"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Level crossing


Level crossing is a term for where a road and a railway cross at the same level. According to my dictionary it is a British English term so I'm not sure what the American equivalent is - train crossing or railroad crossding perhaps? In most cases the crossing is controlled by gtes which close off the road and stop the road traffic while the train goes through. In the 'good old days' these were manhandled but nowadays - so far as I know - they are all conrolled from a signal box (either sutomatically or by a human keeping warm and dry inside).

The director of rail safety at the UK HM Railway Inspectorate commented in 2004 that "the use of level crossings contributes the greatest potential for catastrophic risk on the railways." Eighteen people were killed in the UK on level crossings in 2003-4. Bridges and tunnels are now favoured, but this can be impractical in flat countryside where there is insufficient space to build a roadway embankment or tunnel (because of nearby buildings).

How not to use a level crossing.


  1. If you want to see a manually operated level crossing gate then take a drive up Cumbria's west coast ;) The crossing operators have a little hut the size of a telephone box to sit in. I don't think there are many trains running the line these days, except to/from Sellafield nuclear power station. They use mostly night trains, and I believe they travel quite slowly.

    I'll get a photo the next time we're up that way.

  2. You're right, in North America, they're just called railroad crossings. Frankly, they scare me to death. There's one I cross every time I go shopping. Just across the track is a set of traffic lights. Trains are infrequent, and drivers get very blase, often parking across the tracks while waiting for the light to change, with the occasional result as in the last picture. So a little extra caution doesn't go amiss.
    The Canadian Chickadee