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Crossing gate lights are mounted on the crossing gate arm itself and operate in addition to the larger and more noticeable pair of the red crossing signal lights, be them 8" or 12" lights. In the U.S. and some other countries, including Canada, Australia, and The Netherlands, usually there will be three lights per gate arm, usually on road-way gates. Pedestrian crossing gates can vary and either have no gate light, just one, or more than one.
How the roadway gate lights usually function when the crossing is activated whether by oncoming train, signal maintenance worker, or whatever, the light at the top/tip of the gate arm lights up steadily (always on without flashing/ blinking) while the other two lights on the gate flash alternately along with the larger signal lights. It is said that the light at the tip of the gate is always on so cars on the road will always know where the end of the gate arm is. The following image shows the functionality of crossing gate lights.
The lights on the gate arm activate the same time the signal lights do and before the gate arm makes its way down and usually turn off when the signal lights turn off and after or just before the gate has reached its home position (up position). At some American crossings, when the train would finish and no other train was coming, the lights on the signals would time out before the gates would go back up but the lights on the gates usually remained on until the gates reach their home position.
Crossing gate arm lights also help make the gates more visible under inclement lighting conditions.
Types of Gate Lights Edit
There are several different kinds of crossing gate lights used in the U.S. and in other countries. In the U.S. and Canada to name a couple countries, lights are usually mounted above the gate arm (when gate is in horizontal position). Gate lights are either lit with incandescent lights or Light Emitting Diodes (L.E.D.s) Some types of crossing gate arm lights include 4" lights, 7" lights, Alstom Aurora L.E.D. gate lights, and Western Cullen Hayes L.E.D. gate lights to name a few.
4" Gate Lights Edit
4" gate lights are commonly used in the North America. These lights are 4" in diameter and can be lit with incandescent lights or L.E.D.s. Usually you will be able to tell if they are incandescent or L.E.D. if the light fades on and off or turns on and off quickly. If the light fades in and fades out when flashing, it is most likely incandescent. If the light does not fade in or out when flashing, it it L.E.D.-lit. (See below for more information.)
Many crossing signal manufacturing companies manufacture or have manufactured 4" gate lights such as General Signals, Western Cullen Hayes, R.E.C.O., L&W Industries, Safetran, National Electric Gate, Dialight, and R.S.I.
L.E.D. Versions Edit
A few manufacturing companies like General Signals (product pictured on the right), Dialight, R.E.C.O., and L&W to name a few places manufacture L.E.D.s for 4" lights. L.E.D.boards can be installed in new 4" lights or retrofit originally incandescent 4" lights and can be inserted in place of where the incandescent bulb would be.
7" Gate Lights Edit
7" gate lights are like the 4" lights, only larger by three more inches in diameter and are known to be lit with
incandescent lights. These used to be more common in the U.S. and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe (A.T.S.F.) Railway was one big user of these gate lights. Another railroad that used them was the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad (NICTD) and could also be found on the MAX Light Rail in Oregon, but these are getting rarer to find and many of these have been replaced with other gate lights, including even the 4" lights. General Signals is one place that manufactures 7" gate lights. These can also be lit with L.E.D.s, using the same L.E.D. plates used in 4" lights. The Metrolink Light Rail in St. Louis has also used 7" gate lights.
Alstom Aurora L.E.D. Gate Lights Edit
(More information needed, please help by adding some)
Unlike the 4" and 7" gate lights, the Alstom Aurora gate light., manufactured by Alstom Signaling, is lit only with L.E.D.s and does not have a round shape. It has a light-gray transparent housings and contains thirty-six (36) diodes, eighteen (18) on each side and is covered with clear lenses. Though the diodes appear white when off, they flash in red when turned on to match the color conventional crossing gate lights and are bright.
According to Alstom Signalling, this gate light is "a cost-effective solution to expensive, incandescent type gate arm lights. The Aurora Gate Arm Light uses rugged LED technology and less than 20% of the power required by a conventional incandescent bulb-based system. It has an extraordinary life expectancy of up to 100,000 hours and is designed to hold up to 'knockdowns.'" (Alstom Aurora Gate Arm Light page)
These seem to be more common in the Western United States and railroads like Union Pacific and Metrolink (Southern California,) are two railroad companies that use these. Burlington Northern and Santa Fe (B.N.S.F.) is another railroad company that has been using these lights and still does on some crossings.
Western Cullen Hayes L.E.D. Gate Lights Edit(More information needed, please help by adding some)
These are almost similar to the Alstom Aurora L.E.D. gate lights but are shaped and colored differently.They have red transparent housings and like the incandescent gate lights, these have red lenses. Also unlike the Alstom Aurora gate L.E.D.s, these gate lights have twenty diodes, ten on one side and ten more on the other. These are also common in the Western United States but can be found at crossings in some eastern states.
The Max Light Rail in Oregon is one company that uses these gate lights. Union Pacific has also used these gate lights and may still have a few remaining on their crossings.
Electro-Tech's L.E.D Gate Lights Edit
This is a rare crossing gate light used in the U.S. It is more like the 4" gate lights than the Alstom Aurora and Western Cullen Hayes gate L.E.D.s are, except it is almost octagon-shaped with four long sides and four short sides, flatter, and is not lit with incandescent lights.. And like the W.C.H. gate L.E.D.s, they also have red transparent shells/housings and red lenses that cover the L.E.D.s. These are also more visible than the Alstom Aurora and W.C.H. gate L.E.D.s Electro-Tech's manufactures these gate lights but the one picture is from the AMF Engineering Inc. website.
The Union Pacific Railroad seems to be the only known railroad company that uses these lights on their crossings. It's not to say that no other railroad could use this, but it does say inside the gate light "Property of Union Pacific Railroad" It was thought that Union Pacific manufactures these or that Union Pacific orders these from AFM Engineering Inc. but actually Electro-Tech's makes these for Union Pacific, otherwise not much is known about this crossing gate light.
- Not all countries use lights on their crossing gates but may still use light signals that should activate a few seconds before the gates start to lower.
- Although there are usually three lights per gate arm, sometimes there may be less or even more.
- Crossing gate light functionalities vary from place to place. For example, all lights on a single gate may be steadily lit, or may all flash simultaneously.
- In addition to being above the lowered gate, lights can also be mounted below the gate or directly on the front and even the back of the gate. Some crossing gates in Australia (where they are called "Boom gates" have such gate lights. These are some examples of gates with lights mounted below the gate arm: http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-passenger-train-moving-rapidly-through-railway-crossing-with-warning-75766183.html, http://analoghell.com/files/2009/09/crossing.jpg, http://www.theage.com.au/content/dam/images/1/o/w/x/c/image.related.articleLeadNarrow.300x0.1owt8.png/1323981466620.jpg, http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/vline-still-in-dark-on-boom-gate-error-20111215-1owt8.html and a night photo of such a gate with lights below it https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5682/22784440646_fa2fdf313c_c.jpg These are examples of lights mounted on the face of the gate arm: http://nnimgt-a.akamaihd.net/transform/v1/crop/frm/NndKxJbpxgM2qzTTaxRJD5/938c7570-2eb2-4daa-9980-3edd2cda3c5b.jpg/r0_0_5312_2988_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg and http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/images/projects/sydney-south/sydney-airport/airport-east-banner.jpg
- Some North American gate lights, including the 4" gate lights, Alstom Aurora gate L.E.D.s, and W.C.H. gate L.E.D.s are also used in Australia.
- 4" gate lights were also used in Argentina, however many of the gate lights have red lenses facing oncoming traffic and orange lenses on the opposite side, sort of like how some semi trucks are lit, red on one side, orange on the other. However, many of the gate lights in Argentina have been vandalized and have been stolen. Crossing gates in Argentina have also been victims of being ran down or crashed into by motorists. It is possible Argentina is no longer using 4" gate lights on their crossings.