Working switch stands

Switch stand, installed.

The last time my friend Chris Abbott visited, he brought along a real treat for me: The eight switch stands I needed to control the turnouts on my layout! We’ve installed them and hooked them up, and they work wonderfully.

Switch stand, installed.

Chris was over a couple of weeks ago with a proof of concept for these turnout controls, and since I wrote about it then I won’t repeat the information here. Since it worked as planned, we made notes about how to mount the finished stands on the layout and he went away to modify the stands to work with radio control aircraft control rods:

The view from below.

Chris also created some nice shelves for each stand.

(In case you think he was doing all the work, while Chris was beavering away on the stands I was spiking down rails so that we’d be able to install all the mechanisms. A couple of thousand spikes later…)

Installation involved mounting the shelves on the front of the benchwork. We added a square of Masonite behind each stand to offer some protection from errant elbows:

A row of switch stands.

The squares will be replaced when the permanent fascia is installed but in the meantime it is the same height as the planned fascia so we’ll see how effectively the stands are protected.

The stands move a control rod, which in turn moves a mechanical turnout linkage under each track switch. This linkage is called a Bullfrog and is a product from Tim Warris at Fast Tracks*:

A Bullfrog, installed.

Since it’s easier to show people how this control works than it would be to describe it, I’ve created a 30-second video showing how these switch stands enhance the play value of an operating session. As a bonus, the video shows how a length of brass chain and a luggage lock can be used to lock the stands. (I bought eight locks from a local hardware store for $1 each. All came keyed to the same key – not the best for securing one’s luggage, perhaps, but great for this application.)

Switch Stand Video - Cover photo
(Click on the image to watch the video.)

Today, model railway enthusiasts can control turnouts from the keypad on a DCC throttle, so this mechanical system may seem old fashioned. But having thrown a few switches at museum railroads, I’m pleased at how well this system recreates the work of a real crew. It’ll add a lot of fun to switching my layout.

7 thoughts on “Working switch stands

    • Thanks Greg!

      I’ve tried many systems for throwing switches on layouts and I have to admit it’s my favourite.


  1. Trevor;

    Been following your layout ever since your article on the “S” sig website.
    I so want to do some thing similar for my layout here in Tucson. We just moved in March and I’m about to start my new layout.
    Ever since I saw this article I’ve been looking for more of these.

    Well I couldn’t find em anywhere except as antiques. Well lo & behold, today I was looking for something else entirely, figures, and found these.

    they are of course no longer available but I now have a lead to a lock that looks more like a switch lock. The kind lady ar Lee Valley said they were made in India 🙂

    • Hi TC:

      I’m not sure what you were looking for – the switch stands? The locks? The chains? In any case, I’m glad you found what you wanted.

      Thanks for reading along – good luck with the new layout in Tucson.


  2. Trevor

    I have been following your blog for a while now and find your thoughts very interesting on operating a small layout.

    Since reading you blog on the switch stands, I have purchased one of the switch stands to see if it would work on my layout.

    However, can you advise how Chris made the connection at the base of the switch stand to the torque tube/crank, which is fed down through your wood base.

    I assume he must machine it from the square section into a round section to make the joint.

    Look forward to your comments and/or some photographs of how this works.


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