Hod Carrier

Track Detailing - UK Outline

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As we're all grounded at the moment, I thought I'd use some of the time to have a little look at ways to make subtle improvements to the track. It's always great to debut a new loco or item of rolling stock, but apart from ballasting the track on which these trains run often gets overlooked. As a train driver here in the UK I thought I'd see how to add the sort of details seen along the lineside in order to add realism, often with only a few parts.

These digital designs represent details found on modern British railway lines and I appreciate that the precise designs will have only minor appeal, but I hope that it will serve as an inspiration to designers to look more closely at the infrastructure and to consider adding similar details to their builds. All of the designs are compatible with the PennLUG standard of track ballasting.

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This is quite a busy scene showing a typical modern British railway signal and it's associated infrastructure. As well as the signal itself, included are the signalling equipment cabinets, TPWS train-stop loops, signalpost telephone and cable troughs.

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The signal is a modern lightweight signal based on a flat panel design containing LEDs to show each of the three colour aspects. These are becoming increasingly common in the UK as older signalling is renewed. The smaller black tile represents the signal identification plate. Also shown is the signalpost telephone. In the past these phones would have been mounted directly onto the signalpost itself, but the modern standard is to have them separate with a walkway and rail for protection.

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A selection of lineside equipment cabinets together with the concrete cable troughs. These troughs can vary in colour depending on age and weathering. They are also rarely dead straight or level and can often disappear altogether under piles of ballast or vegetation, which gives the modeller licence to do more interesting things with them. On routes with more than one line the troughs and cabinets can appear on either both sides or just on one side.

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This is the Automatic Warning System (AWS) track equipment used in conjunction with a signal. Using magnets and electro-magnets, this operates the in-cab equipment and indicates to the driver whether the signal is clear or at caution. These are generally accompanied by a small equipment cabinet.

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The grey slope at the front of the magnet is there to protect it from anything hanging from the train and is why these installations are referred to as "AWS ramps". This is the typical arrangement used on uni-directional lines, but there are other AWS arrangements for bi-directional lines as well as fixed magnets to alert drivers to lineside warning signs, for example.

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The correct operation of the signals relies on train detection. Previously this was done using track circuits, but modern signalling schemes now use axle counters. This is an axle counter head unit with it's associated lineside box.

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The parts for these do stand about half a plate above the rail, but there are no clearance issues for trains using LEGO's train motor.

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Another common feature now seen on the UK network is Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS). This is a radio-based safety system that will automatically stop a train under certain circumstances. The system uses an arming loop and a trigger loop and can be set to trigger the train's brake by varying the distance between the two loops. 

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The parts required for these are very simple and few in number.

TPWS comes in two forms; overspeed and train-stop. The pair of loops placed end to end (left) is the train-stop arrangement and is used at signals to stop a train if the signal is passed when it's red. The loops spaced apart (right) are the overspeed arrangement. These might be used where a reduction in speed needs to be enforced for safety, such as on approach to a speed restriction or approaching a red signal.

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These humble looking things are treadles. They are basically switches on the track which are operated by the train wheels and can be used either singly or in pairs to operate things like footpath crossing warning lights or even some automatic road crossings.

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Not much to add with this photo. Treadles are placed both before and after the equipment they are intended to control; once to activate it and once to deactivate it once the train has passed.

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Sometimes it's necessary for cables to cross underneath the track from one side to the other. To achieve this safely, plastic pipes are laid between the sleepers.

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I would probably cut down the bars on the ends to 2 studs rather than 3. The colours normally used are contrasting such as orange or blue, but they quickly weather to a duller shade.

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Quite a varied assortment of trackside equipment. These are the little things that are often overlooked. Good work on them.

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These are fantastic - nicely-scaled and realistic-looking (albeit coming from someone having never been to the U.K.).  I wish I knew enough about North American railroad track equipment to create our equivalents, but I really hope someone else has that knowledge to do so.  Great job!

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Thank you everyone for the feedback. I enjoyed making these details, especially as they are so small and use so few parts and yet add so much extra realism. :classic:

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Those little designs add a whole new layer of "pop" to a layout, great work and more importantly all the background information so that someone would know exactly what goes where (capturing reality rather than random grebeling)

15 hours ago, Hod Carrier said:

I would probably cut down the bars on the ends to 2 studs rather than 3. The colours normally used are contrasting such as orange or blue, but they quickly weather to a duller shade.

Use the rigid hose then, it is considered legal to cut to length and it comes in many colors.

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20 minutes ago, zephyr1934 said:

Use the rigid hose then, it is considered legal to cut to length and it comes in many colors.

Good tip. Thanks. :classic:

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Just admired them on Flickr, really nice. Like you said, it's these kind of details that make a difference but are often overlooked. For most of us who are not train drivers it's not easy to find information about them...

About the pipes, do they go straight out or would they be angled down on the outside?

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@Duq They do tend to just stick horizontally straight out of the ballast, but they aren’t necessarily as long as I’ve shown them here. If I was building them for real I’d trim them down to 2L. The pipes are made of a very stiff plastic tube through which cables can be fed beneath the track without having to disturb the ballast.

**EDIT**

I appreciate that my job gives me the inside line on what these details are and how they are laid out, but if anyone is interested to know more about how to lay these out in an accurate manner I would be more than happy to help.

Edited by Hod Carrier

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Would it look more real if the "pipe" pieces were 1 plate lower since you have the track lifted by 2 plates?  Also I assume at least one end of the "pipe" would attach to something like one of those electronics boxes on the side of the tracks?

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@CSW652 On balance I think the answer is no.

The Signal & Telegraph guys to whom these belong don't like to work any harder than absolutely necessary and only bury them deep enough to pass beneath the rail between the sleepers/ties. This means that they are generally about flush with the tops of the sleepers/ties. The pipes themselves only extend beneath the track and do not reach all the way across to the concrete cable troughs. Any cables they carry would simply be laid across the ballast or buried beneath it. I know that one of the screen grabs gives the impression that the pipes reach all the way to the troughs, but this is just a trick of perspective.

From a LEGO perspective, I designed these models to be compatible with the popular and well-used PennLUG ballasting standards, and although I've shown it sitting on a baseplate, this is subbing for a MILS module. If I were to attempt to lower any of the details by another plate there would be nothing underneath to attach it to without the track becoming an integral part of the MILS module. This may be OK for some builders but I designed them with simplicity and ease of implementation in mind, so it was important to make them highly compatible with existing standards.

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These look great. I love how creative you've got with making your tracks realistic, and the cable trough is the item that really stands out to me - so ubiquitous in the UK.

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These look great. For accurate realism, now you just need to add the rubbish, graffiti and buddleja bushes!

 

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