I switch all of the easily
accessible turnouts on my Cedar Valley Short Lines with slide switches
I have altered to my own design. They are robust, inexpensive, easy to
construct, route power to the turnout frogs, look similar to prototype
switch stands and have moveable targets which show which way the turnout
is thrown. The first photo shows a finished turnout throw in place on the
layout with the slide switch itself concealed, the switch stand attached
to the toggle, the moveable target and the throw bar to the turnout.
I developed these modified slide switches
after years of trying other methods. The usual electrical methods with
their attendant wires, switches, indicator lamps or LEDs didn’t appeal
because of all the complexity and under-layout wiring and maintenance that
I tried the commercial throw-over throws
but felt they spoilt the appearance of the layout, particularly in photographs.
I tried slide switches mounted on brackets under the layout but they were
difficult to install and adjust and if mounted too far from the turnout,
could be unreliable.
I came up with something simpler, better
and that I could construct and install in 30 minutes or so. Instead of
mounting the slide switches under the layout, I mount them right on the
upper surface, adjacent to the turnout throw rod and recessed into the
Canite (Homasote). To build one of these throws and its attached switch
stand, start with a double pole, double throw slide switch with no centre
off position and preferably a round toggle, not a rectangular one. If the
latter, simply file the toggle round to make it represent a prototype switch
stand base. The next photograph shows a switch as bought from Dick Smith’s
for approximately 90 cents.
The first job is to simply twist the
aluminium sleeve off with pliers, then cut the toggle down to a scale 2
feet (in HO) above the expected ground level. Round the top edge with a
file and if the toggle is not already black, paint it black now.
Then carefully drill a 0.031-inch hole
for the actuating rod through the base of the lowered toggle, making sure
it is both parallel to the top and sides of the switch. Cut a piece of
0.031 inch brass wire about 4 inches long, turn up one end about ¼
inch and insert through the hole in the base, making sure there are no
burrs and the rod is a firm sliding fit with enough resistance to throw
the turnout. Commercial turnouts throw around 1/8 inch or so and slide
switches only 3/16 inch approximately. The firm, sliding fit takes care
of this difference.
Then drill another 0.031-inch hole but
this time vertically into the lowered toggle which will allow the about-to-be-installed
switch stand staff to swivel. For high stands (main line) make the staff
from a piece of the 0.031 inch brass rod approximately 8 scale feet high.
For low stands (sidings and yards) make the staff 3 scale feet high. Solder
a 1/8 inch diameter washer approximately 2 scale feet from the top, fill
with solder, file smooth, paint the staff black and the target red. Drop
the targeted staff into the toggle and make sure it swivels freely.
Solder on the electrical wires, one
side to power the frog and the other, if desired, to operate a lineside
signal or remote panel lamp. The next picture shows the completed unit
ready for installation on the layout.
Using your NMRA clearance gauge, mark
a rectangular area adjacent to your turnout throw bar the exact size of
the base of the slide switch with the tab of the slide switch to fit just
under the turnout ties to secure that end.
Carefully excavate the Canite (Homasote)
making sure that the slide switch is held securely by the Canite when in
the hole, drill a 1/4 inch hole through the ply sub-base for the electrical
wires, insert the bent-up end of the actuating rod through the hole in
the centre of the turnout throwbar, drop the slide switch into the hole,
carefully feeding the wires through the ply, secure the points in the centre
position with masking tape and centre the slide switch toggle in the switch,
also with tape.
To secure the other end of the slide
switch, drill a small hole through the hole in the tab into the Canite
enough to also penetrate the sub-roadbed somewhat and drive a long panel
pin through the Canite into the sub-base. Note that this fixing may not
be necessary if the hole is correctly sized and the area is sceniced. Remove
the tape and operate the switch by grasping the lower part of the toggle
between finger and thumb, moving it as you would any slide switch, (Yes,
the whole turnout and target moves but that will not be noticed in operation).
If satisfied that all works well, cut off the surplus brass actuating rod,
install a scenicing mask made out of 0.010 inch styrene, install dummy
adjoining ties, touch up the paint and apply your choice of ground cover.
I have used this system for over 15
years and it works well. I have installed approximately 80 on the current
layout and our walk-around operators like them too as they can see exactly
what is happening as they throw the switches as well as also being guided
by distant targets.
Note: My article
on this method was published in the January/February 1994 issue of the
NG&SL Gazette. Following extensive experience, the method above is
an easier and simpler approach.