Level crossing boom barriers – timber or metal?

If you take a close look a level crossing, you might’ve noticed something about the boom barriers used to prevent cars driving onto the tracks. Some are made of metal.

Level crossing activates at Werribee Street in Werribee, long before the next train is due to arrive

Aluminium channel to be specific.

Westinghouse LED lamp unit on a boom barrier

And others are made of timber.

Boom barriers go up at the Macaulay Road level crossing, Kensington

Two separate pieces, tied together to form a truss.

Surplus level crossing boom barriers in the compound at Blackburn

So what gives?

The answer is above you

Look up – at the 1500 volt DC traction power used to power Melbourne suburban trains.

Dumbarse motorists queue over the Groves Street level crossing in Aspendale

Level crossings on the suburban network use timber boom barriers, because if they get pushed into the overhead wires, the last thing you want is something metal forming a conductive path.

Victorian Railways 'DANGER contact with overhead wires will cause DEATH' sign at Showgrounds station

While V/Line and freight lines are free to use the simpler and cheaper metal boom barriers, as they don’t have the same electrical safety concerns.

Boom barrier sits over the top of a truck at the Dock Link Road level crossing

Just the usual worries about vehicles driving through them.

Boom barriers lower at Station Street, North Shore

Footnote: swapping metal for timber

In 2012 suburban trains were extended to Sunbury, by electrifying the existing railway.

N460 arrives into Diggers Rest with an up commuter service

As a result every level crossing between Watergardens and Sunbury had to have the metal boom barrier arms removed.


Google Street View 2009

And replaced with timber ones.


Google Street View 2018

And on language

In Victorian the official name for the arms that lower to prevent road vehicles from crossing the tracks is “boom barrier” – not “boom gates”.

The term boom barriers is synonymous with the term level crossing gates. It is used to denote flashing lights and half road boom barriers.

Crossing gates that swing across the tracks and are operated from a signal box are called “interlocked gates”.

Lydiard Street crossing gates start to open at Ballarat station

While gates that need to be moved by hand are called “hand gates”.

Opening up the Coral Street hand gates

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7 Responses to “Level crossing boom barriers – timber or metal?”

  1. Chris Gordon says:

    Fiberglass ones are type approved for use on the Metro network. So there are actually three types available.

    You will find fiberglass ones around the country areas if you look, and the odd ball crossing at Oakview Lane (Mt. Ararat Road) between Pakenham and Nar Nar Goon, which was transferred from V/Line to Metro but not changed out to wooden booms because the wires stop before that crossing.

  2. Andrew says:

    Well, who would have guessed that. Most interesting.

  3. Toby Adams says:

    The best boomgates is one which does not exist!

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