Saturday, December 03, 2016

How I made a level crossing using a North Pilton Works kit

My hypothetical railway would have crossed several roads on its route from one terminus to the other and, given its 'light railway' status, most of these would have been level crossings. For a while I have been on the lookout for a cost effective solution to making some of the level crossings. Those provided by North Pilton Works seemed to fit the bill - for £25.00 I could get a kit which could be made up into one double gated crossing or two single gated crossings. As most of my roads are narrow country lanes, getting two single track crossings from one pack made it all the more attractive.


In addition to the level crossings, I also ordered some picket fencing panels (see How I made some fencing panels - pending) and some platform accessories (see How I made some platform accessories - pending). The laser cut sections arrived in well labelled thick brown envelopes which, when opened, ........

....... revealed packets of components and a set of instructions.

 Opening the packets revealed a wealth of laser-trimmed plywood sections, lengths of dowel and packets of hinges to make up the gates and adjacent fencing panels.

 My first task was to glue together the two sections which formed each of the gates, using exterior grade PVA adhesive.

This gave me four separate gates.

While the glue was setting, I laid out the sections for the adjacent fencing panels, gate posts and fence posts.

 The eight gate posts were tackled first. Each post was made from three sections, sandwiched together with dowel pegs to help with alignment and strengthen the bond.

Once the four 'hinging' gateposts were completed, ......

.... the 'receiving' gateposts were constructed. One of the sections included a batten against which the gate would close.

These posts were glued together with dowels as above.

I made sure there were equal numbers of left-hand and right-hand posts.

Using the same approach, I then constructed eight fence posts. The kit included two options for these posts; either with centre sections for end-posts (such as this) ........

..... or for double-sided posts (such as this).

I decided that my posts would be single-sided, as I did not want the fencing to continue from the level crossings alongside the track. The eight fence posts were thus constructed using the single sided centre sections ........

 .... so the posts would have recesses on one side only. The bases of the posts were glued on at this point, the lugs on the bottom of each post engaging with the slots in the bases.

 The fence panels fitted between the gateposts and the fence posts .......

..... and so they were glued in place.

I then had eight sets of gateposts and fence panels.

 The battens were then glued behind each fence panel, again making sure the four sets were matched left and right. You may see from the photo that I have been fairly generous with my application of adhesive. I prefer to ensure there is plenty of glue and then wipe off the excess with a damp paper towel than skimp on the amount of glue.


As my garden faces North and, apart from the mid-Summer months, my railway is shadowed from the sun by the house, I decided I needed to protect the plywood from the intrusion of damp. I treated half of the gates and fence panels with Ronseal Multi-purpose Wood Treatment .......

and the other half with Ronseal Wet Rot Hardener (a resinous fluid which gives the wood the consistency of hard plastic) which I have used previously (see How I made the viaduct). I thought this would be an opportunity to further test the comparative efficacy of these products.

Once dry, the panels were give a couple of coats of thinned primer, followed by a couple of coats of thinned exterior topcoat paint. Rather than stark white paint, I went for an off-white finish - pale cream.

2cm lengths of 1.5mm brass rod were then inserted into holes drilled into the base of each post to locate the fencing when in situ. I could have used the dowel pegs provided with the kit, but decided that brass pegs would be better suited for the concrete sub-base on which the gates would be mounted.

The crossing

While the various coats of preservative, primer and topcoat were drying, I turned my attention to the check rails for the crossings. As the crossings would be located on a section of my railway where I'd used Tenmille 45mm narrow gauge track, a 20cm section of spare track was cut to length.

I then cut out the centre sections of the sleepers.......

..... and filed a vee-shaped notch 1cm from the end of each rail using a triangular needle file.

The ends were then bent through approximately 30 degrees.

Alternate sleepers on each of the sections were then reduced in length ......

.... to enable the check rails to be 'dry' fitted and holes marked for the screws.

Holes were then drilled into the breeze block sub-base with a masonry bit .........

.... and rawlplugs fitted.

The check rails were then screwed into place.

A stiff mix of sand and cement (3:1 proportions), with a dash of brown and a dash of black cement dye, was then trowelled into place......

..... before being sprinkled with chicken grit to represent the road surface.

The location for this crossing is the approach to Peckforton Station from the direction of Beeston Market (see A Trip Along the Line).

Finishing touches

While the concrete roadway was setting, the hinges were fitted using the pre-drilled holes and Phillips headed screws provided in the kit.

 I decided to make some latches for the gates. A 5mm wide strip of 0.5mm thick brass plate was cut and a 10mm length of 2mm OD brass tube soldered into place.

The tube and plate were trimmed and the excess solder filed off.

1mm diameter brass rod was inserted into the tubes before being bent and snipped off to represent the bolts. Latch plates were then made in a similar way, using plate and tube.

The latches were then superglued to the gates and gateposts .........

.... before being primed with red oxide and painted black.

 The bases of the posts were painted with grey/green acrylic to represent concrete and........

....... the assemblies were fitted into place while the concrete was in its 'green' state so that final adjustments could be made.

The gates were tested .........

..... a few times and some of the railway's road vehicles were given the opportunity to give the level crossing a trial run.

 Once the concrete has set properly, the gates will be fixed into place more firmly, with rawlpugs inserted into the concrete base to accept the brass pins.

I never have any problem with encouraging moss to spread across the rocks and concrete surfaces and so, in time, the verges at the side of the road will merge into the surroundings.

The most time consuming part of the build was actually applying and waiting for the various coats of paint or preservative to dry. In the past, I have tried making my own picket fencing and have found it to be very time consuming with disappointing end-results. I found it difficult to get the spacings even and to keep the palings vertical. These cost effective packs have helped solve that problem.

I am very pleased with the way this little level crossing has turned out and I still have the parts to install another level crossing on the approach to Beeston Castle Station.  I aim to install others (there should be five in total on the whole of my railway) over the coming year and will install the fencing packs at Beeston Market Station once the weather improves sufficiently (see How I made some fencing panels - pending).

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