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Section 16: Signs at Level Crossings

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Darsham level crossing on the East Suffolk Line (Eastern Region) was converted to "Automatic Half Barrier" (AHB) type in November 1967. All trains in the Up direction were required to stop at a stop board on the station platform, whereupon the driver would operate a plunger to activate the crossing sequence. Since this level crossing was not of the open type, an alternative form of advance warning board with a square yellow face [16.16] was installed on the approach to the stop board. This board was later accompanied by one with a St. George's cross comprising a black vertical line and a yellow horizontal line [16.17], which was erected alongside it for testing purposes. The yellow square board was removed in July 1968, and thereafter, advance warning was given by the St. George's cross board, additionally fitted with a yellow light above each end [16.18]. The St. George's cross board was finally replaced by a reflectorised distant board (see [2.140]) in November 1985.

It became practice to provide the standard form of advance warning board, with a black St. George's cross (see [16.15]), on the approach to any type of level crossing that is operated or monitored by the traincrew.

[16.16] Advance Warning Board.
Area: Darsham   Usage: Low   Status: Historical
[16.17] Experimental Advance Warning Board.
Area: Darsham   Usage: Low   Status: Historical
[16.18] Advance Warning Board.
Area: Darsham   Usage: Low   Status: Historical

At level crossings where trains are required to stop before proceeding, stop boards are provided (see Section 26). In September 1968, the Operating Committee agreed that an additional board should be provided on the approach to each stop board (normally 200 metres), to remind drivers of the requirement to stop. The 'advance stop board' (later known as an 'intermediate board') bears a horizontal black bar on a white circular background [16.19] and thus resembles a banner repeater signal fixed in the 'on' position (see [7.40]). Note that trains may be required to stop in one direction or both directions depending on the circumstances at a particular level crossing. Provision of intermediate boards was discontinued from c.1980.

[16.19] Advance Stop Board / Intermediate Board ( (a) - floodlit or reflectorised; (b) - with Betalight strips ). Click Here for Photo
Area: All Areas   Usage: Medium   Status: Obsolescent

A combined speed restriction and whistle board, for use at open level crossings where trains were not required to stop, was introduced c.1970. The speed figures were in white on a black background [16.20], and differential speeds may be exhibited [16.21]. Where these special speed restrictions apply, the driver may accelerate once the front of the train has passed over the crossing.

[16.20] Combined Speed Restriction/Whistle Board. Click Here for Photo
Area: All Areas   Usage: High   Status: Obsolescent
[16.21] Combined Speed Restriction/Whistle Board (differential speed restriction).
Area: All Areas   Usage: Medium   Status: Obsolescent

In December 1970, a board lettered "AHB" [16.22] was installed beside the Up Main line at Millbrook (London Midland Region). To prevent unnecessary activation of Marston AHB level crossing, shunting movements at Millbrook were not permitted to pass beyond this board.

[16.22] "AHB" Sign.
Area: Millbrook   Usage: Low   Status: Historical

A newer form of TMO crossing is protected by lifting barriers instead of gates. To lower the barriers, a member of traincrew must operate a device such as a plunger or cab wire. A flashing white light (see [16.13]) indicates that the barriers have been lowered across the road. At some crossings of this type, the barriers rise automatically after the train has passed. Beyond the crossing, an indicator may be provided which shows "BU" to advise the driver that the barriers are up [16.23]. If the indicator has not illuminated by the time the train is about to pass it, the train must stop to allow a member of traincrew to return to the crossing to raise the barriers using the control unit.

[16.23] 'Barriers Up' Indication.
Area: All Areas   Usage: Medium   Status: Obsolescent

At AOCLs where the road crossed two tracks, it was a requirement that a second train must not arrive at the crossing within one minute of the previous train having cleared it. One way of meeting this requirement was to provide a "wait" sign [16.24] near each flashing white light unit (see [16.13]). This sign was illuminated if another train was using the crossing. A second train was not permitted to proceed until the "wait" sign had been extinguished and the white light was flashing. A "wait" sign was provided on each of the four rail approaches to Salmon Pool level crossing at Crediton (Western Region) in September 1980, and these were in use until March 2019, when the crossing was converted to ABCL type.

[16.24] "Wait" Indication.
Area: All Areas   Usage: Low   Status: Historical

In February 1976, trials were undertaken at Fen Drayton level crossing (Eastern Region) to test the effectiveness of fitting self-luminous 'Betalights' to advance warning boards (see [16.15]), intermediate boards (see [16.19]) and stop boards (see Section 26). Betalights had the drawbacks of being radioactive and susceptible to vandalism.

In connection with proposals to raise the maximum permitted speed of trains at AOCLs from 35 mph to 55 mph and to equip these crossings with an audible warning device for road users, a number of experimental signs were tested at night at Battlesbridge (Eastern Region) in August 1978. These included advance warning boards (see [16.15]) with different types of reflective material, one of which was also fitted with Betalight strips. Provision of an audible warning device for road users would obviate the requirement for train drivers to sound the whistle or horn on approach to the crossing. The trial therefore included a new sign to replace the combined speed restriction/whistle boards (see [16.20 & 16.21]) formerly used at AOCLs, which in future would only be installed at open crossings without lights. The new sign omitted the letter "W" for "whistle", and had an outline image of a St. Andrew's cross above the speed figure [16.25]. Following the tests, it was decided that the outline cross should be replaced by a solid black cross [16.26 & 16.27]. As well as being provided at AOCLs, this sign, which is known as a 'special speed restriction board' (SSRB), is used at other types of locally monitored level crossings that were introduced later (ABCL, AOCL+B and AFBCL).

[16.25] Experimental Speed Restriction Sign for a Locally Monitored Crossing.
Area: Battlesbridge   Usage: Low   Status: Historical
[16.26] Speed Restriction Sign for a Locally Monitored Crossing.
Area: All Areas   Usage: High   Status: Current
[16.27] Differential Speed Restriction Sign for a Locally Monitored Crossing. Click Here for Photo
Area: All Areas   Usage: High   Status: Current

In 1981, a red and white diagonally striped road sign was introduced to indicate the lateral limits of an open level crossing (OC, AOCL or AOCR) on the highway approaches. On the Scottish Region, the same boards were additionally installed on the rail approaches to an AOCL, but they were rotated through 90° [16.28]. They were usually fitted on the same posts as the driver's white lights (see [16.13]). These boards ceased to be provided following new legislation in 1994 and were gradually removed from both road and rail approaches.

[16.28] Open Level Crossing Marker Board.
Area: Scottish Region   Usage: Medium   Status: Historical

From c.1981, some automatic level crossings on double track railways were fitted with controls that enable them to operate automatically for unsignalled wrong-direction movements (e.g. during single line working), which avoids them having to be put on local control. By 1983, a special type of speed restriction sign with an "X" on the left of the speed figures [16.29] was being installed on the wrong-direction approaches to these crossings. The speed restriction applies approaching and passing over the crossing. This type of speed restriction sign may be provided at level crossings of the types AHB, AOCR and MWL/MSL.

[16.29] Automatic Level Crossing Wrong-Direction Movement Speed Restriction Sign.
Area: All Areas   Usage: High   Status: Current

A board lettered "AOC" [16.30] was provided at Aberystwyth (London Midland Region) in April 1983. To prevent unnecessary activation of Llanbadarn AOCL level crossing, shunting movements at Aberystwyth were not permitted to pass beyond this board. At a later date, a similar board was installed at Pwllheli to prevent shunting movements activating Pwllheli Goods AOCL level crossing.

[16.30] "AOC" Sign.
Area: Aberystwyth / Pwllheli   Usage: Low   Status: Historical

A new form of level crossing known as "Automatic Barrier Crossing, Locally Monitored" (ABCL) was introduced following the publication of the Stott report, which came after a collision on an AOCR at Lockington (Eastern Region) on 26 July 1986. The ABCL is essentially an AOCL equipped with half barriers, but one further enhancement was to introduce a flashing red light [16.31] in conjunction with the driver's white light (see [16.13]). If the flashing red light is exhibited, drivers are required to stop short of the crossing and not proceed over it until satisfied that it is safe to do so. Prototype flashing red lights were put on trial at Dawdys AOCL level crossing on the East Suffolk Line (Anglia Region) in August 1988. The first ABCL to be commissioned was at Beccles By-Pass, also on the East Suffolk Line, later in the same year. Subsequent to this, the Railway Inspectorate decided that flashing red lights should in future be provided at AOCLs, in addition to ABCLs.

[16.31] Flashing Red Light.
Area: All Areas   Usage: High   Status: Current

In March 1990, combined speed restriction/whistle boards (see [16.20]) were installed on the approaches to two user-worked level crossings near Llanbister Road station on the Central Wales Line.