Manual Switch Controls

Someone asked me some time ago, “What kind of turnout controls are you using?” I’m using Tortise machines on all the mainline turnouts, but turnouts operated in industries and businesses off the mainline are controlled with homemade “Push-Pull” controls installed in the fascia. This allows the train operator to control turnouts in front of himself and to do so without reaching into the layout. The materials used are some scrap pieces of pine wood left over from bench construction, some 1/4” luan plywood left over from other construction work, a medium sized Radio Shack single throw, double pole slide switch, .032 and .062 Music wire from K&S Engineering, and some assorted screws.


I used a 1 1/2” hole saw to cut into the masonite fascia and 3/4” benchwork where the control was to be installed. The resulting 7/8” inset is a nice recess from the fascia that allows for a comfortable manipulation of the control wire. The switch control is shown below.



It is made from the 1/4” luan plywood. It is about 2 1/2” by 3 1/2”. The slide switch provides for a positive “feel” when you move the switch and helps to hold the switch in the position that you have thrown the control. The vertical wire is .032 music wire, and it operates the turnout in the same manner as a Tortise machine does. Two holes are drilled into the black plastic “button” of the radio shack switch. Both holes are .062 in size. That allows a little flexibility for the .032 vertical wire and a tight fit for the horizontal .062 actuating wire. We really don’t want that wire to ever slip out of the switch button. The horizontal .062 music wire is given a tight 90 degree bend to fit into the switch button and then the rest of the wire is left to project through the hole that was cut into the fascia and benchwork. I measured where the wire would be in the thrown position that is closest to the fascia and marked that just inside the edge of the fascia so that I could bend the wire again to be able to hold onto the wire when actuating the switch. I did not want the wire to extend past the fascia, as I did not want to provide any opportunity for anything to catch on the control wire. The wire is bent again at another 90 degree angle and cut so that It would be small enough to stay in the hole but be large enough to grab onto. I filed the ends to remove any sharp burrs. I had a small piece of electrical insulation left over from some work and it fits right on the wire to provide a nice visual contrast to the fascia. When you bend this wire, make sure you have your bends planned. There is no “redoing” on this wire. On the other hand, it is very sturdy and should never break or fail. I finally selected another piece of the fascia masonite and drilled a small hole for the .062 wire and glued it to the back of the benchwork where the 1 1/4” hole had been drilled for the control. The hole for the wire is located near, but not at the bottom of the 1 1/4” hole to keep the “handle” of the control wire in the center of the hole. This makes for a nice professional look to the switch control. I found that in some situations when I glued the back piece of masonite to the benchwork that I had to have the actuating wire already installed in the switch and fascia and sometimes I was able to glue the back to the benchwork and then put the wire in place. Think ahead and plan for the next step. You can see the small masonite piece in this photo. Everything had to be in place on this one as there was no flexibility to manipulate or move the actuating wire afterwords as the control was so close to the front of the benchwork.



You may want to experiment on how high or low you want to place the radio shack switch in the control mechanism depending on the turnouts that you use. I like this control design because the direction of the control is the same as the “throw” direction of the turnout on the layout. I also like the control as it probably costs about a dollar a piece to make! I hope this project has interest to you and that it provides you with an idea on how to control turnouts on your layout. I will say that this is not a new design nor is it solely my idea as I got inspiration for this design from seeing similar controls on layouts that I have visited. Let me know if you try this set up.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *