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  • Signals: Visible Safety Control


    A pair of "Searchlight" signals, facing in opposite directions, near Mount Shasta, California, on the Southern Pacific. Operating scale models of this style signal light are available in HO and 0 scale from Walters. Southern Pacific RR photograph.
    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Summer 1971 - Page 41

    It's often a bit of a surprise how many of our model railroad problems are shared by the full-size railroads. Consider the danger in damage to equipment and loss of life that is present when a real railroad operates more than one train on the same stretch of track. True, a model railroader doesn't have to worry about any personal injury but he does have to devise some method of keeping his trains from colliding. Off-hand, you'd think that the real railroads left control of their trains in the hands of the engineers in the cabs of their locomotives. In the early days of railroading the engineer was the one who kept his train from crashing into another. The engineer had to keep a sharp watch on the trackside signals to be sure that the track ahead was clear; if he glanced up for a moment or was temporarily blinded by a flying cinder from the smokestack he might (and often did) miss the signal to plow head long into another train. In the nineteen-twenties the railroads began to equip their most heavily traveled trackage with Automatic Train Control to take some of the awesome responsibility from the shoulders of the engineer.

    TOP: A three-track signal bridge on the Burlington near Lisle, Ill. Bachmann has plastic kits for two-track signal bridges like this in N, HO, and 0 scales. The bridge portion of two of the kits can be combined to make a longer three-track bridge. Burlington photo.

    BOTTOM LEFT: JMC's new operating "Color Light" signals are available with either two or three lights in both N and HO scales. The Walthers, Campbell, Tru-Scale, or Tri-Delt circuit boxes are needed to make such signals operate automatically and/or to control two trains on the same track.

    BOTTOM RIGHT: Walthers has a full line of "Searchlight," "Semaphore," "Color LighT," and "Dwarf" signals in 0 scale at prices ranging between $.65 and $6.50. All of these model railroad signals have working light bulbs.

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Summer 1971 - Page 42 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Summer 1971 - Page 43

    An electrical current was fed through the rails of the track; not to power or stop the trains like our models, but to actuate the trackside signals and a similar signal in the cab of the locomotive to warn the engineer that the track ahead just might be occupied by another train. This system, and other more sophisticated systems to follow, took the control of more than one train from the hands of individual engineers and signal tower operators and placed it in the safer hands of "fail safe" mechanical and electronic devices. Most of the new systems used giant electronic relays of the type used to ring house doorbells and to control the electric circuits on "automatic" model railroads.

    The electrical circuits devised by the real railroad's engineers are remarkably similar to those used by model railroaders to allow them to control two or more trains at the same time. The operator of a model railroad has little need for trackside signals or indicator lights on a control panel but they do lend an air of action and authenticity to the model empire that makes it just that much more exciting. The electrical circuits and switches needed to control the operation of two trains and to simultaneously actuate trackside signal lights and, like the prototype, even flip the track's switches for automatic route control are too complex to illustrate on these few pages.

    There are several excellent books and booklets on the subjects of multiple train control, signal, and route interlocking. HOW TO WIRE YOUR MODEL RAILROAD, at $2.00, offers the most complete reference on the electrical problems and concise answers .

    TOP: Walthers makes these "Color Light" signals (far left and right) in HO scale. Center signals can be used trackside as '''Dwarfs'' or mounted on signal bridges. Prices range between $.75 and $2.50.

    BOTTOM: Lionel's 0 gauge "Searchlight" signal comes with a track contact switch to actuate the red light on the signal.

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Summer 1971 - Page 44

    John Armstrong's ALL ABOUT SIGNALS, at $1.50, explains the operation and use of the signal and automatic control systems on the real railroads. The instructions furnished with Campbell Scale Models' "Signal Monitor" control box ($12.95), Walthers' "Versatile Signaling Kits ($5.95), Tru-Scale's "Automatic Tru Train Control" ($4.90), the Tri-Delt "Automatic Train Control" unit ($24.95) show how these firms' circuit control boxes can be used for automated train and trackside or control panel signal light control. All are avail able through hobby dealers or by mail from Wm. K . Walthers, Inc., P.O. Box 6626, Milwaukee, Wisc. 53216 (the Tri-Delt, only, is available from Tri Delt Sophisticated Electronics, Box 20311, San Diego, Calif. 92120. HO scale model trackside signals are offered by Walthers and JMC International. Walthers offers their own brand of the prototype's "Color Light," "Searchlight," and "Dwarf" (for trackside or signal bridge installation) signals as well as the Don Fowler brand "slow motion" semaphore signals. JMC has two and three light "Color Light" signals. Tru-Scale has a two-color "Color Light" signal at $2.90. Walthers makes their "Color Light" and "Dwarf" signals in scale as well. JMC has an N scale version of their "Color Light" signal and Rapido makes a variety of operating signals in N scale. Bachmann has a non-operating signal bridge in N, HO, and 0 scale. The Bachmann signal bridges are designed for two-tracks but the kits can be spliced together to cover as many tracks as you wish.

    Article Details

    • Source 1001 Model Railroading Ideas
    • Publication Date Summer 1971

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