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.
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:
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:
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*:
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.)
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.