Light signaling

Bright square to illustrate the project

In the real world, light signaling on the rail network gives locomotive engineers all the driving and safety instructions they need to arrive at their destination in the best possible conditions. It has multiple objectives:

  • to enable trains to be spaced out to avoid trains overtaking on the same track;
  • guarantee the protection of traffic in stations or shunting areas;
  • arbitrate traffic converging on the same track;
  • avoid derailments caused by excessive speed (limited-speed zones, curves);
  • protect level crossings (road-rail crossings).

In model railroading, light signaling has no direct impact on train safety, as it's up to the network manager or the modeler to slow down or accelerate the locomotives.

On the other hand, installing a light signal system on your layout that operates close to reality will significantly liven it up and make it very attractive.

This project is broken down into several modules:

  • targets and silhouettes supporting SMD LEDs. Numerous panel configurations are possible in conjunction with 3D printing of the masts and parasols;
  • electronic signposting module (MPS) to be positioned at the foot of each mast;
  • electronic sign decoding module (MDS), which controls the panels attached to it.

Each MDS will receive its orders from the network operator via the DCC signal and will transmit the information to one of its MPS. An MDS will be able to control several illuminated signs, keeping cabling under the network to a minimum.

Light signaling modules

Maturity : 90%

Different light panel targets to illustrate the project

Light panel PCBs avoid the need for numerous connections on the network platform, by recovering the electrical access points to the LEDs directly beneath each mast.

This module also offers a number of 3D printouts, enabling the creation of a wide range of signage configurations.

Technical choices made

The aim of this project is to propose a simple, high-quality solution that provides a true representation of the behavior of light signals, while enabling constant evolution without having to call into question the existing system. Wired cabling had to be as simple as possible, and not generate a "noodle dish" under the network.

Here are the choices made during the design of these assemblies and the arguments that led to this solution:

  • Limit the representation to the French automatic block signals, which are already very numerous and offer many variants.
  • Have the option of displaying a directional signal to match reality as closely as possible.
  • To have only one type of MPS (signal foot mounting or traffic sign module), so that the sign can be changed on the set without impacting the cabling under the network.
  • Use the principle of permissive blocking (as opposed to absolute blocking), so that several trains can be shunted on the same block. This involves trains passing a semaphore (single red light) at reduced speed, so as to reproduce the sight-driving maneuver performed in the real world.