Lighted Signal Masts

ajkochev Oct 1, 2020

  1. ajkochev

    ajkochev TrainBoard Member

    I'm trying to find a good mast for lighted signals and trying to balance practicality and realism. I've 3D printed designed my own signal system, the mast is the only thing that you must use some type of third party tubing.
    The obvious choice is brass tubing. With a 1.2mm tube I can cram 2 wires down it(tight) and solder and use the mast itself as the ground. This works for two LEDs but won't if you want to go 4, with two signal heads on ether sides of the mast. 1.5mm gives me three wires with the mast as the ground. Then we start to go to 2mm tubing and the realism of the mast size starts to not look so good. I looked into swizzle straws for coffee. They would be great as the wall thickness on these is thin and leave plenty of room. but the diameter is still to big. Looking for other ideas.
  2. Mike C

    Mike C TrainBoard Member

  3. Jim Reising

    Jim Reising TrainBoard Member

    There is a company selling thin wall stainless tubing that, along with your utilizing magnet wire for the LED power, will do what you want. I can't tell you who, though, because of Trainboard's policy regarding non-advertisers. All you'd see would be woo woo woo.
  4. rray

    rray Staff Member

    What about running the extra wires straight down the mast on the outside, as though it was electrical conduits added to the outside? If you use that super fine wired SMD LED wire they are selling, it would hardly be noticable.
  5. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

    I was going to suggest magnet wire but many other here has as well. The only thing about magnet wire that is a bit of a challenge is soldering it and making sure not to melt the coating on the wire. There is a thin coating which will prevent it from shorting to itself but as thin as it is it doesn't hold up well to abrasions or heat. In a static model this will not be an issue as it will not move much and as for the heat, the LEDs should not pose too much of an issue with that as they are low current devices.

    If not magnet wire, there is a few other options for you in the form of thin shield wire or even try taking apart some CAT 5 cables (PC network cables) or multistrand telephone wire (not flat wire) and use those. They usually have a really thin shield on the wire. Another thing to consider is flip flop LEDs. I think that is what they are called. They are 2 wire LEDS that turn orange/yellow one way and red the other. I have never seen them in any other color combo but they differ from 2 color LEDs as with those you can have both colors at the same time they are 2 LED dies in one shell, with 3 wires. The flip flop are 2 dies as well but they are set up backwards so when one is biased it will light and the other color will not, then reverse the polarity and the other color biases and lights the first color shuts off. Just thought if you are crunched for space and need colors over positions.

    Good luck!
  6. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

    Please beware that the term "shield" for/on a wire generally indicates a surrounding foil and/or braided wire conductor that, when grounded, creates an EMI shield for the insulated center conductor(s).

    I believe "insulation" or "insulator" is a more appropriate term for a plastic, electrically insulating, protective layer surrounding the conductive wire(s).

    That said, I wonder if rigid coax is available in such small diameters that would serve for a mast?

    Or if using the metal tube itself as one of the conductors, along with a wire snaked through it, would work?
  7. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

    Count rivets much? LOL
  8. freddy_fo

    freddy_fo TrainBoard Member

    I recently built some signal kits with 3 color diodes that used pre-wired (magnet leads) LEDs. Was able two get two of these ran through a 1mm tube no problem which is 8 leads all together. There are a few places on the major retail sites where you can purchase either single color or multicolor LEDs that are pre-wired with these magnet wire leads and are fairly inexpensive.

    Hoghead2, BNSF FAN, MK and 1 other person like this.

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