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Hidden Staging train stop / detection

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  • Member since
    April 2018
  • 157 posts
Hidden Staging train stop / detection
Posted by Outsailing86 on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 8:38 AM

Courtesy of the wayback machine called the MR Archives, I found the Washita and Santa Fe project layout. While I am slowly embracing going into N scale, I was thinking this layout might be a neat trackplan. I'd use it as a Midwestern mainline, with some flavor from the current Stateline project. I like the branchline to the quarry. 

but my question is, what works for monitoring trains in hidden staging tracks? 

  • Member since
    February 2001
  • From: Wyoming, where men are men, and sheep are nervous!
  • 2,927 posts
Posted by Pruitt on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 9:11 AM

Well, there are many options.

Quite a few people use small video cameras to provide a look into their staging yards. I haven't done this but have seen layouts that have. Works pretty well.

What I did was use IR detectors from MircroMark (don't know if they still sell them) to tell if a track was occupied or not. This provided an indication on my control panel via an LED. Here's a shot of my panel on an old layout:

The green and red LEDs are bi-color LEDs. Green indicates no train in that spot; red indicates a train is present. Since my staging yard tracks were very long, I could store up to three trains on each track, so there were three sets of sensors and LEDs - each end of the tracks plus a sensor in the middle.

(the blue and dark LEDs indicated the selected route through the yard ladder. The selected route was lit. Non-selected routes were dark).

  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: somerset, nj
  • 3,817 posts
Posted by gregc on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 10:50 AM

we recently completed a double deck staging loops:  5 loops on the bottom deck and two sets of loops on the upper deck, with "automatic stopping blocks".

the stopping block are needed because the position of the train will be difficult to see on both decks

each loop is sized to hold 2 trains.   each loop has 4 detected (full-featured NMRA) and switched blocks, 2 blocks per train.   the short (3') more forward block is expected to be powered off when the train is entering staging and will automatically stop the train when the loco(s) enter the unpowered block.    all blocks are switched to reduce power and sound pollution.

of course, the train in the rear block needs to be moved forward when the forward train leaves

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

  • Member since
    November 2015
  • 78 posts
Posted by ROCK MILW on Thursday, September 9, 2021 10:44 AM

I used Circuitron DT-4 optical detectors on my four loop and three stub-end hidden storage tracks. There are three detectors per track, one near the entrance, one near the exit, and one in the middle. They are connected to LEDs on a simple sheet metal panel I made. The storage tracks are located under a 1/2" plywood sheet that has MicroMark-sourced LED light strings on a variable brightness controller.

It is a bit finicky in that the resistance for each sensor must be calibrated with the light level under the plywood. I used the panel lights to determine when a train is clear of either end of a storage track (red lights), and if the track is occupied (yellow lights.) The storage tracks are controlled by Atlas Controllers (stub-end tracks) or Atlas Twins (loop tracks).

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • 6,253 posts
Posted by RR_Mel on Thursday, September 9, 2021 11:43 AM

I too use optical to stop trains on my hidden sidings.  I went with the Arduino Fc51 IR Infrared Obstacle Avoidance Sensor Module.  It will drive a couple of LEDs easily.


My Model Railroad
Bakersfield, California
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.

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