Hidden Switch Machines
Improve Model Railroad Scenes

I was upgrading South Point on my previous model railroad. This involved correcting some wiring, adding a few more lighted buildings and installing some twin-coil switch machines.

The turnouts at the left end of South Point where the mainline enters the yard have been controlled until then by ground throws. However, operators were usually standing closer to the right end of the yard about 10 feet away.

This had made it awkward to throw those two turnouts because you had to walk over to do so. Also, you had to reach across some track and scenery.

I decided to install a couple of switch machines I had hanging around. Because it is difficult to work under South Point due to the staging tracks between Underhill South and Underhill North interfering with access, I compromized by installing the switch machines top side.

I added a capacitor discharge unit below the table to fire them. 

As the old Tenshodo machines have auxilliary contacts I also installed dwarf lights near the turnout to make it easier to see if the turnouts ware set for the mainline or branch. 

The push buttons to operate them were installed in the fascia at the right end of the yard where most of the work was done.

Exposed top-mounted Tenshodo
twin-coil switch machine
exposed twin-coil switch machine

As you can see from the photo, the switch machines were unsightly.  I decided to cover them. I started with the twin coil machine that was the farthest away. 

I found leftover siding and scrap wood in my scrap boxes and located an unused door and two windows from my "hobby shop", you know that pile of stuff bought over the years because one's going to build it or need it some day. 

Never throw anything away!

This project took a few hours over several days. I started by measuring the worksite. I had mounted the switch machine on a piece of masonite trackside to get it to the correct level.Masonite pads work well when you're using foam board as your base. In this instance there was foam board over plywood. In HO scale the site is roughly 18 X 24 feet. I made the front walls 12 feet and the rear wall by the track 10 feet. 

This gave a slight slope for drainage. I added a chimney, some vines on the right side wall (fine turf sprinkled on carpenter's glue), a railway worker on the front porch, a couple of barrels, a light over the door and some bushes from clump foliage.

Before assembling the structure I cut a notch in the left side wall to clear the actuating spring that connects the throwbar to the switch machine. Presto, a hidden switch machine. 

Top-mounted hidden switch machine
out of sight inside a building
hidden switch machine

The turnout already had frog power through a top-mounted micro switch on the opposite side of the mainline. I also had to do something to disguise it. Maybe a small platform.

Then I needed to design another building for the second hidden switch machine. I could make a tower and, come to think of, swap the tower with this building.  It probably made more sense to have the interlocking tower at the first turnout.

You may also notice the trackside signal in the photos. This is the first signal in the test section Bill Payne and I were building with the help of Bill Hudson's signal circuits and his guidance. If you're interested in signalling, check out my pages on signal circuits.

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