Approach Slow (Rule 284) at the west end of Big Chimney, WV

Approach Slow (Rule 284) at the west end of Big Chimney, WV

Friday, November 13, 2020

"Cause there's a fat man..."

No, not in the bathtub, but in the railroad room. During a recent op session, there were several instances of turnouts being thrown inadvertently. From all available evidence, it appears these were the result of a crew member bumping up against one of the pushbuttons on the panels. It one instance, it caused a massive derailment of a westbound MT coal train. And in fact, one crew member wrote up an occurrence, stating that he had actually observed a protruding belly commit one of these infractions.

The unnamed crew member who observed the pushbutton faux pas suggested a possible solution to the problem. His idea was to make clear cover with finger holes for the pushbuttons. I had some leftover Lexan clear plastic from a previous project, so I got to work.

The first step was to print out a copy of the panel to use as a template. I then measured the distance from the top of the pushbutton to the panel, substracted the width of the Lexan, and made stand-offs from Evergreen styrene tubing. Add some nuts and bolts and you have what you see below.

A close-up view of the Panel Protector (patent pending) shows the distance between the cover and the top of the pushbuttons.

I need one more of these for the panel at Summit Springs. Crews working the mines there need to lean in a bit to reach the cars and it would be easy to bump one of the pushbuttons while working a cut of cars. 

Now I just have to hope that the fingers of the fa.. er, waist challenged crew members will fit through the holes in the covers!


  1. Tom, A good solution to an issue for many control panels. Although my first venture into pushbutton route control should not encounter this (panels about five feet off the platforms), my next grpoup of panels distinctly have this issue. Your panel protector idea is now tucked away in my bag of tricks. Thanks for the simple solution! --Bill Decker

  2. I have seen push buttons actually broken from this same situation happening. Your solution is a good one.

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