Dwarf Signal Lights.

Discussion in 'Model Rail Operations' started by tetters, Feb 25, 2008.

  1. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Here's one that I looked for info on, however as awesome as Google is...you also have to know what it is you are looking for.

    I have a question (or two) with regards to dwarf signal lights or for any signal light for that matter. I was at the Scarborough Model Railroaders open house yesterday and fell in love with these little buggers dotting the switches at ground level in some of the yards on the HO layout.

    Say I wanted to install one (or several..teehehe) of these guys next to my t.o.'s, how would I set up the lighting? Would I use a red and green light, one light/bi-polar LED or two seperate lights?

    What colours would be more prototypical? Red, Green, Amber...Pink? Would the red mean the diverging rails have been thrown, and the green would mean straight through? Or would you use an amber light, instead of the red indicate that the t.o. is thrown and to proceed with caution?

    Or Pink to signal that everything it coming up roses? :grin:

    I was going to pester the gents in the club, however they seemed pretty engrossed in keeping the trains running for all the visitors.
  2. beamish

    beamish HO & Steam Engineer

  3. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Tetters, signals varied greatly by railroad. The engineers I've known would have to learn how to read the signals for each railroad along with various orders (especially slow orders) for the trackage. Hence why a railroad engineer always (or nearly always) rides the cab with a foreign crew.

    Commonly green/green over green was commonly used for "track clear"...high ball and red/red over red was stop immediately. It gets hazier from there with things such as red over green on some railroads meaning proceed with caution...be prepared to stop at the next block.

    Edit: Beamish...I love your sig. Yes, I am an engineer...and I've received enough pointers/cab rides that I could probably operate a steam locomotive...but I definitely would prefer to be that type of engineer than the engineer that I am...:p
  4. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!


    How about this...

    Prototypically speaking. When modelling signals for a yard say in the late 60's would you have a dwarf signal posted at all three tracks on a t.o. facing the engine? I know this may depend on which RR, we'll say Canadian Pacific. For example when entering at the pionts would there be a signal, indicating green for straight thru and amber signalling the diverging route? Then if the loco approached from opposite end would there be two sets of seperate signal lights, reds and greens for the straight and diverging routes. Green to signal its safe to enter the turnout from "your" track and red to indicate the the points have not been thrown for "your" track?

    Make sense? Would this even be necessary from a prototypical perspective? I mean I look at the turnout and know where the points are thrown. In most cases the engineer sitting in the cab would do the same too right? He'd also have his switching crew to help him too. So they would be able to communicate to him when its safe to proceed. Like I said before several times, I'd like to operate the layout at "night". So I can see working signals being helpful in this scenario.

    Just thinking out loud here.
  5. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    You're not allowed to move without permission. Permission comes via the signal and orders from the dispatcher. Switches are handled by tower...as are the signals. Although I am not certain...dwarf signals are just like normal signals...they do not explicitly tell how switches are thrown (they are not to indicate switch point positions)...but rather implicitly tell you that they are thrown for you when the signal says go. The big advantage of dwarf signals is that they are cheaper to install in a place where many are needed.

    I would guess that an amber signal is some sort of speed restriction.
  6. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Is this one of the signals you're referring to?

  7. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    That's actually not on a siding, it's the mainline. The siding is the track next to it, which leads to the lumber yard seen in the background. I have several pics of this area (these were taken on a railfanning outting in Delaware, OH) and I can't really make heads or tails of what all is going on.

    About a block away from this area is some kind of CSX service building, then a signal a bit further down the line. I can post the relevant pics if you're interested.


    You're right. It's a double siding, not the mainline. The main branches off, then another siding branches off that line to service the lumber yard. If you look closely at the pic, you can see where the tracks end. The insulated rails are part of the "main" siding.

    I browsed through my pics, and remembered that the double mainline is actually behind where I stood taking the above picture.
  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Canadian signal rules

    This thread http://forum.zealot.com/t106612/ contains the Canadian rules on signals from 1956.* You can see the dwarf signals in with the rest.
    Canadian signals give speed indications only. The crew may be able to guess the switch setting from the signals, but not always. Dwarf signals usually only had 2 (or 1) lights because the speed possibilities in yards were limited.
    Lots of low signals at Toronto Union.
    Signal colours were the same 3 as regular signals.

    Not to sat that you can't use route indicating signals for your crews.

    * latest versions are in the Trackside Guide. Names have been changed, but the indications mean the same; a few have been added.
    (actually 1962)
  9. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Thanks for that thread reference David its a big help.

    In your opinion...or anyone else for that matter, would you say that Rule # 287 would apply for yard use or # 288? And I'm a little confused...are both lights lit at the same time to instruct the engineer on what he should be doing or just one the one. Man this is getting confusing. :confused:

    I may just make up my own rules for operating on my layout.

    Thanks for all of the other replies as well. I really appreciate the info shared on this board.
  10. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    All the lights on a signal should be lit. If a bulb is not lit, the signal should be interpreted as the most restrictive possibility (which I think usually means a red light).
    The difference between 287 and 288 is the green vs yellow light. 287 indicates that the next signal is not red; 288 indicates that it is red and you should be prepared to stop at it.
    (If the lower light on 287 or 288 were not lit, it would be interpreted as 292 - stop. There would also be a phone or radio call to the dispatcher to report the light and ask for orders.)
    Any signal shown on a dwarf could be used in the yard. The more heads on a signal, the more complex the instructions that can be given. One head gives 3 possibilities; 2 gives 9; and 3 gives 27 (and more if they can flash). You'll note that 4 of the rules can only be given on a 3-head signal or a dwarf.
  11. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    I was afraid you were going to say that.

    Sounds like if I were to attempt it at all, it would be a pretty complicated wiring set up. I may just come up with my own simplified signal system...if only to make it easier on myself.
  12. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    It's hard to wire model signal heads for 3-colour operation (unless you use a tri-colour LED and a lot of circuitry). You could go with 2 colours on one signal -- latest CN has heads with 3 separate lights.
    I would probably fake it. One signal with red & green bulbs, or green and yellow, tied to the track power beyond the frog. LED would require a resistor.
  13. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

  14. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Yeppers, I'm using tortoise switch machines. Just exploring some different possibilities.

    I think I'm going to fake it David. I'm sure it will still be nifty to see once its all done anyway.
  15. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    There is one thought that I'm surprised no one has mentioned- yard limits. Your layout is mostly yard and secondarytracks so why not just make it all within yard limits. Within yard limits there are no signals, all movements are made at restricted speed and all switches are supposed to be checked for proper alignment before being used.

    You can even have multiple crews using the same tracks because at restricted speed you are supposed to be looking out for other trains.

    I can't ever remember operating in a yard that had any signals at all except for one on the main track for entering the yard, and another for exiting the yard, at each end of the yard.
  16. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Ahhhh the voice of reason! See, in a way, this is kinda of the answer I've been looking for. I was beginning to wonder if I was getting a little carried away or what not. Now I think I understand where signals would be required for my purposes.
  17. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    Yeah, I kind of thought so. Your first post seemed to indicate you thought each switch needed a signal. In fact, while signals do convey either speed or direction, they do not necessarily have anything to do with the position of the points.

    Now, in the old days and in few rare cases now, the switch stand has a globe with a light inside it which indicated the position of the points. The globe would be green or yellow for straight route, when you threw the switch the globe would turn 1/4 turn and be yellow or red.

  18. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Yeah. Now I am thinking that as I swap out the ground throws with the tortoise machines, I was going to place one of the old style throw mechanisms with the red and green plates to indicate the t.o. position. Save me a ton of wiring hassles, thats for sure! :mrgreen:
  19. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    That is also what you will see in a modern day yard. Sounds like a win-win.:thumb:
  20. acsoosub

    acsoosub Member

    Exactly, yard tracks don't have signals. Within a yard, or on any sidings or spur tracks that have manually thrown switches, you'll see the red (or yellow) and green targets on the switch stand that indicate which way the switch is thrown. On mainline signalled trackage you don't have this, but you'll be governed by signal indications.

    And you don't have 1 signal/switch either. If you have a simple crossover between tracks, or two in a row, or a siding switch, or something a lot more complicated for a set of multiple tracks, you have one signal on each track in each direction, regardless of the complexity of switches in between the signals. The whole location becomes what's known as a "Control Point", or sometimes "OS Section".

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