How To Make An Automated Model Railroad Level Crossing

Step by step instructions on how to make a model railroad level crossing.

Covers automatic operation, making gates and lights, approach signs and footprint.

Selection Of Systems And Devices

The selection of traffic control devices at a grade crossing is determined by public agencies having jurisdictional responsibility at specific ocations.

model railroad grade crossing setup
Automatic Gate Control Construction

Active grade crossing traffic control systems range from:

1. post mounted flashing light signals


2. automatic gates combined with

(a)  post mounted flashing light signals

(b) cantilever flashing light signals,


(c) a combination of the above.

Any of the foregoing may or may not incorporate a bell.

Due to the number of significant variables which must be considered, there is no single standard system of active traffic control devices universally applicable to grade crossings. Modelers must especially consider the era and region portrayed by their scene.

US, English and European, for example use very different forms of gates.

In a sense, the choice of gates and lights on a model railroad is scene dependent.

Due to the many different types, we will necessarily be constrained to discuss only a few in detail while at the same time giving the reader the knowledge necessary to adapt equipment to his region.

What Is In This Page

Because of the preference for video, we start with a series on layout animation which series contains grade crossing tutorials.

The grade crossing videos are followed by level crossing design considerations plus links out to very specific step by step instructions on making an automated model railroad level crossing.


Grade Crossing And Other Layout Animation Video Tutorials

This series of videos gives you a start with layout animation.  To stay up to date and be notified as we add to this series, subscribe and click on the bell in one of the videos below.

Level Crossing General Considerations

Automated model railroad level crossings are controlled by some form of sensor.  The number of sensors depends on the number of tracks passing through the crossing.

A multi-track crossing requires a control circuit that takes into account the ability to have two trains in the crossing at the same time. Sign and light requirements also change with the number of tracks.

Prototype railroads generally start the warning and gate lowering process 20 seconds before a train enters the crossing.  The  distance from the crossing at which the sensor is placed is calculated using the highest speed expected of a train.  A modeler will have to set the distance based on the modeler’s fast clock.

Where traffic lights are close to a crossing, they and the gates must have their operation coordinated so that traffic is not stopped on the track when trains are approaching.


Level Crossing Materials

As emphasized above, lights and gates are scene related.

It is then a matter of choice as to how much detail you want or how much time, money or effort you want to put into the gates and lights.

Some gates are available commercially.  The can be rather expensive.

You can have some 3d printed.  This is a site that provides files that you can use free.  You can find many others where you can buy the files.

They can be scratch built rather easily. Links to tutorials on building them are below.


Automatic Grade Crossing Control Circuitry

Your choice of circuity, like everything else in modeling, is a function of your time, budget, capability and ability.

It is always easiest to buy a commercially made circuit.

But with a little time and a minimum of effort, you can assemble a kit and use operating systems that suit your needs.

Such kits are here.


Targeted Level Crossing Tutorials


Simple level crossingA prototype level crossing in Radzmin, Poland. It is very easy to model.  The tutorials on building these gates and lights and several other types  are below.






grade crossing operating mechanismAll will be controlled in the fashion of the image to the left







Each of these will give you complete information for your scene.

How To Make Level Crossing Gates

How To Make Level Crossing Flashing Lights

Automated Level Crossing Lights

Automated Level Crossing With Flashing Lights Plus 2 Gates For 1 To 4 Tracks

Automated Level Crossing With Flashing Lights Plus 4 Gates For 1 To 4 Tracks

Bells For Level Crossing Flashing Lights







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