Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Signaling a Change in the O-Gauge Zen Garden 1

The Lionel 450 Signal Bridge installed. Now everyone can travel safely,.
As I mentioned in the last post in this series, real estate is at a premium on my little 3" x 5' tabletop. And so the only way to keep adding things is by building up, not out. One of the ways to go up is to put something over the tracks.

I opted for a double signal bridge. This was a fairly common sight on most railroad mainlines. It's basically a frame with a set of lights for each track. Green means the track ahead is clear. Red means its not. A number of companies made such signal bridges over the years, some more toylike in appearance than others.

I chose an early Lionel 450 double signal bridge. It was inexpensive (always a plus), and unlike the later versions -- including the one offered today from Lionel -- it was made mostly of metal with very little plastic. So it looks pretty realistic. And it's sturdy, which is good. Because I know from experience that anything sticking up on the layout (like telephone poles) are going to get dinged from time to time by a hand reaching for something in the middle of the layout.

I couldn't use the 153C pressure plate connector
with the MTH track I had. So it was time for
another solution.
There was a problem with the signal bridge, though. I didn't have the right type of track to connect it properly. As you can see from the wiring diagrams, the signal lights were activated by a pressure plate that attached to the tubular track. I was using a different type of track, and the pressure plate wouldn't fit.

Plus, on my little layout, it takes about 5-7 seconds for a train to complete the loop. So those bulbs would be blinking like a strobe light. So I decided instead to wire the lights to a pair of toggle switches so I could set them manually -- and have them stay in that position.

Working out the wiring for the bridge wasn't difficult. One lead ran to each light, and the other to power. In the original configuration, the pressure switch would change orientation each time a train passed over completing the circuit between one of those lights and the power. The next go around the switch to connect the other light instead.

I opted for a three-position toggle switch, which allowed me to turn the lights off. Just one problem, though. How to install toggle switches on the layout where -- as mentioned before -- space was at a premium? As you'll see in part 2, I uses some materials already at hand.

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