On Sheet – Annunciator

On Sheet – Annunciator

read this little passage a while ago. It came from a little anecdote in a book on Southern Pacific depots in the 1950s.

…I was busy with these customers when the annunciator sounded, indicating a westbound train was approaching…

I’d never heard of such a thing. It seems that, in the fifties, there was some sort of relay switch to automatically ring a station when a train was inbound. Interesting. I filed it away and didn’t give it too much thought.

Then we went into that piece from two weeks ago where I admitted my layout was more CTC than TT&TO. Remember, the track west from Tuscarora physically looks like this…

But it should represent a whole lot of dark main, like this…

My idea was that a train in Westly or Tuscarora should announce if it is leaving, based on the Time Table and its class (as well as the clock (detailed last week here), So, regardless of what the signal shows, a train that wishes to depart Westly announces that it has. Assuming it does not crash into a train leaving Tuscarora west, it “runs” for ten minutes (a flip of the fast clock card). Only after it has run its ten minutes is it actually at the distant signal (the red one, above) and can now move on the distant signal into Tuscarora.

And that’s fine and dandy, except how does the train know it’s time to move? It seems unprofessional to let the other train do stuff, then flip the card ten minutes forward and say, “Okay, you are at the distant signal”. It should be more realistic.

And that’s when I remembered the annunciator. It rings when a train approaches. With that thought, I looked around Amazon and found game devices with big mash-able buttons you can slap (like if you are playing some sort of quiz show game with family and friends). Even better, you can easily record a noise to play when you hit the button. Having already gotten sounds off a site called SoundBible.com, i used that to make my annunciator. Yes, you can download wav files but that won’t do me any good – I can’t upload into the toy button, but I can push the record button. Positioning my speakers and playing with the volume, I was able to get a pretty decent recording of a buzzer sound I found on the site.

So how does this work? Well, say a train is holding in Westly, desiring to come east into Tuscarora. Once he says he’s departing Westly, the dispatcher will record his time on the train sheet and announce that “TRAIN WE-2 OS WESTLY AT 9:00AM”. This would simulate the party line that the Tuscarora operator would be listening to. Maybe he wants to set up his distant and home signals now. Maybe he’s going to wait. Regardless of signal aspects, the train in Westly remains motionless. When enough has happened on the layout to warrant ten minutes, the dispatcher flips the clock to 9:10 and presses the annunciator button. The buzzer sounds. The train is now at the distant signal. If the signal is green, he can leave Westly and drive onto the layout. Otherwise, he sits at the red board.

Note that, for all purposes, if he chose to leave Westly and is holding at (or passing) the distant signal and another train leaves Tuscarora west, it’s a cornfield meet. Even if you technically have room at Westly to get an outbound train by, that last ten minutes has had the eastbound advancing down single track. That means that extras will have to pay attention to the flip clock and the timetable. And even though Tuscarora Tower can hold a westbound to avoid a collision, that’s a shame moment for the dispatcher (who had to rely on a tower operator from preventing a wreck – which is the DS’s responsibility).

But think about this – maybe your own layout could use an annunciator, too. Maybe when trains depart staging, or hold out of sight for a clock to run out. Instead of just yelling out that the train is “live”, maybe the buzzer is more to your liking.

And yes, things have gotten much rougher on the Tuscarora. I’m looking forward to trying this. Of course, would you believe that I’m now scenicing most of downtown Tuscarora and that there is dried glue all over everything?

Watch for my report on how this actually works!