Learning Electronics

Learning Electronics

Learn to build electronic circuits

Railway Points Sequencer

Dedicated model rail enthusiasts using sophisticated train and points controllers often have the problem that as their layouts get bigger and more complex, the transformer supplying power to the points does not have enough current to switch several points at the same time. The actuators in the points are designed for ac operation so it doesn’t help by rectifying the supply and adding reservoir capacitors, the coils can overheat and burn out if they get jammed during their travel (ac operation actually helps to overcome friction in the mechanism). The circuit shown here solves this problem by using a sequencer to ensure than only one points actuator can be active at any point in time.

Railway Points Sequencer Circuit DiagramDuring operation the controller will switch all the points on one line at the same time as usual, but the other connection to each coil is connected to the sequencer unit. This circuit will only allow current to flow through one coil at a time. The sequencer circuit consists of a 555 timer configured as an astable multivibrator clocking a 4017 Johnson counter where the ten outputs are used to switch ten triacs in sequence, enough for ten sets of points. P1 alters the oscillator frequency of the 555 timer and can be adjusted so that each time interval of the sequencer is long enough to allow the points to switch.

The switching time varies depending on the type of points but is typically between 1 s and 1.5 s. Any points that jam during switching give out a characteristic humming noise in time to the switching frequency so it makes them easier to find. The eleventh output of the 4017 can be connected to an LED (together with a series resistor). This will flash to give a visual indication of the sequencers operation. Power for the circuit is provided by 15 V ac from the points transformer. The B80C1500 bridge rectifier (80 Vpiv, 1.5 A) and regulator IC1 produce a stabilised 12 V for the circuit. Current consumption is only a few milliamps.