position. There was a red and green light to show if a train was coming and also a phone to the signalbox for any circumstance where one may need to cross something slow or if one was leading animals etc. To open the crossing, one would first need to get out the vehicle and check the light was green. Then one would pump the lever back and fore and the barriers would slowly raise. When one was over the crossing there was a smaller lever one turned and the barriers came back down.
Due to locals taking shortcuts and not lowering the crossing after they went over, and also when a local was killed when his car cut out on the crossing and he panicked and returned to the car to try and move it, somewhere in the 1990's the crossing was replaced for a pair of AHB's.
I remembered as aa young teenager being the volunteer to pump the long handle to raise the gates and turn the small lever to lower them after. It was an interesting crossing and as far as I'm aware, as it was an experimental crossing, the only one of its type in the UK as I've never seen another like it.


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