Control Panel with Indicators

Discussion in 'Model Rail Operations' started by davera, Nov 20, 2004.

  1. davera

    davera New Member


    I am busy building a control panel for my new layout. click here to see some photos (not necessary to respond, just in case you are curious)

    I am now working on the control panel. initially i thought of using connectors so that i could detach my control panel from the layout. i was thinking of D25 type computer connectors. but now i am thinking of just tying the wires directly into the controls.

    What I would like to do is have a track plan with little lights so that when i activate a block, the light on the control panel would light up to make it very easy to see what blocks are on. i may even consider doing the same for switches with a 2 light set, indicating which is the current open path.

    1. any recommendations on the type/size of lamp?
    2. can they be run in parallel off a tee off the selectors (Atlas - DC)?
    3. can they be run in parallel off a tee off the switch controls (Atlas - AC)?
    4. do i need the snap relays to tie these signals in per the atlas wiring book - would be quite an expense considering I have 26 switches and 36 electrical blocks?
  2. CalFlash

    CalFlash Member

    I once used illuminated push on-push off switches. I replaced the built in neon (I think) bulb with a GOW compatible with the voltages we use. The light goes on when the circuit is on and goes off when turned off leaving the contacts to wire to your track etc. I used them for electormagnetic uncoupling ramps which could be left on awhile but not forever!
  3. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    My suggestion would be LEDs with a plexiglass covered diagram of your layout. Depending on how you are setting up your block switching it would be fairly easy. I am planning on doing something pretty much like that. I'll be using DPDT switches, one side of the switch to send power to the block (or a relay that controls it) and the other side to turn on the LED to indicate that the block is active. Easy, cheap and effective, my kind of system. :thumb: :thumb: :D :D
  4. bigdonnie

    bigdonnie Member


    I am just finishing the control panel wiring for my N scale layout, so I should be able to give you some suggestions. I will be posting pics to the N/Z area on Sunday or Monday.

    In my case, I DID go with 25 pin connectors since I had decided ahead of time that I wanted to have the capability to connect/disconnect the control panel and power supplies from the layout quickly and store them away in a drawer of the table. The connectors are working out well, but it was a lot of work --- 124 soldered connections on 6 connectors! :) First time and probably last time I do this!

    I used bi-polar LEDs (from Miniatronics) with each switch on the panel so that I’ll be able to see at a glance the position of each of 12 turnouts --- generally green for mainline and red for switched (since the layout will be under glass, it would have been very difficult to see the turnout positions from a standing position). The LEDs are activated by auxiliary switches mounted to the bottom of each Peco switch motor and power is fixed DC off my power pack (each LED has a resistor on the common leg to ensure that it doesn’t get too much ‘juice’ and these are included in the package). This also seems like it is going to work out as I had originally planned.

    Couple of questions --- I assume you are using block control to run a maximum of 2 locos/trains at one time? When you refer to the ‘selectors’, are these what you will use to choose block A or B? If so, because they are DC, you could tee off both sides for bi-polar LEDs or one side only for a single colour LED. The LEDs could either be mounted at the appropriate blocks on the panel schematic or right by each individual selector. However, there is a potential downside to this idea --- the DC voltage will vary through the controllers and therefore the bulb intensity will very as well (I’m not positive about this --- the resistor on the common leg may keep these variations to a minimum --- I will try this for myself on the weekend and let you know).

    Hope this helps.

  5. davera

    davera New Member

    Wiring it up

    I have started down the road of using 6' parallel PC passthrough cables.

    I cut the cable in the middle. one half will be attached to the control panel and the other to the layout. the connector on the layout side has been fixed beneath the layout.

    the control panel connector has a bit of slack in the cable and will hang down and connect to the layout connector.

    At the point of cutting the cable, I removed quite of bit of the sleeve and exposed the conductors. on the control panel side, i merely connected these conductors directly to the altas component screw terminals.
    Should I solder these connections?

    On the layout side, I plan to solder the conductors to the wires coming off the switch machines and terminal joiners and someone tack the to the grid or the underside of the layout.

    Using these cables was also quite cost effective as the cables are pretty cheap and time as i did not need to build up the connectors, and housing. just solder 25 or less in case of spare conductors to the layout wiring. Note I kept track of which color was connected to which connector to be sure that i made the right connection on the track side. i plan to have a nice display of this wiring key once done...

    with regard to the LEDs for displaying directions of switches and on/off status of electrical blocks, i plan to research the idea that Don suggests. I have left all the space beneath the track schematic on the control panel for wiring these LEDs in.

    The Atlas switch controls are AC. The Atlas block controls (selectors, controllers) are DC. so not sure how I am going to wire in these LEDs. clearly i need the devices to communicate with the LED to indicate the correct status. the issue is whether i need to buy a bunch of snap relays which will add significant expense at this point... any thoughts on this?

    btw, Don's point on variable intensity worries me too but I will check it out too
  6. bigdonnie

    bigdonnie Member

    Couple of comments Dave:

    I wouldn't bothering soldering the connections to the various Atlas control components --- the screw terminals work fine without.

    Since the Atlas switch machines are AC rather than DC, what you really need are small bulbs which can handle AC. The only thing I'm aware of that you could use are miniature Christmas tree lights that run at 2.5 volts --- they'll work, but mounting them in the panel will be somewhat of a pain (particularly when compared to 3 or 5 mm LEDs). Perhaps someone else has an AC alternative that I'm not aware of.

    I don't think that buying a bunch of additional Atlas snap relays is the answer --- the real issue is AC vs DC.
  7. COCentralRR

    COCentralRR New Member

    Hi Davera,

    I'm brand new to this forum (this is my first post, as a matter of fact), but I was reading your idea for a control panel. I laughed out loud, because I am planning the exact same thing as you! I have been experimenting with the concept for a few months, and I have some ideas that might be of interest to you. The first thing that I realized is that the Atlas turnout controls and the block selectors will not work, period. You will need to purchase DPDT toggle switches with center-off positions for the block controls (I assume that you are going to have dual cab control for your layout, correct?), and DPDT toggle switches along with momentary switches for your turnouts. On your panel, you can use LED's. I figured out that the total cost of parts would be about $135 for your layout. If you are interested, please PM me, and I would be more than happy to send you information on where to get the parts, and some very simple (read: easy to understand) schematic drawings to show you how to wire everything. Let me know!
  8. davera

    davera New Member

    Status report

    well i have been successful in getting both AC (turnout controls) and DC (block selectors) to work using my split parallel connector approach. it has actually proven to be rather easy. My only regret at this time is not getting longer cables. i have ended up having to in some cases for longer runs, having to make multiple connection points to my precut wire.

    Another thing that is a bit of a pain is soldering under the table. very uncomfortable. i recommend having a way to jack your layout up to make it more comfortable. my table is 36" high which is a bit low to work beneath it but a great height for my kids to watch the trains.

    I just read the post regarding the DPDT switches. I do need more info. can you post some of the details?

  9. capt_turk

    capt_turk Member

    A suggestion for indicators for your turnouts. I am using Atlas turnouts with the AC controls. Since you can only feed current to them momentarily, and they have no contacts for indicator lights, I came up with a way to sense the physical position of the switch. Radio Shack(The Outhouse, they are allways out of what you want) has magnetic reed switches that are used for door and window alarms. These flush mount in a 3/8" hole. I drilled a 3/8" hole next to the throw bar on the turnout solenoid throwbar and shoved the reed switch in the hole. Next I glued a small piece of styrene on the underside of the throwbar so that It would cover the reed switch when thrown in one direction. I bought a aprox. 3/16" diameter cerramic magnet and glued it to the styrene over the reed switch. Make the styrene tab large to start with. You will have to use an ohm meter or a test light to see just when the reed switch triggers. Move the magnet around till you find the correct placement and then glue it into place. You can then use the reed switch to control a relay. I have search(signal) lights mounted on each side of the switch with red and green lights on each one. Whichever side the turnout is switched to turns green and the other side turns red. I don't have the number for the lights handy(out a sea right now) but I got them at The Outhouse. They are 12 volts and flash. You could wire the relay to lights on your control panel if you want to. I can tell even at a glance just how my turnouts are switched without looking at a control panel. I have a wireless video cam in one of my cars and like to drive the train "from" the train. The lights are easy to see on the TV through the video cam and I have alot less derailments now that I can easily tell what position the turnouts are in.
    Hope this helps.
  10. capt_turk

    capt_turk Member

    An addendum: I painted the magnets to look like someone left a can of gas sitting on the throw bar. You could probably, with a little engineering and preplanning, put the reed switch under the track and the magnet between the tracks on the throwbar to hide it. Mine is covered with ballast and bushes around it so it doesn't show.
  11. davera

    davera New Member

    interesting turnout light solution

    any chance you can post some pics of what you did?
  12. capt_turk

    capt_turk Member

    I'm out to sea right now. It may be up to a month and a half before I get back home where I can take some pics.
    And yes, I'm a real captain. I run a 80' 1200 horse power tugboat.
  13. belg

    belg Member

    As Tim the tool man Taylor AARGH AARGH MORE POWER, MORE POWER. OK you have the biggest toy. :) Where is Green Cove I'm not familiar with it? My Brother in law is trying to get into the fishing business around the Fort Pierce area.
  14. capt_turk

    capt_turk Member

    lol!! We have so many "Paper" captains down here that it makes a difference.
    Green Cove is on the St. Johns River about 35 miles up the river from Jacksonville. Used to be a big naval air station during WW2.
    If I can get my scanner working with this laptop I'll at least try to draw out a diagram of what I did.
  15. DWeiler

    DWeiler New Member

    Does anyone have a copy of the schematic drawings that COCentralRR talked about in his post, and if so could you send them to me. I have the same thought but everyting I try doesn't work.


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