Kevin’s Komments 11/01/2023

Railroad Crossings

I’ve been busy recently looking at 19th century locomotive builders, but got distracted by an interesting railroad crossing pic.  When talking about railroad crossings, two types come to mind:  A railroad crossing is generally thought of as two railroad lines crossing each other.  But, we also tend to think of grade crossings, or roads crossing a railroad line.  I’ve also come across a couple more types of railroad crossings – we’ll get to those later!

This is the pic that caught my attention:  This is Chicago Grand Crossing in 1910.  Note the printed caption on the photo/postcard – There are 4 sets of tracks crossing 6 sets.  Being early 20th century, each track is guarded by a gate.  When studying the photo, I only saw two gates open – the nearest left to right track, and the farthest left to right track.  Also note the telegraph/signal poles  with 8 crossarms.

I found this elevated view of the Milwaukee Road and Chicago & Northwestern Railway crossing on Monona Bay, Madison, WI, the site of the old MX tower. 1955. If you get a chance, pop Monona Bay into Google Maps.

This is a J. Parker Lamb photo– Center for Railroad Photography & Art.  I’m not sure where Maitland crossing tower (NY) is.

This photo appears to be taken from the window or platform at the crossing tower – 1958 Illinois Central Railroad northbound Creole passenger train crossing the Pennsylvania Railroad at the tower at Arcola, Illinois, in December 1958.  Another photo by J. Parker Lamb, © 2015, Center for Railroad Photography and Art. Lamb-01-033-04.

J. Parker Lamb photos seemed to pop up a lot in the RR crossing search – 1960 Wabash Railroad eastbound Cannonball passenger train slowing for a station stop at Tolono, Illinois, in February 1960. Photograph by J. Parker Lamb, © 2015, Center for Railroad Photography and Art. Lamb-01-035-11.  The station must have served both lines on the crossing – the two order pickup stands each service one of the lines.  (I’m not sure if I’m using the correct term for these devices.)

To look at crossings, at some point you have to examine the diamond. I don’t have much info on this photo, but check out the construction of the diamond rails. Notice the tie locations. This might be a British crossing (based on the construction).

Besides giving us a view of the diamond construction, this is a nice photo with the bridges behind the crossing. Construction is a bit different from the likely British one above. This one is likely Canadian, but the Canadian construction matches most diamonds in the US. Note the difference in the ties along with the rails

Here’s a similar North American crossing.

Without looking for specific crossings, I left these eight photos above as a reasonable selection, each with an interesting point (or two). We’re now going to visit some grade crossings

his is an early 20th century manned city crossing.  The caption on this pic reads, “The Whippany Railway Museum has been bringing to life the history of New Jersey’s railroads to the public since 1965. Offering family entertainment for young and old alike. Weekly excursions and events are a thrill for the whole family.”

Similar era and style – Pennsylvania Railroad crossing guard and shanty where the ex-GR&I tracks crossed Hall Street by Steele Avenue in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1949.

Here’s another crossing shanty with the predecessor to the crossbuck style crossing signs. Also, there’s a nice turnout throw in the foreground. I’m not sure of the location, but there was a suggestion with this photo that the tower sticking up behind the office building might be the Woolworth building (Manhattan)!

If you don’t have a shanty (or need a better view), there’s the crossing tower. The caption says this was the crossing tower at Park Ave. (city – ?), 1954. I believe in this case, the crossing guard drops the gates from the tower.

This modern photo captures the crossing gates, tower, and construction of the paved crossing.  These gates are automatically controlled – The tower is likely just a remnant of the past.  The tracks are Canadian Pacific, and the photo is by John Bjorkland – Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

Here’s another modern photo of a crossing tower.  The gate looks like the old style – may not automatically operated.  Note the phone box at the base of the tower column (other side).  This is likely a dedicated phone line for the railroad.  This is Pennsylvania Railroad property in Huntingdon during October of 1965.  Shown here is the PRR’s Crossing Gate Tower that protects the grade crossing for State Route 26.

This is not a crossing tower, but a signal tower that happens to be next to a grade crossing. The photo shows another predecessor of the crossbucks. There’s also an early version of a wood crossing gate. The station is New Haven’s (NYNH&H) Signal Station (SS) #127. It’s located at Shannock, Rhode Island, circa 1921. Note the poster that is mounted to the crossing sign that states, “Cross Crossing Cautiously” – a little alliteration!

This photo is from Rensselaer County, NY.  The station on the left is Adams Street Station.  The view is crossing 3rd Street looking northeast.  This site is now Capraras Auto Body shop. (Rensselaer County Historical Society)  I wish I could tell what railroad it is.  The mini-tower on the right is likely the old crossing tower.  It looks like the gates are automated, though look at the era of the automobile on the right!  Note the wood grade crossing with a slight ramp on each side to reach rail height.  Also, note the brick walkway between the set of tracks likely for the station passengers.

If you like old busy street crossings, check this photo out! (No info on the photo.) The crossing tower is on the left behind the back of the tender. The loco appears to be a Consolidation (2-8-0) (or maybe an 0-8-0 switcher) pushing some cars to a near industrial site. The only visible car is an Erie outside-braced boxcar. It looks like the crossing guard is in front of the gate on this side of the train. Note that there is a vehicle gate, and a pedestrian gate (lower right). Based on the vehicles, I’m putting this photo in the mid to late ‘20s.

If we go modern – CNW 4279 slowly approaches Broadway Street in Sheboygan Falls in July of 1986.  Wig Wags guard the crossing but the crew will get out and direct traffic anyways, making sure the 2 door Chevy Citation will get out of the way.  Ahead lies a few blocks of street running.  This line was taken out and then re-installed, although this section is not in use anymore.

It looks like a cold wintery day on a rural crossing.  Given the modern train, this is in the era where communities are trying to do away with the simple crossbuck crossings.  J. Parker Lamb Collection: Group Two – Center for Railroad Photography & Art

Here’s a simple crossbuck with a 1930s vehicle stopped. I’m guessing that’s a PRR loco speeding by (Belpaire firebox). That looks like a PRR Position Light (PL) signal next to the loco.

Here’s a simple crossbuck crossing of the New York Central Railroad in Terre Haute, IN, 1935.  Caption reads, “Smity’s Restaurant is on the corner.  A sandwich sign advertises food at the restaurant.  Wooden homes are in the background.  The bright light on the left side is from an approaching locomotive.”  Photo is owned by the Indiana Historical Society.

Preferred over the crossbucks, is the crossbuck with flashing lights. This is a high-resolution vintage photo from 1939. Check out the road and crossing make-up.

On the upper right you see the crossing signal. Check out the asphalt paved crossing made-up with boards on either side of each rail. This was common in the ‘70s and ‘80s while I was in my early days of driving. Hit these with any speed, and you’re likely to get a bumpy ride – and mess up your suspension!

We saw a wig-wag signal earlier – here’s a better look at one.  This one was located about 4 miles south of Coleman, Texas.  The wig-wag signal protected the Texas Ranch Road 1026 crossing of the South Orient Railroad, between State Highway 206 and U.S. Highway 67.  Photographed June 13, 2000.  The signals were removed from service in 2001.  The part of the crossbuck with “Railroad” appears to be mounted upside down

Caption:  “An ‘ono-second’ is that infinitesimally small interval in time when you realize you’ve made a serious mistake and it’s too late to do anything about it.  In this view, the driver of the little, green coupe is probably experiencing such a moment.  In a photo run-by tailored for videographers, both of the drivers of these vintage cars were instructed to pull up to a rural railroad crossing and stop as they saw and heard the train approaching.  Unfortunately, I think that the driver of the green coupe misjudged the correct stopping point and is right now thinking he probably is too close….which he is.  Fortunately, there was adequate clearance and although no harm was done to any historic vehicles in the making of this scene, this poor driver probably did utter the words “Oh No!” which characterize the “ono-second”….or perhaps he said something more colorful.”

As tracks and roads became busier, this was the more preferred railroad/road crossing. The road cuts an underpass below the rails of the B&O. Again, no info – So I can’t identify the near passenger station. Another vintage auto

Here’s some early road overpasses – again, preferred over the grade crossing.  Caption reads, “Tracks…right behind our house growing up…we would walk the tracks all the time & loved to find the creeks underneath!!”  I studied this photo – yes, it is a photo.  The rain streaks make it look like a painting.

Here’s another road underpass – PRR E-6 Atlantic (4-4-2) passenger train crossing over Creek Road on the Octoraro Branch in Chadds Ford, Pa. during an August 1942 flood. (William H. Seal Photo)  Maybe we need to start a third category of crossings – the water crossing!

Yes – this is a water crossing. Or maybe a failed water crossing would be the correct terminology. This is an SP bridge in California destroyed by floods in

Since we’re on disastrous water crossings, how about a frozen water crossing – avalanche! A spectacular avalanche on Feb 10, 1903 swept away part of a trestle 300 feet high built by the Northern Pacific in 1890.

And now for a fourth category of crossing – the more standard pedestrian crossing. Here a woman is crossing the railroad tracks in front of a semaphore tower at Bay City Junction during construction of the Michigan Central Railroad. Printed on front: “Semaphore tower at Bay City Junc., 10/8/07

I accidently downloaded this photo thinking that it was a crossing – but just a set of semaphore signals next to a station…with some people climbing the semaphore?  The caption asks, “Does anyone know what this group of people is up to?  If you do, please let the author know.  Length of women’s skirts indicates that the photo was taken in early 1900’s.  (Courtesy of Honeoye Falls/Mendon Historical Society)  Semaphore – Honeoye Falls, NY is a little south of Rochester.

Getting back to pedestrian crossings, these next two photos are part of the same collection – “Mounting pedestrian fatalities in cities across New York led the state Legislature in 1929…”

“Tunnel that runs under Congress and Ferry Streets. This is the view looking south on 6th Ave just north of State Street. The police station is behind that brick wall on the right. (Rensselaer County Historical Society)”

“View looking south on 6th Ave from Jacob Street. The small building to the right that is the gatehouse is now the site of the Central Fire Station. (Rensselaer County Historical Society)”  Note the mechanical turnout and signal lines on the left of the tracks

Finally, pedestrians that are carefree, sometimes in lieu of crossing the tracks, they follow them. Photographic Print: Larry Jim Holm with Dunk, His Spaniel Collie Mix, Walking Rail of Railroad Tracks in Rural Area by Myron Davis.

…just having fun…



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