A Method For Installing
LED Turnout Indicators
On DCC Train Layouts

If you're using DCC, an idea I found in the December 1997  Model Railroader  looks like an interesting way to have turnout indication either at the turnout or on the fascia or control panel. If you use or build power routing turnouts, you can power LEDs directly from the rails because there's a constant voltage on the track.

Solder a small wire (22-gauge) to each rail on each diverging track. Connect one end of a wire from one rail to the LED. Connect the other end of the LED to a 1K ohm 1/4 watt resistor and the resistor to the other rail on the same track.  Do the same with the other track. When the turnout is thrown to one of the diverging routes, the LED for that route will light.

 The article suggested using green LEDs to indicate "proceed".

The article, which was about building the Wisconsin Central project railroad, explained that the LEDs were installed between the rails after the frog and both rails were gapped beyond that point. You can buy small LEDs that would be unobtrusive but could still be seen easily enough. The author used small tubes to carry the wires from the LED through the styrofoam subroadbed and used a dab of Walthers Goo to hold them in place so they wouldn't interfere with the couplers or other parts of moving trains passing above them. I use a similar method for installing light emitting diodes to trigger my Logic Rail signals.

LED turnout indicator schematic
LED turnout indicator

The article said operators found the indicators in the track helpful to tell which way a turnout was thrown. You'd probably only use this with electrically powered turnouts and it would save using a second set of contacts or installing relays. Come to think of it, it could also be helpful with manually-controlled double slip switches that can be confusing to some operators.

You wouldn't need to install the LEDs between the rails. If you don't like the unprototypical appearance of LEDs in the track, they could be installed in the benchwork fascia, beside the turnout, in a nearby building or even in a light on a pole that would turn on when the turnout was thrown.

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