Author Topic: Signal Bridge Manufacturers, Revisited  (Read 1762 times)

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C855B

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Signal Bridge Manufacturers, Revisited
« on: December 03, 2016, 11:56:51 PM »
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Three years ago the question was "Who makes N scale signal bridges?" It turns out three years may as well be a lifetime, since the two main suppliers of high-quality bridge kits at that time (BLMA and TrainCat) are no longer in business or at least no longer supplying kits. A few shops have the BLMA double-track "old style" ATSF bridges in stock, but the cantilever is nowhere to be found. I stocked-up on both the week of the BLMA/Atlas announcement and I'm glad I did, since Atlas at this point does not appear to be refilling the detail parts pipeline.

Anyway...

I'm now in need of UP-style cantilever bridges. TrainCat had a very nice one, but Bob has evidently moved on to other concerns. I don't know if I was seeing things, but I swear that I read recent mention of somebody else doing the UP-style bridge. Was I seeing things, maybe?

Regardless, has somebody - anybody - entered the market in the past couple of years with signal bridges?
...mike

http://www.gibboncozadandwestern.com

We don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents. We just don't tell anybody. -Bob Ross

Missaberoad

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Re: Signal Bridge Manufacturers, Revisited
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2016, 12:16:56 AM »
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Bob has evidently moved on to other concerns.

Bob is dealing with some pretty serious family health concerns. but he has stated on here that when he can (with no real timeline due to the aforementioned reason) he will get back to Traincat... Not helpful in the short term but they should be back in stock eventually...
Ryan in Alberta

Loren Perry

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Re: Signal Bridge Manufacturers, Revisited
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2016, 08:55:06 PM »
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Have you tried NJ International? They have quite a few N-scale cantilever and regular plastic signal bridge kits. I've built several and added them to my layout and they are really beautiful models.


Three years ago the question was "Who makes N scale signal bridges?" It turns out three years may as well be a lifetime, since the two main suppliers of high-quality bridge kits at that time (BLMA and TrainCat) are no longer in business or at least no longer supplying kits. A few shops have the BLMA double-track "old style" ATSF bridges in stock, but the cantilever is nowhere to be found. I stocked-up on both the week of the BLMA/Atlas announcement and I'm glad I did, since Atlas at this point does not appear to be refilling the detail parts pipeline.

Anyway...

I'm now in need of UP-style cantilever bridges. TrainCat had a very nice one, but Bob has evidently moved on to other concerns. I don't know if I was seeing things, but I swear that I read recent mention of somebody else doing the UP-style bridge. Was I seeing things, maybe?

Regardless, has somebody - anybody - entered the market in the past couple of years with signal bridges?

jmlaboda

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C855B

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Re: Signal Bridge Manufacturers, Revisited
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2016, 01:51:26 AM »
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NJI... curious whose prototype they're following, it's attractive but not close to the UP style I'm after. We do have a couple of NJI cantilevers on our club layout and truthfully I'm lukewarm about them. They're a little clunky, but I recognize it's hard to model a spindly bit of structure in injection-molded plastic, especially using older tooling. Like many items in their catalog, they could use a design refresh.

Not to say I'm panning NJI altogether... their current grade crossing signals and gates are pretty good considering their size. Definitely something I don't want to scratchbuild, so they're on my shopping list when the time comes.

Anyway, I have drawings for one- and two-track UP cantilever bridges floating around here somewhere, so if it comes down to etching my own... [sigh]... I guess I'll add these to the roundtuit list.
...mike

http://www.gibboncozadandwestern.com

We don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents. We just don't tell anybody. -Bob Ross

Philip H

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Re: Signal Bridge Manufacturers, Revisited
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2016, 08:46:08 AM »
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So for the unwashed masses can you toss up a proto photo or two?
Philip H.
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Baton Rouge Southern RR - Mount Rainier Division.

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C855B

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Re: Signal Bridge Manufacturers, Revisited
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2016, 09:36:00 AM »
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I had to resort to scanning from UPHS journals:





Notice the step platform in the top shot, and the platform on the flip side about a third down the tower. Bob featured these on his UP bridge.

Search online for UP signal bridges gets you a snootful of modern style, or absorbed roads like SP and CNW. The funny thing about UP in the pre-Borg era is the profound lack of photography of details like these. Sure, guys would go on expeditions to shoot the trains, but the everyday, just killing time hangin' around the tracks photography typical of East and West Coast railfanning isn't there. Spectacular, for sure, but so much of it was a zillion miles from civilization.
...mike

http://www.gibboncozadandwestern.com

We don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents. We just don't tell anybody. -Bob Ross

Scottl

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Re: Signal Bridge Manufacturers, Revisited
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2016, 09:54:48 AM »
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Looks easy enough to etch.  If you had plans I could do that. 

robert3985

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Re: Signal Bridge Manufacturers, Revisited
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2016, 06:33:14 AM »
+1
First off, let me state that this reply is IN NO WAY bashing Bob @ Traincat's kit.  I've got several of the Traincat UP cantilever signal bridge kits that I've used for Nate Goodman's ( Nato ) layout, and am planning on using on my Ogden to Wahsatch modular layout (with some modifications), and will use more of them if they become available, and if Bob will sell them to me.  However, if Bob doesn't start up again within about four months, I am developing an etched kit for my own use, since I will eventually be needing several dozen of these U.P. specific cantilever bridges as I get closer to signaling this ABS portion of the real Union Pacific Railroad in 1951.

There were basically (with some exceptions) three different sizes of U.P. cantilever signal bridges.  Two sizes were identical except for the length of the cantilever, and the third was a much larger, more massive bridge with a really long cantilever.  I have all the dimensions for the first two, and I am collecting photos for the third, larger bridge (at least one of which still exists locally in Layton, UT).  Unfortunately, the existing big bridge is on fenced-off U.P. property, so I won't be taking measurements with my measuring tape this time.

I scratch built a couple of N-scale bridges from measurements taken off of real bridges in Weber and Echo Canyons 20 or so years ago, and from an article in an old "Streamliner" quarterly (U.P. Historical Society) which featured prototype drawings. But, scratch building them takes me much too long, buth they're really not that difficult to make if you know how to cut .003" brass and how to solder.  They have a lot of simple parts, and can be assembled basically just like the real bridge, except instead of rivets, use solder.

Also, I will state emphatically that for making a model like this either from scratch or from a kit, a resistance soldering station with "tweezers" will make the job exponentially easier.  But, it can be done with a less-expensive standard soldering station, or even with just simple 35W or 40W iron, but you MUST know how to solder, because you don't want to use this as your first soldering project.

Although at a glance (a long, hard glance) the Traincat kit looks good, truth is, it is off in several measurements as well as how it's assembled vs how the real one goes together. I'm going to guess that the artwork for the etching was done by "eyeball" rather than from actual drawings or measurements taken from a prototype bridge.  The rivet pattern is also not correct, and I'm not talking about "counting rivets" but rather where the rivet lines are, there being two horizontal rivet lines on the kit that aren't there on the real deal.  Also, the rivet sizes on the kit are too small, both in diameter and height so when they're painted, the model's rivets virtually disappear rather than remain prototypically prominent.  I had questions about the rivet sizes when I first started drawing up my plans way back when, so I went out to the U.P. mainline with my trusty measuring tape and camera to get the "right" measurements.  Of course, I'm lucky to live so close to my chosen prototype railroad, and I am sure Bob at Traincat didn't have that opportunity when his drawings were created. Also luckily, in .003" brass sheet, a NWSL "Riveter" tool's smallest rivet embosser produces an embossed rivet that is exactly the correct size.

The Traincat kit comes with an expanded metal platform up on top, but depending on the era when these bridges were first introduced and even into the '80's, many of them retained their wooden platforms, so if you want these for a transition era railroad, wooden top platforms are the ticket.

The instructions for the kit are for the HO version, even though it says it's for both HO and N, and evidently, in the HO version there is a long piece of brass "Z" angle "bar", which gets cut into smaller sections in order to mount the expanded (or wooden) top platform to.  This material is totally missing in the N-scale kit, but these individual "Z" angle sections can be fashioned from .003" brass sheet if you have a bending tool.  The top hand rail vertical stanchions attach to the ends of these pieces also, so their omission on a very visible portion of the model is a rather big deal.  Luckily, they're pretty easily scratch built and the instructions tell you how to attach them and where they're located.  Their length as quoted in the instructions are for the HO model.

Down on the base of the model, the kit also does not include the mounting bolt hardware, which was used to mount these bridges to their concrete bases.  These parts can also be fabricated out of .003" brass, and their addition to the base of the model greatly enhances its prototypical appearance.

Most of the smaller bridges had cylindrical tubing handrails up on top, and later, some had square tubing handrails.  The kit supplies etched handrails, which effectively represent the square tubing handrails, but cylindrical tubing handrails can be easily made from brass or bronze wire, which is what I've done.

The kit ladder is a typical N-scale ladder etching all in one piece and looks okay if you don't know that the actual ladders had cylindrical rungs centered between vertical sides.  If this doesn't bother you, then use it. The kit ladder also has over-simplified mounting hardware integral with the etched part, all of which I cut off and build better, separate mounting brackets. The pieces needed to do this are simple sharp-cornered "U" shapes that are easily bent up out of .003" brass, the bottom of the "U" being soldered to the bridge tower sides with the ladder soldered between the two "ears" of each "U".

As for the supplied D-type signal heads in the kit, I didn't use them at all, as their measurements aren't correct.  I scratch built my own from prototype photos and actual plans.  This was by far the hardest part of making either the kits or the scratch-built ones.  I'm developing an etched kit for these which will be as scale-sized as I possibly can make them and have them be lit, because I'm going to need a lot of 'em.

I suppose if I can get enough interest, this will spur me to get busier and finish the art for the two small bridges, which will be more correct than the Traincat kit, and a bit more complex, but not any more difficult to build.

Here are a couple of photos of my scratch built models, with the extra-short cantilever up top.

Photo (1) - Short Cantilever U.P. signal bridge at the west end of Echo Yard on the West-bound mainline.  Totally scratch built from .003" brass sheet, prototypically correct ladder, in 1940's and 1950's black paint:


Photo (2) - Short Cantilever U.P. signal bridge w/scratchbuilt D-type signal head w/ Darth Vader snow shield and .006" dia. rivets embossed w/NWSL "riveter":


Photo (3) - Short Cantilever U.P. signal bridge at 1000 Mile Tree Monument in Wilhemina Pass in post-1950's silver/aluminum:


Photo (4) - Traincat Etched Kit-Modified, at Riverside on Nate Goodman's (Nato) layout with scratch-built D-Type signal heads, in post-50's silver/aluminum, wood platform, "steam pipe" railings, custom ladder mounts, bolt attachment parts at base:


Photo (5) - Traincat Etched Kit, View two with trains:


The "Darth Vader" snow shields on the D-Type signal heads were applied sometime between 1951 and 1953, with the signal heads replacing lower-quadrant semaphores. The signal heads were painted silver/aluminim, and the towers were painted black until sometime in the late '50's or early '60's when they were repainted silver/aluminum.

Most of my reference photos are of cantilever signal bridges between 1946 and 1954 and in some you can see the small, early lens shades on the D-Type signal heads, or the later "Darth Vader" snow shields depending on the date of the photos.

Photo (6) - Large Cantilever Signal Bridge - Ogden, app 1946.  Note small, early lens shades on the D-Type signal head:


Photo (7) - Small Cantilever Signal Bridge - Peterson Siding in Weber Canyon, app 1947:


Photo (8 ) - Small Cantilever Signal Bridge - Morgan in Weber Canyon 1953, clearly showing the silver/aluminum relay case & signal head and the black tower structure:


In Weber & Echo Canyons between Ogden and Wahsatch Utah, the shorter cantilever small bridge is the one most commonly in use.  The older style relay cabinets seen in the photos are available as highly detailed metal castings from
Showcase Miniatures here:  https://www.showcaseminiatures.net/n_scale/n_scale_century_foundry_accessories/  For later rectangular relay cabinets I prefer BLMA's etched kit, but I don't know if it's still available.  My utility poles are all scratch built from swab sticks that I get at my local pharmacy.

That's probably enough for a single post...got any questions?

Cheerio!
Bob Gilmore



« Last Edit: December 06, 2016, 07:38:31 AM by robert3985 »

C855B

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Re: Signal Bridge Manufacturers, Revisited
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2016, 09:53:10 AM »
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Bob, do you have or know of any pictures showing a US&S relay cabinet on the bridge while the signals is/are separate and on one or both of the step platforms? I'm also looking for photos confirming these bridges on the LA&SL, especially with upper-quad semaphores.

The BLMA modern cabinets are still available, but at this point only standing stock at dealers.
...mike

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We don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents. We just don't tell anybody. -Bob Ross

robert3985

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Re: Signal Bridge Manufacturers, Revisited
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2016, 02:03:32 PM »
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Bob, do you have or know of any pictures showing a US&S relay cabinet on the bridge while the signals is/are separate and on one or both of the step platforms? I'm also looking for photos confirming these bridges on the LA&SL, especially with upper-quad semaphores.

Photos of U.P. Semaphores are a subject I haven't explored because they are before my layout era, and I would have a helluva time trying to get them to work...especially mounted on a bridge!

That said, I was able to come up with three historical photos and one present-day photo, but I don't think they fit your criteria.  Anyway, I thought I'd post 'em just in case.

I'll keep my eyes open when looking through my U.P. references and post more when I find photos.







I am going to bet that this bridge in the early '40's had more than one semaphore & relay cabinet.  Too bad my only photos are of it in the 21st century, but it's got three platforms:


Cheerio!
Bob Gilmore