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Turnout Indicators for an HO Model Train Layout

Updated on September 9, 2014

Urgent, Turnout Indicator Needed!

My HO scale model railroad layout was starting to shape up but I still had a lot of problems with derailments because I didn't know which state I left the electric turnouts the last time I activated them. The solution, a turnout indicator system which uses lights on the control panel to indicate the status of each turnout. Here is a picture of a typical electric turnout.

Atlas Track on Amazon

Creating a turnout indicator for an atlas turnout

In my case with the Atlas turnout, I needed some sort of latching circuit to remember the state of the turnout as it is not constantly energized; it is only hit with an electric current for a short time in order to change the direction of the track.Through some online searching I found this great web page offering instructions on how to build a turnout indicator system for many different makes/models of turnouts.

Breadboard First!

I always recommend breadboarding a circuit that you never built before first before making a more permanent solution like soldering it to a perf board. A breadboard allows you to temporarily setup a circuit for testing purposes without having to solder all of the components in place. It also allows you to make quick and easy changes to the circuit.

Time to Perfboard!

Once I successfully tested the turnout indicator circuit on the breadboard by connecting it to one of my electric turnouts on my layout it was time to commit it to a perf board. Perf board is basically a predrilled printed circuit board with copper pads on one side which you can solder electronic components to make circuits.Here is a picture of the completed turnout indicator circuit board component side.

Great books on Amazon

This is a great introductory book to the world of electronics. I read it cover to cover when I was just getting started in electronics years ago. It is easy to read and with great pictures!

You will need multiple turnout indicator circuits for a typical HO layout

This perfboard contains seven turnout indicator circuits, one for each turnout in my layout.Here is a picture of the completed turnout indicator circuit board foil side where electronic components are soldered to make the circuits.

Permanently mount turnout indicator board

Now it was time to permanently mount the turnout indicator board onto my control panel. This is the big circuit board in the picture above.

Turnout Indicators on the control panel

Here is a picture of the control panel with the turnout indicator LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes). These are the lights that are red and green next to the switches labeled SW1 through SW7. The LED turns green when the turnout is set so that the model train will go straight through the turnout track and red when the model train will get diverted to the branch rails of the turnout track. Please see picture.

Electrical connections for the turnouts

Finally here is a picture of how the turnouts are electrically connected to the control panel. I use terminal blocks to make quick secure connections between the turnout track terminals and the control panel.

Conclusion

So with some basic knowledge of electronics and a little time you to can build a turnout indicator system as described in this Squidoo Lens.

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    • groovyfind profile image

      Samantha Devereux 

      9 years ago from Columbia Mo

      Nice Lens!

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 

      9 years ago

      Wow what a great job! Great instructions and information. Even with the instructions so clear and precise, I would never take on doing it myself. But you have to understand, I'm not allowed to have scissors either :)

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