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Martin Lovell

MARTIN LOVELL explains how to decorate and organise your COBALT S Switches.

Signal levers in a signal box are, and have to be, coloured according to their purpose depending if they are point levers, signal levers or even detonator placers. The signalman, of course, must be able to identify them, sometimes immediately in an emergency, and know which lever does what. Of course, after serving a long time in one box he will know the layout like the back of his hand. If you get a chance to visit a working box it seems as if looking after a busy box is quite effortless, however a moments inattention can cause a disaster.
The worst train crash ever, Quintinshill May 22nd 1915, was caused by a signalman forgetting a train standing on the “wrong” line - it having been shunted to clear for a following express and not protecting it with signals, allowing a fast troop train to collide head on with it. This was bad enough, as the packed troop train which had been 213 yards long and consisting of gas lit, wooden bodied stock, was reduced to a length of only 67 yards. Worse was to follow, as the express under clear signals ploughed into the wreckage and fire broke out, and was not fully extinguished until 23 hours later.
It was estimated as costing 225 lives, and many more severely injured, all down to a moments forgetfulness. For a full account of this, and other disasters, read the excellent book, RED FOR DANGER, by L.T.C.Rolt.

However, back to our signal levers.
The main colours used for signal levers are as follows:

  • BLACK - Point lever
  • RED - Stop signal i.e. Home or Platform start signal
  • YELLOW - Warning signal i.e. Distant signal
  • BLUE - Point lock, especially facing points
  • WHITE - Spare or unused lever
  • BROWN - Level crossing gate lock

COBALT-S switches can be wired up for most of these (apart from a detonator!) including a point lock i.e. if set and wired correctly, a point will not be able to operate if the blue lever is in the right position, therefore it is possible to run simple interlocking. See the DCC concepts website for more detailed wiring explanations.

For decorating the COBALT-S levers for this article, I used HUMBROL enamel paints as follows:

But you of course may have your own preferences.

Cobalt S Lever

I started off by cleaning the brass levers with a detergent, and then painted the lever section with the grey primer, taking care not to get paint into the working parts.

Cobalt S Lever

When this was dry, the main colours were applied.

Cobalt S Lever

Apart from the operating bar and locking bar, which were coloured black, and the tops of the levers, which were painted silver.

Cobalt S Lever

The imitation tops were then painted black, with the ribs left bare.

Cobalt S Lever

The number plates were then treated with a thinned black, to fill the plate, but not cover the numbers, which, when dry can be cleaned off, leaving brass numbers on a black background.

When all paint was dry, the switches can be assembled into a frame, taking note of which colours go where. For example, a facing point lock should be on the right of the point it protects; a distant signal should be on the left of its home signal.

Cobalt S Lever

Finally, the numbers were cleaned up and added, the tops glued in place, and the result looks pretty good.
For further information, there are a few books on the subject of signalling, explaining in more detail signals, block instruments etc. Hope this has helped a bit, not only with the COBALT-S range, but also with interior detail for smaller scale point levers as well.

Happy Modelling.

Going back to prototype signal levers, a device used in order to protect a standing train was a lever collar, a metal ring which slipped over the lever top and prevented the lever being pulled by blocking the operation of the unlocking mechanism. So successful and simple was this, that a rule was brought in which required that when a train was brought to a stand at a signal the driver should whistle, and if the signal was not cleared after 3 mins (or immediately in snow or foggy conditions) the fireman, guard or shunter must be dispatched to the signal box to inform the signalman of the presence of the train.
Having done so, he must then sign the train register book and not leave until the signalman had given the all clear, or he was satisfied that all the proper precautions such as lever collars had been applied to protect his train.
Nowadays, of course, with track circuiting, electronic signal control etc. this rule is rarely needed, but is still in use on many preserved railways. Any idea of the rule number?

CLICK HERE to view the COBALT S Switch Range

Martin can often be seen up at Amberley playing with real trains, well - Narrow Gauge!

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