A Cheap Way To Build
A Dwarf Signal
For Your HO Model Railroad

Bill Payne of our NMR club came up with this clever idea for making a lineside HO two-color dwarf signal. Bill likes to avoid spending money if he can figure out an inexpensive way to build something for a model railroad. He found a two-color LED package at Sayal Electronics.

I believe it is made by Juneco, but anything similar would probably work. He attached leads and resistors to it and slipped the wires through heat-shrink tubing. Then he cut lamp shades from drinking box straws and painted them black. You could also paint the entire assembly silver.  

I drilled a hole next to the track in East Utopia on my Utopia Northern RR and inserted his signal into the hole.

Here's what it looks like.

LED two-color dwarf signal approximation
fake HO dwarf signal

A base could be added. Also, the LEDs can be replaced if a different color combination is wanted from the one that is available. For example, if you can only find red-yellow you could replace the yellow LED with a green one. Below is a typical commercial casting of an HO dwarf signal for comparison.

LED two-color commercial signal
commerical HO dwarf signal

I have been using Oregon Rail Supply dwarf signal kits or Tomar built-up signals.  They cost up to $10 Cdn depending where I buy them. Bill's signal approach costs less than $1 Cdn for all the parts.

It's a pretty good imitation of a dwarf signal.  I may keep the commercial signals for the foreground and use Bill's idea for the signals that are farther away from the layout's front edge.

I power a dwarf signal via auxiliary contacts on a switch machine and get the power from the 12 volt DC terminals on the computer power supply I use for the signal boards. Any 12 volt DC power supply will work with the appropriate resistors.

An old DC power pack like the ones that come in train sets is fine. Often you can pick these up for very little at trains shows and auctions. A neat way to mount signals so that they are removeable is presented in an article in the January 2011 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist (www.mrhpub.com). This is a free online model railroad magazine that is industry supported with advertising. It's been going since late 2009 and is well worth joining as a subscriber to get access to the forums.

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