Model Scenery Tutorials

Comprenshive Tips. Hints And Techniques For Budget Minded Diorama Maker, Model Train Enthusiast And Wargammer

Hand Made Level Crossing Gate

How to make a basic level crossing gate.

Making a model railroad crossing gate can be a fun and rewarding DIY project. Here are the steps to build a basic model crossing gate that can be used in any diorama or model railroad layout.

The gates made here can be used either on automated level crossings or as stationary accessories in a dioramas

On level crossings you find one of two types of crossings.  In the early dates the gate machine and lights, it any, were separate entities. Today they either remain as separate entities or combined into what are called “international” style grade crossing gates.

In this page we concentrate on the separate gate machines.  The “international” grade crossing gates are discussed in this page UUUUU

Our preference is to make the machines out of hardwood cut, laminated and shaped.  The barriers are made either from cocktail sticks, copper wire or cut and laminated veneer.

The Gate Machine

Here are two basic designs.  One is for a side by side flat board barrier and the other for a single round pole or flat board .

Cut a wood fork to the width of the machine and laminate it to the depth.

Cut and shape the laminate to size.

We will be using 1 mm diameter nails for the motor shaft.  So mark where the shaft hole should be and drill a 1.2 mm or so hole.  Insert the nail and check that it rotates freely.  If it is too tight, work it in and out of the hole until it wears itself in.


The Barrier


The poles on a prototype are about 10 cm in diameter.  So to stay to scale you need a very thin piece of wood or appropriately size piece of copper wire brass rod or brass tube..

This shows how I cut and glued together two pieces of cocktail sticks.  After the joints were glued, they were glazed a few times to make a cylindrical coat of glue on both sides of the joint.

Flat Boards

Cut veneer to shape. Cut two shapes per barrier and laminate them. Lamination keeps them straight and stable.


Barriers, except for short ones, have counterweights.  If your gates are to be automated, it is best to make them out of something that will withstand the wear imposed by the wire actuating rod that goes between the servo and the weight.  Brass, acrylic or polystyrene will work.

Drill a small hold in the bottom edge of the counterweight. Make the hole size large enough to fit your actuating wire through.




Pole Barriers

Mark where the motor shaft will attach to the pole.  Make a small notch into which the shaft will fit.

Insert the shaft into the machine body.  Cut it leaving enough to extend the diameter of the pole plus a tad for clearance,

Now for the CA glue job of the day!

This will be a two step use of gel CA glue. In the first step we are just going to set the pole in place.  In the second step, we will improve the connection.

To prevent you from being spoiled by stray activator fumes, turn on your fan.

Put a small dab of gel CA glue in the pole notch. Put the notch over the shaft. Check that you have left a hairs worth of clearance so the shaft can rotate.

The prevent your glue from being spoiled by stray activator fumes, move it a couple meters away from the work area.

Spray with activator.

Sit back, relax and let the glue set up for a few minutes.

I do the gluing in batches.  Glue and spray all the gates.

Then rest while they rest.

Once everything, including you, is ready, make a larger bonding area by putting a dab of gel CA glue over the pole and  shaft.

After moving the glue bottle away, spray again.


Flat Board Barriers

Glue the barrier tips.  After the glue had thoroughly set, mark where the motor shaft with connect to the bars

Drill a hole for the motor shaft.

Put cut the head off the nail and put it through the machine body and install the barrier.

Now it is time to cut the motor shaft to size. Remember keep it long enough so that the bars have clearance to freely rotate.

Attach the barrier with gel CA glue dabbed over the barrier and end of the motor shaft.

Add ribs between each of the boards, Note that if you are going to add flashing lights, drill holes in the ribs for the wire. (1205 SMD LEDs make great lights.)

Making The Gates Work

This link will take you to how to add your gates your module. UUUUUU












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