Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Signal Box construction - adding details

Signal Box construction - adding details

Hot on the heals of Pete Neve's staff exchange picture (last blog), Bob Taaffe sent me an internal image of the Wagga Signal Box.

Bob Taaffe photo of Wagga Signal Box in 1975.  All levers are shown, along with the signal diagram, block shelf, and some additional details on the rear wall.  If this is the standard of the photos in Bob's forthcoming books on NSW signal boxes, we are in for a treat.  (Picture used with permission)

Previously, I have struggled with fabricating downpipes - trying to bend metal to shape was always a hit-n-miss operation - and often the gluing of them left a lot be be desired.  However, I have come up with an alternate method, which I am sure has been used by modellers  previously, but I have never seen it written about

Start with a 0.040 styrene rod.  This size is slightly smaller than 4" diameter, and not a bad compromise with prototype fidelity, and structural strength in HO scale.  
Cut the rod at approximately 45 degrees, and position (as shown), prior to glueing with MEK.  I use a glass plate over the "cutting mat", which is not affected by the glue.  This keeps the downpipe "flat" whilst the glue dries
Add the pipe to the model - I used MEK glue to attach the pipe, as I hadn't painted the walls.  Note, this pipe should extend lower to ground level, but this would have been impractical at this stage.  The omission will be addressed once I have completed the base.
Bomen box also got its downpipe.  Rather spoils the clean lines, but it was on the prototype
Some hand painting done on the base, again to match the colour of the prototype.  Will need to be redone.  Some green/grey door trim also added.   The entire box (less the windows) was then dull coated.  This kills off the shine of the styrene, as well as giving it a painted feel - a bit of a fudge to save time - only possible as Wagga's box was white.   Note that the roof of the signal box now has guttering, and fascias.

The stove pipe on the roof (and pigeon poop, and weathering) is about the only thing remaining to be added to the roof

The dull uninteresting side?  Without any prototype pictures, I really do not know what details I am missing.  Maybe telegraph lines, vents.   As it is also the side that won't be seen on the layout, I won't stress.

Signal box levers
As I mentioned before, the Uneek levers from Anton's trains were modified, and a new signal lever baseplate made, as the Uneek ones has inadequate spacing.  Wagga had a 56 lever frame, but only 41 active levers, and 2 unused ones by 1970

Using Bob Taaffe's picture, I have attached all the levers to my frame matching the lever positions shown.  
Painting took a long time, and very fiddly.  Yes, the lever colours are correct.  In retrospect, I should have painted each lever separately, and repositioned the painted lever to the frame one by one.  After all, I had attached a pin to the base of the lever, and drilled holes, which would have made things a lot easier.  Keen viewers will also sight the block shelf, and a block instrument  
A rear view shows that I have 6 instruments installed.  The block instrument in my collection has a dimension approx 5"x5"x10".  I have matched that with a 0.060 thou square styrene strip, painted gloss red, and after drying, cut to 3mm in height.  A extra detail was carving out the dial out of the red with a slightly dull exacto knife.  Not hard, just fiddly.  There possibly needs to be a few more block instruments added to the shelf on the Albury side 
More space in the signal box means more detailing.  I have a pot-belly stove, but the desk, chair, staff instruments, cabinets are all awaiting to be fabricated.  How are these are positioned in the box?  I am hoping that the pictures in Bob Taaffe's new book will give me an answer

Detailing to this degree may not be for everyone, but is ultimately quite satisfying.
A late note:
I am planning to head to the Malkara exhibition on the 4th August 2019 (sunday), and assisting Al Harris run his American switching layout.  If you happen to attend, please drop by and say hello.



  1. The down pipes look very good Rob. I have a growing collection of pipe-less buildings so this post has come at just the right time.

    1. Thank you David for your comment. What surprised me with the downpipe construction was how strong the MEK weld was on the angle joint. It could be handled quite quickly, and not delicate at all. This was the first time I had tried the method, and now is another trick in my toolbox of techniques. May you have success too.