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Author Topic: Signals on US layouts  (Read 1791 times)

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Offline Trent

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #15 on: October 27, 2015, 10:15:34 pm »
Thanks all for the answers to this thread.

My quest for signaling continues apace. Aside from the showcase miniatures range I've been shown some nice individual signal heads (in the searchlight style) made by a company called benscale, which come with their own LEDs which are supposed to be less fragile (and the whole proposition is certainly much cheaper) than the showcase ones and could be mounted to brass tubing. May avoid buying the nicer signals like the showcase and the BLMA ones until I know what I'm doing more. 

This is probably the single most challenging element of the hobby I've come across so far, come to think of it. 'How track is laid down IRL and how can we represent this' is fairly intuitive; 'what locos pull what stock for what reason' again is quite easy to get a grip of. 'How to make a building out of raw materials or a kit' likewise.   

The interesting thing about signaling is that on the one hand there's the whole complicated discipline of signaling on real life railways, which is one rabbit-hole. Then there's the other rabbit hole of how to wire up signals on layouts and what kind of circuitry to use for that.

In terms of what sort of real-life signal system I'm probably going to try and replicate. I've been reading about the (fairly straight-forward) automatic block signals, whose job is simply to divide up the track into sections, keeping trains out of (or making them slow down near) sections ahead which are already occupied. This as opposed to the much more complicated (to be honest, I don't get it) setups you find at junctions.

From what I gather, considering that my current layout is a scenic area with a hidden loop feeding trains into it from east to west and round again, it would not be unreasonable simply to have a single block signal 'guarding' the entrance to the scenic area, and have all the various yard trackage be considered just part of that 'block', without signals all over, considered to be under control of the crew who work there.

And possibly the signal could have two heads, the lower indicating occupancy of a passing siding I've got.

In terms of how to operate the signals, I'm somewhat torn between the idea of making up a little circuit that I can manually switch (from green to red to yellow to green), as if I were the signalman, and the idea of buying a detector unit like the one below, which detects the presence of a train and changes the signal colour accordingly:

http://www.blocksignalling.co.uk/index.php/aspect-controller-common-cathode-asp1a

On the one hand I enjoy fiddling with turnouts so much that I haven't bothered to wire up my kato turnouts. Watching videos of people scrambling around pulling switch levers makes me want it to be hassle, if that makes sense. On the other hand, it might be nicer just to have the signal change colour automatically.

When I get round to making some decisions and buying some stuff I'll post the results ...

 

Offline Trent

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #16 on: November 09, 2015, 05:09:58 pm »
Signal picture
Signal picture

Well, here it is: the showcase miniatures searchlight signal, positioned on layout and lighted. (And showing almost the least flattering view of the layout as it currently stands, second only to the one where you can see the mdf baseboard warping. Anyway ...)

Construction of the kit: despite being tiny, the parts go together wonderfully well and come with intimidating but comprehensive instructions. They've made the right decision as to what parts to make out of white metal and what to make out of brass and stainless etch. Pretty good value too. As a kit and static model, 09/10. I deduct one point because it's not at all easy to use the back of the head to light-block the LED out of the back, I ended up using a tiny piece of blue-tack. 

The LED: here's where I've hit a problem (and this is only my opinion, related to my level of ability, of course).

Using fore-sight I ordered two of their LEDs. Number one stopped working almost as soon as it had started. Number two I managed to get wired up to a circuit with the correct resistor and a way to choose between negative outputs to get the three different colours. For a wonderful 24 hrs I was able to get green, yellow or red and was a happy Trent. Unfortunately the green aspect of the LED now seems to have turned red.

Where the problem lies I'm not sure; I'm using a 10k resistor and they asked for at least 5k if using 12v input which I am; knowing me I could still have managed to burn out the green part somehow anyway. More likely it has to do with the thinness and fragility of the wires out of the LED, which are very thin and very fragile. This is what I think did for LED number one, as it's actually difficult to work out where to cut the packaging and to get it our without bending or kinking the wires, and even a slight kink or knot can break them. Again the insulated coating is very thin, so some of that could have become scratched somehow.

I wouldn't say this is a mark against the model: the wires have to be that thin to allow them either to fit down the signal mast or to be unobtrusive if you're doing what I'm doing and running them outside the mast and down a different hole. I am also not great with electronics (I can just about use a soldering iron) and someone with more skill would probably know how to get those thin wires attached to the thicker wires of the circuit, or in and out of various holes in the board, without damaging them.

Given where I am with electronics, I'm going to see if I can hunt down a nice, big sturdy R/G/Y LED that I can put together in one of my caveman circuits (featuring wires with crocodile clips!) and then get a very thin fibre optic cable and run that into the signal head, with the LED and associated wires being stored on a solid shelf rather than swinging around under the baseboard.   
 

Offline Trent

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #17 on: November 10, 2015, 02:43:41 am »
To update: sometimes the green is coming back, but not very often. The mind boggles. Meanwhile the parts to do the fibre optic method are certainly available (plastic hose to stick round the led and hold the 1mm fibre optic tube in place); I'll report back on viability. 

Offline Webbo

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2015, 04:42:25 am »
Trent, very interesting to hear of your experiences with the new Showcase Miniatures system of putting the LEDs directly into the signal heads. I have the older type that uses a fibre optic strand from below the baseboard to light the signal heads. In their new system a double aspect signal is going to require 8 wires to achieve 3 colours I would think. The mind boggles as to how thin these wires must be to fit within the signal mast if they are using the same diameter brass tube that I'm using (outside diameter - 0.83 mm). It is little wonder that there may be problems with the insulation being compromised.

The fibre optic method of lighting certainly works. I chose not to use the Showcase Miniature method of lighting the lower end of the strand, but rather made my own system. More powerful (uses 3mm LEDs) and cheaper. I've just received three more signal kits from Showcase of the old fibre optic style and I'm planning to make them up as two single heads and one double head.

Webbo

Offline Trent

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2015, 06:10:21 pm »
Webbo, how does your fibre optic system work?

Offline Webbo

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #20 on: November 11, 2015, 03:51:18 am »
I'll give it a go.

The fibre runs from the signal head down through the mast and ends up below the baseboard. The fibre is run through a hole drilled lengthways through a 4.6 mm (~3/16") piece of wooden dowel which is inserted into a hole in the LED frame - see following photograph. The particular frame shown allows for a single LED. It has an 800 ohm resistor connected in series with the LED and the whole business is connected to my 12 V power supply. For this signal the light will be constant and in this case green. The signal shown has two signal heads with a fibre strand coming from each and running through the dowel to a position near its centre so the beam from the LED lights both ends of the fibre strand together. The squares on the cutting board are 1 cm.

Cutting board
Cutting board

Here is another LED frame which has been mounted and is in operation. In this case the manifold has 4 holes in it capable of taking fibre strands from 4 signal heads (two on each of two masts) separately. The two holes on the right are each lit by two LEDs, red or green which can be switched according to the directions of a turnout nearby. The characteristics of the LEDs on the two right hand holes are for red (wavelength = 625 nm; irradiance 7000 mcd) and for green (wavelenght = 520 nm; irradiance = 6000).  mcd). The red LED on the third hole from the right is not so strong so it is place closer to the end of the fibre strand. It has a wavelength of 625 nm and an irradiance of 2100 mcd.

Double signals
Double signals

If a yellow aspect is also wanted, one could easily add a yellow LED as well. A problem I had with the Showcase Miniature multi-colour LEDs was that they had a common anode which would have required me to rearrange quite a bit of wiring if I had chosen to incorporate their system.

Here is a double headed signal showing green over red aspects.

Double headed searchlight signal
Double headed searchlight signal


If using fibre optics, Showcase Miniatures advises that the end of the fibre strand be flared by heating it close to the end of a soldering iron. Flaring both prevents the fibre being pulled out of the signal head and wooden dowel, but it also increases the light gathering capacity of the fibre strand.

Hope this is useful.
Webbo

Offline Trent

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #21 on: November 11, 2015, 11:05:08 pm »
That is very cool and very useful, especially the dowel to hold things in place. My green aspect seems to have come back, but I've rigged up a little machine with an LED in it and may come to use that if green does another vanishing act.

Offline martink

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #22 on: November 11, 2015, 11:49:51 pm »
There are alternative ways of mounting the LEDs for fiber optic signals.  I did it this way with some 3-colour LEDs - note the fiber coming out of the brass tube on the left, with the LED lined up correctly by bending its legs.


Offline Caz

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #23 on: November 12, 2015, 07:31:22 pm »
Another way to connect a piece of fibre(s) to a LED is to use various size of heat shrink sleeving, this is the way I used to put tail lamps into coaches etc but now use SMD LEDs to reduce the installation size.  This has the benefit that there is no light spill and all the LED output gets into the fibre(s)

Start with the larger size heat shrink fitted onto the LED



and finish with a small size fitted onto the fibre



You may need an intermediate size piece onto the fibre if the size difference between the LED and fibre is great.

Offline 70000

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #24 on: January 10, 2017, 07:58:39 pm »
Just found this thread (having only joined today) and would reccommend this website for anything to do with signalling in North America....

http://www.railroadsignals.us/

Very handy, if, like me, you are scratchbuilding (non-working) signals for your layout.
The "Everything else" section gives a lot of information on signal use as well.

Offline Webbo

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #25 on: January 10, 2017, 11:03:17 pm »
A very comprehensive website on signals. A bit late for me regarding my layout, but interesting just the  same.

Webbo

Offline 70000

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #26 on: October 17, 2017, 03:04:04 pm »
I need a number of (non working) signals for the layout I am building at the moment, so have started scratchbuilding some very cheap - but effective - ones based on the standard US searchlight ones as shown in the picture I took below in deepest Illinois....



I'm basically using cocktail sticks for the masts, the signal units are constructed from plastic tube offcuts, thin plasticard cut to a circular shape using a paper hole punch and offcuts of plastic strip/sheet for the other bits. The most expensive element is the brass ladder!
The relevant materials are shown below, together with three of the freestanding ones I have made so far, along with a conversion of a Kato catenary gantry which has had a pair of signals added to it.



I may construct some PRR or B&O style position lights as well as these searchlight ones at some stage in the future.

Offline dats475

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #27 on: October 17, 2017, 05:27:27 pm »
Wow, fantastically built!!
It looks awesome!
If I need a signal or two, I can imitate what you did!
Thank you for sharing!!

Dats

Offline Lawrence

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #28 on: October 17, 2017, 08:35:16 pm »

Offline Rich_S

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Re: Signals on US layouts
« Reply #29 on: October 18, 2017, 01:05:41 am »
I need a number of (non working) signals for the layout I am building at the moment, so have started scratchbuilding some very cheap - but effective - ones based on the standard US searchlight ones as shown in the picture I took below in deepest Illinois....



I'm basically using cocktail sticks for the masts, the signal units are constructed from plastic tube offcuts, thin plasticard cut to a circular shape using a paper hole punch and offcuts of plastic strip/sheet for the other bits. The most expensive element is the brass ladder!
The relevant materials are shown below, together with three of the freestanding ones I have made so far, along with a conversion of a Kato catenary gantry which has had a pair of signals added to it.



I may construct some PRR or B&O style position lights as well as these searchlight ones at some stage in the future.


Hi 70000? Your scratch built signals look great. The best part is the everyday items you are using to create them, very well done  :thumbsup:
Cheers,
Rich S.

 

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