• Crossing Gate Question

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by Trainmaster5
While on my way home tonight(in my car) I crossed the LIRR Ronkonkoma line tracks btw Brentwood and the old Pineaire station, at 5th Ave/Wicks Rd. Looking to my right I could see the w/b train entering the Brentwood Station at approx 10:20 pm. I then proceeded to a gas station and spent 5 minutes or more there. While pumping my gas I saw gates go down and the the e/b train pass. It's due at Brentwood at 10:26 pm. I completed filling up and the gates went up again so I re-crossed the tracks to continue my journey. These gates are 1 block from the station. I happened to look over toward the station and to my shock the w/b train was still in the station, fully berthed. The sealed beams were illuminated so I stomped on the gas and got out of there as fast as I could. That piqued my interest so I went around the block and watched. The crossing gate directly in front of the train, on Brentwood Road, was in the UP position, with no flashing lights, and traffic was crossing directly in front of the train. I saw no emergency vehicle at the crossing either. From my vantage point I guess the train remained in the station for about 20 minutes before I saw it move out westbound. My question is can the gates be operated remotely, from a tower. I believe they can be operated with a key, on-site, by a crew member, because I've watched maintenance crews working at that location from time to time. I do know that when the gates are operating normally a west bound train triggers 3 sets of gates as it enters the Brentwood Station. I should add that there was an ambulance, originally hidden from my view, adjacent to the platform that I saw when the train finally left the station. It just shocked me to see 3 sets of gates up, with no flashing lights displayed and a train 1 street away. Please enlighten me ' cause I've never seen this before in almost 30 years of crossing at this location.
  by Chicagorail1
The gates "timed out" Then circuit sensed a train approaching the crossing witch will lower the arms. But the gates did not sense a train on the actual crossing so after about 30 seconds or so the gates will rise. A lot of times in freight service we will pull up to a crossing and about 10 car lengths away the gates will lower and we will pull up to about 2 cars from the crossing to park the train and after about 30 seconds the gated will go up. Every foot maters when your trying to park a mile long freight train between two crossings that will be waiting hours upon hours for a re-crew.
  by Trainmaster5
Okay, I get the general idea, it's a timer+ a sensor when operating normally as I originally described the situation. Your explanation also helps me understand why, when I cross at the first location I mentioned, the gates and lights will activate yet NO train actually passes. The NY&A operates a facility (yard) just to the west of that location which is out of my line of sight. They're probably making a move back there that us motorists can't actually see. One last question though. When the w/b LIRR train was finally ready to leave the Brentwood Station what finally made the gates operable again ? After a 20 minute or so wait in the station what triggered the gates at that moment. Was there a 20 minute or whatever delay built into the system? From a station stop where he was standing would there be another sensor built into the rail at the station stop marker ? I'm asking that question that particular way because as a subway motorman I've been involved in delays that sometimes lasted over an hour but I've obviously never had traffic crossing my path 100 or so feet in front of me. That's why I was asking about tower control ie., Divide or Ronkonkoma twr. " I'm ready to proceed w/b, can you activate those gates ahead of me now?"
  by Chicagorail1
Crossings are not controlled remotely, there controlled locally by the shunting of the rail by a train or by the signal maintainer. I have yet to see a crossing a crew member can manually raise or lower still functional. All the older style crossings that i have seen has had this feature removed. The only person that has access to any crossing features on all the railroads i have worked for or operated over is the signal maintainer and that is controlled locally right next to the crossing.

The answer to your question is the train will proceed slowly until the crossing circuit detects movement and the gates lower and the notch the train up to track speed. Yes this sometimes require creeping your train along until the gates are fully lowered. Modern crossings are extremely sophisticated much more sophisticated then the average person could imagine.

Because of the mass of sophistication involved in the use of "active crossings". 75% of crossings in this country are "passive" which are the good old cross bucks and nothing else. But i believe the last statistic showed 85% of all crossing incidents happen at "active carousing" even though the "active crossing" are 25% of the crossings in this country.
  by Trainmaster5
Thanks for your replies. Although I live up here in NY my mom is in NC, south of Fayetteville, which is where I see most of my non-commuter railroading these days. And yes, those cross bucks are everywhere. There are cross buck crossings at unused, or little-used, points and since I'm not knowledgeble enough to know an abandoned spur from an active one, especially from a distance, I treat them ALL with much respect. Thanks again.
  by Noel Weaver
This might be the case on the Long Island Rail Road but on some more modern operations it is possible for the crew to
either raise or lower the gates from the locomotive by using the key pad on the locomotive radio, a code which is different
for each crossing. In some cases the crossing will acknowledge on the radio when the key pad is used and on others the
protection will just activate and the gates will either lower or raise as the case may be.
Such system is in use here in South Florida on both CSX/Tri-Rail and on the Florida East Coast. Notes are included in the
special instructions of the employee timetables in both cases. It works very effectively.
Noel Weaver
  by RogerOverOutRR
Although I'm not sure what exactly happened tonight at Brentwood station, I would go out on a limb and say that there was a medical emergency on that westbound. In a situation where a crew knows the train will be delayed in the station (or even somewhere on the main), they will usually "key" the gates up. There is a small box at the end most all platforms preceded by a crossing, usually next to the "T" (Telephone) box which allows a crew member to insert a special key. Once inserted, the gates will go up until the crew member takes their key out. Most times, this keying device controls only one crossing. For example, at Brentwood, there are 3 crossings immediately to the west of the station. While making a normal westbound stop at Brentwood, after two minutes, the 2nd and 3rd crossing gates will go up to relieve traffic, while the crossing immediately west of the station will stay activated. Under no circumstance will those gates go up, UNLESS they are keyed up. Keep in mind, there are keying devices on most every crossing on the LIRR system now.

Signal circuitry drops the Automatic Speed Control system down to 15 MPH where a crossing is not activated. In a situation like Brentwood, the first crossing will stay activated while there's a train in the station and the 2nd and 3rd will "time out". The Engineer will see his cab signal drop from 80mph down to 15mph as these gates time out. Once he starts moving the train again and re-activates the gates, the cab signal goes back up to 80mph when those gates are fully lowered.
  by LongIslandTool
The Long Island experimented with anticipator systems that judge train speed, but aside from those limited experiments all of its gates are operated quite simply.

Each gate system has three track circuits. There is an "island" circuit immediately on the crossing and an "approach" circuit on each side. They are generally separated with insulated joints. The first approach circuit a train shunts will lower the gates and the island circuit will keep them down. The second approach circuit will have no affect if the island is shunted first.

The length of the approach circuits are selected using a formula that considers the Maximum Authorized Speed on the track and permits the gates to be lowered for 15 seconds before the train operating at that speed arrives. In some places where trains generally operate at high speeds in both directions on a track, the circuitry is more complex, using two approach circuits on each end of the crossing and selecting them depending on the direction that traffic is set by the operator. In this way, protection is provided for movement against the current of traffic as well as with it.

Most crossings at stations have a time release circuit. The first approach circuit activates a timing relay which raises the gates if the island circuit is not shunted after a certain amount of time. On those circuits, a train must pull slowly onto the island circuit to lower the gates after they have been released. These crossings are denoted in the Special Instructions.

All gates are equipped with a key release circuit which permits the engineer or his crew members to disable to gate's approach circuit and raise the gates if the train is stuck on the circuit. The circuit usually will not bypass the island circuit however and the gates will lower if the train enters the crossing even if keyed up.

Gates are fail safe and lower when power to them is interrupted. They operate by gravity and are held up with an electromagnetic latch. If the latch deactivates, it releases the gate and it lowers. A motor drives them into the up position. All gates are battery operated, as are signal circuits, so a local power failure, unless it affects track circuits should not lower the gates. After batteries expire, if there is no local charging power, the gates will lower. This usually takes about eight hours. As some signal power is generated using locally powered converters, a loss in local power sometimes loses signal circuits which allow the gates to lower.

While no gate can be controlled remotely, certain combination of routes in some interlockings will lower the gates. Different approach circuits will affect a crossing when different routes are selected by the operator, so some operators do indeed have influence on gate operation though no directly.

Gate circuits are tested monthly and careful records are kept. When an accident occurs at a crossing, the entire system and all relays are inspected. Gate relays used to be contained in signal cases, but newer ones are placed in small huts to permit better conditions when repairs or tests are made.

Until the 1970's, gate arms were black and white. They were changed to red and white after the the black and white colors became obsolete -- horses can't see colors.
  by Trainmaster5
Thanks Roger and Tool. It appears that there was some type of medical emergency at the station hence the ambulance I saw after the w/b departed the station. It was obscured by the w/b train itself from my vantage point. Needless to say, you learn something every day if you observe and ask the right questions.
This has definatly gotten my intrest. If tool or roger can help me out with this one as i have seen it almost a hundred times. When a 3 car C3-DC gets ready to leave patchogue I have seen conductors walk up to that silver box and insert a key then a split second later the gates west of the station will go down and then we depart? Is this one of the expamles as like said a combination can make them go down?
  by RogerOverOutRR
That's precisely an example. In Port Jefferson station, there is a keying device that the Conductor will activate when a Westbound train is ready to depart. If he doesn't key those gates down, the Engineer must approach the crossing slowly and activate the crossing protection manually by tripping the island circuit. There is no advance circuit for a Westbound train leaving Port Jefferson station (though there is one for Eastbounds).
  by Chicagorail1
That's good the let you LIRR guys control the gates, all the places I have worked as a freight conductor in Minnesota and Chicago has had this feature removed or the box with the controls locked with a non switch key lock only the maintainer has the key for to open the lock. Anyway, I wind up having to manual lift the gates by hand to let traffic through if the gates don't "time out". Boy, those crossing arms get heavy after letting about 15 cars through the crossing.
  by Head-end View
Chicagorail1, why don't you just wave the cars around the gates? That's what the police do here when the gates get stuck down 'cause of a circuit failure.
  by Chicagorail1
I'n my past experience, its just easier to open one end and let traffic through, and then rotate back and forth between each side of the crossing. If it's not that busy I will just wave them around the gates as each individual care approaches. But when you get a back up, it's quicker to move the traffic through by raising the arm rather then weave around the gates, lets say 15 cars at a time in each direction, rotating between both sides.
  by ADL6009
why not just leave the gates down and let the traffic build up?
hopefully enough angry motorists will complain that the RR would re-install the key-override feature for the gates.

what exactly is the official policy of your RR when your train is causing the crossing protection to remain in the down position? since they removed the key-override they obviously want you to let the gates remain down. i can't imagine the special instructions say "when a train fouls a crossing causing the crossing protection apparatus to remain in the down position a crew member is to wave the cars around the downed crossing gates. a crew member must also make every attempt to lift the crossing arms manually and hold them up for cars to pass under as long as he physically can"