A level crossing is an intersection where a railway line crosses a road or path, at the same level. Or in rare situations an airport runway. As opposed to the railway line crossing over or under using an overpass or tunnel. The term also applies when a light rail line with a separate right-of-way or reserved track crosses a road in the same fashion. Level crossings are ideal railway/highway at-grade crossing is designed to fulfill its primary purpose. That is establishing a smooth surface while providing for the safe passage of rubber-tired vehicles across railroad tracks.


The design of at-grade highway intersections and highway-railroad grade crossings is frequently complex and problematic. They requiring the designer to examine and respond to many different factors and issues. Their design when both are in close proximity is even more problematic. Designers must respond to physical constraints that sometimes require clearances between the railroad and the parallel roadway edge to be reduced. They affect alignment and traffic control devices. Traffic control systems may have to be interconnected to work properly, and warning systems related to the at-grade intersection may conflict or distract from systems related to the highway-railroad grade crossing.

In the field of transportation, highway-rail grade crossings are unique because they are intermodal intersections. Unlike intra-modal intersections, where vehicles/trains from adjacent approaches take turns traversing the crossing, trains have the right of way through highway-rail grade crossings. Trains have been given the right-of-way because of their character and momentum. Vehicular traffic must yield to trains at every grade crossing every time and may not proceed until all trains have cleared the intersection.

Grand Canyon Railway – Williams, Arizona, USA, 11.9.2012


The history of level crossings depends on the location, but often early level crossings had a flagman in a nearby booth who would, on the approach of a train, wave a red flag or lantern to stop all traffic and clear the tracks. Gated crossings became commonplace in many areas. As they protected the railway from people trespassing and livestock. Also, they protected the users of the crossing when closed by the signalman/gateman. Manual or electrical closable gates barricaded the roadway started to be introduced. Intended to be a complete barrier against intrusion of any road traffic onto the railway.

Automatic even at-grade railroad crossing is now commonplace in some countries as motor vehicles replaced horse-drawn vehicles and the need for animal protection diminished with time. Full, half, or no barrier crossings superseded gated crossings, although crossings of older types can still be found in places. In rural regions with sparse traffic, the least expensive type of level crossing to operate is one without flagmen or gates, with only a warning signposted. This type has been common across North America and in many developing countries.


Traffic control devices (TCDs) are present at highway-rail grade crossings to remind highway users that they must stop for trains. Several levels of traffic control at highway-railroad grade crossings, divided primarily into passive and active control devices. The most basic of these devices, passive devices, provide static messages of warning, guidance, and perhaps action required by the driver. Among these passive devices are signs and pavement markings.

For more advanced traffic control, active control devices are necessary. These devices give warning of the approach or presence of a train. They are activated by the passage of a train over a detection circuit in the track. One of the most predominant forms of active traffic control is the use of automatic gates. Which physically block the travel lanes and are used in conjunction with flashing lights. Active control devices are supplemented by the same signs and markings used in the passive control.


Highway/railway at-grade crossings mark the convergence of two of the most critical portions of the transportation network. For this reason, it is essential that the quality of these crossings is maintained. However, maintaining crossing quality is not an easy task. Due to the combination of highway and railroad traffic, at-grade crossings are exposed repetitively to heavy loads carried by passing trains and trucks. As a result, the settlement at these crossings occurs quickly. Settlement greatly affects the quality of the crossing by increasing its surface roughness. Which negatively impacts the motoring public and railroads alike. Crossing roughness can be attributed to the roughness of either the highway approach or the immediate crossing surface.

Rough crossings caused by excessive settlement adversely affect railroad operations by potentially slowing trains. These increasing slow orders and increasing maintenance costs. In addition, settlement places in jeopardy the safe movement of trains over crossings because excessive settlement affects the geometric features of the rail line, which increases the likelihood of derailments. Vehicular traffic is affected similarly. Rough crossings not only create undesirable driving conditions but may also contribute to heightened safety problems. At-grade crossings remain hazardous despite drastic industry-wide safety improvements over the past 40 years.

Minimizing crossing roughness improves the operating efficiency of train and vehicular traffic. Limiting the deceleration of trains near at-grade crossings reduces fuel consumption and minimizes company and consumer costs. Likewise, delays caused by at-grade crossings can impose significant costs in terms of loss of time and energy for vehicular traffic. As railroad and highway volumes continue to mount, the prevalence of rough crossings will increase unless new standards for at-grade crossing rehabilitation and renewal are established.

How to do this on your layout



Logging Camp

Logging Camp was established at the end of the railway line to house the workers. There was no means of the workers getting to and from work except by train and foot.


As immigration to the United States increased, the demand for building materials made a parallel ascent. The resulting chain of events started in the state of Maine, with the discovery of white pine’s versatility. This species was lightweight, so it floated well, much better than its “cousin,” the red pine. It was a “soft” wood, so it was easy to saw, both on the stump and again at the sawmills. Even with these attributes, white pine was still strong, durable, and had some resistance to rot.

Logging Camp
Photograph taken about 1941 (Source: B Fry) : 1939 Salvage on the Toorongo Plateau, a Washington Steam Winch in operation WIKI

The taste and demand for white pine were insatiable with the ever-expanding populations in cities such as Chicago and St Louis. In addition to all the settlements popping up in the newer territories, Minnesota included. It wasn’t long before the federal government began to purchase land from the American Indians. Lumbermen could buy the property from the government. Once the land was in the hands of the lumbermen, logging camps spawned.

See Our Logging Camp

Logging Camp

Logging Camps were established at the end of the railway line to house the workers. There was no means of the workers getting to and from work except by train. There were no roads out into the woods – the railroad provided the sole method of access. The camps were moved when the timber in the immediate vicinity to the area was all cut.

Some camps were very rustic. Others had a machine shop, factory, church, school, store, and a dance hall that doubled as a theatre. A typical logger’s hut housed two loggers. They each had a space of about 10 feet by 8 feet. There was room for a bed, and a chair and a hut typically had a wood-fired stove. Food, usually good food, was provided in a cookhouse manned by Finnish ladies or Chinese men. A logger had to be well fed. He could easily consume 6,000 calories in a day’s work. The logger got paid a dollar a day. They received a new pair of boots once a year with free food and lodging.

Earliest Logging Camp

The earliest camps, located along significant tributaries so the winter’s logs could be floated to sawmills once the spring thaw took place, subsisted on game and fish as the primary source of their provisions. Camp owners supplied beans, peas, flour, sugar, and salt. This, in itself, was a significant contribution, for the average logger required 5 pounds of food each day to maintain his stamina. The loggers also called lumberjacks. They would return to the same camps or follow a favored cook to another field each winter. A cook could make or break a camp. If a cook was unpopular, they would find work elsewhere or not show up at all.


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How to ballast

How to ballast step one: Paint the track must be the first step. Next, you must decide on a scale and color(s). Our most popular products are between 138 and 1302. Use your base color for general use. While the Yard Mix was for the steam engine servicing area and rail yards. You may want to purchase some brown to add some dirt areas.

If you’re modeling a prototype, pick the ballast that is representative of that railroad. If you are not a real railroad, you can get whatever color you wish. Also, don’t ignore the coarser grades for mainlines. You may be able to use them in other areas!

The process of laying the ballast needs much care. You may get into a problematic area that you may not what the rock or that color.

If you’re going to blend multi colors, mix it, and store that first. Start pouring the rock on the track from the bag or another container. Pour down the length of the track. Use a paintbrush about 1” wide to brush the rock into the ties and to the sides. If you need an area to be a bit dirty, add some brown rock or some pigment now. If the track is old or abandoned, place some grass and dirt middle and alongside.

Gluing the ballast

Ever glue down the rock till you are ready, and you don’t want any other changes.

Use an eye drop with 50% glue and 50% water. Start in the middle of the track and keep adding till the edge starts getting wet on the surface. This is so the rock does not move from the water. We do not suggest that you use alcohol or other than glue. So add some dish soap to make it flow better. The glue will take several hours to dry completely. Best to dry overnight.

When dried or nearly add some powder of the same color or brown to add back some color, the was a loss from the water moving the dust that was in the product. When thoroughly dried, use the brush/ vacuum to find and lose rock you don’t want. If the layout is not going to move, you can skip this.

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High Desert is an informal designation, with non-discrete boundaries. It applied to areas of the Mojave Desert in southern California. Generally, the desert is between 2 and 4 thousand feet in elevation. Likewise, located north of the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and Little San Bernardino Mountains. In short, local news media use High desert to describe the area. For example, it is used on weather forecasts. Because of the high desert’s unique and moderate weather patterns. This because of local low desert neighbors. The term “High Desert” serves to differentiate it from southern California’s Low Desert. Elevation, climate, animal life, and vegetation native to these regions to make it a low desert. High desert soils are derived from these deserts.

107 High Desert Soils
107 High Desert Soils

Buy 107 High Desert Soils

High Desert soils are mostly loamy sand, deep and well-drained Entisols formed in alluvium fans derived dominantly from granitic rocks and related rocks. These soils have very low organic matter, are high in potassium and have pH’s around 7.5 to 8.0. A saline and/or alkaline surface layer occurs in places. Slopes range from 0 to 10 percent most of the time.

The San Andreas Rift Zone area and have contributed to the complexity of the parent rocks. Cajon, Hesperia, and Rosamond are very common soil in the region. These soils consist of clay loams, with rooting depths between 10 to 40 inches. Parent materials of mixed material derived from weathered basalt. The average annual rain ranges between 10 and 14 inches. Vegetation is defined by blue grama, western wheat, and sagebrush.

Vegetation observed include western wheat, fringed sage, squirreltail, blue grama, sagebrush, prickly pear, juniper, snakeweed, prairie Junegrass, single and rabbitbrush.


Aquifers are used for wildlife and recreation. It can be used for crop production if irrigation is available. In fact, we have grown crops using irrigation in deserts for millennia. Thus, irrigation water comes from rivers or aquifers. Aquifers are underground areas of porous rock. Likewise, it can be full of sand and gravel that hold lots of water. Irrigation in most desert regions causes a buildup of salt in the soil. Some plants can tolerate more salt than others. But, salt in the soil affects plant growth and yield. When the salt levels are too high, plants die.

Rock Types

Yard Ballast

Track ballast/Yard Ballast It is another essential part of railroad infrastructure, although it may just look like plain ole gravel. This stone plays a vital role in acting as a support base for the railroad ties and rails. Yard ballast allows for proper drainage of water away from the track. That is why the stone is always sloped downward and away from the railroad.

You may be wondering how such a term came to define the stone which supports the railroad track structure. Interestingly, it has its roots dating back to early times when the stone was used as ballasting for sailing ships.  In today’s railroad industry the use of ballast, its application, and purpose has changed little since it was first employed. It will likely always remain an important component as a part of the track structure.


In new construction or for repair work, the tracks are ballasted to yard/industrial standards. Ballast less depth than mainline, since speeds will below.  The spaces between ties are filled in with smaller gravel to tie-top level to provide better footing for yard workers.  French drains are often installed, and there may be a manhole or two where the drain lines trunk together.

Track ballast (Yard Ballast), as it is known. It is another essential part of railroad infrastructure, although it may just look like plain ole gravel.
Track ballast (Yard Ballast), as it is known. It is another essential part of railroad infrastructure, although it may just look like plain ole gravel.

Years of use

Over time, the ballast gets fouled with spilled lading and blown-in dirt.  Weeds begin to grow.  During the transition era and earlier, journal box drippings would slowly saturate the ground (poor man’s tarmac.)  Cinders from would be spread in the yard. Well maintained yards will be kept pretty clear of foliage and will occasionally get a ballast transfusion where needed.  Unmaintained yards will gradually change to muddy quagmires, sometimes with tracks submerged below the railheads in glop.  Tall weeds and bushes abound, and even an occasional sapling if the tracks are embargoed.


An interesting effect to model is to model the entire yard somewhat grimy with some weed growth. Onther is to make turnout with fresh, clean ballast.

Most (if not all) prototype yards had something keeping the tracks in place.  Cinders were common during the steam and early diesel era. As was “regular” ballast when major yards were built/rebuilt over the years.  Over time, dirt, soil, grease, grime, gets everywhere. Also make some spots looking as if there has never be ballast to begin with.

Of course, while crushed cinder with basalt is the aggregate of choice for today’s railroads. In years past everything from slag to cinders has been used (always resourceful years ago railroads would use whatever they could find). Some light density railroad lines would appear jet black cinders were used to ballast the route. In any event, track ballast must regularly be cleaned or added as when dirt and grime build-up. When this happens within the rock it reduces its ability to properly drain water. 

The ballast also acts as a support base for the railroad track structure giving it strength and rigidity but also allowing for flexibility when trains pass over. Black cinder with basalt is often most used as ballasting.ballasting. It is a hard stone that will lock together providing for extra strength.


Read about Norfolk Southern Railway


Roofing Sands

Many flat commercial roofs have asphalt shingles that contain roofing sands. These are tiny particles that consist of graded crushed rock, porcelain, slag, slate, or tile. Roofing gravel is used on flat commercial roofs for several reasons. Here are a few of their benefits, along with some conditions that can affect them.

Roofing gravel is constructed with a ceramic coating. The gravel that is most commonly used consists of ground-up molten rock particles, such as solid volcanic lava, basalt, or granite. To obtain the proper granule size, you need to screen to an extent. These particles are processed and then covered with a silicate mixture. Once this has been done, the next step is adding color to the mix.

After coating the gravel, rotary calciners treat the coating so that it turns into a ceramic. This is done to make the shingles more durable, besides seals in color. Furthermore, it also gives the final product an additional aesthetic appeal.

Roofing Sands
Roofing Sands


Roofing gravel on flat commercial roofs offer several benefits such as:

  • One of the main advantages of roofing gravel is that it provide aesthetic beauty. This is the result of colors that have been blended together, giving a roof depth and a rich appearance.
  • Besides cosmetic appeal, roofing gravel also serve practical purposes. For example, they’re designed to protect the asphalt coating of shingles from the harsh UV sunlight.
  • Because roofing gravel can make a roof cooler, this can mean having lower utility bills for your business. As a result, you’ll have more money for other expenses.
  • What’s more, roofing gravel provide fire resistance for shingles.


Several factors can cause gravel to loosen and be removed from asphalt shingles:

  • Pressure cleaning can quickly blast sands from roof shingles.
  • Intense winds and heavy rainfall can be factors.
  • Even small hail can displace roofing gravel.
  • Foot traffic can also cause gravel to dislodge


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By-product Loads

Mill Tailings

Mill tailings are, by definition, fine-particle residues of milling operations that are devoid of metal values. Particle-size distribution is one of the essential ways of characterizing tailings. The mining industry distinguishes “sands” and “slimes” as components of residues.

Materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the uneconomic fraction (gangue) of an ore. Tailings are distinct from overburden. Waste rock or other material that overlies an ore or mineral body.

Mill Tailings
Mill Tailings

Mill Tailings Economics

Losses to tailings is the most important parameter in deciding whether a deposit or milling process is economically viable or not. Early milling operations often did not take adequate steps to make tailings areas environmentally safe after closure. Modern mines, particularly those in jurisdictions with well-developed mining regulations and those operated by responsible mining companies, often include the rehabilitation and proper closure of tailings areas in their costs and activities.

Site selection for tailings disposal has to be based on economic and environmental considerations. Additional, tailings impoundment site has to be close to the mill, for economic reasons and to conform with the following three requirements:

  • Be mineralogically barren
  • Have strong structural geology to bear the weight of the impoundment
  • Have a geomorphology that allows surface waters to bypass the dam or drain through it

Factors influencing the design of tailing impoundment include site characteristics, tailing characteristics, effluent characteristics, mine/mill characteristics


Tailings may be discarded on land, into a watercourse, or in a sizable body of water. In the case of underground mining, at least part of the tailings may have to be pumped back into the mine.

Uses for tailings – backfill excavated space, but usually discarded. If possible, tailings should not be stored underground; it is prudent to dispose of milling tailings on the surface and have them easily available when more efficient extraction processes exist. Storing tailings inactive open-pit mines is obviously impossible. Also, abandoned open-pit quarries far from active mills.

Historically, tailings were disposed of in the most convenient manner, such as in downstream running water or down drains. Because of concerns about these sediments in the water and other issues, tailings ponds came into use. The sustainability challenge in the management of tailings and waste rock is to dispose of the material. Such that it is inert or, if not, stable and contained, to minimize water and energy inputs and the surface footprint of wastes and to move toward finding alternate uses.


Other By-Products

Ballast COlors

Sedona Red Rock

One of the most amazing natural features of the Sedona area is the red rock. There are restaurants, clubs, and music venues. Even stores that all revolve around the theme around Sedona. In short, it’s a major draw for tourists and locals alike. Due to this, the array of rock formations is the main attraction of Sedona. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun. In the same way, the red rocks form a popular backdrop for many activities. They ranging from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds. They included hiking and mountain biking trails. The Schnebly Hill Formation is a thick layer of red to orange. Colored sandstone found only in the Sedona vicinity.



Red rock is decorated with orange, pink, and gray hues deriving from the mountains of Sedona. Sizes are in 1” screened and ½” screened.


  • Replace large water consumptive grass areas
  • Reduce maintenance in any yard
  • Reduces wear and tear in your lawn, as well as the need for herbicides and weed killers
  • Keeps the ground cooler in the mornings, reducing ground evaporation
  • The decorative landscape rock heats up during the day keeping the ground warmer through the night

Sedona’s main attraction is its array of red sandstone formations. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun. Altogether, the red rocks form a popular backdrop for many activities, ranging from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails.

Panoramic view from above of the Sedona area, in August 2011. Wiki

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona was named after Sedona Arabella Miller Schnebly (1877–1950), the wife of Theodore Carlton Schnebly, the city’s first postmaster, who was celebrated for her hospitality and industriousness. Her mother, Amanda Miller, claimed to have made the name up because “it sounded pretty”. Wiki

Other Usage

Sedona red is the rock most often quarried as a “dimension stone” (a natural rock material that has been cut into blocks or slabs of specific length, width, and thickness). Sedona red is hard enough to resist abrasion, strong enough to bear significant weight, inert enough to resist weathering, and it accepts a brilliant polish. These characteristics make it a very desirable and useful dimension stone.


Other Rock Colors

By-product Uncategorized


The ash in steam locomotives is a byproduct from burning pulverized coal in the coal burner. During combustion, mineral impurities in the coal (clay, feldspar, quartz, and shale) fuse in suspension and float out of the combustion chamber with the exhaust gases. As the fused material rises, it cools and solidifies into spherical glassy particles. The ash is then collected from the exhaust gases by electrostatic precipitates or bag filters.

The amount of residue let in the ash pan for operating coal burners is dependent on the quality of coal being burned. Anthracite and high quality bituminous left much less ash than the same quantity of lignite. Also, thee exist the issue of quality with the amount of foreign matter mixed in with the coal – the reason why firemen referred to some grades of coal as “Real Estate”. If a given locomotive was operated rom division point to division point, the ash pan would be emptied at the end of the run. 



Ash can be used as prime material in many cement-based products. Such as poured concrete, concrete block, and brick. One of the most common uses of ash is in Portland cement concrete pavement or PCC pavement. Road construction projects using PCC can use a great deal of concrete, and substituting ash provides significant economic benefits. Ash has also been used as embankment and mine fill.

Uses of coal ash include:

  • Concrete production, as a substitute material for Portland cement, sand.
  • Fly-ash pellets which can replace normal aggregate in concrete mixture.
  • Embankments and other structural fills (usually for road construction)
  • Grout and Flowable fill production
  • Waste stabilization and solidification
  • Cement clinker production – (as a substitute material for clay)
  • Mine reclamation
  • Stabilization of soft soils
  • Road subbase construction
  • As aggregate substitute material (e.g. for brick production)
  • Mineral filler in asphaltic concrete
  • Agricultural uses: soil amendment, fertilizer, cattle feeders, soil stabilization in stock feed yards, and agricultural stakes
  • Loose application on rivers to melt ice
  • Loose application on roads and parking lots for ice control


Ash is produced when coal is burned. The environmental laws require power companies and steam locomotives to trap and properly dispose of it. Disposal presents a challenge because of the sheer amount of coal ash produced by steam locomotives and coal-fired power plants, and also because the heavy metals in coal make ash a potentially dangerous substance.

Coal is a material that’s full of harmful substances, and there are still some questions about whether heavy metals would be able to leach from concrete made with coal ash. Concerns have also been raised over whether using fly ash would expose builders to lawsuits and exempt them from insurance coverage.

In the past, fly ash produced from coal combustion was simply entrained in flue gases and dispersed into the atmosphere. This created environmental and health concerns that prompted laws that have reduced fly ash emissions to less than 1% of ash produced. Worldwide, more than 65% of fly ash produced from coal power stations is disposed of in landfills and ash ponds.

Ash that is stored or deposited outdoors can eventually leach toxic compounds into underground water aquifers. For this reason, much of the current debate around fly ash disposal revolves around creating specially lined landfills that prevent the chemical compounds from being leached into the ground water and local ecosystems.


Ash is made from Coke and Coal

Fuel Loads

Coke (Fuel) for Railroads

Coke for railroads in the first years of steam railway locomotives, coke was the normal fuel. This resulted from an early piece of environmental legislation; any proposed locomotive had to “consume its own smoke”. This was not technically possible to achieve until the firebox arch came into use, but burning coke, with its low smoke emissions, was considered to meet the requirement. This rule was quietly dropped, and cheaper coal became the normal fuel, as railways gained acceptance among the public. The smoke plume produced by a travelling locomotive seems now to be a mark of a steam railway, and so preserved for posterity. Wiki

Coke is a grey, hard, and porous fuel with a high carbon content and few impurities, made by heating coal or oil in the absence of air—a destructive distillation process. It is an important industrial product, used mainly in iron ore smelting, but also as a fuel in stoves and forges when air pollution is a concern.

The unqualified term “coke” usually refers to the product derived from low-ash and low-sulphur bituminous coal by a process called coking. A similar product called petroleum coke, or pet coke, is obtained from crude oil in oil refineries. Coke may also be formed naturally by geologic processes.

Coke for Railroads
Coke for Railroads


The industrial production of coke from coal is called coking. The coal is baked in an airless kiln, a “coke furnace” or “coking oven”. It has temperatures as high as 2,000 °C (3,600 °F) but usually around 1,000–1,100 °C (1,800–2,000 °F). This process vaporises or decomposes organic substances in the coal, driving off volatile products. Including water, in the form of coal-gas and coal-tar. The non-volatile residue of the decomposition is mostly carbon. In the form of a hard somewhat glassy solid that cement together the original coal particles and minerals.

Some facilities have “by-product” coking ovens in which the volatile decomposition products are collected. It is purified and separated for use in other industries, as fuel or chemical feed stocks. Otherwise the volatile byproducts are burned to heat the coking ovens. This is an older method, but is still being used for new construction.

Coke as a fuel

Coke is used as a fuel and as a reducing agent in smelting iron ore in a blast furnace. Additionally, the carbon monoxide produced by its combustion reduces iron oxide (hematite) in the production of the iron product. Coke is commonly used as fuel for blacksmiths.

Coke was used in Australia in the 1960’s and early 1970’s for house heating. It was an incentive for home use in the UK (so as to displace coal). After the 1956 Clean Air Act, which was passed in response to the Great Smog of London in 1952.

Since smoke-producing constituents are driven off during the coking of coal. Coke forms a desirable fuel for stoves and furnaces in which conditions are not suitable for the complete burning of bituminous coal itself. It may be combusted producing little or no smoke, while bituminous coal would produce much smoke. Namely, coke was widely used as a smokeless fuel. It is a substitute for coal in domestic heating following the creation of smokeless zones in the United Kingdom. Also in Highland Park distillery in Orkney roasts malted barley for use in their Scotch whiskey in kilns burning a mixture of coke and peat.

Coke may be used to make synthesis gas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen.


By products