Control Panels

This is the method I use for control panels on my HO Australian (NSW) railway layout.
Like most things on my layout, I try to find an easy way to do things by using materials readily obtained. The panels shown below are paving the way.

This is an operating panel for “loco” on my layout. The SPDT switches control the points (US – switches, turnouts) and indicate which track is powered by a 3mm Green LED. The next panel to the right operates the turntable (below).

These panels are constructed using 3mm black acrylic plastic sheet (purchased as a pack of A4 size sheets on eBay). The panels are held in photo frames. These were a cheap 16 x 11 cm frame from a “discount” shop and were supposedly a standard item – not so … subsequent ones were different design, size and colour! The next photos show how the panels were mounted to the fascia using 2 simple wooden, angled holders.
Size “A” above is the same size as the internal height of the picture frame and needs to be a tight fit. The 2 wooden holders need to be spaced such that they are a tight fit to the internal width of the frame.
This is a panel under construction for the “yard”. This time the picture frame was an MDF cheapy. I prefer the moulded plastic ones. It looks OK when assembled (below).

And shown above mounted to the layout fascia. Switches and LEDs still to be added. The point lever to the right controls crossover points on the mainlines to the rear using wire in tube (in this case bicycle gear tubing). The manual point operation is more prototypical for 1950s operation but I will probably convert them (and did so) to servo operation.
Firstly I produce a really rough pencil sketch to replicate the physical track layout, in this case, in the yard. The point numbers need to be allocated and recorded as I am using MERG designs developed in the UK.
Their aim is “to actively promote and advance the use of electronic and computer technology for model railway operation”. In essence I am using their CANBUS model with a variety of modules connected to that BUS, a sort of fly-by-wire. For a detailed explanation – see the MERG website.
The reverse side of the acrylic sheet is shown above (right). It is plain brown self adhesive paper and makes a suitable surface to draw a pencil diagram following the design sketch but drawn accurately using basic drafting techniques (mostly a 45° set square!). Using a soft pencil you can easily make corrections to the diagram. I use a line width of 4mm.

PHOTO description of the process now follows.

Having marked it out and checked it, I carefully cut along the lines, missing the gaps with a very sharp (new) Exacto blade. Just deep enough to cut through the paper. Check that the cuts meet precisely! No gaps. When everything is cut, peel the 4mm strips slowly from the acrylic sheet.
You are left with most of the paper still there and some black 4mm strips where the tracks go. The next step is to spray paint the whole panel with a rattle can. I used a satin white enamel with about 3 light misting coats. When touch dry, peel off the remaining paper to leave your track diagram.

You are left with most of the paper still there and some black 4mm strips where the tracks go. The next step is to spray paint the whole panel with a rattle can. I used a satin white enamel with about 3 light misting coats. When touch dry, peel off the remaining paper to leave your track diagram.
One little patch-up was needed on the example below – the knife slipped and I covered the mistake with a sliver of blue painters tape.
I use a satin white rattle can in my home made spray booth (based on a kitchen exhaust fan). Separate POST done but not added yet.
Multiple light spray passes with satin white – leave to dry for 20 minutes and multiples passes again.
Careful peeling of the self adhesive backing.

This is the final version of the Loco control panel expanded to include the 2 crossovers on the adjacent main line. Things always change on a model railway layout.

An Overview of the Operator Panels

There are 4 main Panels:

  1. Brolgan Road – station area
  2. Loco and turntable (sub panel)
  3. Yard
  4. Carriage works

And one intermediate panel between the yard and the carriage works. Using the MERG Canbus system allows panels to overlap so that panels can include points in the adjacent area (with permission from that operator).

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Rick Fletcher

Born in the steam era and developed an interest in railways when given a clockwork Hornby "set". Surrounded by steam when travelling to school (by train of course) and holidays were always by steam train as we had no car. How lucky was I?

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