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Material for control panels


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  • RMweb Gold

I  looking for suggestions on how to make a control panel. This will be a diagram of the tracks with inset switches and leds etc.

On my previous layout I printed the diagram on paper and used spray mount to stick it to 1mm aluminium sheet. I then covered it by ironing on a cut open lamininating pouch.

This worked tolerably well and I may do the same again, but what other options are there?

I have seen that I could get the diagram printed commercially on to dibond which is a plastic/aluminium sandwich 3mm thick. 

Also may be possible to get printing done onto thin plastic but i dont want it too thick as i have to fix switches etc through it.

I could print it out, stick to plywood and overlay thin perspex, but again i am worried about the thickness.

I don't think that any form of hand drawing the diagram will be visually acceptable.

 

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I have made my own panels for a while, firstly with wood, then styrene & now acrylic (Acrylic is a family of plastics & Perspex is a brand name of the most common form, which I did not know until recently. Searching for acrylic when you shop may therefore help to widen your choice).

 

I feel that plastics look a lot cleaner than wood. Styrene was too flimsy, but ok for a smaller panel. Acrylic is much more rigid, especially 3mm, which is still thin enough to mount most switches.

 

Having built my own panels, I take a look at others when I go to shows. Some look really professional & others look confusing.

 

Small holes are easy to drill but it splits very easily with larger holes, even if you take great care when drilling. I bought a laser cutter for something else & found that it was great for cutting control panels, but my cutter is limited on size to around A4.

Cutting is the easy bit. Is you can do the artwork yourself then this will save you cost.

 

I agree about not drawing the lines on with a pen.

My preference is vinyl pinstripes. Searching for this on ebay should give you loads of options.

 

I have attached a couple of photos of laser cut panels, one finished, one just cut. These are different panels for each end of my fiddle yard.

I would have liked these to be bigger, but I was limited to my A4 cutter.

I did these a while ago so I am fairly sure I left the smaller holes for drilling because they were not an issue. I found it useful to mark out the track plan very lightly by laser so I could see what I was doing.

I am not entirely happy with the finished one. I think the pinstripes (6mm) are too thick, which makes the sidings look too cluttered. I also like the idea of using different colours for the storage & running lines, which I did not do with these. Re-marking it at a later date with thinner tape should not be a problem though.

 

DCC Concepts make custom panels. I already had my laser cutter when I found out about this service, so it did not really interest me other than to remember they did it.

 

E control panel.jpg

W control panel.jpg

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You could do the same as car number plates by sticking the minic dagram on the back of the perspex either individual lines with a backing sheet, or indeed a paper sheet, and push the switches through from behind and the LED holders from in front. That way you have a really classy looking panel at minimum hassle.    I have been sandwiching paper notices between acryllic  sheets for years for "Canines Proscribed," and  "Hund Shitzen ish Verboten" notices and they last very well.  Acrylic can be a sod to cut. I do it rough with a fine tooth saw and finish with a power sander.  Personally for the railway I use vertical switch panels with numbered switches and the track layout displayed on the wall Signalbox style so no horizontal space is used for the panel.  One swings up but I never move it from vertical.

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A few years ago, I built a panel using laminated plastic board, of the type used for engraved labels.  It can be cut with a laser machine. Or mechanically with a milling machine. 

 

I used a mill for the panel.   The design put the switches at the junctions of lines, so cut accuracy wasn't critical.  Holes drilled carefully for LEDs and push buttons.   It is designed to be reversible - can be used front or back of layout, hence no writing or other symbols which would be upside down.  

 

845314299_Coldfairpanel.jpg.50a9692b247fbd2cbafb11fde00137ed.jpg

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6 minutes ago, Nigelcliffe said:

A few years ago, I built a panel using laminated plastic board, of the type used for engraved labels.  It can be cut with a laser machine. Or mechanically with a milling machine. 

 

I used a mill for the panel.   The design put the switches at the junctions of lines, so cut accuracy wasn't critical.  Holes drilled carefully for LEDs and push buttons.   It is designed to be reversible - can be used front or back of layout, hence no writing or other symbols which would be upside down.  

 

845314299_Coldfairpanel.jpg.50a9692b247fbd2cbafb11fde00137ed.jpg

 

The lines on your panel are thick enough to be clear, but no so thick that it makes the panel look cluttered (like on mine).

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18 minutes ago, Pete the Elaner said:

 

The lines on your panel are thick enough to be clear, but no so thick that it makes the panel look cluttered (like on mine).

 

Thanks.   Though if I can't design a simple model railway control panel, I should hand in my Chartered Ergonomist certificate :) .          

 

- Nigel

 

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23 hours ago, Nigelcliffe said:

 

Thanks.   Though if I can't design a simple model railway control panel, I should hand in my Chartered Ergonomist certificate :) .          

 

- Nigel

 


What you forget is that some people like to create complex panels because it makes it look difficult thus making them appear better because they can operate the complex panel.

 

i am though with you - simpler the better and ultimately must alway be self explanatory, if it needs instructions to operate then my objective in creating a panel has not been met.

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  • RMweb Gold

Another vote for perspex from me.

 

HMBaseboards sell a control panel box and I then get a perspex top cut to size.

 

I drew my trackplan on art card and mounted this behind the perspex using aluminium U section and steel "corners" from Wilko and bolt it all together.  It can then be drilled for various switches etc.  

 

Steve

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Interesting suggestions which also help me. I did make a (first attempt) small control panel (slightly less than A4), mounted on a wooden (cutlery) tray. I used plasticard for the panel itself, which was a little thin and springy, but not too bad for that size. I originally only intended to use it for uncoupler buttons (linked to servos) on the two station track plans, and some LEDs showing track occupancy (infra red sensors on a hidden loop). The diagram itself was self-drawn on MS Excel (the grid helps keep lines square and straight), printed (without the grid), and laminated, then glued on to the plastic card. 


But then I found I really needed some help remembering the numbers of DCC points, so ended up sticking labels all over it!

I’m now just about to start a new layout, so comments on here are helpful - sounds like acrylic is a good option.
I am considering using the top drawer (about 40cm wide and usable back-to-front depth approx 35cm) of a set of drawers, as a sliding in/out control panel ‘box’. The railway room has to double as a storage room, so various items stored in below-baseboard cupboards and drawers. This drawers unit is particularly robust, and top sits just below layout height. There is sufficient clearance to mount a panel and buttons, switches, LEDs. Multi strand cable out the back.

The almost square nature of the panel means that the track diagram parallel lines can be spaced out for clarity, and when I sketch it out, hopefully will have sufficient space for uncoupler buttons, and numbered points LEDs. I’m still to decide if I add points switches or leave that to DCC buttons on hand held.

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On 12/06/2020 at 14:42, ITG said:

 I’m still to decide if I add points switches or leave that to DCC buttons on hand held.

 

Why not have both?

Bashing in commands on the handset sends commands to the system. There are products available to make a console do exactly the same. You can have a mimic panel, lever frame & operate it from a computer & these could all be configured together (so whichever way you think of a signal box, you can re-create it).

For the layout I am helping to re-build at the club, we want to use a mimic panel or PC. Sending commands from the handset will be a backup method but 1 of the members wants a lever frame. There is no way I or several others will use that but there is no reason we can't build it to use as an alternative system.

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  • RMweb Gold
On 11/06/2020 at 11:28, WIMorrison said:


What you forget is that some people like to create complex panels because it makes it look difficult thus making them appear better because they can operate the complex panel.

 

i am though with you - simpler the better and ultimately must alway be self explanatory, if it needs instructions to operate then my objective in creating a panel has not been met.

 

Sounds like a MERG mission statement!

 

Mike.

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3 hours ago, Pete the Elaner said:

 

Why not have both?

Bashing in commands on the handset sends commands to the system. There are products available to make a console do exactly the same. You can have a mimic panel, lever frame & operate it from a computer & these could all be configured together (so whichever way you think of a signal box, you can re-create it).

For the layout I am helping to re-build at the club, we want to use a mimic panel or PC. Sending commands from the handset will be a backup method but 1 of the members wants a lever frame. There is no way I or several others will use that but there is no reason we can't build it to use as an alternative system.

 

Agree on multiple simultaneous methods being possible.   The panel I showed in the photo also has a small secondary panel elsewhere on the layout which duplicates some features so the operator is beside their train.  There is a computer version on my laptop.  And it can run from the handset (if you can learn the key presses).  The panel updates its LEDs correctly regardless of what is used.   (Its LocoNet ,  a CML/Signatrack DTM30 inside the panel shown, the secondary panel is connected to a LocoIO board.  )

 

But, lever frames create a problem, the same problem as using toggle switches on panels. 
If someone moves a turnout/signal on a push button, computer or handset, in general the lever frame or toggle switch doesn't move.    So, its showing the "wrong" state.      It is possible to have a rule (whether enforced in the wiring/electronics/software or just an agreement among operators) which says "if the lever frame is connected do not use anything else".   It is soluble, just needs thinking about.

 

 

 

- Nigel

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