Gravel railroad crossings

Following along a single spur line in Moncton, it was remarkable how much detail there was to see and photograph. Yesterday, I posted a photo of a partially decommissioned crossing and just a few hundred feet west of that crossing was another and it too is an example of something that is common in real life yet something I don’t feel like we include often enough on our model railways: the gravel grade crossing.
It’s execution couldn’t be simpler. Just pour gravel over the track until it’s an acceptable compromise between keeping the track open enough for a train to move safely over yet equally navigable for vehicle traffic. On a model railway, we add a extra dimension of challenge borne out of deeper flanges and wider wheels.

Challenges aside, these crossings are common. Many started out as temporary solutions and years later were never replaced. They are an equally important detail of urban railroading and another that begs to be modelled.

Categories: How I think

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2 replies

  1. One that I’ve seen done in person (and modeled) is to either use a set of heavily weathered rails laid down on their sides or two pieces of balsa wood along the rails to create a flangeway and then filled the sender with gravel, soil, etc. The rails one is very common on the Gaspe, some of the paved crossings use sideways rails, others L girder

    • I’ve tried that approach too, Taylor.

      The one crossing I saw but then forgot to photograph was actually made the same as you’ve described. What really stood out was how it looked kind of lazy in its design: the track was curved where it crossed the road (spur down to the Holcim plant). The crews used old rail, laid on its side, to create the check rail. They didn’t really curve it so the check gauge wasn’t perfect. The check rails were a bit too long and didn’t get trimmed.

      Just like the bumper, it was something that really happened that just came out so sloppy that it might be hard to include on a layout and appear plausible to the uneducated eye.

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