Title:
Model railroad track wiring apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A model railroad track wiring apparatus comprises a tie section comprising one or more attached model railroad tie members; one or more insulating members that are attached to the tie section and that protrude upwardly from the tie section; a plurality of rail members secured to the tie section and arranged in one or more pairs, wherein each of the pairs has a first end that is joinable to a model railroad track section, wherein each of the pairs has a second end that is attached to the tie section adjacent to a respective one of the insulating members; and two or more power receptacles that are secured to and electrically coupled to the rail members. The apparatus enables convenient introduction of electrical gaps into a model railroad track layout and convenient wiring of power, control, and accessory elements to rails on either side of a gap.



Inventors:
Palermo, Christopher James (Atascadero, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/359237
Publication Date:
08/23/2007
Filing Date:
02/21/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E01B23/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LE, MARK T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HICKMAN BECKER BINGHAM LEDESMA LLP (SAN JOSE, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A model railroad track wiring apparatus, comprising: a tie section comprising one or more attached model railroad tie members; one or more insulating members that are attached to the tie section and that protrude upwardly from the tie section; a plurality of rail members secured to the tie section and arranged in one or more pairs, wherein each of the pairs has a first end that is joinable to a model railroad track section, wherein each of the pairs has a second end that is attached to the tie section adjacent to a respective one of the insulating members; two or more power receptacles that are secured to and electrically coupled to the rail members.

2. An apparatus as recited in claim 1, wherein the tie section and the insulating members are integrally formed.

3. An apparatus as recited in claim 1, wherein the power connectors are formed within the tie members.

4. An apparatus as recited in claim 1, further comprising a conductor having two ends terminating in power connectors that mate to two of the power receptacles.

5. An apparatus as recited in claim 1, wherein the tie section and the insulating members are integrally formed of a material selected from the group consisting of polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, wood, fiber, and resin.

6. An apparatus as recited in claim 1, wherein the power connectors comprise downwardly protruding tubes.

7. An apparatus as recited in claim 1, wherein the power connectors comprise downwardly protruding studs.

8. A model railroad wiring kit, comprising: one or more apparatus as recited in claim 1; one or more feeder wires, each terminating, in at least one end, in a power connector that mates to one of the power receptacles.

9. A kit as recited in claim 8, further comprising a conductor having two ends terminating in power connectors that mate to two of the power receptacles.

10. A kit as recited in claim 8, wherein one or more of the feeder wires comprises a switch which, when operated, selectively establishes a conduction path among one of the pairs of rail segments and across the insulating member associated with that pair.

11. A kit as recited in claim 8, wherein the tie section and the insulating members are integrally formed.

12. A kit as recited in claim 8, wherein the power connectors are formed within the tie members.

13. A kit as recited in claim 8, wherein the tie section and the insulating members are integrally formed of a material selected from the group consisting of polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, wood, fiber, and resin.

14. A kit as recited in claim 8, wherein the power connectors comprise downwardly protruding tubes.

15. A kit as recited in claim 8, wherein the power connectors comprise downwardly protruding studs.

16. A method of manufacturing a model railroad wiring apparatus, comprising the steps of: forming a tie section comprising one or more attached model railroad tie members and one or more insulating members that are attached to the tie section and that protrude upwardly from the tie section; forming a plurality of rail members, wherein the rail members comprise model railroad rail segments wherein two or more power receptacles are secured to and electrically coupled to the rail members; and securing the plurality of rail members to the tie section arranged in one or more pairs, wherein each of the pairs has a first end that is joinable to a model railroad track section, wherein each of the pairs has a second end that is attached to the tie section adjacent to a respective one of the insulating members.

17. A method as recited in claim 16, wherein the tie section and the insulating members are integrally formed.

18. A method as recited in claim 16, wherein the power connectors are formed within the tie members.

19. A method as recited in claim 16, further comprising forming a conductor having two ends terminating in power connectors that mate to two of the power receptacles.

20. A model railroad track wiring article of manufacture, consisting of in combination and affixed in a unitary article: a tie section comprising one or more attached model railroad tie members integrally formed with one or more insulating members that protrude upwardly; a plurality of rail members secured to the tie section and arranged in one or more pairs, wherein each of the pairs has a first end that is joinable to a model railroad track section, wherein each of the pairs has a second end that is attached to the tie section adjacent to a respective one of the insulating members, wherein the insulating members establish electrical gaps between the rail members; and two or more power receptacles that are secured to and electrically coupled to the rail members.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to model railroad track. The invention relates more specifically to approaches for wiring model railroads.

BACKGROUND

The approaches described in this section could be pursued, but are not necessarily approaches that have been previously conceived or pursued. Therefore, unless otherwise indicated herein, the approaches described in this section are not prior art to the claims in this application and are not admitted to be prior art by inclusion in this section.

Constructing a model railroad or toy train layout typically involves several activities, including: providing some form of support structure such as a table or custom bench work; laying track; electrically wiring the track so that trains can run; constructing scenery; adding details; operations; and performing maintenance. Of these activities, wiring is often difficult and frustrating for many hobbyists. Wiring is also typically time consuming.

Several current approaches for wiring a model railroad exist, but are undesirable. For example, some brands of commercial sectional track include a terminal track section, comprising spring terminals or screw terminals that are factory-wired to the rails, and that are attached to a support that is integrally molded into the tie strip. In this approach, the hobbyist connects the terminal track section in a desired location and then attaches feeder wires from a power source to the terminals. However, this approach is undesirable to scale modelers, because the terminals are unrealistic and protrude above the bench work.

In other approaches, the hobbyist lays sectional track, flexible track, or hand-laid track. While doing so, the hobbyist installs terminal joiners at locations at which the hobbyist wants to feed power to the track. Terminal joiners are rail joiners to which feeder wires are pre-soldered. Alternatively, the hobbyist uses regular rail joiners in all locations, and then individually solders feeder wires to the rails. If insulating gaps in the rails are needed, for example, to create sections of track that are electrically isolated, the hobbyist either installs insulating rail joiners at the boundaries of electrical blocks, or cuts rail gaps using a saw.

These approaches have several disadvantages. Using terminal joiners and insulated joiners requires planning the location of all feeders and gaps in advance, which reduces the flexibility of the layout because later changes are hard to make. Individually soldering feeder wires requires a high degree of skill, and the heat involved in soldering often melts plastic ties. Many scale modelers consider insulating joiners unrealistic in appearance. Saw-cut rail gaps may be oversize or, in climates in which seasonal rail expansion and contraction is a problem, require cutting and fitting insulating filler material to keep the gaps open.

A further complication in model railroad wiring has been the advent of digital command control (DCC) systems, which use a high-frequency digital signal superimposed over a low-voltage carrier to communicate control information to a locomotive or accessory device. These systems require layout wiring to be relatively free of noise and intermittent circuits. Therefore, the hobbyist generally must perform careful, high-quality soldering work to use DCC without problems.

Based on the foregoing, there is a clear need for improved model railroad wiring approaches.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention is illustrated by way of example, and not by way of limitation, in the figures of the accompanying drawings and in which like reference numerals refer to similar elements and in which:

FIG. 1 is a side elevation view of an embodiment of a model railroad track wiring apparatus;

FIG. 2 is a top plan view of the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a schematic view of electrical connections that may be used with the apparatus of FIG. 1, FIG. 2, FIG. 5;

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram of a method of manufacturing a model railroad track wiring apparatus;

FIG. 5 is a section view of the apparatus of FIG. 1, taken along line 5-5 of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

A model railroad track wiring apparatus is described. In the following description, for the purposes of explanation, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be apparent, however, to one skilled in the art that the present invention may be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, well-known structures and devices are shown in block diagram form in order to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the present invention.

1.0 General Overview

The needs identified in the foregoing Background, and other needs and objects that will become apparent for the following description, are achieved in the present invention, which comprises, in one aspect, a model railroad track wiring apparatus comprising a tie section comprising one or more attached model railroad tie members; one or more insulating members that are attached to the tie section and that protrude upwardly from the tie section; a plurality of rail members secured to the tie section and arranged in one or more pairs, wherein each of the pairs has a first end that is joinable to a model railroad track section, wherein each of the pairs has a second end that is attached to the tie section adjacent to a respective one of the insulating members; and two or more power receptacles that are secured to and electrically coupled to the rail members.

In one feature, the tie section and the insulating members are integrally formed. In another feature, the power connectors are formed within the tie members. In still another feature, the apparatus includes a conductor having two ends terminating in power connectors that mate to two of the power receptacles.

In yet another feature, the tie section and the insulating members are integrally formed of a material selected from the group consisting of polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, wood, fiber, and resin. In a further feature, the power connectors comprise downwardly protruding tubes. In still another feature, the power connectors comprise downwardly protruding studs.

According to another aspect, the invention provides a model railroad wiring kit, comprising one or more apparatus as recited above; one or more feeder wires, each terminating, in at least one end, in a power connector that mates to one of the power receptacles.

In one feature of this aspect, the kit further comprises a conductor having two ends terminating in power connectors that mate to two of the power receptacles. In another feature, one or more of the feeder wires comprises a switch which, when operated, selectively establishes a conduction path among one of the pairs of rail segments and across the insulating member associated with that pair. In still another feature, the tie section and the insulating members are integrally formed. In a further feature, the power connectors are formed within the tie members.

In various embodiments, the tie section and the insulating members are integrally formed of a material selected from the group consisting of polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, wood, fiber, and resin. In one embodiment, the power connectors comprise downwardly protruding tubes; alternatively, the power connectors comprise downwardly protruding studs.

In another aspect, the invention provides a method of manufacturing a model railroad wiring apparatus, comprising the steps of forming a tie section comprising one or more attached model railroad tie members and one or more insulating members that are attached to the tie section and that protrude upwardly from the tie section; forming a plurality of rail members, wherein the rail members comprise model railroad rail segments wherein two or more power receptacles are secured to and electrically coupled to the rail members; and securing the plurality of rail members to the tie section arranged in one or more pairs, wherein each of the pairs has a first end that is joinable to a model railroad track section, wherein each of the pairs has a second end that is attached to the tie section adjacent to a respective one of the insulating members.

In still another aspect, the invention provides a model railroad track wiring article of manufacture, comprising in combination and assembled as a unitary article: a tie section comprising one or more attached model railroad tie members integrally formed with one or more insulating members that protrude upwardly; a plurality of rail members secured to the tie section and arranged in one or more pairs, wherein each of the pairs has a first end that is joinable to a model railroad track section, wherein each of the pairs has a second end that is attached to the tie section adjacent to a respective one of the insulating members, wherein the insulating members establish electrical gaps between the rail members; and two or more power receptacles that are secured to and electrically coupled to the rail members.

2.0 Structural Overview

In the drawing figures, reference numerals identify the following elements:

10 Model railroad wiring apparatus

12a, 12b Rail

14 Tie floor

16 Tie

18a, 18b Insulator

20, 22 Conductor

24 Rail clip

28, 36, 38 Wire

30a, 30b Connector

32 Switch

34a, 34b Connector

40 Terminal

42 Locomotive controller, signal, or other electrical apparatus

FIG. 1 is a side elevation view of an embodiment of a model railroad track wiring apparatus; FIG. 2 is a top plan view of the apparatus of FIG. 1; and FIG. 5 is a section view of the apparatus of FIG. 1, taken along line 5-5 of FIG. 1.

Referring first to FIG. 1, a model railroad wiring apparatus 10A model railroad track wiring apparatus 10 comprises a generally planar tie floor 14 to which a plurality of scale model crossties 16 (also termed ties) are affixed in a crosswise orientation. Tie floor 14 may comprise, for example, a sheet of relatively thin styrene plastic or other non-conductive material.

Ties 16 may comprise the same material and, in one embodiment, are integrally formed (as through injection molding) with tie floor 14. Alternatively, in place of tie floor 14 an embodiment may include one or more longitudinal members arranged perpendicular to ties 16 and joining the ties. For example, ties 16 may be formed as a strip or segment of ties having continuous or gapped connecting members so that the tie strip is either a rigid section or a flexible section that can form curves of arbitrary radius.

To illustrate a clear example, FIG. 1 shows apparatus 10 having six ties 16, in which three ties are positioned on each side of insulators 18b, which are further described below. In other embodiments, apparatus 10 may include any number of ties 10. For example, one embodiment may have a relatively small number of ties so that the complete apparatus 10 forms a relatively short track segment that can be connected in a sectional track layout or between segments of flexible model railroad track (“flextrack”).

Alternatively, an embodiment may comprise a complete segment of flextrack, which segments typically are about 3′ or 1 meter in length, in which the insulating gap defined by insulators 18b is positioned midway in the segment, near an end of the segment, or any other position in the segment that is found convenient or useful.

Rail clips 24 hold first and second pairs 13a, 13b of model railroad rails 12a, 12b on ties 16. The rail clips 24 extend upwardly from ties 16 and snugly hold bases of rails 12a, 12b against the ties, as seen in FIG. 5. Rail clips 24 may be molded or formed integrally with ties 16 or may be separately applied.

Tie floor 14, ties 16, and rail clips 24 comprise a non-conductive material. In one embodiment, the tie section and the insulating members are formed of a material selected from the group consisting of polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, wood, fiber, and resin.

Rails 12a, 12b are formed of a conductive material such as brass, nickel silver, steel, etc., so that the rails can carry electrical current from a power source to the wheels of model locomotives, cars or accessories that travel the rails.

Insulators 18a, 18b extend upwardly from tie floor 14 and terminate in a position between ends of the rails 12a, 12b to thereby insulate the rails from one another. As seen in plan view in FIG. 2, rails 12a, 12b are arranged in two pairs, each pair consisting of one rail 12a and one rail 12b, each pair having outward ends that can connect the apparatus 10 to model railroad track sections and inward ends that terminate adjacent to insulators 18a, 18b.

In this arrangement, the insulators 18a, 18b impose an electrical break or “gap” between the rails so that electricity cannot flow from one rail 12a to a corresponding rail 12b. Therefore, when the apparatus 10 is installed between two sections of model railroad track using conductive rail joiners at the outward ends of the rails 12a, 12b, the apparatus provides an automatic and integral electrical gap so that the hobbyist need not cut his or her own gap in the rails.

In an embodiment, rail clips 24 are integrally molded with ties 16, and also may be integrally molded with tie floor 14, and also may be molded integrally with insulators 18a, 18b. In this embodiment, a tie strip comprising tie floor 14, ties 16, insulators 18a, 18b, and rail clips 24 may comprise a tie strip element of a model railroad wiring apparatus or wiring kit. The tie strip element is combined with rail elements and optionally with wires or switches to provide a convenient means for installing gaps and switches in a model railroad layout.

As seen in FIG. 2, in one embodiment, the outward ends of rails 12a, 12b have the same length and terminate at outward ends of the apparatus 10 in an aligned position. In this arrangement, the apparatus 10 may be made in an overall length that is compatible with various brands or lines of sectional track, such as those commercially available from Atlas Model Railroad Co. (Hillsdale, N.J.), Bachmann Trains (Philadelphia, Pa.), Kato USA, Inc. (Schaumburg, Ill.), etc. For example, the apparatus 10 could be manufactured as a unitary 3″ (7.5 cm) or 4″ (10 cm) track section that can be introduced into a sectional track layout or track plan without causing incompatibility or dimensional problems.

In alternate embodiments, the ends of rails 12a, 12b may be staggered or have offset ends; this approach may provide better structural stability when the apparatus is installed and connected to other track segments. This approach also may provide better operational performance because the wheels of model railroad cars will not cross the ends of both rails 12a, 12b at the same time, reducing the chance of derailments.

In one embodiment, rails 12a, 12b have a length equal to 40 scale feet in the model railroad scale with which the apparatus is used; this embodiment enables rails 12a, 12b to approximate the appearance of prototype bolted rail segments, which are typically 40 actual feet long.

Bridge members that join ties 16 may be used as an alternative to floor 14. What is important is that ties 16 are held in a fixed relationship so that rails 12a, 12b are maintained in gauge and the insulators 18a, 18b are held in position to separate the rails. However, no particular structural member is required to hold the rails and insulators in position.

Floor 14 may comprise or incorporate simulated gravel roadbed that is formed of any suitable insulating material. For example, floor 14, ties 16, and rail clips 24 may resemble a segment of the plastic simulated roadbed used in the UNITRACK system from Kato USA or the EZTRACK system from Bachmann Trains. Those brands, however, do not provide insulators 18 or a gapped model railroad wiring apparatus or kit as provided herein.

Rails 12a, 12b, ties 16, and rail clips 24 may be finely detailed as exact scale models in accordance with fine-scale model railroad standards. Alternatively, rails 12a, 12b, ties 16, and rail clips 24 may have non-scale dimensions.

Conductors 20, 22 are affixed to and extend downwardly from rails 12a, 12b to provide an electrical connection point for the rails. As seen in FIG. 5, conductors 20, 22 may extend downwardly below a base plane of tie floor 14 so that wires or other electrical components may be attached to the conductors below the rails.

This approach enables feeder wires or other electrical components to be hidden below track level, producing a more realistic appearance. For example, a hobbyist may attach wires or other electrical components to conductors 20, 22 and fit the conductors into corresponding holes that are cut in the sub-roadbed of the model railroad layout. The hobbyist may then route the wires below the layout to switches, signals or control circuitry.

Rails 12a, 12b and conductors 20, 22 may be integrally formed. For example, rail 12a and conductor 20 may be cast of a single piece of nickel silver, brass, steel, or other conductive material, and rail 12b and conductor 22 may be cast of another single piece of such material. Alternatively, conductors 20, 22 may be affixed to respective rails 12a, 12b by soldering, crimping, miniature fasteners such as screws, or other conductive attachment.

Conductors 20, 22 may be formed as a pin, tube, blade, or other equivalent structure that enables connecting a wire to rails 12a, 12b without a requirement for soldering or other complicated connection. Similarly, each of the connectors 30a, 30b may be formed as a pin, tube, blade, quick-connection lug, etc., that is compatible with conductors 20, 22. For example, if conductor 20 is a tube, then connector 30a may be a pin. Alternatively, if conductor 20 is a blade, then connector 30a may be a lug.

FIG. 3 is a schematic view of electrical connections that may be used with the apparatus of FIG. 1, FIG. 2, and FIG. 5.

In one embodiment, a wire 28 terminates in first and second connectors 30a, 30b that can mate or connect to conductors 20. Wire 28 is coupled to one or more other wires 36, 38 through appropriate connectors and a terminal 40 of an electrical apparatus 42. In an embodiment, apparatus 42 is a power supply, model railroad throttle, Digital Command Control (DCC) system, etc. In this arrangement, apparatus 42 provides electrical power to rails 12a, 12b for one side of the apparatus 10.

Additionally or alternatively, a switch 32 has a first terminal 33a that is coupled by a connector 34 to one of the conductors 20. Switch 32 has a second terminal 33b that is coupled to apparatus 42. In this arrangement, switch 32 selectively couples one side of the apparatus 10 to apparatus 42, thereby selectively supplying power or control signals from the apparatus 42 to only rails 12a and not to rails 12b. The electrical gaps introduced by insulators 18a, 18b prevent power from apparatus 42 from flowing to rails 12b.

Conductors 20 of rails 12b may be coupled to a separate power supply or a separate cab. Switch 32 may be a multiple-throw switch that can selectively couple rails 12a to one of a plurality of cabs, throttles, or power sources. Thus, in this arrangement the apparatus 10 facilitates establishing a block form of control of a model railroad layout. However, the hobbyist can arrange such wiring simply by installing apparatus 10 between track segments and connecting wires with connectors 30a, 30b, 34 to conductors 20, without the need to solder feeder wires or perform other complicated connections.

Additionally or alternatively, a first power booster of a Digital Command Control system may couple to rails 12a and a second power booster may couple to rails 12b. Such an arrangement enables apparatus 10 to establish two power districts in a layout that is wired for DCC.

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram of a method of manufacturing a model railroad track wiring apparatus.

In step 402, a molded tie strip is formed. Step 402 may involve, for example, forming by injection molding a tie strip that includes tie floor 14, ties 16, insulators 18a, 18b, and rail clips 24 as an integral unit.

In step 404, rail segments are formed. Step 404 may involve, for example, casting rails 12a, 12b with integrally cast conductors 20, 22. Alternatively, step 404 may comprise cutting segments of rail that has been conventionally manufactured by drawing or extrusion, and attaching conductors 20, 22 by spot-soldering or crimping.

In step 406, the rail segments are attached to the tie strip. Step 406 may involve slipping the rail segments into the rail clips so that the rail clips snugly hold the rail segments in the tie strip.

Optionally, in step 408, a packaging step is performed. For example, a completed model railroad wiring apparatus as described herein may be packaged with one or more wires having connectors that mate to the conductors 20, 22. Such wires may include switches and/or other connectors for attachment to other electrical apparatus. Packaging may include placing a kit of such elements in retail packaging such as a polyethylene bag with appropriate labeling and pricing.

The apparatus 10 may be formed of the elements shown in FIG. 1, FIG. 2, and FIG. 5 in combination and affixed in a unitary article. Such a unitary article may comprise a ready-to-use model railroad track segment that is fully formed, assembled and affixed. A hobbyist may install such a unitary article into a layout without assembly of the individual elements shown in the drawing figures.

4.0 Extensions and Alternatives

In the foregoing specification, the invention has been described with reference to specific embodiments thereof. It will, however, be evident that various modifications and changes may be made thereto without departing from the broader spirit and scope of the invention. The specification and drawings are, accordingly, to be regarded in an illustrative rather than a restrictive sense.