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Upgrading to computer control, where do I start?

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  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 21 posts
Upgrading to computer control, where do I start?
Posted by imodelho on Saturday, March 8, 2008 3:11 PM

I am thinking of upgrading my DCC system, but thought about my spare computer as the control.  Where do I start, does any one have experience, or knowledge they can pass along?

Any software I should check out?

 Thanks

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 416 posts
Posted by UpNorth on Saturday, March 8, 2008 5:47 PM

First,  I'm by no means an expert, and do not claim to be. 

It all depends on what you want to do ? Automation or simply control the layout as in CTC dispatcher. This could can get very expensive quickly.  The software can be free as in JMRI but you must be fluent at writing JMRI scripts or have acces to an 11 year old computer geek to figure it all out for you.

Railroad &Co. TrainController from Freiwald software (Tony's Trains) will set you back close to  $400 and is one of the most popular. You can get a time bomb  demo from them.  Add the need for  block detection and turnout control that the computer can talk too, Loconet or similar and you see were this is going; second morgage.

I've done the CTC panel (JMRI PanelPro) and can control my test  layout from my PC (turnouts, signal automation, throttles) and done limited automation (back and forth between blocks). 

The next step is to tackle the scripting language further. 

Not shown in pictured electronics panel  is the backside where my DCS100, power supplies and  DS54 hide.

  • Member since
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  • From: Kansas
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Posted by jamnest on Saturday, March 8, 2008 6:24 PM

I use my old Pentium III (windows 98SE) PC for my layout.  The computer supports my Digitrax DCS-100 Command Station and does not replace it. Since this computer has an RS-232 port I purchased a Digitrax MS-100 to connect the computer to my Loconet.  I use the computer for programing decoders and virtual throttles.  It can also be used as a CTC, but I have not moved to that point.

JIM

Jim, Modeling the Kansas City Southern Lines in HO scale.

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 21 posts
Posted by imodelho on Saturday, March 8, 2008 6:32 PM
yes..i might be in over my head on this..maybe just upgrading to the Digitrax and take it from there..
  • Member since
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  • From: New Hampshire
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Posted by ChrisNH on Monday, March 10, 2008 8:17 AM

There was a website I stumbled across a few years back that showed a complete home-grown system using a PC as a controller and throttle. If I find it I will post the link, but some google might work.

You could probably help others give advice if you told us what you have now and how much "DIY" work you are interested in doing or if you want a canned solution.


Chris

  • Member since
    January 2007
  • From: Eastern Shore Virginia
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Posted by gandydancer19 on Monday, March 10, 2008 1:10 PM

Hi imodelho

Digitrax is not the only option.

I use CTI. Yes, you have to write your own code, but it is fairly easy to do. The system was originally designed for DC, but DCC can be integrated into it now too. A starter kit costs about $100. There is a YahooGroup for support. They have many different modules that control and sense different items. see www.ctielectronics.com for more info.

I am also involved with a Digitrax system at our club, and I am planning and installing the detection and signaling system on our layout. It is a good system for signaling and detection, but IMHO it is kind of hard to initially set up and the manuals leave a lot to be desired. (My home system is NCE). BTW, you can also use the Digitrax detection and signaling items with other systems if you are electrically inclined, and take the time to fit it all together. JMRI is not that easy to use as a control program. WinLok may be a better choice for a control program, and is not that expensive.

Hope this helps,

Elmer.

Elmer.

The above is my opinion, from an active and experienced Model Railroader in N scale and HO since 1961.

(Modeling Freelance, Eastern US, HO scale, in 1962, with NCE DCC for locomotive control and a stand alone LocoNet for block detection and signals.) http://waynes-trains.com/ at home, and N scale at the Club.

  • Member since
    February 2008
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Posted by UpNorth on Monday, March 10, 2008 8:08 PM

the link given is wrong :  http://www.cti-electronics.com/

As he was asking about computer control, any total computer control is not simple to implement and requires more than just a Zephyr and MS-100 or a starter kit from CTI.  You must provide some means of block detection and turnout control that CTI does not supply with the starter kit.  

If I compare the BD168. It has the capability for 16 blocks at a cost of  $119.00. For the same 16 block detection from CTI you are over $160.00.  Add the cost of the starter kit. The BD168 just needs to connect to the blocks and to your control station  via Loconet. 

Since Winlok folded,  no support from them and no updates. With a total of 6 messages in their Yahoo forum for 2008 (3 for 2007)  I think Winlok is not a viable option.    

JMRI is not all that complicated unles you dive into scripting. And the support site is quite active.

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Posted by imodelho on Tuesday, March 11, 2008 7:43 PM
thanks for the advice, i might just start off with a new DCC system..I have the prodigy express, and feel like I need an upgrade.  thought the computer switch would be a better way to control my layout and more cost effective.  but , after doing the research online, I might wait until it gets more advanced for modelers like myself.

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