System Design

Track Configuration Library (TCL)


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System Design

A. Signal Plan and Corresponding Circuit Board Plan Service

                                                 SIGNAL LAYOUT PLAN

Doing a signal plan has 3 steps.  I will need a scale drawing of your layout with as many pictures as you can supply.  I will need to know where all the tunnels are located and bridges are located.  It is important that every turnout is drawn correctly with the diverting route going in the correct direction.


 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. 

Please follow the sample below.


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 (direct, 1st diverting, 2nd diverting, etc.)

For example, a signal protecting block 3 from an eastbound train would be “3E” or “3ED” or “3EX”.  The diagram will also note the corresponding track configuration at the end of each signal block.  An enlarged diagram will be supplied for this phase.  The enlarging and copying cost will be passed on the customer. 


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 will use letters to distinguish the turnouts from the signals.  If you already have number IDs for your turnouts, I 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. 

COST: The cost for this Signal Planning Service is $2 per signal block with a minimum of $20.  Any copying or enlargement fees will be passed on to the customer. 

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.  If you do not care to do that, continue reading 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) using the circuit portion of the Track Configuration Library (TCL).  I will start at the beginning of the signal plan and work through the layout using the corresponding layout and circuit configurations from the TCL.  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.  Your 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 fit the circuit board plan. 


COST: As with building anything, this is a time consuming part of the signal system.  I do feel that it is well worth it to have it done correctly the first time.  Because of the variety and size of layouts, the cost for this service is based on the number of signal blocks.  The cost is $10 per signal block with a minimum charge of $75.  Any enlargement, copying and shipping costs will be passed on to the customer.  GCF or TDC wiring illustrations may be extra.  The wiring plan for our sample layout is below.



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 based 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 my 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. Standard sizes are from 1 ft. by 1 ft. to 2 ft. by 4 ft. in 1 ft. intervals.   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.   I can make a recommendation for the best size PPB once the circuit plan is completed.  For more information on wiring the PPB, go the the Wiring Section.  


COST: If you wish to have Custom Signals mount and wire the PPB, I can do that here and ship the completed board to your location.  I will connect the basic parts of the system including:




4. TURNOUTS (SW) wires. 

Each of these will terminate at a bus connector on the board for you to connect to the corresponding part from the layout.  Each of the signal target IDs will be labeled on the corresponding PCB.  The cost of this service is $75 per square foot of PPB (including the wire) plus the cost of all the other parts. 

Optional connections include:

5. APPROACH LIGHTING switch connected to all BSC boards will be an additional $12 per sq. ft.  This will include any Ain wires necessary. 

6. Each TUMBLE-DOWN SIGNAL CONTROL Board (TDC) will be an extra $5 per signal block.  

7. Each SURFACE MOUNTING JACK to connect one PPB to another PPB will be an extra $15 per Jack.

8. Each GRADE CROSSING FLASHER (GCF) will be an extra $15 per GCF.

9. Each NESTED WIRING FOR OVERLAPPING DETECTION wiring will be an extra $20 per PCB.

9. Each BLOCK SIGNAL FLASHER (BSF) Board will be $15 per PCB.

All PCBs and parts will be extra.

Contact Custom Signals for a more detailed estimate.

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


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