Tip For Mounting A Working
Crossing Gate

A visitor to my website, Jerry Newman, sent me a question that I didn't know how to answer because I had never tried to so this.

Jerry's question was:

"I have a couple of crossing gates (NJ International 1161/LED's) that I want to activate with a Tortoise 800-6000, recommended for this task. My question is: Do you have any suggestions for the location of the 6000 and the down rod (activating rod) of the crossing gate? I have moved the 6000 backwards and forwards and the down rod so many time it is about to wearout. (not really)!"

I wasn't using any Tortoise machines at that time although I have a half dozen from a previous layout. I remember struggling to get the actuating rod in the right place. A friend suggested I use velcro strips to help position the machine because it is easier to move. 

I was using 2" foam board at the time (another product I no longer like to use, especially under track that has turnouts and switch machines). At the time I had mounted the Tortoise machines on squares of masonite and used wallboard cement and nails to hold them in place until the glue set up.

Operating crossing gates, like semaphore signals, would pose additional challenges.  As I hadn't tackled this problem before I was waiting to ask someone at our NMR club if anyone had a solution. I figured member, Bill Payne, would have an answer.

I think there have been some articles about mounting crossing gates in the model railroad magazines. Before I could find an answer, Jerry figured it out for himself. He has kindly allowed me to post his solution in case it can help other model railroaders mount their crossing gates. Here's his reply:

"I mounted the Tortoise on a homemade mount, ( a small "L" shaped metal bracket) and turned the Tortoise on its side. I then placed the combination as close to the signal down rod under the table as possible. Then I bent the signal down rod around the wire on the Tortoise making sure the signal down rod forms a complete circle around the Tortoise rod. I slid the fulcrum point until I found the desired position that operates the signal down rod sufficiently, (both raised and lowered). Once this action was satisfactory I glued the signal down rod to the Tortoise activating rod and let it dry. Then I operate a locomotive as a test run across the road crossing. I still had to make some adjustments and re-glue a couple of times but it now works to perfection. You can adjust the motion of the Tortoise by attaching it to a GCP(Grade Crossing Pro) and adjusting the pilot setting screw accordingly. Instructions come with the GCP so you can do this correctly."

I had a couple of places I would like to try this seeing as I have some unused Tortoises. On my own layout the street through Utopia Yard could really have used some protection before some driver has an accident!

Bill Payne helped me install some Tortoises on the new UNRR. It really is easier when you have a second set of hands. He could watch topside while I positioned the rod from underneath the layout. Then I could hold the Tortoise in position and install screws to hold it. We would wire it temporarily so he could activate a toggle to check alignment.

There is another method I have read about that uses a dowel to position the rod. The dowel has a hole drilled through it vertically to accept the rod. The dowel diameter matches the hole in the benchwork. I haven't tried that method.

Future site of operating crossing gates in Utopia.
road crossing

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