Saturday, November 21, 2009

Simple Wire-Activated Switches

SW9 329 approaches a wire-activated switch on the 
CP Rail M & M Sub. Note how unobtrusive it is.

A close-up of the wire that helps control and move the 
switch. The piece of sprue is at the bottom, left.

The CP Rail M & M Sub has a lot of switches--65 on the visible portion, to be exact.

Since the layout is only between 12 and 26 inches wide in most places, all of them are easily reachable and can be hand-thrown.

I use Caboose switch throws for some of them. They work fine, but they aren't cheap (although they are less expensive than electrifying the switches). Plus, they are a little out of scale.

For these reasons, I wanted a cheaper and less obtrusive way to throw switches. I found it in a piece of bent wire.

The idea isn't original with me; I probably read it in an old issue of Model Railroader or some other magazine.

All you need is a bit of stiff wire, some wire cutters and needlenose pliers. A bit of sprue is useful, too.

First off, this caveat: I use Atlas Code 100 switches, I don't know if this would work with other brands.

To make this work, cut a piece of wire about 3/4 of an inch long. Bend the ends down about a 16th of an inch. (Put the ends in the needlenose pliers, and bend down.)

Next, bend the wire in the middle at a slight angle. Put one end of the wire into the hole in the throwbar, and the other into the nail hole in the tie at the end of the switch. (You may have to experiment to find the right angle.)

The goal is for the wire to fit snugly; you will have to push it in with the tip of the pliers. (If it fits easily, it won't work.)

The tension will hold the wire in place, and also hold the switch in place when you throw it.

To assist in moving the switch, I cut off the rounded end of a piece of sprue (from an old kit) and glued it to the throw bar on the outside of the switch. I paint the spring itself black or brown so that it isn't too visible.

To move the switch, simply push or pull on the piece of sprue; in most cases, you will hear a satisfying click to let you know the switch has been thrown.

This method provides a simple, cheap, reliable and unobtrusive way to make switch throws.

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