This past week I installed a new control panel for the H&BT branch line interchange with my PRR main line.  For this panel I decided to use touch sensing toggles mounted behind a picture frame.  I found a suitably sized 29" x 8" picture frame at Michaels.  It comes with two .045" thick clear plastic protective sheets designed to sandwich photos in the frame.  In this case the "photo" was a straight line track diagram created in Adobe Illustrator (thanks Greg),  and  printed on 54# paper at the local Office Depot.   Berrett Hill LED touch toggles were taped in place directly on the back of the print and positioned so that the LED's  shine through small holes punched through the print at the turnout locations. 

 The control panel sandwich is:

  • The picture frame
  • Clear plastic face
  • Printed track diagram
  • Touch Toggles (taped to the back of the print)
  • Clear Plastic backer
  • Rectangular peripheral retaining ring

As shown in the second photo the touch toggles use modular connectors that plug into control bases, which in turn power the switch machines (like Tortoises).  To throw a turnout simply touch the face of the panel at the location of the turnout.  As the turnout throws the LED changes color between green and red.  Green for the straight path through the turnout and red for the diverting path.  Touch it again and it changes state.  IMG_0593




As this was my first touch panel there was some trial and error.  On-line videos show touch toggle  installations without the need for holes in the print – the light just shines through the paper.  But with my opaque orange track lines,  and thick paper I needed holes in the print to clearly see the LED’s.  Also in a first pass I taped the touch toggles to the rear of the plastic/print/plastic sandwich – not directly to the back of the paper.  I soon found that two layers of plastic between the face of the frame and the touch toggle prevented sensing by the toggle.   Putting the toggles between the layers of plastic did the trick, while serving to press the print against the outer plastic.  Holes were drilled in the rear plastic sheet to creat a path for the modular plug wires.   I understand a glass picture frame also works well with the  touch toggles – but with some added weight.   Work remaining to be done on the panel  includes painting the rack that holds the picture frame to the fascia.

Bottom line:   I especially like the clean crisp look of the panel, and how easy it was to setup and wire.

  Sometimes old dogs can learn new tricks.  

Ed Rappe           PRRT&HS 421


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It's very neat work and looks good.

I change our panels around that much I'm not sure it would be good for me. I use the picture frames for our panels as well they make a nice border.

As for an old dog learning new tricks I did try an I pad at one stage but rejected it because if something went wrong or I had to change the track diagram I had to consult the owners of the soft wear to do it they would not sell me their soft wear unless I paid them more than the layout is worth!. We like to do everything ourselves and not rely on outside help.

I do like your panel though, congratulations, thanks for posting. Roo.

Thanks for the feedback guys.  Some layout context:   One of the towns along my representation of the PRR's Middle Division is Huntingdon, PA. which had several small industries served by local freights.  As I learned more about PRR operations in and around Huntingdon what I found most interesting was the PRR's interchange traffic with the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain RR.  The 50+ mile H&BT was a standard gauge line on the west side of Broad Top Mountain.   The more famous narrow gauge East Broad Top RR served mines on the east side of the same mountain. While exchange of hopper cars is neat, what my crew most enjoys is simulating the daily moves of Supplee milk cars that took place in Huntingdon.  A pair of empty milk cars from Philadelphia arrived on a westbound passenger train every morning,  and were returned loaded eastbound that same afternoon.  One of the cars was loaded at a creamery in Huntingdon.  The other car was line hauled south over the H&BT to PRR tracks in Bedford, PA.   I didn't have space to model the H&BT line south of Huntingdon, but a hidden 3 track staging yard and turntable enables us to capture the major elements of freight and passenger/milk interchange at Huntingdon.   The new touch panel pictured above controls the H&BT operations.  The H&BT tracks are orange, the PRR tracks white.   Two video cameras enable the H&BT crew to follow moves in the hidden staging yard and on a AtlasO turntable.  The turntable's stop and go rotation might be annoying to some - but it make aligning the bridge relatively easy when viewed on video.   PRR trackage through Huntingdon is controlled by a larger panel down the aisle from the H&BT one. 



In addition to the Huntingdon HUNT interlocking, the PRR  panel  controls moves in and out of a hidden 8 track (5 through/3 stub) Middle Division staging yard.  PRR routes are automatically set using rotary selectors and "activate" buttons which when pressed release DCC turnout control commands stored on NCE Mini-Panels.  To better capture the feel of heavy PRR operations I've recently decided to signal the PRR main.  I'll be using the relatively new NMRI sponsored Layout Command Control (LCC) open standards which features a Layout Control Bus (LCB) that is electrically isolated from the existing DCC track bus - but logically interfaced via occupancy and turnout status sensors.  Work will begin this month and will be done in phases one interlocking at a time over a year or more.  The objective is to maintain the railroad in an operational status while the signals go in, and to allow for time to mix in other modelling projects.   When I have the first section of the railroad with functioning interlocking and block signals I'll post an update on the Forum. 



Ed Rappe           PRRT&HS 421


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Not to hijack Ed's wonderful work....

We have been using the picture frame idea for a number of years now, it works fine you need to make a Pine frame and have no need for hinges just screw the frame to the supports easily removed if needed they come in all sizes we have used them all from small to large in fact the next few weeks we will be installing a new panel at Bay Ridge the photo shows the original panel moved across while the new panel is installed that way the railroad can still operate. I was going to do a thread on how we make the frame and the panel but Ed got in first our panels are very plain looking compared to Ed's which is how we like them. Thanks Roo.



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Ed, great looking layout. We have a question.

In April we installed about 25 touch toggles to use DCS and Tortoise switch machines. Everything worked like a dream. Easy install and no problems.

Today I installed Legacy so that we can run MTH, Lionel, etc. I simply hooked the Legacy system up with one wire to an outside rail.

Immediately about a third of the Touch Toggles became inoperative. I tried an earth ground and the problem remained.

Do you use DCS, Legacy, or what? Does anyone have experience with Touch Toggles and DCS and Legacy? Is a filter or something needed?

When Legacy was turned off’ everything operated perfectly.


Bill Webb

Bill Webb


Old Hokie 70

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