Turnout Control Panel

What you see to the left of this sign is the control panel for a section of our railroad. It is used to change the position of the switch, which is the moving part of an assembly called a turnout. (Shown in the picture below.)

A train doesn’t have a steering wheel; all it can do is follow the direction of the rails, or tracks. The flange, a lip on the inside of the wheel, guides the train along the track.

When there is more than one track to choose from (like at an “intersection” on roadways), train workers use the switch to direct the train onto the proper route.

In the picture below, the route from A to B is the straight route, while the route from A to C is the diverging route. The point where the straight and diverging tracks cross is called the frog.

How does the switch work?

The switch changes the direction of a train by switching the position of moveable point rails, shown below in red. The points can be moved from side to side to open a gap, called a flangeway, on one side of the track and close that gap on the other side of the track. To turn the train to the right, the worker moves the points left, to create a gap on the right, and vice-versa. This is because the wheels are pushed by the point rails where the flangeway is closed, so the train turns into the gab.

animation of a switch operating.
Emdx/Wikimedia Commons

Wish there were more informational signs? So do we! Please consider donating to help us fulfill our mission.