Friday, March 10, 2023

Powering a few more switches

 It has been my philosophy from my earliest modeling days that any track switches that were hand-thrown on the prototype should be hand-thrown in my model trackage. This continues today. I have written a number of posts touching on this topic, including my recent one about adding more Bitter Creek throws on my layout (see it at: ).

But switches in difficult locations, either awkward to reach or merely distant from the aisle, present a problem with this philosophy. I do have a single switch at present that is powered, where industrial Track 7 diverges from the main line in my town of Ballard. (Background on Track 7 was described here: ).

Awhile back, when I decided to power the switch that leads to Track 7, I realized I needed to surface-mount the switch machine, because there is staging track right under the switch. I used a relatively new product, an MP1 switch machine, as I described ( ) and have been quite happy with it. Here is a photo from the post just mentioned. A foreground tool house covers the machine when in use.

I have in addition two switches which are not only somewhat distant from the aisle, but also require reaching between buildings to operate manually. These are the leads to Jupiter Pump and Compressor, the track at left rear of the photo above, and just to its right (out of view in the photo above), the cannery track lead at Santa Rosalia. Here is a view of those two switches.

The switch at left, the Jupiter lead, is a Peco, while the one at right is a Walthers. The small section house at left is the same one as in the upper center of the photo at top. I have begun to carve two trenches for the operating rods. Also shown in this photo, a little left of the upper center, are the two MP1 switch machines that will be installed at the ends of the trenches. A structure will cover them when installed.

(In the photo above you can also see that I have not yet created any scenic treatment where the backdrop meets the layout surface. This is also planned as part of this project.)

Here is a perspective view of the area, somewhat like the view that a train crew would have, when needing to throw these switches. Obviously they have had to reach in between structures. This is what I want to eliminate.

To mechanically connect the switch machines with the track, I decided to encase the operating wire in brass tubing, so that the wire could be buried out of sight. That’s what the trenches are for in the photos above. For the tubing, I used K&S Precision Metals 3/32-inch brass tubing, their number 1144, and with it, some 0.045-inch steel wire. This wire is plenty stiff enough but slides freely in the tubing.

This wire-in-tube method is something I first used years ago, and it remains the operating system for the east-end switch at Ballard between the main track and the siding. The switch is located right behind the Wine Co-op building, thus difficult to see and all but impossible to reach to operate a ground throw. The photo below illustrates my solution: the red arrows show the turnout’s throw bar at top, and the Caboose Industries ground throw which operates it, at the bottom, via a wire in a tube below the ground surface.

I expect the same method will work fine for the new switch machine installation. As this project progresses, I will return to it in future posts.

Tony Thompson

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