Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Airports With Railroad Crossings

Almost every railroad crossing in the entire world is meant for either cars or pedestrians to cross railroad rights of way. But there have been a few railroad crossings across the world where a rail line crosses an airport runway. In Wynyard, TAS, Australia, the Far Western Railway of TasRail once crossed the north end of a runway at Burnie Airport.

Imagine the runway delays for this. Image: Airways Museum
The railway was constructed along Tasmania's north coast in the early 1920's. "During the late 1930s when the aerodrome at Wynyard was constructed, it was built on the only flat land in the area - the flood plain of the Inglis River. When properly formed runways were constructed, Runway 05/23 was built over the railway line." (Airways Museum)

This arrangement was not without precedent in Australia, or in other parts of the world, as Sydney's Airport had a similar crossing before the tracks were relocated. Chicago's Midway Airport also had a similar situation early in its life, "A passenger aboard a TWA Skyclub plane noticed a snail-like image crossing the center of the field. Upon landing, he learned that it was a freight train. Bewildered, the passenger left the depot wondering whether Chicago will have one useful airport or two useless ones." (Chicago Tribune)

An aerial view of the Chicago Municipal Airport shows the old and new field bisected by railroad tracks. Chicago Tribune Historical Photo
These Belt Railway of Chicago tracks were relocated around the airport in 1941, and remain in use today.

Chicago Tribune Historical Photo

The "Golden Spike" ceremony of the newly re-aligned Belt Railway Tracks around Midway airport that allowed it to expand. Chicago Tribune Historical Photo

Obviously, as trains and planes occupying the same space is not a good idea in any situation, almost all of these situations have involved the railroad relocating. That said, there's at least one active rail line through an airport remaining at Gisborne Airport in New Zealand.

Image: Unusual Places

Ultimately, the Far Western Railway closed between Burnie and Wiltshire in 2003, removing the runway crossing at Wynyard in the process. Thus, the line never had to be relocated around the airport.

Thanks as always for reading!

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