Author Topic: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures  (Read 2592 times)

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Scottl

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Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« on: September 23, 2014, 09:28:17 AM »
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OK, here is where I show my substantial ignorance of the details.  I am pondering signals, and have come across two possibilities that look fine scale and flexible for lighting.  What I can't figure out, and I am hoping for input here, is the relative age for deployment of these signal types.  My interest is essentially modern.

The first is the Showcase Miniatures Searchlight type, http://www.showcaseminiatures.net/century-foundry-signals.html  The fact that these are listed for C&O tells me that these were in use a long time ago, but when did their use end?  Some aspects of these look quite similar to what I have seen in the past few years, such as this shot:


Source:  railpictures.net

The second is from BeNscale http://benscale.com/index.html and these look more modern to my eye, and the information on the site suggests they are still in use. 

There have been excellent threads on the construction of both types on TRW, and there are varying opinions about fibre optic vs. direct LED lighting.  There are also suggestions that BeNscale products might have availability issues based on reports of non-response a few months back.  Since he is probably a one man operation, that may not be a material concern here, so I prefer to judge the products on their individual merits.  The Showcase Miniature units are substantially less expensive but that reflects the need to add lighting, so cost difference is not likely to be a major issue.

Any insights are appreciated.

arbomambo

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2014, 09:46:22 AM »
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The Showcase miniatures version, Union Switch and signal searchlight style, is still being used today, in many guises, on various railroads (including heavy hitters like CSX, etc...)-I still see them in modified form along the mainline down here in coastal Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, although they've been replaced by 'flying nuns' in a lot of areas.
I like the idea of using the Showcase miniatures version and kit-bashing them (per some prototypes) with the safety-style ladder and platforms-Santa Fe did this back in the 50's for most of their searchlight style signals...I'd love to see Showcase offer a photo-etched version of this ladder/platform arrangement to allow more variations on their beautiful signal line. Apart from the debate between fiber-optics and directly mounted LEDs, the Showcase Miniature version offers the best scale appearance by far.
~Bruce
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Bruce M. Arbo
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Philip H

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2014, 09:51:59 AM »
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Given your handi-ness with bashing all things metal to create breathtaking bridges, reworking the Showcase signals to suit your needs should be a cinch.  What I'd say is start with a map or diagram of the layout, and decide how many signals you want and what you want them to do.  Then work up from there to a vendor, and then detectors, logic, etc.

And take lots of pictures.
Philip H.
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Baton Rouge Southern RR - Mount Rainier Division.

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Scottl

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2014, 10:19:05 AM »
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Thanks for the input.  I was leaning towards the Showcase product, and availability might be the deciding factor.

In terms of signalling as a system, I have not even thought about it.  What is needed to rough in for signals?  Breaking the layout into blocks for detection?  It would be very nice to have these operational in the future.

Philip H

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2014, 11:01:20 AM »
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Ok, you're about to get signalling advice from a guy with a switching layout that has one set of signals on the prototype . . . . basically you have to have some sort of block structure and then a way to detect when a train is in the block.  That detection then in turn needs to drive circuits that report occupancy by activating and changing the signals . . . that's all I got.  I think there are about a gazillion threads on here taht describe actual installations.
Philip H.
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Baton Rouge Southern RR - Mount Rainier Division.

"Yes there are somethings that are "off;" but hey, so what." ~ Wyatt

"I'm trying to have less cranial rectal inversion with this." - Ed K.

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Scottl

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2014, 11:03:33 AM »
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That's great, I just need to rough in now, I can figure out the logic and hardware later.

eric220

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2014, 11:38:30 AM »
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In terms of signalling as a system, I have not even thought about it.  What is needed to rough in for signals?  Breaking the layout into blocks for detection?  It would be very nice to have these operational in the future.

Block occupancy detection is a beginning for signaling. You will also need something to read the occupancy information and command the signals accordingly. Finally you will need drivers for each signal to actually drive the aspects.

On my layout, the tracks are divided up into electrically isolated blocks, and I'm using RR Cir-Kits current sensors for detection. (You can also use optical sensors, or any other method that will output occupancy as a DCC message.) Those go to a computer running JMRI. A panel in JMRI contains the signal logic that dictates what the signals should do based on the occupancy information. JMRI issues DCC commands to RR Cir-Kits signal drivers, which are connected to the LEDs in the signals.
-Eric

Modeling a transcontinental PRR
http://www.pennsylvania-railroad.com

C855B

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2014, 11:57:35 AM »
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This thread might be of interest: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=32085.0

Bruce is right. The US&S Type SA signals are used by many roads all over the place, and would be proper on a layout depicting the late 1930s through today. They are gradually going away due to FRA mandates that all new signals are to have no mechanical components (searchlights have a miniature semaphore inside).

The main distinguishing feature between RR preferences is mounting styles and accessory hardware such as ladders and signal cabinets. The Showcase Miniature page gets into several of the variants, but they don't (yet) have some of the accessories tooled for major roads like ATSF.

I have a couple of their signals waiting for a layout to put under them, and should be buying many, many more shortly. In terms of detail, Joe and Walter knocked it out of the park. Personally I'd like to find a way to put LEDs in the head, but the fiber is OK with strong enough illumination.
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peteski

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2014, 03:44:22 PM »
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Showcase signals are very detailed and have in-scale components. The tradeoff is that they use thin fiber optic as a light source.  Because of that the light is emitted from a very small point in the front of the signal.  I personally  don't care for that look.

BeNscale signals are more crude (detail-wise), but the LED is mounted right behind the target.  The big compromise is that the LED is a relatively large cubical object which looks nothing like the signal head.  But it brightly lights up the full diameter of the N scale "lens".

So, you have to decide which compromise you are willing to deal with.  Also getting the Showcase signals to be operational involves more work than BeNscale.  Probably overall more expensive too.

As far as adding an LED directly into the Showcase's head, that is pretty much impossible at this point.  There are no available tri-color LEDs small enough to fit in that head.  The smallest tri-color LED I've seen is the one that Showcase sells (it is from Richmond Controls) and it is still to large to fit in the head and it is $10 a pop!

The larger tri-color LEDs in BeNscale signals are readily available for much less money.
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svedblen

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2014, 04:08:26 PM »
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... although they've been replaced by 'flying nuns' in a lot of areas.

Excuse my ignorance, but what is a 'flying non' signal? Searched the net but found no explanation. Only a picture that did not give much of a clue.

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=1629835
Lennart

eric220

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2014, 04:25:56 PM »
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Excuse my ignorance, but what is a 'flying non' signal? Searched the net but found no explanation. Only a picture that did not give much of a clue.

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=1629835

I believe the "flying nun" signal is more commonly referred to as a "darth vader" signal. It's a modular color light signal with one long hood over all of the lenses. It's ugly as sin, but unfortunately also quite practical and functional, so it's taking over as signals get replaced.
-Eric

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http://www.pennsylvania-railroad.com

svedblen

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2014, 04:40:15 PM »
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Thanks Eric. Like this handsome fellow?  :facepalm:

Lennart

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2014, 04:59:19 PM »
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...flying nun... Darth Vader...

[sigh]

Snow hoods. They've been used on the UP in snow country since at least the late '50s. One of the Canadian asshats will have to verify whether UP was the pioneer or if it was something we imported from them. The problem they solved was blowing snow accumulating on the visors of conventional three-light color signals, blocking the aspect above, and accumulated snow in general over the lenses of approach-lit signals. They are especially vogue these days because of LED signals, which do not generate enough heat to melt any snow or ice which might stick to the lenses.

Additional benefit was better aspect visibility in glare conditions.

Aesthetically they suck, although Lennart's Safetran mid-dwarf example above (used mostly as siding exits) has a smaller hood so doesn't have that cumbersome, top-heavy look the full signals have. I like these half-size signals and hope to incorporate a few on my layout where appropriate.
...mike

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C855B

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2014, 05:07:54 PM »
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... As far as adding an LED directly into the Showcase's head, that is pretty much impossible at this point. ...

I am looking at what it will take to make it possible. Kingbright released a new form factor earlier this year in 0402 single-color that is ultra-thin, with overall dimensions of 1.0mm x 0.5mm x 0.2mm. It may... or may not... be possible to cluster three inside a Showcase head. We'll see.
...mike

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Scottl

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Re: Signal chat: BeNscale vs. Showcase Miniatures
« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2014, 05:45:13 PM »
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All great info, thanks folks.  I'm going to try the Showcase products.  Gives me an excuse to order one of those snazzy new trucks too.  :D