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Signalling, all a matter of Control?



Part of the Control set up. One of five panels, this one looking after Harrow.

When I began my West Coast project I wanted to use Track occupation and four aspect signals. Fortunately, about twenty five years ago I had run a large scale experiment with N Gauge in the garden. (Railway Modeller April/August 1995). This consisted of about a run of 250 feet out and back. To keep an eye on things I installed track circuiting throughout and automatic four aspect signals. At this time I bought a lot of Track Circuit units and signal control boards, from a firm called Signal & Telegraph of Edmonton. These units gave stirling service over the life of the outdoor line, and when the outdoor line was decommissioned they were carefully stored away for another day. As these are non DCC compatible I stuck with DC throughout. Also as it was going to be a mainly 'watching the trains go by' type layout I didn't think investing in DCC worthwhile.
Signal unit left, Track Circuit unit right.

The units as positioned on the old garden railway set up.
As the units were set up originally on the garden railway, multitude of wires possibly an understatement. On the current layout these units have been spread out to where the units feed the track or signals.

Early days commissioning the Watford panel. The Control panel is made in an 'L' shape with 2 x 1 framing with hardboard surfaces. The panel was finished in matt grey undercoat. The track layout was lightly drawn in pencil first. The track diagram was made using 'Trimline' lining tape in multi-colours to denote the track sections. These were much simplified from the prototype to reduce the number of Track Circuit units utilised. Labelling was done on the computer, printed, cut to size, and stuck in place, avoiding places that might be damaged when switch and LED holes were drilled. Before drilling the numerous holes the surface was covered with clear plastic sheet to protect the lining and labels. The holes were then drilled carefully ready for fitting the switches and LEDs, plus the holes for the Controllers.

The four main line storage sidings (Up Fast, Up Slow, Down Fast, Down Slow) have their own panels.
The Up Yard panel with the Up Fast and Up Slow. The Yards can be run in 'Auto' via Heathcote SA6 Storage Yard units with IRDOT (Infra red detectors between the rails). This means the trains can operate in sequence from Siding 1 to 10 in succession. There is however a switch so that manual control can be taken via push buttons at individual points.
The Down Yard panel for the Down Fast and Down Slow, and operates the same as the Up Yard Panel. The routes have bi-colour White/Red LEDs which show the route set, and change to red as the trains arrive/depart. The LED route lights are controlled by a simple relay PCB operated from Auxiliary point motor switches.
Home made Relay boards. gave me lots of soldering practice.
Fitting the IRDOT units to the Storage sidings.
Unfortunately I ran out of the signal units, and had to finish off the signalling by making up some home made relay boards. Why Relays? Well, I must admit I don't understand much about transistors and the like, but Relay and Logic circuits I can work out okay. At least I know what to do if I have a failure of any kind!
Home made signal boards. One of the main things is to keep a record of what each of the terminals does, seen on my printed record sheet. My Circuit Diagrams are probably not up to much, and Bill Corrigan, who guided me through many Route Relay diagrams, would turn in his grave.
The fifth and final panel. This one controls Harrow Yard, and can be used if I want to do a bit of shunting while the main lines run themselves.
The Harrow Main Line Panel almost finished. The panels are attached to the layout by large hook and eye fittings to the main 4 x 2 framing so they can be removed if necessary. They have a lot of multi-pin connectors so they can be unplugged. The main panels have an additional central 4 x 2 leg which can be taken off.
blogentry-31978-0-01371300-1497132674_thumb.jpg Back of the Harrow Main Panel with most of the track and signal indicators.
blogentry-31978-0-63002600-1497132694_thumb.jpg Bottom part of the panel with the Controllers and switches. Wiring probably not up to standard, but at least it works. Although not visible the Poly Block connectors are marked, but haven't shown up well in the pictures.

The signals themselves are almost 100% CR Signals. All the route indicators work, along with the Calling on and position light ground signals. The searchlight types on the 'New Line' have been slightly modified by fitting Repeater heads. It was a bit complicated to make them work with the automatic calling on facility, so they function mainly as standard two and three aspect types.

N Brass Gantry with CR Signal heads and shunt signals. A 25 hauled freight gets a main aspect for the St. Albans Branch, while a DMU gets a shunt signal to visit the Depot for fuel.

A busy time at Harrow, as the Stanmore DMU gets a position 1 Route Indicator. On this signal the Position 4 Indicator is for crossing to the Up Fast, no indication for returning to the Up Slow Line.

The 08 gets a shunt aspect to proceed from the Loop platform to the Yard.

Modified Searchlight signals for the New Line. Dummy Ground signals, not strictly correct as these are SR pattern, it's just that I had a number of these lying around gathering dust.

New Line and Main Line signals. The Main Line has a position 4 for crossing to the Down Slow, the Position 5 for the Loop Platform.

Position Light Ground signal. In this case it has a dummy 'smoke blue' stencil Indicator. It is mounted on two track pins, blue paper with plastic covering on a square of plasticard, and some etched brass mess painted black and stuck on. Note the Telephone cabinet alongside with the black and white striped plate. I spent ages fitting Signal Post Telephones.

blogentry-31978-0-92919700-1497135021_thumb.jpgblogentry-31978-0-11812400-1497135047_thumb.jpg Home made Block Instruments. A bit gimmicky, yes. By rights they should be Tokenless Block Types, but I wanted to build the more classical version. They were made up in a box shape with 2mm plasticard, with a bit of Perspex over the recessed pointer/needle. Bits were transferred from some old Triang Hornby ones that were around many years ago. The Triang Hornby ones no longer worked. I used the electro magnets and the magnetic pointer, plus the bell unit. However I enlarged the units by about four times to make them more easy to operate. I used some new rotary switches, and the bell tapper was made from a small push button switch which is depressed by pushing down on a piece of brass tube with a wooden draw knob. The instruments are connected to work the Stanmore and St. Albans branches.

I'm usually assisted by Ralph the 'Cat Controller'. In this case he is working the Watford panel, and is keeping an eye out for a loco coming off shed onto the headshunt.

Think I've just about covered everything? Next on the list, how the AC Locos were made.


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OMG you are a real genius.  That wiring and control board looks like it took a team of NASA engineers to construct!  Brilliant stuff.  Need to see a book about how you put all this together.  Really inspirational stuff and it’s so good for the rest of us to be put in our place by an expert modeler and engineer from time to time.     Mike.

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1 hour ago, PaternosterRow said:

OMG you are a real genius.  That wiring and control board looks like it took a team of NASA engineers to construct!  Brilliant stuff.  Need to see a book about how you put all this together.  Really inspirational stuff and it’s so good for the rest of us to be put in our place by an expert modeler and engineer from time to time.     Mike.

Thank you for those very kind words.



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