Making a Control Panel

Posted on March 9th, 2013, by Michael Rountree

What I have been working on of late has been installations of slide switches and electrical block gaps, to complete the tracklaying in the vicinity of the Winchester Yard Throat. Along with this, I have had to re-design my control panel to reflect the revised track configuration, and I to map out where electrical blocks will go.

Here is my current iteration of the control panel. I use analog block control, for those that don’t know already, and am using 6-position rotary switches to select amongst four cabs, with two “off” positions (one of these can become a DCC option in the future). Each knob will be painted in a matching color for its block, so I’m hoping that this will end up being very intuitive. If you’re holding the walkaround throttle “A”, you just look ahead to where you’ll be running and dial it to “A”. Once I had the graphic art figured out, I simply printed it onto letter sized paper:

I already had a hardboard panel cut out, because I had done a prior version of the scheme based on the old track configuration. I spray painted this with a bit of white, but you can see the old panel showing through slightly. I want the white to prevent color bleed from the old panel when I glue on the new one. With a freshly cut piece of hardboard, I’ll do the same, though I use white primer painted on rather than a rattle can of spray paint. The problem is, without the white, the dark brown will show through a bit because the spray glue makes the paper translucent a bit.

The next step is to cut the corners of the paper out, because the extra white margin is just going to wrap around the board. By doing so, you locate the panel corners to make it easy to place the board once the spray glue is applied.

Lay the paper on some sacrificial wrapping paper or what have you, and spray it thoroughly with the spray glue of your choice. Here you can see how the glue starts to let the paper become see-through.

Now, leave the paper sitting face down, and place the board onto it, using the corners to line up one long edge. Once it’s down, you can begin wrapping the margins around to the back side, starting with the smaller sides. In the future, I think I’ll make my panels not quite as wide, to leave more margin to wrap on the edges. The wider margin at top and bottom give lots of glue area to hold things down, but once I mount this on the layout it will be mechanically pressed up against the fascia as well as being glued.

At this point, I took a black sharpie marker and touched up the edges so that none of the white shows around the edges. Then I sprayed the whole thing with some clear acrylic gloss coat, to protect it. Next up is to drill holes and mount all the switches – 6 rotary and one DPDT toggle. Earlier this past week I spent some alone time with my soldering iron to wire all these switches, and the knobs had to be painted to match their various block colors.

And then finally, after a bit of elbow grease and effort, here is the assembled board! The posts on the rotary switches are far too tall, and must have about 5/8″ removed for the knobs to fit, but they cut easy using a Dremel.

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  1. Dave Loman Says:

    Very nice technique with a fantastic end result! I’ll have to seriously consider this method. Great job!

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