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New Project: Operating Railroad Grade Crossing Signal

Build an operating railroad crossing signal with flashing lamps and a bell.

New Project: Operating Railroad Grade Crossing Signal

It seems that no matter how much things change, one thing that is always constant is a kid’s fascination with all things trains.

When my son was about 4 years old he was fascinated by passing trains. Even more captivating to him was the railroad crossing signals which would flash and ring to announce a train coming. Because he enjoyed it so much, I thought a small prototype of a crossing signal, perhaps one which could be placed in his playroom would be a lot of fun for him…and me!

My original prototype build turned out really nice, but it was quite difficult to build. Lots of mistakes, lots of time and lots of expense. But it was for my son, and well it was worth every hour and dollar I spent. Since that time however, there has been some interest in what I built as others have wanted to build something similar as well. So for that reason I thought I would try to make another. This time however I would document the process, make it simpler, and make it less expensive to build.

These instructions represent that effort. Here you will find my complete and detailed instructions on how to build a similar operating railroad grade crossing signal of your own. The crossing signal itself stands about 78" tall, 31” wide and 28” deep. It features two automotive trailer lights for lamps, as well as an operating bell. Of course it also features the distinctive cross bucks which are recognizable on any prototype railroad crossing signal you may have seen.

Check out my blog post and video for a look at what came of this effort.

The operational features of this railroad crossing signal are described as follows;

  • Operating signal with operating lights (2) and bell.
  • Signal is activated by a push-button located on the signal mast.
  • Operates in two modes; 1) Time-out: Single press of button activates signal for 30 seconds then automatically shuts off 2) Continuous: Long press (hold down 2 seconds) activates signal until button is pressed again.
  • When activated, lights alternately flash approximately 2/3 second on, 2/3 second off.
  • Signal mast with realistic signs, lights, bell and controller is about 6-1/2-feet tall and about 2-1/2-feet wide.
  • Signal is painted in a prototypical way; gun-metal for mast, black and white for cross bucks, etc.
  • Constructed mainly from PVC as its structure and some hardwood for signs.
  • Constructed to be portable, as four easily separated and light weight sections.
  • Signal can be powered by commonly available 12V battery such as a lawn, tractor or motorcycle battery or suitable wall adapter (~3A to 5A works best).
  • Can be easily adapted to being activated by a wireless remote (if desired). For more details on that modification see Got Wireless? Modify a Simple 12VDC Wireless Remote Control for 5VDC Operation

The build is also very light and portable (built from four main sections which can be easily separated). It is primarily made from PVC pipe as its main structure which also makes it light weight. The signal can be easily assembled and disassembled in about 5 minutes making it ideal for train shows, club spaces and / or demonstrations of all kinds.

If you have interest in having an operating signal like this (similar to a stage prop) I hope you find these build instructions useful. I also hope you have as much fun building (and modifying it your own way) as I did making (and re-making) it. Enjoy!

For a complete and detailed parts list, please refer to the files section and click on rrxing_signal_parts_list_detail.pdf


  • chip wilson

    i would be very cautious regardig this, one was built for me with the cost including shipping of $550.00, the bell stopped working the first week and the pvc is very unstable. I have put an additional 125.00 into it….

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