Earlier, while waiting on track caulking to dry, I played around with the idea of making my own switchstand lanterns and ground throws. The Tortoise switch machines are wired for them and I want something easy for operators to see which direction a switch is set to.
I ran across a nifty idea for using bi-color LEDs as lanterns. It was first described on this LK&O post. The original idea belongs to Bob Farrell. I found it on Waynes Trains web site. Bob’s idea is pretty straightforward and easy to make but they don’t look all that much like real switchstands. Functionally, they are perfect. The bi-color LED changes colors with switch position and the drilled holes in the LED give the impression of four 90 degree spaced lenses. It is the cosmetic aspect that I set out to improve. Plus, this would be a test to see just how much work it takes to build one thus determining whether or not it is practical to build close to a hundred of them. I could always fall back to buying and modifying cast white metal switchstands that are readily available although a bit spendy when a large number of them are needed.
Using on-hand Evergreen plastic shapes I started hacking out a prototype. Mind you this is not fine modeling. It is eyeball measuring, slice with a razor blade, close is good enough, down-n-dirty quick assembly. But it told me what I wanted to know. Yes, I can make my own switchstands and No it wasn’t difficult at all. I’m so happy with the crude prototype that I will make a few cutting and assembly jigs and mass production of refined units will get underway. Something useful to do while waiting on caulking to dry!
Check it out… Bob’s LED switchstand idea with a bunch of plastic glued on and a quick, rusty paint job. Click image for a really big version.
The base is made from 1/16″ angle and .040″ x .010″ strip. The body is 3/32″ round tube. The lever is .040″ x .020″ strip. The weight is 1/16″ square rod. And finally, the handle nub is .020″ round rod.
The lantern housing is a 3mm bi-color LED. The cool part is the reflectors. I drilled a shallow 5/64″ hole in a piece of heavy steel. The steel was a cutoff from my shelf bracket installation. A chamfer was cut at the top of the 5/64″ hole with a 3/16″ bit. A #0 narrow stainless steel flat washer was placed in the drill point and then whacked one time with a large bull nose punch. In a single strike I was able to make repeatable cone shaped reflectors that look convincing. Then they were simply glued onto the LED with speaker glue.
My veneer showed the overall size was in the ballpark and when I stood a HO scale figure next to the switchstand it looked right. When powered up (sorry no pic) the stainless washer reflects the LED light to make it look like a real lantern. The clear speaker glue, visible on the LED in the hole of the washer, adds a nice imitation lens effect. Much better than the point source look of the emitter junction inside the LED.
I like’em. Easy to make and more convincing than the original idea. With more care taken in cutting, assembly, and paint these switchstands will do me just fine.