Creating A Signal Panel

You can create a Signal Panel covering your entire layout, or only a limited area (e.g. one station). It is possible to have multiple panels for the same layout.

Selecting an area

The first step is to select an area of track you want to use as the starting point for your panel. You do this in view mode 5 (top-down), with the select area tool on the edit menu.

If your panel is covering a fairly small area, you can select the entire panel area; if you are building a panel for a large area it is usually easiest to start by selecting a small part (e.g. the area with the most complex track layout) and then work out from there adding nodes one at a time.

Create the panel

Once you have selected an area of track, the Create Panel option on the signals menu will become available. Select this and specify a name for your new panel. You can also select the general orientation of the diagram at this point. If tracks run mostly east to west, then you will probably choose “north up”, but if tracks run north-south, you might find it easier to put east or west at the top of the diagram. In real life, you will always be halfway between two of these…

Cleaning up the diagram

For all but the simplest layouts, you will want to move nodes around a bit to make the diagram on the panel easier to follow. Typically, you will want to exagerate the track spacing, and put nodes closer together in simple areas, further apart in stations and at junctions.

To work with the node positions, select edit mode from the panel menu. In this mode, the panel is magnified a bit to make it easier to see what is happening, and there is a grid to guide you in placing the nodes. Just drag the nodes around until it looks right. Moving nodes on the panel does not affect anything in your layout, of course.

To add nodes to the panel, right-click on the existing node at the end of the track on the panel and select extend/update node. This will make Rail3D add any missing nodes and links to the node. You will have to drag them around a bit to get them where you want, of course. Be careful at junctions to keep track of which link is which — it’s easy to get tracks the wrong way round when editing the panel. Sometimes it helps to run a train through the section and watch which links light up in red on your panel.

Extend/update node also forces recalculation of the panel boundary, and redraws any signal on the selected node so that it is properly oriented on the left of the track. If you want the signal to be on the right of the track, hard luck.

Once you have the basic diagram sorted out, exit edit mode to have a look at it in normal size and make sure that it is working properly. Don’t forget to save your layout!

Adding features

To make the panel usable, you will probably want to link track circuits in places where a single “logical track” has a number of intermediate nodes in it. Right-click on the intermediate node and select merge track circuits. This means that when one link is occupied by a train, the whole section shows up red on the diagram.

Train describers are just boxes that give the route code of the train in the current section. You can add them by right-clicking on a link. (Careful: you have to click in exactly the right place…). Once added, the train describer can be dragged around freely. It remains invisibly tied to its parent link.

Platforms and text labels have no effect on the working of the panel, but make it a lot easier for the user to see what’s going on. You can add these from the right-click menu and drag them around to where you want them.

Deleting a panel

You can delete a panel at any time by opening the panel, then selecting Panel > Delete. However, if you have a script on the panel, delete the script first. If you don’t do this, the script will continue to operate after the panel has been deleted, but you’ll no longer have access to it.