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A short story and some signals...




In our back garden when I was a boy, we had an old signal box. I don't know where it came from - we certainly didn't have a (full size) railway to go with it.  My grandfather (always known as GP) lived in the cottage next door and used the signal box as a workshop; I spent a good deal of time there, avoiding homework and learning how to make stuff.  On my workbench is a steel try square which is in daily use just as it has been for some four generations:  it was in the signal box when I was a boy and it's stamped with GP's father's initials - my great grandfather. He was a railway carriage joiner in a south London workshop - his brother was a railway signalman, somewhere adjacent to New Cross.  So with such appropriate credentials, I set out to make some signals for Swan Hill.


This picture shows the first signals made for Swan Hill:  it's pretty much the same picture that I posted at Christmas 2020 but then, they didn't actually work.  Now they do. Great excitement and if I could master how to do it, I'd post a video.  Not content with having them just go 'On' and 'Off', they needed to be doing a bit more than that and so work began on "the brain".


All the wiring on the layout is led back to a junction box which, in its primitive state, allowed the track and point servos to be tested and checked.  Now there are also a bunch of relays which interlock the signals with the points so that, for instance, when the points are correctly set for the route, the 'Up' starter is enabled and when the Up starter is set 'Off' the train can be sent up the line but only in the 'Up' direction as there are diodes preventing reversal - which foxes my grandsons.  As and when signals are installed, the primitive circuits can be adapted and further relay logic interposed from the comfort of a deck chair in front of the layout.


I started with a signal ladder...

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The stiles are drilled 0.5mm using a jig-with-bent-pin to determine the hole locations.  Assembly on a (scalded) jig made up from nails and a straight edge.  One side is soldered up first and then the ladder turned round in the jig, the stile pulled straight and the other side soldered.  The completed ladder (lousy photo).  The next pictures are actually another bracket signal which is not yet installed but show the same methods as the bracket signal above. All the n/s strip is cut on a small table saw (Proxxon) having been cyano'd to 4mm mdf. 

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Making the bracket - flat n/s strip curved in a jig (shown in an earlier post) and set against some nails on a knocking up board - jig too posh a name for that. The other part of the angle is set on and soldered in.

The rest of the bracket is made up from strip, set out on the drawing using s/s pins to hold things in place.  Next, landing planking - the GWR insisted they run fore and aft rather than side to side.  Then guardrailing.  The stanchions are 1mm diam n/s turned down each end to 0.7mm and set in drilled holes in the planking at the base and soldered into notches filed into the lightly flattened gaurdrail at the top;  The shoulder produced by turning at top and base controls the height which otherwise, in my hands, would be a wobbly muddle - or more of a muddle anyway.

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The completed home signals which are yet to be installed on the layout...



The finials are ModelU - very nice they are too.  I've made up fork end connectors for the rodding and the cranks are all hand cut and filed to shape. The posts and dolls are hardwood - American walnut (see living room coffee table)  and the signals arms and spectacles are from Scale Signal Supply.  The spectacle glazing is bubble type packaging cut to shape and painted with glass paint.  



The two 'Up' starters and backing 'Up' 'Down' line signal and the Siding to Up line starter.

 I'll post something about the lamps and lighting in a day or so: lamps are all working and show up as pin point back lights in the picture above. I've also fitted working lighting to the buffer stops - red, but fairly impossible to see  here.  


Edited by kitpw

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  • RMweb Gold

Appropriate credentials indeed! Learning to make things in a signal box, that's a proper upbringing and makes you a candidate for luckiest boy in the world, I think. Perhaps the signal box came via your great grandfather's brother?


The signals look superb. I like the source of the spectacle glazing, clever stuff. But, er, I hope the posts weren't actually cut from the coffee table? :)


I note also the diodes preventing reversal. I suppose there's a risk they will manually drag the trains backwards instead! 


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3 hours ago, Mikkel said:

I suppose there's a risk they will manually drag the trains backwards instead!

Thanks, Mikkel - yes, there is that risk but, so far, they respect the protocol (the "game" in their book) that the controllers move the trains, hands don't!  


3 hours ago, Simond said:

Very nice, exquisite work!

And thanks SImond...I need some lessons in photography and some better lighting although I'm afraid things would look a little worse for it when posted here!

2 hours ago, Jon Fitness said:

they really look "right"

If they do Jon, it's largely thanks to a close study of your own thread on signal building - for which many thanks, and for your kind remarks.


Kit PW

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Excellent workmanship.  I do think having a tell tale to the rear and working blinders makes a big difference.


Very neat wiring too, helps with troubleshooting and maintenance. 

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8 hours ago, Dave John said:

troubleshooting and maintenance

Thanks Dave...  I did rewire with a heavier gauge of wire (more strands) not long after I started the layout when I noticed that a few of the soldered connections onto the terminal strips had become brittle and failed. I also used heat shrink sleeving to cover the joins and - touch wood - there haven't been any further problems on that score.  I did make an effort to record the "as built" electrical side of things as I went along and colour coding and some cable marking has helped - the wiring diagram is becoming a work of art in itself!


 I now need to get on and build a signal box so that there's a signalman to register the working tell tales/blinders! 


Kit PW


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