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Model Railway Electrics - Build you own railway signal

When I saw the price of signals and then multiplied that with the number I needed I was shocked. There was no way I could justify the expense especially as the level of detail and scale accuracy was very poor.


Click here to see it in action (Movie)   (3mb)


Model Railway Signal

So what to do? The only option I thought was to build them myself. There was no way the ones I could build would look any worse and be any worse scale than the ones I could have brought.

Below are the step by step instructions on how to build a simple two light railway signal.

Shopping List


  • 1 Red Light (LED or grain of wheat bulb)      

  • 1 Green light (LED or grain of wheat bulb)    

  • 1 On – On switch                                        

  • Electrical wire (enough to reach from the signals location to the switch and power source)

  • 1mm thick card

  • 1 straw

  • PVA Glue

  • Paint: Black and Metallic Grey


  • Soldering Iron and Solder

  • Craft knife

  • Scissors

  • Hole punch

  • Clamp

  • Wire Cutters

Signal Diagram

New Railway Modellers - Model Railway Signal

Step 1 (signal head)

Cut out three pieces of card (1cm by 2cm). With one of the pieces cut out the centre (See image B). The cut-out allows the wires from the lights to have space to leave to top part of the signal.

In one of the pieces you need to make two holes for the lights to fit through. I used 5mm LED's so had to make 5mm diameter holes, evenly spaced apart (See image A). This is the most difficult part to do. I used a rotary tool to make the hole but a hole punch or craft knife can be used.

For the signal shades, I cut the end of a pen lid off and then cut that in half. This gave me two half arches.

Step 2 (signal stem)

Cut the straw 3cm in length and paint grey. You can also use a pen or a hollow steal rod for the signals stem.

Step 3 (electronics)

Below is the circuit diagram for the signal:

Model Railway Signal Circuit Diagram

As you can see both of the lights share one of their wires (Negative or Positive) and have one other wire each which is connected to the switch. If you use LED's you must remember that they will only work if the power is connected the correct way round, so test this before you solder the wires together.

Step 4 (Assembly)


Glue Part B onto part A making sure the holes are still clear. Glue on the signal shades above each hole leaving an even gap around the holes. This is the best time to paint the face of the signal including the shades black as you wont be able to after the lights are in place.


Push the lights into the holes, making sure no wires stick out further than part B. If they do you may need to use two part B's.


Stick Part C onto part B, to give you a flush top and sides. You may need a clamp to hold this together as the wires will often push off part C. Once dry, this is a good time to paint the rest of the signal head black after sanding or cutting off any excess glue.


Thread the wires through the pre painted straw until it is touching the signal head.


There you have it, a signal ready to be fitted to your board. Simply drill a small hole in you baseboard for the wires to fit through and to support the signal, and position the switch and connect the wires and power and your done. A signal that cost you less than 1.00 . The more you make the cheaper it gets.


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