Why just
ANIMATE
When you can
AUTOMATE
Your
SIGNALS


Delivered with
3 Aspect Display

Approach Lighting capable
  
Aspects limited only by lamp count
 (See docs package below)


Bi-directional
Single or double track

DCC, DC Analog, AC
Compatable

Signal with
GoW or GoR Lamps

  12-24  volt  automotive  lamps
  Christmas tree lights

or LEDs
In single or dual colour
In 2 or 3 colour mode, 2 or 3 lead
Common ANODE or CATHODE

or Mechanical Semaphores
using R-C Servos or Linear Actuators

                     Controlling Semaphores with RC Servos
                
Usable with  ANY Scale
Up to 12"/foot

Manuals:
(Manuals are PDF format.  open in new tabs)

Signals in a weekend               HERE
A "Quick Start" one afternoon signaling project        
Text and illustrations (5 page PDF)

Complete SLC Manual   (80+  Pages)  HERE
Details for using with any signal or control system            
August 2010: Added U.S.&S. Dimensional Drawings            

LBO Manual                          (50+ Pages)  HERE
The  many  gizmos  available using this utility board
June 2010: Added "Approach Lighting" instructions

Ordering information (and pricing)     HERE
Confusing;   it might be simpler
  to ask directly.   eMail address is:
signals@hudsontelcom.com
For questions and solutions

www.modelRRsignals.com has some circuits as well
Model Railroading is but one of many interests,
Feel free to poke around the communications  parent site.

    For many Model Railroaders, signalling is as important as scenery. More so now that we have DCC with "walkaround" capability. It's as much a matter of understanding the "logic" of signalling as how much you're willing to spend on circuit boards. Although I sell boards,  Model Railroading is important to me as a hobby as well.
 
     Here, I delve into signalling circuits from a practical perspective. Not so much the actual aspects, there are many more knowledgable than I.  The fundamentals of a usable model system.  I know the practical "nuts and volts" of the electrics.

     For information on what signals actually mean, one of the most knowledgable people I know of can be found  HERE .  There are Rule Books for a dozen or more roads, some dating back well into the steam era.  And countless photos of signals. in place.  Todd is a collector of signals and more a railfan than a modeler.  By far, the most knowledgable I have found. 

      If you have a "Rivit Counter" looking over your shoulder, this is the place to find what you need to know on the subject.  If the information isn't here, he can tell you where to find it.  Although primarily oriented toward North American signals, there are some links into European signalling, as well.

    For the "Craftsman" modeler, a block's worth of signals can be scratch built for little more than the cost in time to prowl around the junk box and cobbling together a circuit. Actual signal models may be scratched; as I often do.  Or kit-bashed from "static" toys, when they have a good appearance.

   At the other end of the spectrum, finished assemblies may be purchased that require little more than plugging in the cabling. So called "Plug and Play" systems. (As a technologist, I usually think of such things as Plug and Pray)  One of many  restrictions to this method is being limited to what the vendor thinks is right, with no ability to expand beyond the basic system.
 

    My circuit boards have been developed for the middle ground.  It isn't "Plug and Play"; think more "Some assembly required....."   I provide the circuit designs and boards; you provide the assembly.  Most importantly, I provide the capability to generate extended aspects suitable to your specific installation;  what you want.  

   For the modeler desiring to develop their own circuits, I present here some simplified signalling circuits.   Each has its' own Pros and Cons. The more  Pros, the more complicated the system. For some modelers, a basic two aspect system will be sufficient. Others may prefer starting with a simple system and adding advanced functions as time and funds permit.  My system accomodates such methods.  Provision is readily made in the core system for advanced features.


Illustrated here is a "Diode Matrix" method devised by Pete Lowry. In its' simplicity, a scratch modeler may find it a better system than my own. I simplified his concept for use as a basic three aspect ABS. Such diode matrices have been a technique long known to the hobby. 
   
As a system however, there are limitations in its' ability to power most commercial signal models and integrating other devices, such as semaphore controllers and other external animation.  Pete models a complex signal system, hence the numerous steering diodes in his implementation.



Pete has also developed a kit for signal models.  A craftsman kit in brass, it yields an exquisite model, as his H-O layout shows.
(The kit is U.S. made)     Specifics can be found at his page [HERE].




Such a signal system can protect a complex junction, such as this one on the layout I use for "beta" testing. Here, several SLC-32s are controlling the signal bridge,  indicating as they are "programmed".  (30+ LEDs, good reason for large conduits)

The premise of this scene is two independant roads with an interchange track.  By looking closely at the signals you can see the LEDs are different sizes from side to side,  based on each road's operating preference.

       Most of the signal controllers I have found, with 3 aspects(approach or look ahead), will control one signal head.  If the traffic is to be bi-directional, you need a second controller for directional approach.  Most require external detection circuits, as well.  Requiring three circuits for each block to be protected.  That can get out of hand in short order. Many, based on CMOS ICs, are limited to LEDs only. Lamps and/or relays require yet another circuit for current amplification.

    My circuit was developed for a middlin' sized club layout in the '80s, when lamps were more common than LEDs.  I'm not a big fan of hand wired circuits with ICs, so I designed the circuit to use transistors.   The design has been in use at numerous club layouts since.  Symbolic logic is shown in the drawing below.

   The SLC-32 (Signal Logic Controller) is so named because it provides 3 aspect indications (with approach) for both directions. A detection circuit is also built into the card, with optional configurations for current detection, optical sensing, CTs, or external inputs as provided by other detection methods, such as "Check In - Check Out".

   For two aspects, merely leave the "Prev" inputs un-connected.  Enabled with a few minutes work when you are ready.  A look at this method may be seen in the "quick start" instructions.  See "Signals in a Weekend", a 5 page PDF.


Detection is at the center of any signal system and a major concern. You might give some thought to detection methods before actually doing any purchasing.  Three common methods of detection are illustrated here.  They are merely representative, not all encompassing.  More thoughts on the subject are presented in the Installation Manual; a PDF download.  A comprehensive manual, it is a large file.   Planning can make or break a signal system.  Worth reading.


There are many different signal models and standards.  Far too many to provide schematics for them all.  Below are a few methods, based on using LEDs.  The "type" here is not an AAR designation, merely a way to refer to each circuit. Note too, the LEDs are controlled with diode matrices for multi lamp aspects. 

    Type (1) and (2) may be used with lamp loads as well.  Just leave out the resistors.  Type (3) is for two colour LEDs with three leads.  (3a) for COMMON ANODE and (3b) for COMMON CATHODE.  The circuits provide an orange colour for an approach aspect by mixing the RED and GREEN colours. Type (4) is for two colour two lead LEDs.  It requires an oscillator, such as is available on the LBO-4 board. Yellow is actually an Amber or Orange-ish and is determined by the LED used.  This also is covered in detail in the manual. 

    For LEDs, small signal diodes will suffice. For lamps, I recommend larger "rectifier" diodes. You should also be aware of lamp current.  The SLC-32 is good for up to half an Amp,  depending on the components used.  Which would include Nr 67 automotive lamps for really Large scale applications.

      Flashing aspects may be accomplished by adding an LBO-4 as a flasher to extend the signal.  Addition of "Dispatcher" and switch machine inputs will expand this even further.  If your imagination can take you there, my system will accomplish it. 

    My feeling is that a truely dedicated modeler might hand wire up to half a dozen of these circuits before frustration leads to investigating printed wiring boards.

With that, allow me to introduce the:
SLC-32
Signal Logic Controller
Available A&T, kit, or bare board

      The  "SLC 32"  is a self contained signal controller providing three colour signal indications in both directions for a protected block of track.  The finished board is shown packaged so you may see the numerous parts that are included.


     
Current sensing occupancy detection is built into the module with jumper selection for other built in circuits or for external active or passive detection.  This feature makes the signal controller compatable with any control system I have yet to encounter.  A CT detection circuit may be installed on the board when ordered, if isolation for a DCC control system is desired.

   
Power output of the module is sufficient for lamp loads ranging from LEDs to automotive lamps. Remote repeaters for panel indications and/or relays for automatic train control may also be connected to the system without additional buffering. "Open collector" outputs readily accept the integration of external circuits such as the semaphore controller outlined below.  Complex signalling at interlockings is accomplished through the use of contacts on the switch machines. 

    Electrically, the signal controllers are designed to use as near universal power supply as possible.  Just as soldering I-Cs is touchy, so also are their power  supply requirements.  My circuits accept  8 to 18 volts D-C.(or A-C)   Just use any extra power pack laying around.  I do guarantee my boards, so prefer they operate at 8 -  12 volts DC for stability and reliability.  Modules may be hardwired or socket mounted.  When socket mounted, servicing is enhanced through a  "hot swap" arrangment where signal power need not be cycled to remove or install a module.




And the
LBO-4
Latch Bridge Oscillator

      This multi-function board provides general purpose circuits frequently used on Model Railroads. DTL logic controllers for basic Signalling,  Crossing Gates,  Strobes, Slow Motion Actuators and a plethora of other layout applications.  

      DTL Logic is very forgiving of power sources, using discrete components that are readily replaced or modified. 
There are four(4) independant circuits per board that may be configured by the user for any number of applications, sharing only a power supply.  The circuit boards are designed to accept edge connectors or direct (hard wired) connections. 
 
      Most options are achieved merely through component placement on the board.  It is usually delivered as a kit; the package containing a circuit board and components, permitting the purchaser to assemble the specific configuration desired.  With suitable lead time, they are also available as assembled and tested modules, configured specific to the user's requests.

    Schematics and suggestions are included in the print version of the manual.  Each assembled board is delivered with both a schematic and a pictoral diagram detailing component placement and external connections.

 
    The original design application is a controller for Linear Actuators used as "Slow Motion" switch machines. The advantage of the circuit over toggle switches is the ability to transparently control the machine from a number of locations. 

   It also provides the ability to integrate the switch actuator into other automation.  Such as "route control", where one momentary contact operates multiple switch machines, similar to the well known "Diode Matrix" for solenoid switch machines.
 

    The LBO-4 also provides transparant control compatibility with solenoid type switch machines.  And, lamps or LEDs in the panel(s) can indicate a switch position without requiring any auxilliary contacts on the actuator. 

--  Useful applications  --


The LBO-4 (SV option)
    This circuit uses RC servos for positioning.  True, there are many circuits that can do this, but such circuits are not readily integrated into Model Railroad applications for automation.  The LBO-4(SV) is designed specifically for Model Railroads and their techniques for control and signalling.

   
There are two positioning controllers per board.  They are normally programmed for three positions each, two of which are adjustable for use with mechanical semaphores, controlled directly by an SLC-32 Signal Controller.

    Preset operation defaults to RED or STOP indication on loss of control.   Servo stroke is electrically adjustable.  In many cases, depending on the signal model itself, the operating rod can directly connect,  making complex linkages un-necessary. 

    The servos supplied with the circuit board are suitable for direct mounting in the larger scales.  At 3/4 by 3/8 by 3/4 inch, they are slightly oversized for "O-1/4" , but actually under-sized for "3/8" or "G" scale, when compared to the gearheads on the U S & S semaphores used by many railroads.

    Although designed specifically for use with the SLC-32, the multiple positions need not be used.  Adjustable "end to end" travel can be accomplished with a single contact.  In such a case, motion can be limited to as little as 1/16 inch. With the torque arm supplied, a maximum stroke of over an inch can be acheived. Quite a span, to my thinking.  Open is one end; Closed, the other.  Multiple contacts may be paralleled. (wired OR)  

   With two servos included, cost per switch is truely competitive with the "usual" switch machines.  Additional servos are readily available from suppliers to the Robotics and Aviation hobbies, at surprisingly low cost. 

   Pure binary from analogue technology, the perfect solution for a switch machine. And, there is sufficient reserve capacity that multiple servos may be driven in tandem, such as at a cross-over, or even a scissors. 

   As with most Signal Aspect circuits, Analogue and Digital techniques are melded together, providing the simplest and most reliable approach for a solution.  This  circuit is,  like most of my circuits, designed to work with DCC or as a stand alone device.  Although developed to work with the SLC-32, it can also use a DCC decoder for input.  Or, merely a push button switch......   What do you need it to do?

   Motion control never looked better.  While the LBO-4(SV) comes preset for 3 positions, it is possible to configure it for as many as you want. Any point through 150 degrees rotation may be selected by a single contact or operator switch.

   Another version is the (SG) option, a self contained Grade Crossing controller combining servo(s) for gate actuation, a flasher for LEDs in the crossbucks, a fixed LED in the gate cross-arm, and a detection circuit that uses ambient light or the output of an SLC-32 for operation.

   Most Model railroad circuits are very similar at the logical level.  Many modern accessory circuits make use of all the available bells and whistles of  special IC's to make  "Golly Gee Whiz" devices, many with different ICs, and every one a different board.  In the process, making the device so complex that many end up in the junk box unused.

    My efforts have been directed more toward basic, stable, generic a
pplications.  Not a lot of bells and whistles that only one person in ten may want.  That permits the use of one circuit board, in one size, with one power supply, for most applications.   To quote a very wise engineer, one doesn't simplify a system through additions. It is done by removing complications

More uses for the LBO-4 board;  

     Crossing Flashers for grade crossings?  The detection and flasher circuits of the servo circuit above are independant of the servo controller.  They may also be used with a linear actuator circuit to close the gate.


    There are times when it is useful to spot a train on hidden track.  With four detection circuits on one board, a train can be spotted within inches.  No need for any other logic, the open collector NPN outputs directly drive lamps, LEDs, or relays, just as with the SLC signal controllers.

    For signal systems using the "Check in / Check out" method, the LBO4 provides a latching function compatable with most any signal controller.   It also can stand alone as the signal controller with LEDs, displaying 2 aspect signals for four blocks.

      Want a "Simple" Signal System?  Two colour with no "Approach"?  The LBO4 may be configured for optical (or current) detection to operate Red / Green signals. Using one circuit for detection and one for signalling, you can signal two blocks for the price of one. 

    Some users of DCC control systems prefer isolated current detection using a CT (current transformer).  CT detection is also an option with the LBO4-CT.  Sensitivity of the circuit is adjustable by adding turns through the donut. Normal use is with two passes(one complete loop).
 
Other applications where this board has been applied include flashing beacons, marquee signs, automatic reversing circuits for displays, and many more.




--  Lead  --
The fine print
     Lead content in small consumer electronic assemblies is a matter of  public interest.  Should you be concerned about lead content, copies of manufacturers' Lead Free Certification are available. I have documentation from all suppliers of components used in these circuits.   While the amount of lead  used to solder a small circuit board such as these is negligable, lead free solder is available on request for pre-assembled boards.

    In addition, the LBO circuit board is fabricated to my design by a supplier of  heavy industrial boards.  These circuits operate at 18 Volts or less, well below the 24 Volt level defined by the National Electrical Code and are not subject to regulation.  Nor are they subject to oversight by such agencies as UL because of this low power level.  In operation, power consumption is well under 1 watt per board, plus the lamp load. 
Copies of the fire rating and dielectric certification are available, if required by any regulating agency.


 

Other railroad related structures you don't see very often...

A hundred years ago, the men that worked for the railroads and mills were not treated as they are today.  They weren't the middle class, they were one step above the animals they tended.  In those days, a good man would do whatever it took to feed his family.  There was no "Safety Net", if he didn't work, he didn't eat.  Yeah, the good old days; right, sure.

The "Company" provided housing, it went with the job.  And a "Commissary", a company store, where a man could sign a chit against due wages for his daily needs.  Groceries, clothing, basic household goods... At the end of the week, the man often owed the company more than he made in wages.

Company housing was as basic as possible; a roof to keep the rain out, walls to keep the wind out, and floors to keep the critters out.  Of course, the lady of the house was usually the one charged with making the building livable.  The man of the house was normally at work if he was awake.  Paper and cardboard on the walls to stop drafts.  Rags woven and sewed together to make rugs for keeping the floor warm.  Well, less cold, anyway.  Flour sacks for clothes.  And on, and on, and on....

There are histories detailing the living conditions of these families, and some fiction that strikes a little too close to home.  The first time I read "The Grapes of Wrath", it hit me so hard that I didn't read any more Steinbeck for years. 

But, for modelers that build in the steam era, especially pre-depression, this is an integral part of railroading.  It applies to modeling large industrial facilities, as well.  Company housing for the hands is as necessary as a Roundhouse, a Station, and a Coaling Tower to a steam road.

In any town, there is a heirarchy of wealth.  The well to do, owners and executives, lived in Victorian mansions, with well groomed lawns and gardens.  The "professional" classes, Doctors, Engineers, Middle Managers had their middle class neighborhoods.  These are the structures one normally sees on a layout.  Working craftsmen, Carpenters, Machinists, Electricians, had their "lower middle class" areas.  Unskilled labourers, ditch diggers, stock tenders lived in the "slum" areas. 

Today, we think of the slums as ghettos, centers of crime, drugs, un-employed drunks and any other low lifes you care to not consider.  A hundred years ago, these areas were merely very real "low income" housing.  The sort of neighborhoods the city fathers would rather not admit exist. No rent to speak of, the company furnished it as a part of the pay scale.  Electricity, running water, indoor plumbing; those were things the well to do had.  The dreams of the "Middle Classes".

In the period following World War 2 and into the early 60's, companies had been pushed into a corner with respect to employee benifits.  Building and health codes pushed the cost of company housing too high for it to be profitable for the company to maintain the buildings.  They were sold, usually at fairly low prices, to the occupants.  That removed the cost of maintenance from company ledgers.  Again, any good history of economics and social development can provide the detailed backgrounds.


What I am presenting here is a source of models of these company dwelling houses.  They are cardstock, hardly a new modeling medium.  They are not intended as foreground models. But, the price is right, and with multiple copies of the three houses, a lot of empty space can be filled in very little time. Mix and match roofs, two identical houses side by side, one with brick porch supports the other with wooden columns.


The houses protrayed here still exist in old neighborhoods.  I have photos of them...  One is on display at the Sloss Furnace Museum.  Birmingham has countless neighborhoods of these and other styles of houses.  They are the old company towns.  Lots will usually be 25 feet wide by 50-75 deep.  Streets would be nominally little more than dirt wagon roads up to paved city streets, depending on your modeling era.

All you need for a company town is an ink jet printer, a good steel ruler, a utility knife and some glue and clamps.  I recommend using 65 pound card paper, available at most any office supply house.  Construction should be intuitively obvious.  Almost as simple as paper dolls....  According to Adobe, the pages will be 8-1/2 x 11 inches if printed full size.

I added basic colouring to the drawings, and some basic texturing.  Extra windows and doors are supplied so you can cut out the printed openings and glue the windows inside the walls to add some depth.  Chimneys and brick piers are optional; many of these houses sit right on the ground with little or no crawl space below the floor.  Merely set the buildings in place and fill the edges with ground foam or dirt. (brown plaster) Lawns were a luxury few could afford, swept dirt would be fully appropriate.  No cars, no driveways, no garages.  Usually an outhouse and possibly a small shed.

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