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Model Signal Engineering

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Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby South Western John » Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:04 pm

I am about to start signalling my loft layout and am keen to use both GWR (lower quadrant) and SR (upper quadrant signals) - similar to Basingstoke where the old Berks and Hants (GWR) joins the former LSWR main line from Waterloo. To get the configurations of signals that I require, kitbuilds of Model Signal Engineering products seem to be all that is suitable. Have any other members of this forum built up these kits? As they are constructed by soldering up component parts is it advisable to build up lattice post signals (for example) in some kind of jig? Can a second bearing be added to a tall doll so that a distant arm is presented below the STOP arm? Yes! I am bursting with questions!!

If anybody has made up some of these kits could they please share their knowledge and experience.
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby John Webb » Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:53 pm

I've made up an LMS tubular post signal and devised a small jig from scraps of MDF to assist assembly, in particular to hold the bearing tube at right-angles to the round post at the right distance from the end of the post.

But I haven't tried lattice posts. Again a couple of bits of scrap MDF glued together to give you a right angle could help you. (MDF seems to be fairly resistant to the heat from a soldering iron, by the way; not to say that ply or plain wood might not be suitable as well.)

I don't see why you shouldn't add a second bearing at the right distance to fit a distant arm; you would need an additional lamp and bracket for it, of course.
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby South Western John » Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:50 pm

Thank you, John, for all the ideas. I will try them out ASAP.
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby Adrian the Rock » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:14 am

Of course the SR also built signal posts from old lengths of rail at certain times - I've a feeling this may have been during WW2 when raw materials were in short supply.
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby John Webb » Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:03 pm

Adrian the Rock wrote:Of course the SR also built signal posts from old lengths of rail at certain times - I've a feeling this may have been during WW2 when raw materials were in short supply.

Robert Hendry's book "British Railways Signalling in Colour for the modeller and historian" says that the SR moved over to the rail posts due to the increasing cost of timber ones, but gives no date for this move.
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby RichardH » Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:22 pm

John Webb wrote:
Adrian the Rock wrote:Of course the SR also built signal posts from old lengths of rail at certain times - I've a feeling this may have been during WW2 when raw materials were in short supply.

Robert Hendry's book "British Railways Signalling in Colour for the modeller and historian" says that the SR moved over to the rail posts due to the increasing cost of timber ones, but gives no date for this move.

By the late 1920s SR signal posts followed LSWR practice, using lattice or concrete construction, but rail built posts seemed to be standard from the early 1930s until the 1960s. Lattice posts were still installed during this period, although perhaps recycled from other resignalling schemes.
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby davidwoodcock » Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:28 pm

John Webb wrote:Robert Hendry's book "British Railways Signalling in Colour for the modeller and historian" says that the SR moved over to the rail posts due to the increasing cost of timber ones, but gives no date for this move.


As a generalisation the SR didn't use timber posts, although it obviously inherited a goodly number and there would have been some early installations and some reuse of redundant assets.

Concrete posts were tried in the mid-1920s, with quite a lot of installations, but they seem to have been found unsatisfactory and weren't perpetuated. Some remained in use though for 40+ years. Rather elegant concrete brackets appeared for c/l signals in the early 1950s and I believe one or two of these may still be in use.

Otherwise early installations utilised lattice posts, and these remained as the standard on (semaphore) brackets until at least the end of steam. Rail-built posts were introduced c1930 although some/all(?) early examples seem to have been to a slightly different design. The "rail" was almost certainly specially rolled as it was to a double-headed bullhead profile, rather than being secondhand, although the original intention may well have been to use secondhand rail no longer fit for pw use.
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby JRB » Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:47 pm

Did they perhaps inherit a stock of genuine double headed bullhead? Such stuff existed and was not very successful. When it was turned after one head had worn out, the other was cound to have suffered from the chairs. Signals would be the obvious way to save wasting it.
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby RichardH » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:10 pm

davidwoodcock wrote:Rail-built posts were introduced c1930 although some/all(?) early examples seem to have been to a slightly different design. The "rail" was almost certainly specially rolled as it was to a double-headed bullhead profile, rather than being secondhand, although the original intention may well have been to use secondhand rail no longer fit for pw use.

The double-headed rail was 75lb? rail which I have seen with 1880s dates on it - this was certainly preferred for sign posts etc, as it gave a neat appearance, but probably the majority of signal posts used standard bullhead which often has wear marks from the chairs on the base.

There were certainly several different designs of bracket structure used, with the ‘N’ braced examples curved to fit the gauge line, and the simpler (later?) design with four straight struts the most common, but I don’t think this was a simple changeover at a certain date.
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby Chris Osment » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:25 am

The SR use of rail-built posts was of course "old hat" on the S&DJR :) , where the practice had been in use from about the mid/late-1890s (but to a different design). It seems to have been quite prevalent there until about the mid-1920s, but appears to have died out before the SR type was introduced.

There is photo evidence, for example, at Midsomer Norton of a S&D rail-built post having been replaced in SR days by a lattice post, whilst at Midford in the late 1940s two signal replacements on the same day used a SR rail-built post for one and a lattice for the other!

My conclustion is that, to some extent, they re-used whatever they might have available, otherwise made new using whatever was feasible/economic at the time.
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby davidwoodcock » Sat Jan 26, 2013 8:45 pm

RichardH wrote:The double-headed rail was 75lb? rail which I have seen with 1880s dates on it - this was certainly preferred for sign posts etc, as it gave a neat appearance, but probably the majority of signal posts used standard bullhead which often has wear marks from the chairs on the base.


When I first noticed - in the 1960s - that SR rail-built signal posts didn't seem to have a classic bullhead rail profile, I started taking a closer interest. A rough survey of perhaps one hundred posts didn't find one with the classic profile, and none of those posts showed the signs of wear that one might expect had they been secondhand (or almost certainly third or fourth hand) double-headed rails, hence my suggestion that they had been rolled for the purpose. Photos which show the profile well are rare but, by chance, the front cover of the November 2012 issue of Backtrack has an excellent almost side on view of the up-from-Brading home at Smallbrook Junction in 1964; by comparison with numerous photos of bullhead rail in situ in the same issue, it will be seen that the profile was quite different.

Double-headed rails had become quite unfashionable a decade or so before the end of the Victorian era so any surviving into SR days would have been in sidings. The Southern initiated a programme of route upgrading to enable heavier locos to be used, so there would undoubtedly have been a cascade effect which would have rendered remaining d-h rail in sidings totally redundant. Certainly some of this ended up supporting signs and it may well have inspired the concept of the rail-built posts (ironically, perhaps triggered by the presence of the rail-built posts on the S&DJR), but I doubt whether much of it actually found its way into actual signal posts, other than perhaps the early "funnies".

The four-rail uprights used to support brackets and gantries did use rail with the classic bullhead profile, it didn't look secondhand but it may have been.

Finally, actual redundant rail with the classic bullhead profile may well have been used during and immediately after WWII when steel was in very short supply but I didn't spot any.

From a modelling point of view, SR rail-built posts made up from standard fine scale code 75 bullhead rail look wrong, especially if painted bright white. Filing down the running edge to match the underside edge greatly improves the appearance. I made a jig of two strips (each about one inch wide and at least as long as the post) of 60 thou plasticard attached with solvent to an undersheet of 20 thou plasticard, the two strips being just so far apart as to tightly hold the requisite length of rail tightly upright. Once the solvent has hardened, each rail can be inserted in turn into the slot and their running edge easily and consistently filed down. I did try making the slot wide enough to take both rails but it doesn't work nearly as well.
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby Mike Hodgson » Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:57 am

Signals on model railways are rather susceptible to accidental damage, so I would think rail-built signals should stand a better chance of surviving longer than examples made with plastic, wooden or even white metal posts.
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby South Western John » Sun Jan 27, 2013 9:52 pm

Mike Hodgson makes a very tacit point about model railway signals being vulnerable to damage. Model Signal Engineering "rail-built" posts are in fact white metal. Whether the gantry posts using four-rail section would be more durable, I really don't know. However, MSE do a chunky etched brass lattice gantry post surmounted by an etched brass lattice balanced gantry that I intend to use as platform starters at the end of the downside bay platform. This, for no better reason, than it is to be located just where the 12 inches to the foot hands reach over. However the up bay platform can be a "rail-built" four rail post with fabricated gantry, as there will be no reaching over just thereabouts. It just has to be a model of the up platform starters (platforms 4 & 5) at Weymouth, see George Pryer's lovely book "A Pictorial Record of Southern Signals" page 86 plate 99.

As regards possible causes of damage, it has occurred to me that while lattice Southern signals have sharp-pointed finials on which to catch a wrist (ouch!) or even a sleeve (ripping fun!), rail built signals are surmounted by a neat cap that shouldn't trap the unwary with such painful results!

This finial problem with Southern signals is still with us with gantry dolls as rail-built dolls were never used because rail-built posts were deemed too heavy to be used for dolls
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby Signalhunter » Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:43 pm

South Western John wrote:As regards possible causes of damage, it has occurred to me that while lattice Southern signals have sharp-pointed finials on which to catch a wrist (ouch!) or even a sleeve (ripping fun!), rail built signals are surmounted by a neat cap that shouldn't trap the unwary with such painful results!


I have seen a layout that had, when not being operated, squares of polystyrene on the top of it's (very sharp) finials. As much to render them visible, as to actually protect them, or the finials. They were sharp enough to damage an eyeball, if you weren't careful.
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Re: Model Signal Engineering

Unread postby South Western John » Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:13 pm

Um! Signal Hunter you are horribly down to earth. In making our railways so very true to life we are creating danger! This whole line of correspondence now has me thinking very carefully about where signals can be sited. At the platform end locos have to be uncouplled from their train, especially in a bay platform. But here is a ray of hope, the signals are at the other end where locos hook on! Pointwork to be hand-operated, until wire in tube or point motors are installed, come in between signals. For example, at a station throat, the home signals come before the points while the platform starters are at the opposite end of the pointwork. Even so, it therefore might be better thinking to get the operation of points completed BEFORE installing signals.
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