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Control panel construction

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  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,205 posts
Control panel construction
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 4:04 PM
Having 17 turnouts in my layout that I want to have powered, I figure I'd better have a control panel (probably 2 since the layout can be divided into 2 sections) to operate the switches. Plus, I can use the control panel to show which direction each turnout is going; probably use LEDs for this.

Any recommendation as the to a control panel's make up? I have 1/4" plywood available. The MRR book on building a simple layout (HO Railroad from start to finish) uses styrene (plastic?). I'll be mounting the panels to the side of the bench.

The book used 2 buttons per turnout, I'd rather have one button per turnout. I want to use LEDs to indicate which way the turnout is going.

I've been doing research on how to connect the turnouts to switchs and LEDs. My head is spinning at the information flies over it. Any recommendations to wiring help?

Btw, I'm using KATO Unitrack. I don't like their big lumbering switches.

Glen
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Posted by tomwatkins on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 6:25 PM
I've gotten good results using 1/8th inch thick masonite for control panels. it's easy to work with, stiff enough to do the job, and takes a good smooth finish if you prime and sand it before spraying the color coat.

On the wiring, get a copy of Kalmbach's Easy Model Railroad Wiring by Andy Sperando. It is excellent.

Tom Watkins
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, October 23, 2003 4:10 PM
Hmm... I'm making control panels for a friends layout. The basics are easier than you think. First I don't know why you want only one button; two buttons is no big deal and you'll know what you have done by which one you push. With one button you will have to do a visual check to make sure the turnout is thrown correctly.

The basics are as follows:

1) See your panel as a picture frame. So lets say your panel is going to be 10 inches by 24 inches. Make a picture type frame to make your panel all pretty.

2) As your base, you can use the material used on counter tops (try and get some scratched ones as it will save you a ton of money). My friend wants a very light grey for his backdrop, not my favourite colour, but it works. You then scribe this material to be the size you want. He has clear acrylic covering it, so that is cut to size next to fit exactly over the counter top material.

3) I usually tape some printer paper together to get the size of my paper the size of my counter top material. On this paper I draw the track plan I want. I draw circles where I want the buttons (and rotary dials if applicable) to go. I then transfer this plan onto the counter top material with a pencil. The track is drawn with a single pencil line.

4) I cover the pencil lines on the counter top material with very thin, I think 1/8 inch wide red tape.

5) When that is done, I put the acrylic and counter top material together, held by clamps, over some scrap wood and drill through the both of them with drills. Here it is important to note to work your drill bits up in size, rather than one large hole; this will prevent the acrylic from cracking.

6) When that is done, put it all together, like you would a picture. Add your buttons and rotary dials.

7) Mount the panel on a hinge with a bit of an angle. This way you can pull it forward to work on it, if you ever need to do so.
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, October 23, 2003 4:13 PM
Another friend just added everything to the fascia material: tape, buttons and dials. He didn't bother with seperate distinct panels.
  • Member since
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  • From: East Lansing, MI, US
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Posted by GerFust on Friday, October 24, 2003 11:37 AM
Glen:

Here are a couple of untested ideas about reducing the number of switches. In the end, though, using DCC to control the turnouts maybe the cleanest thing you'll find. See recent issues of Model Railroader for advice on how to do this.

I read about momentary contact toggle switches somewhere that I thought would be nice to use for turnout control, since you want to use one button per turnout.

An untested alternate way to reduce the number of switches on the panel is to wire the turnouts in parallel in the routes the train will take. For example, turnout A has two legs, each going to turnouts B and C, resulting in a four siding ladder. If turnout B has sidings 1 and 2, and turnout C has sidings 3 and 4. Then switching turnout B toward siding 1 therefore can switch turnout A toward turnout B. Similiarly, switching turnout C toward siding 3 similarly can switch turnout A toward turnout C. It does greatly increase the wiring, though.

-Jer
[ ]===^=====xx o o O O O O o o The Northern-er (info on the layout, http://www.msu.edu/~fust/)
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  • From: Ridgeville,South Carolina
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Posted by willy6 on Friday, October 24, 2003 1:45 PM
i used MARLITE for my control panel.it's the white formica looking stuff used for showers. it's easy to clean.i also used automotive pin stripe to show a map of the layout.next i used prewired LEDS from radio shack with ATLAS snap relays to indicate my turnout postions.it was cost effective and easy to work with.
Being old is when you didn't loose it, it's that you just can't remember where you put it.
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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, October 24, 2003 2:08 PM
I went to the local store to get the Easy Wiring book, even though the last time I glimpsed through it didn't reveal much. I checked the store's inventory of switches, and their electrical expert was there and we talked a bit. He tested the KATO switch, even took it apart, and says it is DPDT momentary. He said that the LEDs he had showed me previously, which switch from green to red depending on the juice flow, would turn off after the switch was thrown as there was no continous current (I was thinking: green means straight and red means take the turn). He couldn't think of how to wire everything, I was even going with toggle or slide switches instead of a pushbutton that I originally wanted.

The pinstripe idea sounds good for the layout on the panel. Masking tape and spray paint was the way I was going to go, I might still.

My problem may be space, it's a small fit where my controller is but it is just enough room; the panel will take up some of that space. I want one panel to control everything, being the sole operator, so I have work out the wiring schemes before hand (as that books suggests). I could split it into two in an L shape, but both will be near each other (I have two "sections" in my layout).

Thanks,
Glen
  • Member since
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  • From: Pittsburgh, PA
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Posted by preceng on Friday, October 24, 2003 8:56 PM
I have similar layout w/ 29 switches. I use one DPDT momentary toggle and two LED.s for each turnout. I initially wanted to use one LED to indicate if the switch was in turn or thru mode, but found that due to being slightly color-blind could not tell the green from red very well. This worked out well though. i placed the DPDT at the junction on the control panel schematic and the two LED's next to it, one on the thru, one on the turn, and whichever way the switch is thrown, that LED is lit. I found this is much easier to determine the switch position with a quick glance.

My layoutl schematic is a 13x19 color print out of a drawing I did on my computer (the max size my printer can handle). I placed the drawing between a piece of 1/4 inch plywood (the back) and a piece of clear plexiglass (Home Depot). The plexiglass is the perfect thickness to secure the LED holders. I know this may be too big for you, but I have all my controls mounted to this panel. The scehmatic is the top half, and my Atlas block controls and accessory swithes occupy the bottom half.

This is hard to describe over the web. If you want to e-mail me (preceng@zbzoom.net) I can send you a copy of the drawing I use.
Allan B.
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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, October 24, 2003 9:35 PM
I like to go to Radio Shack for all my electrical needs, because they have mini switches, wire, solder, and all that you may need or dream to think of.
William
  • Member since
    February 2001
  • From: Australia
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Posted by locomcf on Saturday, October 25, 2003 3:41 AM
I draw my panels using MS Publisher and then print them out on my inkjet printer onto standard A4 paper. Make sure you leave enough room for switches, etc. Then I get the page laminated. This is sandwiched between a pair of 3mm sheets of craft wood. The front sheet has the centre cut out to form a frame around the panel diagram. Drill holes for the switches and mount them. The whole assembly is then mounted into the layout facia from behind.

A friend of mine wrote an article on this for N Scale magazine a few years ago.
Ron McFarlane
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Posted by Puckdropper on Saturday, October 25, 2003 2:26 PM
When it comes to turnouts and lights to indicate which way it is, the Tortise switch machines are supposed to have contacts for hooking lights up to it.

A simpler (and cheaper) idea would be to get a DPDT (Double Pole, Double Throw) full contact switch, and a momentary contact push button. Wire the lights to one pole of the switch (The middle contacts affect the side, normally) and the turnout to the other side. Put a push button before the middle contact (electrically) of the pole that throws the switch. When you move the switch and press the button, the turnout will throw.

Wiring more than two momentary contact switch machines together is NOT a good idea, due to the large current draw.
  • Member since
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  • From: Blooington, IN
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Posted by JoeUmp on Monday, November 24, 2003 11:39 PM
Glen,

If you go with the toggle switches then I would recommend DPDT or SPDT switches with the following configuration (on)-off-(on). The parentheses indicate that this switch has both ON positions with momentary action that returns to OFF when the switch is released

Joe
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, November 25, 2003 6:54 AM
I'm vaguely planning a control panel for my layout - at the moment all the switch levers are behind the backscene at one end. I plan to have a small panel on each board controlling the switches on that board. Coupled with a walkaround controller this should allow me to follow trains around the layout without having to go back to the main panel constantly to change switches!

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