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Thread: Questions about machine switches?

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    Question Questions about machine switches?

    I have them at my rural train station to divert passenger trains from the main line to the platform. In the real word, would the dispatcher operate these or could a train conductor operate these using some radio-control device? Is a manual switch more likely to be used in an application like this on American roads? Should I just have a manual lever at the train station that some train crewman has to get off the train to throw?
    TANE SP4 Build 105766, upgraded Aug. 2021, TS12 Build 61388, downloaded Feb. 2018, American citizen, Lawton, OK

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    There is no remote control for the train crew. They get out and operate a lever, at least that's what I've seen. Usually, they'll call the dispatcher to have the track switched.

    The use of the automatic switches is based on the railroad, place, kind of service, etc. If it's a busy mainline with a big dispatching operation, there are remote switches. If it's a siding that sees a boxcar every two Thursdays a quarter, then a manual switch will suffice, although that could be an automatic switch.

    An old branch line or industrial spurs have manual switches, or sometimes automatics. This happens because sometimes what is now a branch line was once a busier mainline and the RR didn't want to bother to replace the machines. Other times, the route was always manually switched and that's how it is.

    Sometimes, the automatic switches are pulled and are replaced with manual switches. This occurred in East Deerfield, Mass at the big former B&M yard. This once large yard was stripped down under Guilford and most of the automatic switches were removed and replaced with manual ones. The only automatic switch left is at the throat of the yard.
    John
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    As John says.

    The period you're modelling is important, as is the size of your railroad company. Originally all switches were manual and you will find many local roads, e.g. the Mount Hood Railway, are still in that mode.

    As large "plants" were developed, some sort of central control of switches became necessary and so control towers came into being. They ranged from small ones controlling a few switches to large ones, with big banks of control levers working through switch rods along and under the trackage to work switches remotely. When electricity became readily available it became possible to replace the levers with toggle switches and switch motors. Eventually this led to Central Traffic Control (CTC) where a central dispatch center could control an entire division or even the entire railway. However, local CTC centers usually were retained to operate complex plants such as yards and railway terminals. Even those still contain some manual switches, e.g. the BNSF/UP plant in Spokane, which still has a section controlled by "handthrows."

    Even if CTC is in use, many switch towers remain on site, being used for other things. A tower at each end of a through terminal or yard would not be out of place.

    The DLC contains a number of control towers in many nationalities and there are switch rod assets available. Note that the original EIT (see Kickstarter County) is modelled on a British switch tower.

    You might consider subscribing to Model Railroader; they have many discussions on the topics you have been bringing up. An on-line sub is available.

    :B~)

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    I have now replaced those machine switches at my rural passenger station with hand levers. Some poor guy on my passenger trains has to get off to throw the thing come rain, snow or shine. It is probably much safer to have manual levers under lock and key anyway on a main line. If some idiot at a dispatching office was working there and controlling remote switches off a main line, especially a higher-speed main line, that could be death or disaster if a switch were to be absent-mindedly set wrong. How long does it generally take to get off and throw a switch by hand anyway?
    TANE SP4 Build 105766, upgraded Aug. 2021, TS12 Build 61388, downloaded Feb. 2018, American citizen, Lawton, OK

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonMyrlennBailey View Post
    I have now replaced those machine switches at my rural passenger station with hand levers. Some poor guy on my passenger trains has to get off to throw the thing come rain, snow or shine. It is probably much safer to have manual levers under lock and key anyway on a main line. If some idiot at a dispatching office was working there and controlling remote switches off a main line, especially a higher-speed main line, that could be death or disaster if a switch were to be absent-mindedly set wrong. How long does it generally take to get off and throw a switch by hand anyway?
    Yup, that's railroading!

    Well, let's see: Stop the train. Brakeman or conductor climb down (maybe already on the step) and walk to the switch. Eyeball the track to make sure there are no obstructions. Unlock the switchstand (Grandad had quite a collection of switch padlocks and keys, used 'em on the woodshed door). Line the switch. Eyeball everything again to make sure it's OK. Cross over the track (operating rule) and signal the engineer to proceed. When the train has passed through, walk to the switch stand. Line the switch normal. Eyeball the track again. Lock the switchstand. Put key back in pocket and go back to the train. DO NOT step on track or place foot between the closure rails--that has killed people who got stuck with the train coming.

    For an old hand, say a minute to line the switch and inspect it? Twice is 2 minutes, then there's transit time, oh say three-four minutes altogether.

    Autotrain wrecked with a freight on a siding some years ago because the freight's brakeman stayed by the switchstand, got confused and lined the switch wrong just as the Autotrain arrived.

    :B~)

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonMyrlennBailey View Post
    I have them at my rural train station to divert passenger trains from the main line to the platform. In the real word, would the dispatcher operate these or could a train conductor operate these using some radio-control device? Is a manual switch more likely to be used in an application like this on American roads? Should I just have a manual lever at the train station that some train crewman has to get off the train to throw?
    If there are signals protecting the switch, such as in CTC territory, then it will have a switch machine controlled by the dispatcher. Also, remote-controlled switches are controlled by the crew sending a series of tones over the radio to the switch which will change the switch direction. These are used in places where there isn't CTC, such as ABS (Automatic Block Signaling/Absolute Block Signaling) or DTC (Direct Traffic Control).
    Owner of Freeman Locomotive Works.

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    ... "Grandad had quite a collection of switch padlocks and keys, used 'em on the woodshed door."
    {snip}

    A friend of my brother's found some old padlocks in Tewkesbury, MA where he was metal detecting. He didn't know it at the time, but after showing him the location on a topo map, this was where Tewkesbury Jct. was once located. There was once a runaround track and a wye at this location. Those tracks came up in 1925 after the lines between Tewkesbury and Lawrence and Peabody were abandoned.
    John
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    Speaking of woodsheds, here's a little jewel of a video. Be glad woodsheds aren't as common as they once were!

    Owner of Freeman Locomotive Works.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCitron View Post
    {snip}

    A friend of my brother's found some old padlocks in Tewkesbury, MA where he was metal detecting. He didn't know it at the time, but after showing him the location on a topo map, this was where Tewkesbury Jct. was once located. There was once a runaround track and a wye at this location. Those tracks came up in 1925 after the lines between Tewkesbury and Lawrence and Peabody were abandoned.
    Don't railroads have one master key to fit all the padlocks on levers?
    TANE SP4 Build 105766, upgraded Aug. 2021, TS12 Build 61388, downloaded Feb. 2018, American citizen, Lawton, OK

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonMyrlennBailey View Post
    Don't railroads have one master key to fit all the padlocks on levers?
    I believe you may be right.

    :B~)

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    That would explain why there are no keys and only the locks because the rail lines elsewhere are still active.
    John
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