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Signals - mast vs dwarf

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PED
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Signals - mast vs dwarf
Posted by PED on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 9:28 PM

I am in the planing stage for adding signals to my N scale layout. One major obstacile I have come across is the poor availability of decent looking mast signals for N scale. Nothing like what is available in HO. The few I do find are very crude or are incrediabily expensive...much too expensive for widespead use on my layout. In addition, most are dummy or are prewired with red or green in a set position which does not let me create the different aspects I would prefer to use. Modifing them to use multicolor LEDs or look nicer would be an impossible task for me. They are just too small.

I model the Santa Fe in late 70's and from what I can tell, Santa Fe prefered simple signals during that period such as a single or double light. In addition, Santa Fe would often use ground signals rather that a tall mast even on a mainline. This is where I am looking for inputs and opinions.

Since all the mast style signals I have found look like crap with exposed wires, wrong LED colors, no ladder and very poor finish detail I am considering a shift to using 100% ground signals on my layout. Certainly not totally protypical but neither are the crappy signal mast I have found. By doing this, I can buy less costly ground signals and then modify them to use multi color LED's that would allow me to represent a wider array of aspects. An additional benefit would be that the mast heads would not be sticking up on my layout where I am sure to break off a few. I do have a few spots where I might use a signal bridge instead of ground signals.

Looking for comments or opinions on the wide spread use of ground signal lights in lieu of mast mounted signals.

 

Paul D

N scale Washita and Santa Fe Railroad
Southern Oklahoma circa late 70's

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Posted by RR_Mel on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 9:42 PM

You could use fiber optics, 1.5mm should be pretty close for N.  A bi-color LED should put out enough light to make a good looking signal.  For direct LEDs I get by with 2 to 4 ma per LED.  Where I use fiber with LEDs 10ma works good for me.
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
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I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by 7j43k on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 10:52 PM

PED

Looking for comments or opinions on the wide spread use of ground signal lights in lieu of mast mounted signals.

 

I'm sorry to hear that N scale signals are so sucky.

Moving on:

Ground signals are only used in "terminals".  NOT out on the road.  So there is no "in lieu of", because you "can't".  There's a place for mast mount.  There's a place for ground mount.  They DON'T interchange.

If you want to contradict reality, go fer it.  I'll be happy to visit.  And a good martini will secure for you some positive endorsement for your version of reality.  

Imagine what two would do.

 

Ed

PED
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Posted by PED on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 10:52 PM

Mel,

I have some fiber optics to play with but fiber vs LED is only part of the issue. My main issue is the crappy  N scale signal masts on the market. I do have something new I discovered since my original posting. Shapeways has some decent looking parts that could be used to build up a signal light. Might offer me some better options. They have signal heads but no USA signal masts already built up. Have some German models but I did not find any USA types.

Paul D

N scale Washita and Santa Fe Railroad
Southern Oklahoma circa late 70's

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Posted by RR_Mel on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 11:18 PM

Build them yourself.  I’m HO and bought one signal from NJI.  I used it to make molds and cast my own parts from resin.  KS brass tubing for the pole mounts.  I made my own signal heads from KS tubing and washers.
 
I have a somewhat dated post on my blog for one of my signal systems.  I’m currently overhauling it and adding more signals.
 
 
I’m in the process of finishing up the installation of my Arduino MEGA signal controller.  It takes two one MEGA will operate 14 blocks, one for each direction.  Arduino has some great IR detectors at 50¢ a pop.  A China Arduino MEGA costs about $15 with expansion modules so I have a total of about $100 in my 14 block system including two TrainCat Two Track Cantilevered Bridges.
 
TrainCat has N scale stuff.
 
 
Great stuff if you can solder.
 
You can do it!
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by 7j43k on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 11:29 PM

Traincat has been unavailable for a very long time.  Too bad, both for the cat, and for us customers. 

 

Best wishes, cat.

 

Ed

PED
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Posted by PED on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 11:30 PM

RR_Mel

 
 
TrainCat has N scale stuff.
 
 
Great stuff if you can solder.
 
You can do it!
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
 

Mel,
I can solder and am willing. I have looked at the Traincat2 stuff before when I was looking for some conveyors but it has been shut down for some time due to the death of his wife. Don't know when he will be back open.

 

Paul D

N scale Washita and Santa Fe Railroad
Southern Oklahoma circa late 70's

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, December 27, 2018 4:09 AM

I operate in HO scale, so I cannot comment on the quality or availability of N scale track side signals. But, have you looked at Tomar Industries signals?

I use Tomar Industries signals on my layout, and they are fantastic.

Scroll down the page on the following link to see the variety of N scale signals.

https://tomarindustries.com/signals.htm

Rich

Alton Junction

PED
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Posted by PED on Thursday, December 27, 2018 9:13 AM

Rich,

I am aware of Tomar. They do offer a few N scale items but their pricing is out of my reach when you consider that I would like to do at least 50 signals. Even if I used just a few and did something else for the rest, those few would highlight how crappy the rest look.

Paul D

N scale Washita and Santa Fe Railroad
Southern Oklahoma circa late 70's

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, December 27, 2018 9:35 AM

PED

Rich,

I am aware of Tomar. They do offer a few N scale items but their pricing is out of my reach when you consider that I would like to do at least 50 signals. Even if I used just a few and did something else for the rest, those few would highlight how crappy the rest look. 

Paul, which Tomar Industries N scale signals would be appropriate on your layout? Just curious.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by mbinsewi on Thursday, December 27, 2018 9:35 AM

7j43k
Traincat has been unavailable for a very long time. Too bad, both for the cat, and for us customers.

Too bad, he also had some excellent brass bridges,  Off Topic

Mike.

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Posted by carl425 on Thursday, December 27, 2018 3:23 PM

7j43k
I'm sorry to hear that N scale signals are so sucky.

I think these look pretty good even without the martini.

http://www.customsignalsystems.com/nscalesignals.htm

 

I have the right to remain silent.  By posting here I have given up that right and accept that anything I say can and will be used as evidence to critique me.

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Posted by xdford on Thursday, December 27, 2018 7:11 PM

Paul, 

Send me a PM and I will try to find the drawing of my home made signal masts in HO that you might be able to scale down to your N scale. I would direct you to my site to show you but again it seems to be down and I am gradually migrating my site to Google sites. You can see the first two pages here  https://sites.google.com/view/stagnesrailway but the signals I built are not apparent.

Essentially I use a brass tube with one wire through the centre for the Bi Directional LED and use the tube as a return. I can send you a pic if you include your email addy,

Cheers from Australia

 

Trevor

PED
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Posted by PED on Thursday, December 27, 2018 8:12 PM

richhotrain

 

 
PED

Rich,

I am aware of Tomar. They do offer a few N scale items but their pricing is out of my reach when you consider that I would like to do at least 50 signals. Even if I used just a few and did something else for the rest, those few would highlight how crappy the rest look. 

 

 

Paul, which Tomar Industries N scale signals would be appropriate on your layout? Just curious.

 

Rich

 

Rich,

Technically, Tomar does not offer a N scale signal mast for what I want. I model the ATSF in late 70's. A typical signal mast for ATSF in that time frame would  be a double head search light. Tomar offers an HO version (#H-859) with a 3 color LED (which I want) but no N scale version.

However, I may have found a solution. Shapeways has N scale search light heads that should work but I would have to mount two of them on a pole plus add a ladder of some type. I think I can use the 3 color LED (round 3mm circuit board) made by RR-CirKits. Still researching this solution. Will  probably order a few parts and see what I can cobble up. Working on something this tiny needs a steady hand and I don't have one so that will be a factor.

Paul D

N scale Washita and Santa Fe Railroad
Southern Oklahoma circa late 70's

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Posted by xdford on Thursday, December 27, 2018 10:59 PM

Paul,

It might have been a temporary block but here is my site

http://xdford.freeasphost.net/stag13.html  which I hope will appear OK for you!

If it is of use to you, you can add details as Mel does with your own ( not copied ones preferably) castings!  Good Luck with your project!

Cheers from Australia

 

Trevor

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, December 28, 2018 12:09 AM

PED

Technically, Tomar does not offer a N scale signal mast for what I want. I model the ATSF in late 70's. A typical signal mast for ATSF in that time frame would  be a double head search light. Tomar offers an HO version (#H-859) with a 3 color LED (which I want) but no N scale version.

What about #N-873?  It appears to be a perfect match.

Rich

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Posted by zstripe on Friday, December 28, 2018 2:47 AM
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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, December 28, 2018 5:08 AM

The OP is looking for a double searchlight. Tomar Industries makes both an HO scale version and an N scale version. In the photograph that follows, the HO scale version is on the left, and the N scale version is on the right.

Rich

Tomar-Signals.jpg

Alton Junction

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Posted by zstripe on Friday, December 28, 2018 7:35 AM

Those are search light.......just a different type. As a matter of fact...most mainline signals are of a search light signal......they need to be seen from far away......not only when you get right on them......then it's too late!

And even if they are not exactly what He is looking for......they still look like a good buy and it would be his call if He wanted them....no matter what anyone else may think. At least He has some more options to view and are ready made.....beats scratch building them in N-scale.

I use the same type on My layout......mine are all brass:

Take Care!Big Smile

Frank

PED
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Posted by PED on Friday, December 28, 2018 9:27 AM

 

Rich….Tomar N-873 ….It is correct and I missed that one but at $49.35 each it is a non-player. I will need over 100.

 

Trevor….your home made version is where I was headed.

 

Frank…..Thanks! The Amazon one is technically not a searchlight but the price is right with $17.99 for 3. That comes out to $6 per mast which is a very good price. The 2 light version is the correct one but I would want the 3-light version because the LED's are not multicolor and I want the yellow light.

 

For comparison, my planned home-made version was going to cost me around $10-12 each by using heads (2 ea) from Shapeway, RR-CirKits RGY LED (2 ea), K&S brass mast and some kind of ladder that I have not found yet. Then I would need to put it all together and fight the battle to solder stuff to #36 gage wire on the LED’s. Multiply that times more than 100 masts and that is a tall order for a short fat old man. Everything we do is a compromise. The Amazon mast is would be OK for the mast that ATSF used to replace the old stoplight version but that would be slightly later timeframe than my layout.  It is not a perfect match for what I wanted but at that price, I think I can make some compromises. Looks like the ATSF moved their mast change out program back a few years on my layout.  Whistling

 

Paul D

N scale Washita and Santa Fe Railroad
Southern Oklahoma circa late 70's

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, December 28, 2018 10:27 AM

PED

Rich,

I am aware of Tomar. They do offer a few N scale items but their pricing is out of my reach when you consider that I would like to do at least 50 signals. 

 

PED
 

Rich….Tomar N-873 ….It is correct and I missed that one but at $49.35 each it is a non-player. I will need over 100.

Paul, yesterday you needed 50, today you need over 100. Yikes! Do you really need that many? What is your budget for the signals? How much are you willing to spend?

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by cuyama on Friday, December 28, 2018 10:45 AM

PED
I will need over 100.

How large is your layout? How are you using these: CTC, ABS, something else?

That seems like a lot of signals.

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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, December 28, 2018 12:00 PM

That is a lot of signals.  My layout is pretty small and I only have a total of 8 blocks on my mainline requiring 8 signals for each direction.  I don’t use signals for my hidden tracks so that drops the actual signal count to a total of 14.
 
Have you figured out how you are going to control them, that could get into big bucks fast.  I built up a Rob Paisley controller many years ago and I’m currently working on a Arduino MEGA controller as a replacement.  The Rob Paisley controller works great but the Arduino MEGA is much smaller and programmable.
 
A single MEGA ($15) will handle 16 three color heads and to make it a clean unit it takes two expansion boards for the wiring.  I think I have about $28 into my Arduino controller project for 14 signal blocks or about $2 per signal including IR detectors but not incluging the 5 volt power supply.  I don’t remember what the Rob Paisley controller cost to make but I’m pretty sure it was closer to $8 a pop back in the 90s using his occupancy detectors.
 
If your not to choosy and can use under the track detectors the Arduino IR detectors work very good and the price is right too at under 50¢ each (50 for $20) from China.  I don't like current detection and the IR detectors work perfect for me.
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
PED
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Posted by PED on Friday, December 28, 2018 12:26 PM

 

I want to put a signal at each leg of every turnout that touches the mainline.  My mainline touches 11 single turnouts (3 signals ea), 1 single crossover (4 signals ea) and 7 double crossovers (4 signals ea). That means I need 65 signal mast.
YIKES….I forgot to change my thinking on number of signal heads when I changed from dual searchlight heads over to the single head (three lights). That means I do not need “over 100”. Thanks for raising a flag. I was in the process of shopping for mast and you just saved me a lot of money.
This helps me a lot in locating the signals I need. I wanted to order all I needed (plus a few spares) at one time from a single source to make sure they were all made alike. I found the same mast on eBay from several sellers (including the same seller as on Amazon) for a few dollars less. I also looked at AliExpress and they had the exact same item plus they offered a 10% discount but they did not have enough in stock to invoke the discount level. Problem I found was that none had enough to match my (original) needs. Now with a lower number, I might have more luck.

 

I also discovered that the Amazon signal light is 150 scale (Japan stuff)…not 160 for N scale. That makes it a tiny bit taller and larger than preferred but is workable. I did find another very similar light at the right 160 scale but I need to investigate it further.

I am still studing control options. Right now I anticipate using LCC with RR-CirKits components but I have a guy trying to convince me to use Arduinos as an alternatate. Trying to look at cost and effort required for both approaches and see what works best for me. A player here is that I have a bunch of lighted building I have not hooked up yet and I want to include them in the same solution.

Cost....not the cheapest hobby in the world. I know people with $50K bass boats plus a ton in accessories. That would buy a lot of RR stuff and fish at the market.

 

Paul D

N scale Washita and Santa Fe Railroad
Southern Oklahoma circa late 70's

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Posted by cuyama on Friday, December 28, 2018 12:43 PM

PED
I want to put a signal at each leg of every turnout that touches the mainline.

Why?

PED
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Posted by PED on Friday, December 28, 2018 1:12 PM

Why not? I want red and green for the ususal reasons and I want yellow to signal turnout position. Not trying to replicate 1:1 signal aspects.  I am a solo operator and I want something that is useful to ME. Real simply signals. With 3 lights,  Green means next block is unoccupied, yellow shows turnout position and red means STOP (turnout wrong or next block occupied). Only 1 or 2 lights lit at a time.

Paul D

N scale Washita and Santa Fe Railroad
Southern Oklahoma circa late 70's

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Posted by cuyama on Friday, December 28, 2018 1:47 PM

You can do whatever you want, of course, but you seemed to be worried about the expense. A sea of signals where they wouldn’t be typically used in real life wouldn’t look realistic to me – but it’s not my layout.

PED
Why not?

Because the real railroad wouldn't? Because it's expensive? Because there are cheaper ways to report a turnout’s position on the fascia?

PED
Green means next block is unoccupied, yellow shows turnout position and red means STOP (turnout wrong or next block occupied)

How are you planning on handling the logic and detection required? Detection is expensive for all the small blocks you will have (by having so many signals). That's more hardware for each block besides the signals. Plus resistance wheelsets.

That signal logic is non-standard, so I think you’d need to add programming to off-the-shelf JMRI to achieve that. (But I’m no JMRI expert.) 

The real-life railroad signals just what is necessary where it is necessary. We can learn from that.

Good luck.

 

 

 

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Friday, December 28, 2018 2:00 PM

I would have chimed in on this thread earlier, but everyone kept calling the limited commercially available N scale signals 'crappy'. Well, not every one, but all it did was make me feel depressed about my situation.

I've been modeling N for a pretty long while, and I am well aware of the limitations. I bought NJI two-head signal masts, about 40 or so. It was a conscious and considered decision. While I would not call them crappy, I will admit they are a little less than (what my doctor would call) optimum. But they function, and they are fairly well made. Not exactly cheap, but about $20 less than the Tomars, which I could not find anyhow.

I considered rolling my own, and I Iooked at kits and components (some of which are mentioned in this thread), but the time spent fabricating and assembling 40 or so weighed heavily against it. My hands are as steady and my eyes are as sharp (nearsighted) as anyone, but I doubt my results would be much better than the 'crappy' ones I bought, and there's a good chance they'd not even be as good. Others might fare better.

Only my opinion, of course.

Robert 

LINK to SNSR Blog


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Posted by zstripe on Friday, December 28, 2018 2:04 PM

Paul,

I basically do the same thing. All the signals on the double track mainline are at the crossovers and sidings, but are also on the control panels. I use the two color like in the photo. You just have to glance at the control panels and see if you have all green signals for continuous running on both mainlines......running East/West. I use dual coil relays for that, along with powering the frogs, with normally open push buttons at the control panels, with walk around tethered hand helds. I'm a DC user and at the time the relays were 7.50 apiece.......6.50 by the case. I needed 45. Tortoises were not even out yet! But don't care......no problems at all with the relays, since the mid 80's.

Good Luck on Your project! Big Smile

Frank

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, December 28, 2018 2:06 PM

PED

I model the Santa Fe in late 70's and from what I can tell, Santa Fe prefered simple signals during that period such as a single or double light. 

It seems clear from the above statement, and other statements made in this thread by the OP, that he wants to closely simulate the Santa Fe signal protocol used in the 1970s.

Santa Fe did use searchlight signals in the 1970s along its mainline, so the OP is correct in that regard.

What remains to be decided is the number of signals used at turnouts, crossovers and double crossovers. The layout will have 11 turnouts, 1 crossover and 7 double crossovers. What we need is someone with knowledge of the Santa Fe signal protocol in the 1970s to chime in and indicate the number of signals that would be used by the Santa Fe in such a situation.

Rich

Alton Junction

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