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Semaphore Signals

As with pointwork, there are several methods of operating semaphore signals, from the basic lever and wire (mechanical) method up to digital electronic control, which, in its latest incarnation, can simulate the "bounce" of the arm as it is pulled up and drops down!

If working on an indoor/exhibition layout, then the question of weatherproofing does not apply and there a several electronic digital control systems to choose from. Minx Microdrives and Megapoints being two which come to mind.

Working in the garden produces more challenges, since corrosion can affect mechanical parts and damp will soon degrade electronic components, unless adequately protected.

Waterproof servo motors are an option but the control box will still need protection against damp, as will all electrical terminals/connections.

Simple mechanical lever and rod linkage may well be the best choice low cost solution for the garden line, using brass rod, bell cranks and linkages plus plenty of grease. Pneumatic control is a weatherproof option but at high cost (around 50 GBP per lever at 2018 prices) which may be justified for point control but probably not for a signal.

Colour Light Signals.

In the case of real railways, these are again of varied types. Many of the earliest examples were a combination of a single bulb/aspect, with colour lenses which were mechanically or electrically rotated to change the colour displayed. Underground railways were some of the earliest users of colour lights and multiple aspects became commonplace. From the 1920's onwards, main line railways began increasingly to install colour lights, particularly at busy city termini and on suburban lines, where traffic density was high and the risk of smog/fog required improved visibility. Multiple aspects also enabled signals to be spaced at closer intervals, since a driver would have better information on the occupancy of the sections ahead and could adjust speed to meet the conditions.

Returning to our model world : Multiple aspects are easily produced using coloured miniature bulbs or (as is increasingly the case) LEDs. The "searchlight" (single aspect) signals which were perpetuated until recent times in several areas (particularly in ex-LNER and GWR locations) were not easily reproduced until the advent of the multi-coloured LED, which is available in several combinations, including Red/Green and Yellow/Green.

These signals are obviously the simplest (and cheapest) to reproduce as models, since no mechanical movement is involved. All that is required (apart from the signal itself) is a few lengths of wire, a power supply and a switch. LEDs are reliable and available in the four colours required (clear, red, yellow, green). Route indicators of the "feather" type are possible with a row of small clear LEDs, while the "theatre" type is also possible using the smallest LEDs to backlight stencil-type characters.

Control Panels

Whichever type of signal you employ, you will need a panel on which to mount the switches, together with any indicator/warning lights and a track diagram.

In the case of the Monkton Priors layout, those panels have been constructed from "Dibond", an aluminium composite sheet material. The same material is suitable for outdoor use since it is weatherproof, being a "sandwich" of polypropylene between sheets of aluminium and is rigid and capable of being easily drilled for switches and lights.

The main panel for Monkton Priors, made from white Dibond

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Page last modified on March 01, 2018, at 05:38 AM