I remember seeing a switch motor in an article in Model Railroader
about 30 years ago. It was about half-a-thumb in size, looked like a
silver cylinder, and was actuated by compressed air. The author said
that he got them from military surplus dirt cheap. It sounds like a
natural for a garden railroad, or for anyone who likes to get stuff
dirt cheap. Does anyone know anything about these little switch
I think that the name was Belaire or something like that. They work very
nicely when electric power isn't desirable. They used freon for the air
You can make them eaisly from some tubing and you will want to put an o-ring
in ther to keep the air in.
The actuators are single action - pressure puts them one way while no
pressure puts them the other way. They run on a few lb. of pressure so
slip-on connections are sufficient to keep the connections from coming
Why isn't there an Ozone Hole at the NORTH Pole?
That's "Del Aire", and as far as I've been able to tell they are now out
of business. Pity, I used them and was very happy with the product - it
was dead simple to add in semaphore signals and multiple motors from a
There are similar pneumatic motors available now from another
Freon was not involved at all - simply compressed air. A 2 liter pop
bottle could be used for a small layout - I used my airbrush compressor
for a while until I got a larger air tank.
The motors are spring-loaded - the application of air pressure overcomes
the spring holding it in place and throws the turnout. There are
indicators and slow-motion valves available, but I just set up the panel
so the toggle showed the direction of the turnout and used a piece of
plastic rod with a #80 hole in it to slow down the motion.
Electrically operated valves and matrices were available, but quite
When we used the Del-aire machines we used a second cylinder in parallel
with each turnout to actuate a slide switch to provide the electrical
Another thing to watch is NEVER leave a car spotted over a turnout because
when you shut off the air at the end of an operating session all the
turnouts throw to their "normal" position! :-)
On the aforementioned layout, we built some of our own cylinders.
Someone is still making the Del-aire cylinders and valves, but the name
escapes me at the moment.
Never tried it. The second cylinder was mainly because there was no need
for any fancy linkage (the throw of the switch and the turnout were not
necessarily the same length), and it let us mount all the electrical
switches on one panel simplifying wiring.