(old) Three-Rail Block Control For 2-Train Operation With No Relays

This page created Jan. 2016, last updated 5/31/2019.

WARNING:  This is the OLD 2016 page.  The info is still valid, but there is a NEWER 2018 page, linking to the 2018 video on the “Video 667: 3-train, 3-rail Insulated-Rail O-Gauge Automatic Control System Uses No Relays”





Note:   This is the OLD page.  Use the above link for the latest page.







Image from Joseph Rampolla’s Youtube video

The 3-Rail “1-Wire No-Relays Block”  . . . . . . aka “Three-Rail Block Control For 2-Train Operation Using 1 Wire and No Relays”

1. Purpose:

  • This page attempts to describe how to control two 3-rail Lionel trains on the same loop of track, by using a very SIMPLE method consisting of 2 track blocks and 1 connecting wire, and NO relays.

2. Summary:

  • You can control two 3-rail Lionel trains on the same loop of track, by using 2 blocks, 1 wire, and NO relays.
  • I’ve seen the wiring diagram in Classic Toy Trains in the past, but have not been able to find it on the internet  — except in a Youtube video made by a gentleman named Joseph Rampolla, which is included below as Video #2.
  • If you Google phrases similar to “3-rail block control with no relays for running two trains on one track“, the results show scads of diagrams involving relays and electronics — but not the simple 1-wire circuit.
  • Therefore: I have created this page of notes.  Note that down below the following diagrams, are links to several VIDEOS.

Image 1 – Rob Mueller explaining the “Control Section” of the 3-rail ‘1-Wire No Relays Block’ that controls 2 trains on 1 loop of track — on his Pine Summit Railroad (Screen capture from Video 1 below).

3. Diagrams:

The next 5 images are screen-captured from Joseph Rampolla’s video (Video #2 below)


Image 2 – The “1-Wire No Relays Block”


Image 3 – The Parts List for the “1-Wire No Relays Block”


Image 4 – Wiring Diagram for the “1-Wire No Relays Block” (from Joseph Rampolla’s Youtube video).

In the above Image 4:

  • The “Control Block” is on the upper left.
    • Since with Lionel track the metal ties normally connect the 2 outside rails, you have to insulate the inside rail of the Control Block (as shown in green between the 2 plastic pins).
  • The “Stop Block” is on the upper right.
  • Note the 2 outside rails do NOT require any insulation, since they are either BOTH normally OFF, or BOTH are ON when a train is in the “Control Block”.

Image 5 – The “Control Block” Note how Joe has used cardboard to insulate the inside rail in the Control Block (rail shown in green).


Image 6 – The “Stop Block”

4. Videos:

Video #1 – Rob Mueller’s 2007 ‘Pine Summit RR’ video

  • From about the 4:40 point to the 8:15 point in the video — the layout owner Rob Mueller explains how the “1-Wire No Relays Block” works.
  • LENGTH of Stop Block:
    • We didn’t cover this in the video, but per Rob Mueller on 1/28/2016:
      * Test stopping distance of trains at maximum speed to be operated, with maximum load of cars (to include “momentum effect” of cars) — to estimate the minimum required length of the “stop block”.  Add the length of several more sections –for a “safety zone”.  This would be the estimated length of the “stop block”.
  • Photos of this railroad can be seen in Rob’s Picasa album and also at PineSummitRR.com.

Video #2 – by Joseph Rampolla.  The above Images 2 thru 6 were ‘screen-captured’ from this video.

5. Other Related Videos

Video #3 – “Blocks” by Lionel

Video #4 – Making a 3-Rail Insulated Track Section

6. Related Discussions

I searched the above two sites, but could not find any reference to the simple “Relay-less Block” that we are discussing on this page.




= = = + + + = = = Other 3-Rail Topics = = = + + + = = =



7. Related Video (Using Reed Switch)

Video #5 –

  • Note that we’re “changing gears” now.  This video uses reed switches and relays, NOT the “Relay-less Block” described on the first part of this web page.
  • The videomaker Joseph Rampolla also has a web page for this layout here: josephrampolla.com/45cross.html
  • The videomaker Joseph Rampolla also has a reed switch web page here: josephrampolla.com/reed.html

8. Additionial Lionel Wiring Diagrams


These 4 scans were sent to me by Joseph Rampolla (josephrampolla.com

“Hi Folks,
Here are 2 very easy old-school ways to do it, no relays, just insulated rails, from an old Lionel book.  Below are 2 diagrams (scans) from the Lionel paperback book “Model Railroading” from the 1950’s that are good, proven techniques also:”



Image 8


Image 9



Image 10