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Looking for control panel advice...

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mlf
  • Member since
    February, 2017
  • 18 posts
Looking for control panel advice...
Posted by mlf on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 12:31 PM
Hi all,
This is my first railroad, so I am new to this, especially the electrical part. 
My layout is DCC powered by the NCE Powercab unit.  I have 14 turnouts that are controlled by micro SG90 servos, which are controlled by an Arduino Mega board.  The locomotive runs perfectly on the track, and the servos are working well controlling the turnouts.  I am now ready to build a control panel box that has a map of the layout with a spdt toggle switch at each turnout to control each turnout, with a red and green led indicating the direction of the turnout.  The Arduino board will be inside the box.
My question(s) involves the best way to go about building the control panel.  I would like for it to be removable, so I would like for the wires coming from the 14 servos on the track to meet into as few connectors as possible, so if I remove the control panel I can just disconnect a connector or 2 and off she comes.  What is the best connectors to use for this?  Molex?  Anderson Powerpole connectors?
Also, I would like for the NCE PCP panel to be mounted into the control panel, but I would like for the control panel box to only have 1 cord coming out of it that goes to the wall outlet.  Inside the panel box, I would like to have both the wall wart for the NCE and the one I use for the Arduino board and servos to connect to the wire for the wall outlet coming into the box.  Is that doable, advisable, etc?  If so, how would I go about doing this?
Sorry if I’ve asked too many questions.   Hopefully what I described will give you a general idea of what I’m trying to do.  Would like to hear from anyone who has built a similar type control panel box.
  • Member since
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Posted by RR_Mel on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 1:21 PM

This is what direction I went in way back in the 1960s.  I have built 4 layouts in my 65 years of model railroading.  This is a CAD drawing of my current and last layout's control panel.  It is not a conventional model railroad control panel but all four have worked out for me very well over the years.
 
  
 
This is my forth control panel and as you can see its not your typical control panel but because the last three layouts worked out very good for my kids and their kids I continued on with same style.  My youngest Great Grand Daughter (4) can easily run my trains in either DC or DCC mode.
 
This is a link to the construction of my control panel.
 
 
This is a link to my Arduino Mod to my control panel.
 
 
 
EDIT:
 
Your topic will being a lot of good responces and good advice from Forum Members.  Take your time and don't rush into building a panel, give it a lot of thought.  Before I even thought I was fiished I already had modifications planed.  To me I guess the most important thing is to leave room for future expansion.
 
 
Mel
 
Modeling the early to mid 1950s SP in HO scale since 1951

My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
  • Member since
    December, 2009
  • From: Michigan
  • 285 posts
Posted by lifeontheranch on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 2:48 PM

My panel design meets your stated requirements. You would have to make your enclosures larger than mine to fit your Arduino and NCE equipment inside.

Connectors on rear permit easy removal of panel from layout:

Link for how to build: http://www.lkorailroad.com/control-panels-part-i/

  • Member since
    June, 2011
  • 74 posts
Posted by Old Fat Robert on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 5:11 PM

Alan: Slightly off topic here, but every time I see photos of your control panels I am both in awe and humiliated at the same time. Incredible work.

Old Fat Robert

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
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Posted by rrinker on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 5:12 PM

 Simple way - get a piece of perf board and header pins. The servo connectors fit on standard 0.100 header pins. Connect the wires from the Arduino to the header pins, also add a coax barrel jack for power to the Arduino. OK, that means you have to plug in each servo lead individually, bbut how often are you going to totally remove the control panel? Having the panel hinged to flip open without having to take it off the layout should satisfy 99.9% of the issues with potentially manking internal changes to it. Add a short USB extension and you wouldn't even have to open the thing up to load new code in the Arduino.

                            --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    December, 2015
  • 1,735 posts
Posted by BigDaddy on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 5:53 PM

Old Fat Robert
Alan: Slightly off topic here, but every time I see photos of your control panels I am both in awe and humiliated at the same time. Incredible work.

Not really OT, they do look like some sort of art work.

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

  • Member since
    November, 2002
  • From: Colorado
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Posted by fwright on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 6:17 PM

I guess I would have to ask why?

Your Powercab is set up for walk-around control from the get-go.  If the cord won't reach, then you will have to add jacks and an SB booster/command station.  But it maintains your ability to walk around your layout, controlling your train as you go.

If you are walking around, why not distribute the turnout toggles near to where the turnout is located?  And since the toggle is hopefully within easy visual distance from the turnout it is controlling, why bother with LED indicators?  Just look at the turnout, decide if it needs to be thrown to the other direction, and if it does, flip the toggle.

I've spent my life in electronics, and the last thing I want on my layout is a Starship bridge replica.  But that's me.  Others have given you good ideas if you want to go ahead with the control panel, and seated operation.

Fred W

....modeling foggy coastal Oregon, where it's always 1900....

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
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Posted by rrinker on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 8:10 PM

 Coupld of options to accomplish that, too - for a single turnout, you can use the ATTiny85, an 8 pin chip (programs the same as an Arduino though). There's enough pins for the switch, a servo, and indicator lights. Where 4 or 5 turnouts are all toogether, like a yard, instead of one of the bigger Arduinos, the Nano is very small (would easily fit in Alan's panels) and actually has MORE I/O pins than the Uno. Also very cheap on eBay. Even Amazon - I got a 5 pack of them for like $8. The board I designed is even fancier, but probably overkill for you. It has inputs to be controlled by a stationary decoder to both change the points and also lock out the local control (for a mainline turnout, locked unless the dispatcher releases it to local control, which also drops the signals at the ends of the block). It uses an ATMegas328 (same chip as the Uno) for 2 turnouts - with pushbuttons local controls, LED indicators, an unlocked LED for each, plus a relay for each to switch frog polarity. And of course the servos. Take out the remote control stuff and there are enough IO pins for a third servo with buttons, LEDs, and a relay. Not as dense as a simple button/servo implementation, but we're talking a chip that costs about $2 - the pushbuttons (same ones shown on the Canadian Canyons project, with LEDs built in) cost more than the microcontroller chip. I'm working on another module that uses a CMRI interface back to the dispatcher computer (eventually a real CTC panel) to drive these as well as the signals, with a default setting the enables the local control if the computer is not turned on, so I can just run trains by myself without having to run back to the dispatcher panel all the time. Each switch location will have a small acrylic panel witht he switch number, the buttons, and the lock indicator. For hard to see spots, I may put signal repeaters on the panels. The only place I see anything approaching a large panel would be at the main yard since there will be a lot of turnouts in a small space. The rest will be small panels at each crossover, siding, or industry. The coal breaker may have a larger one as well since it will have quite a few tracks. That's the grand plan, anyway. Designing the electronics keeps me busy until the basement is finished.

                                  --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    January, 2009
  • 1,985 posts
Posted by RR_Mel on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 11:18 PM

I didn’t mention the connectors I use for my control panel in my earlier post.  I primarily use computer DB connectors, they come in 9 pin, 15 pin, 25 pin, 37 pin and 50 pin.
 
I also went with Euro type 3 amp 12 terminal connector strips as well as 10 position brass bus bars from LED-Switch.com.
 
For small connectors I use round pin Male and Female .10”/2.54mm header strips.  They can be cut to any amount of conductors and end up at about 3¢ per conductor.  They come in both single row (40 pin) and double row (80 pin).
 
 
Mel
 
Modeling the early to mid 1950s SP in HO scale since 1951
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • 223 posts
Posted by bagal on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 4:43 AM

fwright

I guess I would have to ask why?

I think control panels are a bit last millenium also. My layout has the toggle switches on the fascia adjacent to the turnouts. Easy wiring, no needs for lights to show alignment etc and ideal for walk around control. If I really wanted a panel I would be looking at creating the panel on a touch screen tablet or similar rather than a conventional panel.

Bill

  • Member since
    April, 2009
  • From: Staten Island NY
  • 1,185 posts
Posted by joe323 on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 6:31 AM

No offense Fred W. but I think having a control center that looks like a starship control panel would be cool  

Sorry just had to interject.

 

Joe Staten Island West 

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 22,399 posts
Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 7:36 AM

 Maybe. But having to run from the opposite side of the room every time I wanted to line a switch would get old, real fast. Yeah, when we had a 4x8 we had an interesting control panel, various types of switch machine controls, a random toggle board my Dad built to control structure lighting, rows of Atlas switches to control power to various parts of the layout, a pair of dual power packs plus another single one. That's just the way it grew as the layout grew. No worries for me, I had no problems running trains, several at a time. Even though my Dad is the one who built most of it, he could rarely manage more than a lap without running an open switchand derailing something.

 I do find it interesting (not disparaging anyone, just an observation) that people will pick the PowerCab instead of the Zephyr because the PowerCab has a tether and you can walk around with the train instead of being fixed in place like an old power pack, but then want a centralized control panel. Kind of defeats the purpose. As soon as I went to building more linear style layouts, I went to distributed control. But then, I always have been quite the odd duck.

                              --Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

mlf
  • Member since
    February, 2017
  • 18 posts
Posted by mlf on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 9:28 AM

Thanks for all the input guys.  Lots of good ideas.  Hopefully others will provide me more ideas to consider.

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