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Peter's Model Railroading | Articles | Layouts | Layout #8
Electronics

In December of 2012 I started converting my engines to using the S-CAB radio control decoders and their battery-powered system. This is great, except that, when I completely get rid of my Digitrax DCC system, I won't be able to control the Tortoise switch machines. These are currently being controlled via the Digitrax throttle; there are no fascia buttons. I don't want to use hand-thrown manual switch controls, because that would lead to too much damage to the scenery. I found an electronic circuit on the Internet that allows me to use a momentary push-button on the fascia to flip the direction of the Tortoise (i.e. flip the turnout). I am now getting ready to install that system. I am also going to take this opportunity to install bi-color LEDs in the fascia so I can see what direction the turnout is thrown to from the front of the layout. Since I already have basic scenery installed, I had to cut pieces of it out to drill the holes and to install the push-button switch and the LED at each turnout location. I decided to line up the push-button with the throw bar, and the LED is to the left or right of the button depending on the direction of the turnout (left of the throwbar, or right of the throwbar).

I built the circuits needed to control the Tortoises via the fascia-mounted pushbutton switches, and the LED indicator lights. Each board can control up to four Tortoises, so I built three of these boards to cover all of the turnouts and the animated gate. I then found the nearest strategic place to put these, and cut away the scenery base to install them. I had superglued the nylon spacers to the bottom of the board, but the bottom-mounted capacitors are a bit taller than the 1/2" spacers I had bought. It was then just a matter of carefully tracing each of the inputs and outputs and soldering wires between them and the Tortoises, LEDs, and buttons.

This photo shows the aftermath of cutting out pieces of scenery to gain access to the various components. This is the view of the right-hand side of the layout.

However, those same pieces I cut out, fit back into their slots just fine, so with some creative use of glue, support strips of cardboard, and filler scenery materials to cover the gaps, the layout looks just like it did before, except now we have buttons and lit-up LEDs mounted in the fascia.

I added a strip of oak quarterround around the base of the fascia of the layout. Before installing and staining it, I cut a groove into one of its flat sides. That way it can hold my simple operations-scheme card and my magnet stick for undoing couplers and turning on and off the battery-powered engines.