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Track Configuration Library (TCL)


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System Design |

Plan your Own Layout



 The first phase is to designate signal blocks for your layout.  The number of blocks will be determined by the following factors:

a. The complexity of the layout (number of turnouts and interlockings)             

b. The size of the layout and main lines             

c. The number of trains using each track             

d. The length of the average train 

Since most blocks will begin and end at turnouts, the more turnouts you have the more signal blocks you may need.  This is why it is best to cluster turnouts together into “configurations”.  That is, try not to leave small track spaces between turnouts.  Try not to locate turnouts inside of tunnels.  These can be signaled to avoid collisions, but the wiring is more difficult.  Stub sidings are usually ignored for block signaling.  A diagram of the signal blocks will be produced and approved by the customer. 

Draw out a somewhat scale diagram of your layout.  Pick a starting point and begin to number your signal blocks.  Use the TRACK CONFIGURATION LIBRARY for more help to determine where signal block will begin and end.  Below is a BLOCK DIAGRAM for a sample layout



Once the blocks are agreed upon, we move to the signals.  I will next locate the signals as best I can without actually being at the layout site.  The customer should check the location of each signal for visibility and clearance.  For bidirectional signaling, each block must be protected at both ends.  I have used the East and West notations for most configurations.  These indicate the signals facing eastbound trains and westbound trains respectively.  Each target will be given a number based on:             

1. The block it is protecting             

2. The direction of train travel it faces             

3. The type of access to the block (straight, 1st diverting, 2nd diverting, etc.)

Since any one block might have more than one track approaching it from the same direction, we need to use a different target number and still retain the same block number and direction. To do this we simply use an additional letter following the track number and direction.  For example, 3 targets protecting block 1 from an eastbound train would be “1E” or “1ED” or “1EX”. 



Each one of the turnouts needs to be labeled so that the Turnout Signal Control Boards (TSC) will get the correct information from the corresponding turnout.  I use letters to distinguish them from the signals.  If you already have number IDs for your turnouts, you can use them instead.


At this point the customer should purchase the signals and signal installation accessories.  It is advised that the customer install the signals to check for clearances.  If any custom work is necessary, such as bracketed towers or signals bridges, it will be discussed now. 

With this information, the customer will be able to go to the Custom Signals web site and download the corresponding layout and circuit board plans from the Track Configuration Library.  Follow the next step below.



The final planning phase will be to detail how to wire everything together for your layout.  This consists of illustrating the location and connections of the Block Signal Controllers (BSC) and the Turnout Signal Controllers (TSC) Printed Circuit Boards using the circuit portion of the Track Configuration Library (TCL).   Once you have the signal plan, you may want to do this yourself using the TCL.  Start at the beginning of your signal plan and work through the layout using the corresponding layout and circuit configurations from the TCL.  For much more detailed information, go to the Track Configuration Section of the web site.   

If you wish to have me do this portion, I will use the TCL to copy and paste all the circuit configurations below the corresponding layout configurations from signal plan.  This will have all the necessary wiring connections starting from the beginning of the signal plan through the entire layout and back to the original starting point.  The final plan will have the track and signal plan in a straight line form at the top and the corresponding circuit board plan (PCBs) underneath.  It will be 24 to 30 inches wide and whatever length is necessary to complete the layout.  I am sorry that I can not use your personal signal plan to do this portion since it would still require me to redo your signal plan to make sure it will work with the circuit board plan. 




The next part of the installation of the signals system is mounting, wiring and connecting the PCBs on the PPB.  Once the circuit board plan is completed, you will have to mount the PCBs and wire them together.  Each of the circuit illustrations in the TCL is base on mounting the PCBs to one of the PPBs offered by Custom Signals.  This does not mean that you can’t supply your own mounting board and do it yourself, but the PPB will save you time by having all the mounting holes, wire holes, screws and spacers supplied for the project.  These boards are offered in a variety of sizes depending on your needs.  As you check the TCL, keep in mind that each PCBs will require about 3” of vertical space on the PPB.  Each vertical column of PCBs will require about 3” of horizontal space on the PPB.  Even though that means every square foot of PPB will hold about 16 PCBs, I recommend that the arrangement of PCBs in the TCL be followed.  This will take a little more space, but make the assembly easier to trouble shoot.

For more information on wiring, go the the Track Configuration Library section of the web site.

If you want to make your own drilled panel board, I have a DRILL SCHEMATIC for a 2 foot by 4 foot piece of plywood.  Check the Price Sheet for the cost.

Below is part of the completed PPB for our sample layout.


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