Category Archives: Signals

Archistories: Interlocking Towers Kallental and Dorpede

Sitting along side this 1915 “Achilles”  Marklin 1 Gauge live steam engine are two new releases by Archistories: Kallental and Dorpede “Interlocking Towers.”

Both buildings follow the same architectural design but vary in material construction, one is brick and the other is open timber. A throwback to a time in railroad history when signals and switch turnouts were controlled mechanically by an operator. Today these structures have largely disappeared with the advent of electric controls: push buttons replacing throw levers.

Which one you choose is a matter of personal preference, but each reflects distinct styles of German industrial architecture. Cut-outs are incorporated into the buildings for accessory lighting along with partition walls to control light flow. Additional features that are new to Archistories kits that I have assembled are scored boards for continuously folded frameworks walls, open timber and even ornamental brickwork. Working with long parts that fold is assisted by very light scoring along those lines that have already been etched by the laser. Archistories kits are nothing like all the other ones on the market by other manufacturers, Archistories can be described as kits combining the highest quality materials, precision and design. Here you will find beautiful roof sheathing that is attached to solid underlayment, parts that actually fit together perfectly, and highly detailed window frames. Crisp detailing throughout inspire one to sit and marvel at the finished projects.

If you are new to building laser cut with numerous small parts and parts with filigree I would suggest a couple of practice runs applying glue to thin strands of scrap material before jumping in and gluing the open timber framework on the Kallental Signal Tower. The simple rule to follow is to place drops of glue instead of streams of glue in modest amounts and in discreet places. Not much glue is needed after all, parts in these kits are warp free allowing much less glue than other manufacturer’s buildings. Warp free high grade materials characterize Architories kits.

For those on the fence about laser cut I have a simple experiment: 1. Buy one of these kits and assemble it 2. take the finished building along with an assembled plastic building to a real life industrial complex preferably from the turn of the century and abundant in the United States 3. hold both kits alongside real life industrial brick architecture 4. ask yourself which looks closer to real life? I am confident the answer will be Archistories buildings every time.

Building a scene which incorporates these buildings are perfectly illustrated by Archistories company photographs. These dioramas incorporate cast rock formations, static grass of varying lengths and color, shrubs and trees placed as one would see along a railroad siding, track ballasting representing the region modeled and of course the painted or photographically illustrated background. Viewing the scene at eye level brings it all together and the backdrop brings it all together.

Photo used by permission (copyright: Archistories)

Siding: weathering can be added to Archistories buildings, I recommend the dry brush technique. Care should be taken to ensure good results, please keep in mind the high absorbent nature of these materials, it is better to start with a very dry brush and build up layers, too much paint and the building will be ruined. Or don’t weather at all!

Z gauge LED signals by Marklin

Marklin introduced a couple of signals that lasted in the line-up for years, they were the 8939 (block signal) and 8940 (semaphore).  The 8939 block signal was the first, it was introduced in 1972 when Marklin announced z gauge, then in 1979 the 8940 semaphore was added. Realistic train control was created with these signals, starting and stopping a train on a mainline was achieved by wiring an isolation track and adding an 8945 relay or 8946 manual control for the 8939. The 8940 semaphore used a control box instead of the 8945 or 8946 controls. 24 years later the 2nd generation of signals was introduced for mini-club that included yard and mainline  signalling capabilities, some signals even feature up to 4 aspects. With sophistication comes complexity and wiring schematics that are unprecendented in z gauge, thus the fun of real train operation. Signals are their own field of study and adding realistic signalling will make a great layout even greater.

Before delving into the world of mini-club signals important comments need to be made, first is the expense, and second is the commitment of time. Non semaphore signals come with 2, 3 or 4 aspects, as the lighting functions increase there are also an increase in parts and wiring. For example the 89391, 89394 and 89395 are 2 aspect requiring 1 relay (7244), 89390 and 89392 are 3 aspect requiring 2 relays (7244), and 89393 requires 3 relays (7244). Cost is expanded with the addition of each 7244 relay which retail for $45. The 7244 relay also operates on 16 volts only therefore purchasing a separate transformer is required (Marklin 6001-110 volt or 6002-240 volt). A 7272 control box is also required for every 4 signals. And two feeder tracks per block is required (8590). Plus 8954 plastic rail joiner insulators. The commitment of time can be quickly suggested with one photo illustrating all the wires required for hooking up one 2 aspect signal 89391.


To keep costs affordable shop for used relays and transformers. Used relays sell on Ebay for about $15 a piece while used 6001 transformers sell for no more than $75. If you buy the 240volt 6002 transformer for the European market it can be converted to 110volt with the addition of a Pyle 100 watt step-up/step down converter for $20. Used signals are also a possibility from a reliable dealer who gives a warranty.

Wiring schematics are provided with each new signal sold, but I will provide written instructions for each on a separate post if you bought one used without instructions; those instructions are too lengthy to include here.

Since this post concerns LED only Marklin z signals let’s start with a basic description for each.

89390 – “Distant” signal warns engineer of next signal’s indication and prepares the train crew of an oncoming stop command. Located a distance from other signals on a mainline.

89391- “Block” signal located along a mainline with two indications: stop and proceed.

89392- “Entry” signal used at the entrance to train stations with three aspects: stop, proceed, and proceed slowly.

89393- “Exit” signal used at stations for departing trains with 4 aspects: stop, proceed, proceed slowly and switching allowed.

89394- “Yard” signal used to indicate movement of trains within a switch yard with two aspects: do not proceed and proceed but prepare to stop. Ground level signal.

89395- *Same signal type as 89394 but high mounted on a pole versus ground level.

The type of layout will determine how many signals are required prototypically, but the cost to equip a layout with each prototypically wired will quickly add up to big bucks. An alternative is to wire important signals on the layout and perhaps leave others on permanently as green or red. Or another solution is to manually turn two aspects on and off without train control using a control box.

Signal wiring tips:                                                                                                                                             1. Each signal is equipped with a varying number of wires, following the wire schematic will indicated where those wires go.                                                                                                                    2. Standard braided wire by Marklin is color coded, it is important to stick with correct color coding in case a mistake is made and retracing one’s step.                                                                     3. The strands of braided wire need to be twisted to make good contact with plugs and terminals, but I suggest one step further: tinning the wire will keep the strands together better than twisting alone, simply apply solder to the braided ends of your wire thereby filling the wires with solder and making a single strand.                                                                                                                                                                4. Signals come equipped with several wires that have capacitors installed to a solid wire, this part of the wire heats up and should not be taped over thereby preventing a potential fire. Also never remove the capacitors.                                                                                                                        5. Wires with capacitors and solid wires will need to be trimmed for their connections with the relay (7244) terminals, this wire is far longer than required.                                                                                                                                                            6. Control box 7272 is correct for signals.                                                                                                   7. Two feeder tracks per block are required.