I was presented with the opportunity to wait at a level crossing on a quiet country road a few evenings ago. I took the chance to photograph, with my phone, the closed level crossing, and then, the passing train.
A level crossing is an interesting intersection of transport types. The railway and the road cross each others’ paths. The topography or some specific conditions do not favour a bridge, resulting in this crosscutting space. The point of convergence is nether entirely roadway or railway, it is a hybrid. While driving through a level crossing, I always look to the side, at the parallel tracks stretching off in either direction – a clearer, more flowing form of transport going perpendicularly to myself. Conversely, when I’m on a train, I catch glimpses of cars, bikes, people, waiting on the road – each of them paused on their own journeys.
Ordinarily, the road traffic has dominance; however, this is merely because of the absence of the train, once it arrives the roadway is temporarily blocked off. I like the necessary primacy of the train for two reasons. Firstly, as public transport it is carrying more people in a more sustainable manner than the car, and, therefore, serves a greater (social) good. Secondly, it is an ironical metaphor that the road vehicle has to make way for the train, as it was the growth in the use of trucks and cars in the mid-twentieth century that resulted in the demise of the once considerable train network.
Ironród Éireann (Irish Rail) map of all the level crossings in the Republic of Ireland