Reading Society of Model Engineers
Reading Society of Model Engineers

Berks County, Pennsylvania, USA


RSME Member Written Articles
Written By: Russ Ingham
Written By: Craig Ingham
Signal Application in Model Railroading
Written By: Craig Ingham

Above is a list of articles that have been written by RSME Members for publication in both our RSME newsletter "Timetable" and the RSME website. As new segments are written they will be added into the appropriate set of articles. Please click on a link above to read threw the articles.

Signal Applications for Model Railroading

Part 1

March 2013

Introduction (Part 1)
by Craig Ingham
(March 2013)

Previous articles were focused on signals as generally used by the railroads. This series of articles begin a discussion of adapting this to model railroading. The discussion will focus on several points of choice as adapted by our O-scale railroad.

The application of signals to model railroads is to provide an element of animation to our scale empire. It also provides an element of focus for the visiting “engineers” who visit our miniature world. People enjoy the ‘bells and whistles’ and those of us who operate these empires need help in knowing where trains are and where they will be going – hopefully where we intend for them to go. This process can be as complex as that of the full sized railroads or it can be simplified to appeal to the model railroad operator. That is an individual’s choice.

One consideration to be made is the ease of others to understand what we intend for the signal to indicate. Remember, some of the operators will have limited knowledge of such things and others, those with grey hair, may have trouble remembering. Yes, I am referring to me.

Another consideration involves installation. If it is too difficult, it will never be completed. Your model railroad will require wiring, interfacing and a plan for it to operate. Remove any one of these elements and failure will be the product. Do you understand wiring and basic electrical practices? Are you able to physically install the various elements of a signaling system? Do you know what signals belong where? How well do your fellow operators (engineers or drivers, depending on your source of learning) understand the indication signals provide and are they able to help you install. Remember, especially if this a “club” project, at some point in time someone else will have to maintain the system.

Major consideration must be given to the financial demands. The more complex, the greater the cost. Take a moment to look at the various suppliers of signal systems. You will notice a broad range in price ranging from $5.00 to over $100.00 per signal. This can be very costly. Some available signals are intended to operate with a specific suppliers system which adds greatly to the investment. Several commercial systems require expensive electronics which require both dollars and knowledge. As one commercial asks “what’s in your wallet.”

Previously, I mentioned the focus of this series is based on our decisions based on cost, ease of use and installation. By no means is this intended to suggest the only way to apply a signal system to your model railroad. Each choice will be described with reference to cost, ease of operation, maintenance and ease of installation. Our approach is adaptable to any scale or gauge. There will be some comments as to why this system may appeal to the younger model railroader who is involved in our ‘techy’ times.

The next article will focus on planning your system. We will discuss what signals are required and their complexity. A signal without a purpose is only another light.

Your comments and questions are welcomed.

High Greens,
Craig W. Ingham

to be continued...