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The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Level crossings on roads
for trains in 1940s & 50s Britain

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There were many more railway networks in the 1940s and 1950s because the severe and extensive closures, known as the Beeching Cuts were some years off. So it was relatively common to need to cross a railway line, particularly as cars had no option but to use small roads. Motorways, like the Beeching cuts, were also years away.

Where a road crossed a railway line, there was what was called a level crossing. This had two gates which could swing together or apart, either to block the road and leave a clear run for the train, or to block the railway track and leave a clear run for the roadway. These gates had to be swung into position in good time, but there was a small side gate, known as a pedestrian gate for walkers to use at their own discretion if the train seemed to be a long way off.

Click a thumbnail for a larger image.

1940s and 1950s style level crossing closed to trains and open for road traffic, thumbnail

Level crossing with gates closed to road traffic and open for passing trains.

1940s and 1950s style level crossing being opened by a railway worker to allow road traffic to pass, but to close off for trains, thumbnail

Level crossing being opened by a railway worker to allow road traffic to pass, but to close off for trains.

1940s and 1950s style level crossing closed for road traffic and open for trains, thumbnail

Level crossing closed for road traffic and open for trains.

Trains always had priority. So one seldom noticed a level crossing when travelling by train. In a car, though, they were a regular occurrence.

Level crossings had to be manned. The man sat in an adjacent cabin until a train was due, and then came out to swing the gates manually in all weathers to let the train through. Then, when the train had passed, he had to come out again to swing the gates back. It was labour intensive. Yet I never heard of any accidents due to the gates being in the wrong position.

The photographs were taken in Poppleton, Yorkshire in 2009 at a level crossing that time seemed to have forgotten - just as it was in the 1940s and 1950s.

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