Seeks ideas/opinions on Fascia switches & graphics

Looking for ideas and opinions. I'm getting close to putting up a fascia on my railroad for a major classification yard. I've been thinking about
the user interface. I'm assuming I'd want a track diagram of some sort, some toggles and/or pushbuttons to control turnouts and some LEDs to see the aspects of turnouts, etc. Is there some sort of skinny tape used for drafting or auto pinstriping or something that works well for the diagram or should this be painted on in some way? Other ideas?
Before I forget, I should mention that I'm DCC-based...using Digitrax.
Do you think LEDs are necessary in the fascia? Would look kind of nice, but takes 2 volts away from the drive power of the Tortoises I'm using. Also, on the turnouts, I'll have some that are "manual automatic" ( driven by a Tortoise but not connected to Digitrax in any way) and "fully automatic" (could be thrown by computer, if /when I'm ready to add that). The "manual automatics" I assume would be simple DPDT sub-mini toggles that reverse the power on the Tortoises directly. The "fully automatic" inputs go to a DCC device of some sort (like a Switch-IT or DS54 or whatever) and usually have to be momentary contacts to ground. I initially assumed these would be push buttons but then thought that wouldn't look that good because my fascia would have some toggles and some push buttons. Perhaps better would be SPDT momentary on toggles for the fully automatics, but I haven't been able to find any of those anywhere.
OK, sorry I rambled a bit. I'd appreciate whatever experience anyone would like to share. Links to good websites, articles, references to good auppliers of these kinds of parts (closest I've found is allelectronics.com), etc.
Thanx,
Vince
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in article Xns96DC6EDC32vinceguarnacomcastne@216.196.97.136, Vince Guarna at snipped-for-privacy@nospam.com wrote on 9/25/05 8:53 AM:

See my website below for pictures of my layout turnout control. I use Tortoise as well with bi-color LEDs to indicate the state. I don't worry about the two volt drop: I use a variable power supply (like the type from Radio Shack; I happen to use two Coby brand supplies I bought at Fry's) and can thus compensate for the two volt drop. The voltage to a Tortoise motor is a compromise between speed and silence anyway.
May control board is plexiglass engraved and painted from the rear by a company in Salem, MA: A&R Engravers, Inc: (978)744-5802,
http://www.arengravers.com/homepage.html
I sent them a PDF of the design I wanted, they fabricated, painted, and drilled the holes for switches and LEDs. I did the mounting with brackets and hardware from OSH hardware.
As for DIY: you can purchase automotive pin striping tape from many auto supply stores in a large variety of colors and widths. Since these are designed for outdoor use (like on your cars exterior), they will stay put if properly applied. Another option would be to use plexi-glass or other clear plastic and use masking tape to create the track plan on the reverse side. Then use spray paint to paint the background on the back side. When you remove the masking tape, you can then paint the track plan in various colors if you want. Use very opaque paint for both the background and track plan. Light shows through very easily if it gets back lighted at all.
Drilling holes in plastic requires care, and I was not totally successful when I tried it on an earlier layout: I wound up with lots of cracking around the round holes and melted plastic on my drill bits. Anyone have tips on drilling lexan or plexiglass?
Ed
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Ed Oates
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I had a small brainstorm while reading your post. Use a milky white translucent plexi for the panel. Use tape to temporarily mask the track plan, then spray the back side with a dark opaque paint. When dry, remove the tape representing the tracks. Instead of drilling the plastic for the LED's, mount them behind the panel so they can glow through the translucent plastic, green for the normal switch position, red for the diverging route. Something as simple as black electrical tape could isolate the light from the LED's to the desired area.
Has anyone tried something like this? If so, with what results?
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in article Xns96DD6459E3659syzygy5346@216.168.3.44, Norman Morgan at nmorgan@**nospam**brake.com wrote on 9/26/05 7:50 AM:

I tried using colored electrical tape behind black paint to mark the track layout as an experiment some time back. I found that the tape pulled on the pain and cracked it as the tape shrank (it always get stretched when you pull it off the roll). I do like the frosted or milky Lexan idea though to allow indicator LEDs to "glow" diffusely through the plastic.
What I'd really like, though, is to find a way for an LED to illuminate a "line" of light about an inch or so long. That way, the through path could glow green and the blocked path red, not just a "point" of light on each leg.
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You could try using some glass fibre threads - the sort of thing that is used on the small Xmas tree lights that change colour. Put the LED in a small 'box' with the glass fibre ends at one end then run the fibre glass on to the panel. You could even put both LED's in one box so that you only have the one set of holes. In theory you could then have red, green or even yellow aspects in both LED's are lit at the same time.
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in article snipped-for-privacy@mikehughes.demon.co.uk, Mike Hughes at snipped-for-privacy@mikehughes.demon.co.uk wrote on 9/26/05 10:12 AM:

Unfortunately, those fibers mostly put out a point of light from the end. There is some leakage along the length, but not much. Certainly, one could drill a series of small holes the size of the fiber diameter and place one fiber in each hole in a line, then illuminate the line with a single led source. Hmmmm...
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Ed Oates
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Edward A. Oates wrote:

I've got something that sounds like what you want, in an old Heathkit clock. The kit comes from before the days of jumbo 7-segment LEDs, instead the digit segments are each a block of clear plastic with a frosted surface. A low-voltage light bulb fits into a hole drilled into the back of each block. When the bulb is on, the light sort of fills the block and shines out evenly (IIRC, you had to wrap black tape around the sides of each block so light escaping from the sides wouldn't spoil the effect). Seems like it should be possible to do the same thing only smaller using bi-colour LEDs and a "sliver" of plexiglas the thickness of the line you want.
-- Kizhe
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Edward A. Oates wrote:
>> You could try using some glass fibre threads - the sort of thing >> that is used on the small Xmas tree lights that change colour. Put >> the LED in a small 'box' with the glass fibre ends at one end then >> run the fibre glass on to the panel. You could even put both LED's >> in one box so that you only have the one set of holes. In theory >> you could then have red, green or even yellow aspects in both LED's >> are lit at the same time. > > Unfortunately, those fibers mostly put out a point of light from the > end. There is some leakage along the length, but not much.
If you destroy the smooth surface of the fibre optic strand, by either roughening it with sandpaper or crazing it with a solvent, you will get light emitted along the length of the strand. It's probably unsuited to use on a control panel, but it can be used to simulate a fluorescent light tube.
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The problem with using plastic and illuminating through it is that any scratches around the LED will tend to show up with the color of the LED. This can be used to an advantage if so desired by cutting outting out the desired shape from the panel and putting an another piece of plastic. You will have to block the light from getting to the rest of the panel with some paint wich can also be used as the glue for the piece. A bit complex but it is doable.
-- Why do penguins walk so far to get to their nesting grounds?
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This just begs to be an application for EL tape. neat idea. *
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* PV something like badgers--something like lizards--and something
like corkscrews.
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Coolness! Please write some more about the process and what the boards are like. I would have loved to have known about this company four years ago when I drove myself nuts figuring out how to make nice boards. *
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* PV something like badgers--something like lizards--and something
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in article snipped-for-privacy@news.supernews.com, Paul Vader at pv+ snipped-for-privacy@pobox.com wrote on 9/26/05 3:20 PM:

There are pics of my control board on my website (below). I started by using Empire Express (I'm a Mac guy; I'll use windoze if I must, but until the dark side prevails totally (it is cloudy in Seattle), I'm staying with Mac).
The track plan for a control board is more flattened horizontally than the actual layout. I've seen folks with "round and around" layouts like mine linearize the whole thing. The I "printed" that plan to a PDF file with annotations, exact positions for holes to be drilled, etc. When that is printed full size, I could put it in front of me and make sure it "fits" my needs.
I emailed A&R and received an immediate reply. A PDF of the layout plan was fine with them; they pointed me at their plastic supplier to let me view color samples since I didn't want the default black with white line front engraving. We spoke on the phone to made sure I wasn't missing something: real friendly people. It's a small business and Ray was cool.
The board itself is front engraved (standard) usually black background to reveal white lines. I had mine reversed engraved and the lines then painted my desired colors (as specified on my PDF plan). With reverse engraving, you get a matte top surface (finger prints don't show, a real problem with shiny Plexiglas painted black on the back), with a colored back surface. Then an engraving is done on the back which can then be painted in.
It took them about 2 weeks to fabricate and the cost was $174 including shipping. It arrived PERFECT, ready for mounting. The base price for reverse engraving was $144, plus $14 for drilling and $16 for reverse painting, including the "Ellieton Junction" logo (my daughter's name is Ellie).
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Ed Oates
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I'm confused - where does the engraving part come in? Looking at this page: <
http://homepage.mac.com/edoates/.Pictures/Photo%20Album%20Pictures/2004-03-08%2010.18.34%20-0800/DSC01314.jpg
I see a very nice panel, but I don't see anything engraved. When they say 'engraved', do they actually mean painting masks cut with a laser? *
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in article snipped-for-privacy@news.supernews.com, Paul Vader at pv+ snipped-for-privacy@pobox.com wrote on 9/27/05 8:34 AM:

The engraving is on the reverse side, done with an engraving machine. The board is painted (colored by the manufacturer) on the reverse, clear above that. The engraver cuts out the track plan, the "Ellieton Junction" letters and box), etc. The A&R (or the buyer if you wish) paints the engraved track plan in whatever colors he chooses. The holes are drilled at some point in the process.
They also sell regular front engraved panels, usually black surface, white plastic underneath, like those engraved name badges you see people wear all the time.
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Ed Oates
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snipped-for-privacy@nospam.com says...

For the diagram, since you're online, you must have a color printer. Use it and cover the printout with some cheap plexiglass. A hint - drill holes for switches and lights by sandwiching the plexiglass between two pieces of wood. And drill slowly.
Recess everything or put protective covers over them. DAMHIKT.
I've tried recessing copper pipe caps (1.5") in the fascia for manual turnout controls. Should work for standalone switches and lights as well. Plastic would work too, but I think the copper looks better.
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Chart tape is available at drafting supply stores and craft stores. It comes in widths as narrow as 1/16".
See: http://www.michaels.com/art/online/displayProductPage?productNum 0225
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It also doesn't stick worth a damn.
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I draw mine up with MS Publisher (marking the centres of the switches), and then print them onto A4 paper, which is then laminated. Then I stick the laminated sheet to a 3mm sheet of MDF board using spray adhesive.
Once the glue has dried, I drill the holes for the switches (carefully) using carpenters' bits - the sort that have the outside cutting blade to stop splintering. (Sorry, but I don't know what their real name is.)
After mounting the switches and wiring it up I fit it behind a hole in the facia which is slightly smaller than the A4 sheet. That way the panel is slightly recessed.
A friend of mine once wrote an article for N Scale Modeler (I think) on this method.
It is easy to make changes if you need to - just print up a new sheet, drill the holes in the same locations, and fit it to the panel.
Regards, Ron
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If you want a track diagram that never gets worn, there are several methods. First is to lay the tape on the backside of clear plexiglass You can use autobody type pinstriping tape and paint on the color you desire for the track path and then pull the tape and paint the rest of the panel. Another method is to lay out the track path with layout tape after painting the panel with the desired color for the track and then paint the background color and pull the tape. The end result is all paint which will look very nice. The black layout tape that the electronics people use will bend nicely if you want that, just be sure to burniish the edges so that the paint doesn't sneak under the tape edge. For a ladder, I'd do a set of pushbuttons (SPST NO), one for each track in a nice row down the track diagram and red/green bicolor LEDs at each turnout point for an indicator. The switches go to a diode matrix which aliigns the turnouts to the individual tracks from the lead.
-- Why do penguins walk so far to get to their nesting grounds?
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You can get pinstriping tape from hobby stores or auto-parts places, but there's a knack to using it. If you do use it, drill your holes for switches and lights BEFORE you apply it - trust me on this one.
The best way I've found to do panels is to use plexiglass. Lay out your designs with masking tape from the back, paint in the stripes, and then cover the entire surface with your background color once the stripes have dried. You can do some incredible stuff this way - it's a common method for painting RC cars. It's also very durable, though you might want to put some scratch resistant coating on the front side.

I'm assuming you're leaving the tortoises powered all the time? If that's the case, can't you do the LEDs in parallel instead of series, or use the other side of the switch?
Another option, if your switches are DCC controlled, is to use a signal controller for the blinkenlights. They can be a pain to set up, but worth it. I'll plug Team Digital again - I love their stuff (I do not work for them), but hate their manuals. Whoever wrote the one for the SIC24 needs some serious pain.

Once you've done a few turnout decoders, you won't be going back to hand-wired controls anymore. They really cut down on the rats-nest effect that switch machines normally inflict on the bottom side of the layout. Many stationary decoders will give you a connector for fascia switches as well as DCC control.

Find a good online electronics store like digikey or jameco, that has lots of different switches. Momentary toggles are easy to come by, but most of them leave the switch in the center when you let go, so if you're looking for the paddle to be an extra turnout indication that won't work for you. *
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