Hand Signals

Sessions with multiple sound-equipped engines running simultaneously can generate quite a bit of noise. And given that some operators have hearing problems, trying to talk over the noise can make things worse. Rather than talking, conductors and engineers may consider hand signals to communicate. It lessens train room noise, allows communications at a great distance (especially for the boat crew) and is quite fun. It’s amazing how much work can get done silently using hand signals. Be sure to not wait until the last second for the hand signal – efficient conductors keep those hands moving to keep their engineer up to date on what’s happening!

There are several different techniques for using hand signals and I have included several varieties below.

Basic technique

  • Go forward
    • Move hand up and down like karate chops away from you
  • Controlled stop
    • Hands come together
  • Slow controlled stop (inching)
    • Fingers come together
  • Stop
    • Hold up closed hand with palm facing engineer
  • You’re coupled up
    • Make a closed fist and shake once
  • Back-up (reverse)
    • Beckon toward self with circular motion
  • Highball (“leave town, we’re finished”)
    • Pull virtual whistle cord twice
Credit: Model Railroader magazine, February 2015
Credit: How to Operate Your Model Railroad by Bruce Chubb