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On my last layout I did play around with reed magnets and the 555 timer chip but found the reeds to be a little unreliable (maybe it was me and my fumble fingers in mounting them correctly!). Not only that but they only detected where the magnet was, presumably under the belly of the loco (or wherever the magnet got fitted). I'm looking at detecting the entire train. The reeds were also a bit obtrusive and noticeable in that they lay along the track and were somewhat difficult to "hide". But for those that use them, great, as long as it does the job for you.
And to you Chris, again, thanks for the comments.
I did have a look at the Arduino, mostly the Uno, but found that it had a limited number of ports to which you can connect things - am I right in thinking only 20 digital and 8 analog? Maybe there are add-on boards to increase this number of ports but that then adds to the complexity of it. Having said that, I guess my idea of using the PICAXE processors is just as complex in that I only have the bare, naked processor to start with, and it along with everything else has to be mounted onto a piece of board. Swings and roundabouts, I guess. But the PICAXE 40X2 has up to 32 ports for connectivity and even for my needs I have found it limiting when trying to sort the signalling out.
For instance to save ports, I have to generate a three-aspect signal from two outputs and a two-aspect signal from just one output - plus a couple of logic chips to make up for the deficiency and the missing aspects - more on this when I get round to the next instalment, coming (I hope) shortly. Presumably the Arduino is as capable of only driving a limited amount of current from each port (and overall) as the PICAXE. Therefore, if you want to run the layout signals as well as duplicating them on a mimic board then other add-on chips to increase the current capability would also be required.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to put you off the Arduino. In some respects I'm trying to make a comparison about the Arduino of which I know very little about. Like the reed switches/magnets mentioned above, it's horses for courses. You run with whatever you feel is right for yourself.
I'm not sure about making videos.....I only recently found out I have a YouTube channel by way of the GMail account, I think that's how come I got it. Never even thought about videos. Maybe one day. At the moment there's not enough hours in the day to do much on the layout (same old story, I know). Can't recall the last time I actually ran some trains.
Anyway, glad you're enjoying the series, Chris