Saturday, 20 February 2016

Installing Auscision's CTC signals

Recently I purchased an Auscision Models NSW CTC home starter signal, complete with a small CTC signal hut which houses a manual operating switch. But before installing the prototype New South Wales Railways signal on my layout, I had to figure out just what I was going to use as an identifying number on the signal head. So far I have succeeded in keeping Philden in some imaginary far off location. But it seems the more you research a subject, the more that subject forces your railway modelling towards a particular time and place. In the case of installing a Centralised Traffic Control signal, I have now defined that era as post 1975. By the time you finish reading this post, you may have figured out a rough geographic area that my layout now exists in, all thanks to one tiny signal.

Cutting the letters from the decal sheet to spell Philden reminded me of my past years working in N scale.

The decal sheet included in the pack is tiny, and right away has me squinting like I did in the good old days of working in N scale. The signal itself is a ready-made home starter signal for a mainline, and as such will stand to the left of the mainline heading out of Philden towards the mouse-hole door that will lead to my future extension. The signal head has room for two numbers, and after a bit of research on the net I discovered that the top number refers to the signal's location, and the bottom is the signal number for that location. Down signals have an odd bottom signal number while up signals have an even number. Confused? Think of it this way, if the line originated from Sydney, up trains would be Sydney bound while down trains would be heading for the end of the line. With my mouse-hole escape door supposedly leading towards Sydney, my signal required an even number. I went with 2. That was the easy part. Cutting out the tiny digits and letters required to spell Philden on the CTC signal hut box became a tedious all afternoon affair. I'm so glad that I didn't name my layout Bullamacanka Creek!

I started with the simplest water slide decal, the one that goes onto the door of the CTC hut.

When applying the water transfer decals, I started with the easiest one, the one that goes on the door to the signal hut. With the door now labelled as telephone cabin south, and facing towards the mouse-hole escape door on my layout beside a signal numbered 2, (leading towards Sydney), I have now inadvertently given away the location of my layout as being north of Sydney. So much for keeping Philden in a mysterious far-off location.

I won't say how long this took me to decal the CTC hut with the name Philden, other than it looks good.

With the CTC hut all lettered, it was time to fit the two rows of numbers on the signal head. Remember how I said the top number referred to a specific location? Well, now I have to give a visual clue as to where my layout, or at least the signal, may or may not exist. Even in freelanced model railroading there seems to be no escaping realism. So, I went with 04. Not just because it is my favourite number and all the books I have written have had four words in the title (true story, if you don't believe me take a look for yourself on my author page), but because it placed my fictitious location somewhere on the lower North Coast Line in the Hunter Valley area. Somewhere between Paterson, (signal prefix 03 and the home of the Rail Motor Society) and Dungog, (signal prefix 07 and the end of Hunter Valley services from Newcastle). I found a full list of signal prefixes for NSW North Coast Line stations and passing loops on Wikipedia. When it came time to applying the water slide decals to the signal board face, the numbers only just fitted on.

I positioned the signal on the left hand side of the mainline, where I'd left just enough of a gap between the siding.

With the signal and CTC hut finally ready to install, I drilled a 7 mm hole for the white circuit joiner to pass through the layout base, and another 2 x 5 mm holes for the two lugs on the signal base to rest in. I scraped back the small overlap of scenery base between my completed siding and yet to be ballasted mainline, and glued the signal into position before repeating the process for the signal hut which I placed a few scale feet behind the signal. Prototype photos show both the signal and the door to the signal hut always facing towards oncoming trains on the left hand side of the tracks. There is a blue light on the roof of the CTC hut that is also meant to be positioned on the line side of the CTC hut. Unfortunately, there was only one way I could have installed the Auscision model for this to look correct, and that would have been to have the signal facing the other way. So it was either have the CTC hut facing backwards to have the blue light on the correct side, or accept that the blue light would be on the wrong side so as to have the CTC hut facing the correct way. As these signals are models of the NSW Railways Centralised Traffic Control signalling and are widely used on crossing loops on single track mainline, installing a pair of mainline and loop line signals side by side would allow you to place the CTC hut on the loop side to have the light displaying correctly. A detailed diagram was included for this on Auscision's instruction sheet inside the box. I seriously considered doing this, but decided the second line on the way out of town would almost always have stationary cement hoppers pulled up alongside my cement works. So I was better treating it as a siding and having an imaginary home signal positioned beyond my highway overpass where the siding would have joined the mainline.

After I glued it all in place, I asked myself why I didn't just feed the wires directly beneath the signal like the CTC hut.

The slide switch that is visible on the rail side controls the red/green/red function of the signal, while the name board with my carefully spelt out Philden can be viewed from the layout edge on the other side when I reverse the layout backdrop. Auscision's NSW CTC signal was a simple project to install, but one that gave me a few hours of fun researching something as simple as what identifying number to place on the signal head. I'll have to be honest, before purchasing this signal I didn't know a thing about signal prefixes, how a crossing loop functioned or how a CTC hut should be positioned. Perhaps that is the 'gunzel' in me for being content to know that red meant stop and green meant go for so many years. But research and continually learning about different, and in some respects trivial, aspects of railway operation can be one of the most enjoyable elements of this hobby when you are confined to having a small layout.

So for now I am content to know that my above representation of a home starter signal goes a little further than signalling stop or go to trains departing Philden. Oh, and in case you are wondering where location 04 really is, the answer can be found on Wikipedia here. The station first opened some 218 km north of Sydney's Central Station in 1911 and did have a weatherboard station building right up until being replaced by a simple waiting shelter in 2009. For me, I'll just call it Philden, and be content to say that beyond the signal it's all fictitious anyway. But maybe that's just the writer in me. After all, there is always an element of reality in any good story. Now to get to work ballasting the track and hiding those wires. What was I thinking by not taking them straight underneath like I did with the CTC hut?

See also; Installing LED strip lighting and Building an abandoned siding

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Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil