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Automatic Operation with DCC

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  • Member since
    April 2003
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Automatic Operation with DCC
Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, July 24, 2003 11:06 PM
I toured a layout the other day that could operate automatically. The gentleman who owned the layout used Hornby Zero-One, with a PLC (positive Logic Controller) set up. He had keypads scattered around the layout to program in locomotives, and he used reed switches and relays to activate turnouts and signals.

16 trains were running at the same time. Trains would run automatically after he programmed the locomtives in and hit the start button--a train would wait "in the hole," until another train passed, the signal would change color, the turnout would snap, and away the train would roll. I was impressed. Later on we discussed DCC, and another modeller said he didn't think the same thing could be done in DCC without a very expensive computer interface and many stationary decoders.

Is such a layout possible in DCC, and if so, how could it be accomplished? Would it be very expensive? BTW, I looked under this layout and was amazed at how much wire he had under the benchwork--would the wiring be difficult in DCC?

Gary
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Automatic Operation with DCC
Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, July 24, 2003 11:06 PM
I toured a layout the other day that could operate automatically. The gentleman who owned the layout used Hornby Zero-One, with a PLC (positive Logic Controller) set up. He had keypads scattered around the layout to program in locomotives, and he used reed switches and relays to activate turnouts and signals.

16 trains were running at the same time. Trains would run automatically after he programmed the locomtives in and hit the start button--a train would wait "in the hole," until another train passed, the signal would change color, the turnout would snap, and away the train would roll. I was impressed. Later on we discussed DCC, and another modeller said he didn't think the same thing could be done in DCC without a very expensive computer interface and many stationary decoders.

Is such a layout possible in DCC, and if so, how could it be accomplished? Would it be very expensive? BTW, I looked under this layout and was amazed at how much wire he had under the benchwork--would the wiring be difficult in DCC?

Gary
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, July 25, 2003 7:23 PM
Gary,
I don't claim to be even close to knowledgeable like some on your question, but I'm a little further ahead on it then you - at this moment. First let me say, I think the computer run layout is on the verge of becoming popular. Most don't want a layout like the gentleman you describes has, that is a computer that runs the layout. Instead they want the computer to add an operator or two. Let me give you an example.

I have a layout in a study. The study will hold up to 3 operators comfortably, BUT the layout itself can handle more than three operators quite nicely. So it would be great if when the three are running, the computer could act as an fourth operator.

Another example, my son and I have had the privilege of working on model railroads together for some time now. But soon it will be time for him to leave the nest. My layout will be down one critical operator. So when he leaves, it would be nice if the computer could duplicate some of his running.

One guy got angry at me in another forum and said a computer wasn't the same as having another human being beside you, and of course, that is true. But its better than having nothing. I told him to get a voice recognition program and name his computer Bob. Now he could talk to it. Can't you imagine it - "Okay, Bob. Could you throw number ten turnout for me.... Thanks!"

Yes you can set your layout up with dcc goodies for computer running, you only need deep pockets and a willingness to take on a new challenge. I am at that stage right now. I have checked out the Digitrax goodies I am installing and have a rough idea of the battle plan. I am wiring each one of my flex track as its own block. Yes you will need lots of detectors (deep pockets) but like everything, the prices on these are dropping like everything else electronic.

I read advise from some one I trust out there in forum land. He said he had used several different systems; his recommendation was to stick with one system and use it throughout - this is what I will be doing - hence the Digitrax battle plan.

Personally I don't see this as something I will be doing overnight, but plan on taking at least five years to get the system up and running. And as I install my flex track, I am adding two sets of feeders to each one so I don't have to worry about problems due to poor contacts down the line. I then test each flex track, hooking them up to a dc power pack and running an engine, with each set of feeders - once it passes this test, I then install the track. Tedious and long but I know my track wiring will be bullet proof both for power feed and dcc signal integrity.

Initially, I will wire the system as though I weren't computer running. Then as time and money permits, I will be switching the layout over and re-wiring some aspects of it.

Good luck, and don't let the negative comments from some of the guys out there against computer running get to you. If you haven't heard it yet, you will.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, July 25, 2003 7:23 PM
Gary,
I don't claim to be even close to knowledgeable like some on your question, but I'm a little further ahead on it then you - at this moment. First let me say, I think the computer run layout is on the verge of becoming popular. Most don't want a layout like the gentleman you describes has, that is a computer that runs the layout. Instead they want the computer to add an operator or two. Let me give you an example.

I have a layout in a study. The study will hold up to 3 operators comfortably, BUT the layout itself can handle more than three operators quite nicely. So it would be great if when the three are running, the computer could act as an fourth operator.

Another example, my son and I have had the privilege of working on model railroads together for some time now. But soon it will be time for him to leave the nest. My layout will be down one critical operator. So when he leaves, it would be nice if the computer could duplicate some of his running.

One guy got angry at me in another forum and said a computer wasn't the same as having another human being beside you, and of course, that is true. But its better than having nothing. I told him to get a voice recognition program and name his computer Bob. Now he could talk to it. Can't you imagine it - "Okay, Bob. Could you throw number ten turnout for me.... Thanks!"

Yes you can set your layout up with dcc goodies for computer running, you only need deep pockets and a willingness to take on a new challenge. I am at that stage right now. I have checked out the Digitrax goodies I am installing and have a rough idea of the battle plan. I am wiring each one of my flex track as its own block. Yes you will need lots of detectors (deep pockets) but like everything, the prices on these are dropping like everything else electronic.

I read advise from some one I trust out there in forum land. He said he had used several different systems; his recommendation was to stick with one system and use it throughout - this is what I will be doing - hence the Digitrax battle plan.

Personally I don't see this as something I will be doing overnight, but plan on taking at least five years to get the system up and running. And as I install my flex track, I am adding two sets of feeders to each one so I don't have to worry about problems due to poor contacts down the line. I then test each flex track, hooking them up to a dc power pack and running an engine, with each set of feeders - once it passes this test, I then install the track. Tedious and long but I know my track wiring will be bullet proof both for power feed and dcc signal integrity.

Initially, I will wire the system as though I weren't computer running. Then as time and money permits, I will be switching the layout over and re-wiring some aspects of it.

Good luck, and don't let the negative comments from some of the guys out there against computer running get to you. If you haven't heard it yet, you will.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, July 25, 2003 9:49 PM
Rick--

I think you're right. I have an iMac computer, and I would love an interface to act as an operator, or possibly a CTC panel. I'm not sure what's out there, though, and anyway it's a moot point as I have MRC DCC (works fine on my small layout). It seems necessary to hook a dcc system up to a PC, anyway.

What's interesting is that this gentleman didn't have a computer or a computer interface, in the strict sense. The Hornby and the logic controller did the work. Incidentally, it was possible to switch the yard with his layout, so it wasn't completely automated. Even so, I would think such a thing would be possible with DCC, and I would hope it would be easy to accomplish.

Gary
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, July 25, 2003 9:49 PM
Rick--

I think you're right. I have an iMac computer, and I would love an interface to act as an operator, or possibly a CTC panel. I'm not sure what's out there, though, and anyway it's a moot point as I have MRC DCC (works fine on my small layout). It seems necessary to hook a dcc system up to a PC, anyway.

What's interesting is that this gentleman didn't have a computer or a computer interface, in the strict sense. The Hornby and the logic controller did the work. Incidentally, it was possible to switch the yard with his layout, so it wasn't completely automated. Even so, I would think such a thing would be possible with DCC, and I would hope it would be easy to accomplish.

Gary
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, July 26, 2003 3:02 AM
A friend and I have a joint project building a very large OO/HO layout. (He's British outline, I'm US). The layout is 30' x 15' inside with a double track main running elevated in the garden for about 400'. We are looking at Lenz DCC as the modern way to go but it doesn't seem to go far enough! We're also looking at PC control with a system from www.CTI-Electronics.com. Perhaps we'll be able to integrate the two. I've had the same thoughts re reliable wiring for DCC and the outside mainline has feeds to a cable bus from every piece of flex track. I figured we'd have to make a soldered jump connection across every joint anyway - might as well do it properly!

It's coming very close to decision time on how to proceed on the control aspect so we're hoping to see as much as possible being reported here or anywhere else. If you come across any other links relevant I'd be really pleased to hear about them.

Spence
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, July 26, 2003 3:02 AM
A friend and I have a joint project building a very large OO/HO layout. (He's British outline, I'm US). The layout is 30' x 15' inside with a double track main running elevated in the garden for about 400'. We are looking at Lenz DCC as the modern way to go but it doesn't seem to go far enough! We're also looking at PC control with a system from www.CTI-Electronics.com. Perhaps we'll be able to integrate the two. I've had the same thoughts re reliable wiring for DCC and the outside mainline has feeds to a cable bus from every piece of flex track. I figured we'd have to make a soldered jump connection across every joint anyway - might as well do it properly!

It's coming very close to decision time on how to proceed on the control aspect so we're hoping to see as much as possible being reported here or anywhere else. If you come across any other links relevant I'd be really pleased to hear about them.

Spence
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, July 26, 2003 2:54 PM
Check out Railroad & Co, it is software for running trains,ET. AL. You can download the manual for free off their site, but it helps if you have the patience of a geek with electronic interests to get into it. I haven't read most of it but I would advise you to check out their site.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/railroadandco/

I did have it bookmarked but don't right now. But at Yahoo! Groups, they have their own SIG going. I did join.

Warning: to join their group, you will have to take a little quiz. I didn't react favourably to it so the guy in charge emailed me back telling me part of the purpose of the quiz was to remove spammers, etc. So you can be honest in your reply and you will be accepted.

Also join Railroad-Line forum and the moderator of the DCC or electronics section is heavy into computer running. I know he will gladly help out.

http://www.railroad-line.com/

Also Louie in the Atlas DCC forum is very knowledgeable about Digitrax dcc running; he is where I take my advise from.

http://forum.atlasrr.com/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=6

Maybe we should bug Terry T. about expanding the dcc section of MR sort of back into its old configuration and instead, call it - "DCC, Computers and Electronics" - because eventaully that is what it is going to become anyway. Where do we go for advice about computer running and animation, etc????
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, July 26, 2003 2:54 PM
Check out Railroad & Co, it is software for running trains,ET. AL. You can download the manual for free off their site, but it helps if you have the patience of a geek with electronic interests to get into it. I haven't read most of it but I would advise you to check out their site.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/railroadandco/

I did have it bookmarked but don't right now. But at Yahoo! Groups, they have their own SIG going. I did join.

Warning: to join their group, you will have to take a little quiz. I didn't react favourably to it so the guy in charge emailed me back telling me part of the purpose of the quiz was to remove spammers, etc. So you can be honest in your reply and you will be accepted.

Also join Railroad-Line forum and the moderator of the DCC or electronics section is heavy into computer running. I know he will gladly help out.

http://www.railroad-line.com/

Also Louie in the Atlas DCC forum is very knowledgeable about Digitrax dcc running; he is where I take my advise from.

http://forum.atlasrr.com/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=6

Maybe we should bug Terry T. about expanding the dcc section of MR sort of back into its old configuration and instead, call it - "DCC, Computers and Electronics" - because eventaully that is what it is going to become anyway. Where do we go for advice about computer running and animation, etc????
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, July 28, 2003 2:11 PM
What I want is an interface with a high resolution color camera mounted in the cab that works like train simulator so I can drive my train on my layout. Until that is a reality I will stick with standard dcc
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, July 28, 2003 2:11 PM
What I want is an interface with a high resolution color camera mounted in the cab that works like train simulator so I can drive my train on my layout. Until that is a reality I will stick with standard dcc

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