The International Steam Pages
Ley Crossing 2011
For convenience I have now grouped lifestyle illustrated features by topic:
This page is just one of several describing aspects of our '2011 new life', for earlier and later pages use the West Gloucestershire link above.
It didn't take me very long to work out that only a complete madman would cycle from Mitcheldean to Gloucester via the A4136 and A40. Instead when I had to ferry our new bikes back for a service, I elected to take the 'pretty way' through Flaxley, Northwood Green and Ley to join the A48 at Minsterworth from where there is a safe sealed footpath alongside the road all the way to the city. There were all sorts of bonuses on the route, the beautiful Cistercian abbey at Flaxley, the odd buzzard lazily circling overhead, cheap runner beans from an unmanned roadside stall, horse shit for Yuehong's roses, as many free plums as I wanted and then there was the unexpected treasure of Ley Crossing. There is a map below showing its location.
Once upon a time, the railways of the UK sported any number of manually controlled level crossings, now the number is diminishing fast and I understand that this and St. Mary's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Mary's_Crossing_Halt_railway_station) in the Stroud Valley are the last of their breed in Gloucestershire.
Staff work twelve hour shifts ('seven to seven') and given the very low road traffic levels, the default is that the gates are locked against cars.
The Annett's Key system is used - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annett's_key. In this case it is electro-mechanical as the railway traffic is controlled by three aspect colour light signalling. The apparatus is clearly labelled BR-WR (British Railways - Western Region) and I would guess that it dates from the 1960s or 1970s at the latest. Under the brass key the instructions state:
TO OBTAIN KEY AFTER RECEIVING SIGNALMANS PERMIT
There are separate indicators for the up and down lines and I assume that the keys cannot be removed while a train is approaching. One of the keys is original, but the other is clearly a replacement (the Carriage Siding, Ground Frame is or was most likely in Gloucester):
When necessary, each key is released in turn and used to unlock one of the gates - at which point the signals on the line are automatically set. Only when the keys are returned are the signals reset. The pedestrian / cycle gate has no interlocking, it's normally kept shut, of course, but I had left it open in my rush to get a photograph when a rare car turned up.
I asked the gate keeper what he did to pass the considerable time between cars, "I read a lot." was the answer. I said it must need a special kind of person who enjoyed working alone. "Well," he said "in my case it's a lot to do with living in the farm house behind the crossing and being able to walk here in two minutes..."
The crossing is scheduled for upgrading within the next year or two and will then be controlled from Gloucester. Given that HGVs (Heavy Goods Vehicles) are banned from the crossing owing to the sharp bend on the approach and the risk of grounding, it's not clear whether it will continue to be manned afterwards to prevent misuse.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson