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Signals - mast vs dwarf

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  • Member since
    September, 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 17,935 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, December 28, 2018 2:13 PM

ROBERT PETRICK

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.

Actually, only the OP referred to certain signals as "crappy".

Regarding the Tomar Industries signals, they are brass, a soft metal, and they are good looking and durable. They can be purchased directly from Tomar Industries, and the OP does agree that the Tomar searchlight signal is what he is looking for except for the price.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Northern CA Bay Area
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Posted by cuyama on Friday, December 28, 2018 2:15 PM

richhotrain
he wants to closely simulate the Santa Fe signal protocol used in the 1970s

If so, it appears he's already off by choosing to place signals at every minor turnout connecting to the mainline. 

And which ATSF signal protocol? CTC? Block signals? Interlocking?

  • Member since
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  • From: Northern CA Bay Area
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Posted by cuyama on Friday, December 28, 2018 2:19 PM

zstripe
I basically do the same thing.

You have detection of equipment in the blocks, as the OP desires? What logic are you using for detection?

It's easy to signal switchpoint position, and that can give a nice model signal solution (non-prototypical). 

But that's not what the OP describes. 

  • Member since
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  • From: Northern CA Bay Area
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Posted by cuyama on Friday, December 28, 2018 2:32 PM

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

And semaphores: Lee, TX, 1974

I linked this photo not to be a jerk, but to note that prototype signaling is complex and varied, even for one railroad. When someone says “I want prototypical signals”, they often don’t take into account (or don’t know) about all the variations.

The route (pun intended) I often recommend to clients is to instead think about what combination of cosmetic and non-prototypical-function signaling (like indicating switchpoint position) can look good and still not be too onerous to install and maintain. 

To me, that’s a better place to start and build on rather than taking an overly ambitious (and non-prototypical) goal and trying to shoehorn it into the confines of a modest layout.

[Not to mention less expensive. Many modelers don’t realize the detection and logic implications of detecting many small blocks, but it’s a huge step in cost and complexity.]

  • Member since
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  • From: Chi-Town
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Posted by zstripe on Friday, December 28, 2018 2:44 PM

cuyama
It's easy to signal switchpoint position, and that can give a nice model signal solution (non-prototypical). 

Prototypical or not....that is what I use and it works for Me. I can jump on any of the mains with a switch engine with cars, while the two mains are running by themselves and keep track of the time I need to get into the industrial sidings, which is how it was set up for three operators. Set the mains back to green and switch out the industries. No industry is spotted from the main. You have to completely get off the mains to do any switching. I have a three cab set up(45 blocks) with 3 MRC 20's. Would be a lot easier with DCC, but unfortunately, that was not out yet either when layout was built. Works fine for Me, all these yrs. It was built in removable sections, half of which have already been moved to My Grandsons basement. I will be 77 this yr., getting hard to get around, so I made the decision a couple yrs. ago to move it so I could still help with getting it back together for them.

Take Care! Big Smile

Frank

  • Member since
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  • From: Northern CA Bay Area
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Posted by cuyama on Friday, December 28, 2018 2:47 PM

zstripe
Prototypical or not....that is what I use and it works for Me.

Agree -- and it works for a lot of folks. I was just contrasting that with what the OP wants and noting the difference in complexity (which he may not have fully appreciated from your post).

PED
  • Member since
    April, 2016
  • 571 posts
Posted by PED on Friday, December 28, 2018 5:06 PM

As the OP, I need to make note of several things. I do not have any traditional control panels mounted on my facia.  My "control panel" is a JMRI panel that I view on a iPad that I use as a walk around control panel.  My layout is N scale Kato Unitrack and is is very difficult to see turnout position from more than a few feet away. I have zero interest in trying to use prototypical signal aspects and placement. Speed is a typical component in a protototypical signal indication but I don't need that feature. All I want to know is how the turnouts are aligned ahead of me and if a block is occupied. I am a solo operator so I seldom have more than one train running although I sometime may have a train running laps on the mainline while I am switching off the main.

I can meet MY needs with a 3 color mast head

Green over dark = block ahead is clear/turnout straight through

Green/yellow= block ahead is clear/diverging turnout

Red = Stop (any reason, block not clear, turnout wrong)

That gives me all I need in 3 aspects and I can do that with a simple 3 LED head.

My objective here was to establish a design standard for MY layout using a signal plan that met MY needs. For the near term, I can put all my signals on my JMRI panel with zero physical  signals on the layout. However, I want some on my layout for animation if nothing else. I also have a bunch of lighted building that I need to control via some solution other than a bunch of hand switches. To me, an answer to this is the emerging LCC approach and that is where I am headed. I do not plan to put it in place in one step (too $$$$$) but I do want to move in that direction.

I can put 100% of my signals on my JMRI panel for free and then add the physical side incrementally as I see fit.

Paul D

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

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  • From: Canada
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Posted by cv_acr on Sunday, January 06, 2019 1:52 PM

7j43k

Ground signals are only used in "terminals".  NOT out on the road. 

Just to call this out a bit, but that's not true.

Dwarf/ground signals provide slower-speed indications and are often found as the signal on a siding or other minor track to re-enter the main track. That siding could be 100 miles from anything in the middle of the wilderness with no other special complications going on. Not just terminals.

7j43k
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.

Also partly not true.

Certain signal indications can be displayed on a mast signal only, and not on a dwarf signal, as mentioned above the dwarf signal indications in most signal rule systems are reduced-speed indications. However any indication that is possible to be displayed on a dwarf signal can be displayed on a full mast signal, but often requires an extra signal head on the mast and the mast hardware is more expensive than a dwarf. 

Generally dwarves will be used on sidings and other minor tracks where trains will enter the interlocking at slow speed. If the track arrangement is otherwise identical but it's two main tracks merging into one, then both main tracks will have mast signals and you usually wouldn't use a dwarf signal on a main track.

However, signal rules and practices differ a bit between railroads, so YMMV and in some situations railroads will go ahead and use bridges and mast signals on side tracks anyways.

7j43k

If you want to contradict reality, go fer it.

How the real railroad does it, and what works for your own layout may or may not be the same thing. Using dwarf signals as switch position indicators or other "simplified" signal systems are pretty common. Just make sure you are able to provide a good explanation or even a "cheat sheet" to any visiting operators if they need to read any information out of your indications, since they won't be able to draw on outside experience. (If you only run alone, well then there's no problem is there?)

PED
  • Member since
    April, 2016
  • 571 posts
Posted by PED on Sunday, January 06, 2019 3:42 PM

As the OP, I was suprised at the number of people who considered it heresy that I did not plan to follow the prototype in every way or their own personal solution as a prefered approach. I suspect there are few layouts here or elsewhere that 100% matches the prototype signaling. Life is full of compromises and our small (compared to prototype) layouts are examples of those compromises.

HOWEVER - to make everyone happier, I have changed my strategy after doing more research on signals, availability of suitable parts to construct my signals and the WOW factor for the resultant cost.

First, I now plan to use single searchlight MAST instead of dwarf signals unless a dwarf is suitable for a siding. In several places, a signal bridge (with searchlights) will  be used.

Second, I plan to use a MAST from Shapeway since no suitable (affordable) mast exists for N scale like I want.

Third, I plan to use a pre-wired RGY LED. This will give me RGY single searchlight indications for you protypical advocates out there.

Fourth, I have studied my layout and worked hard for suitable signal placement and I discovered that I do not need signals at every mainline turnout. I did this for myself (not you) so I could save a few $$$$ but this should make a few people happier.

Fifth, I am in the process of installing LCC to manage my blocks and signals as well as various animation stuff such as lighted buildings.

This is not cheap so I will do it in steps.

Show me some SMILES out there!

Paul D

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

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