I am among those who prefer that track switches be thrown as on the prototype, namely by hand in most cases. I am also among those who has installed switch machines in the past and then had to cope with maintenance and adjustment from time to time, along with occasional failure of the switch machine. The use of Caboose Industries ground throws is extremely common in HO scale (though they are awfully large, in fact out of scale even in S scale), and I have some too. But one has to recognize their virtue, that they are robust and dependable, and easy to operate.
I have occasionally heard the comment, that the Caboose Industries ground throws are “not that oversize.” Here is a Jim Shaughnessy photo (courtesy Clark Bauer) of a brakeman throwing a prototype ground throw.Since his foot is on the head block, we get a good measure.
You can see that the throw bar is just about knee high, which matches my recollections. Now here is an HO scale man posed next to a Caboose Industries throw.
I will repeat my previous comment, these throws really are too large even for S scale. And my concern is not only the throwbar length, as you see in the photo above, but the sheer size of the mechanism, almost waist high on the man. That is why some of us are interested in alternatives.
I have discussed before that I really like and am using the fine ground throws from Bitter Creek (see them at: http://www.bittercreekmodels.com/page11.html
), and have been installing them wherever a new ground throw is needed,
along with replacing some of the Caboose Industries throws already
installed (see my post at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/09/electrical-wars-part-3-hand-throws.html
). I use their model B-4001, Manual Ground Throw, and it is very much
as easy to install as the Caboose Industries part. I continue to install
these, and operators visiting on the layout seem to like them as much
as I do.
The turnout shown in the model photo above was a candidate for replacement. In the next photo, I’m holding a package of Bitter Creek throws (they come two to a package) next to the turnout, from which the Caboose Industries throw has been removed.
The operating lever of the Bitter Creek throw is not greatly shorter than that of the Caboose Industries throw, as you see below, though it is more slender. This is the same turnout shown above, after Bitter Creek replacement.
More important to me, the mechanism of the Bitter Creek throw is far less intrusive, as you can seen with a thrown mechanism in the photo below.
But there can be an issue. Any switch well away from
the front or aisle edge of the layout can be a little less satisfactory
for manipulating the Bitter Creek throws, while the oversize Caboose
Industries throw is easier to use at a distance. Accordingly, I am
rethinking my locations for ground throws, and have been removing Bitter Creek throws
that have been installed at the back of the layout, and replacing a few of them
with Caboose Industries throws (of which I have a surplus, having
previously replaced many of them with Bitter Creeks). Meanwhile, I
continue to pull up Caboose Industries throws near the front of the
layout, in favor of installing Bitter Creek throws, as in the case of the turnout shown above.
Are there alternatives other than hand throws like the Bitter Creek? Many would just go with switch machines, but that isn’t me. The other obvious alternative is some kind of long-range manual throw, whether with a long rod, a cable, or some kind of linkage. I have a couple of these on my layout, but not every location lends itself to them. So continuing to use Caboose Industries ground throws at the back of my layout, though obviously a compromise, is one I am all right with.
Bottom line: any place operators have easy access to a ground throw, I’m installing Bitter Creek throws. The Caboose Industries throws are only used in places that are not as easy to reach. They are still a little easier to operate. But that’s the only reason they will survive on my layout.