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Alan
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Guys I am going to need some help, and a lot of it, I don't know the first thing about computer controled trains, but with the new plans for New Bournville, and the fact that I will be most of the time operating it on my own , I thought I needed to know more.

Take it easy with me guys :roll:

First where should I look to read up the basics

And should I be planning this at such a early stage ( track planning stage ) or can I add anything after the track is layed

Sorry guys told you I ddn't know anything, but I do know that I will be in good hands here ;-)

henryparrot
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Alan
aswell as Railroad & co there is Itrain you can download it and Xander will give you a couple of months free registration before deciding to buy and its cheaper

http://berros.eu/itrain/en/


Brian

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Hi Alan it is worth thinking about at the track planning/laying stage however not totally nessacary as you can wire up afterward to suit.

First thing it must be a DCC system and it must be connected to a PC with an interface. The only thing different from a standard DCC system is train detection so the computer program knows where on the track a train is. This is acheived by block detection very similar to the prototype i guess.

Sections of track are isolated from each other to form a block. Power to the block is run via control board so when a loco enters that block the current drawn by the loco is sensed and fed back to the computer program so it knows
where the loco is.

Most DCC systems are suitable for computer control infact i can only think that the Prodigy/Gaugemaster is not and i would be wary of Hornby Bachmann starter kits.

For a large layout it will be ideal, i only have a small but the appeal to me is like going to an exhibition i can watch trains running from all angles and soak up the scene.

As Brian has indicated there are a few train control systems about, First and foremost is RR&co Traincontroller no shortage of support an advice on here its availible in three flavours varying fron £80 to £400 but i will say you get what you pay for unfortunaely bronze at £80 is limited in functions.

Brian has indicated iTrain cheap still being developed but worth an exploration we have an expert in this who has just joined.

And as Sol announced Hornby are releasing Railmaster no info yet.

But let me finish off by saying Alan even though you can fully automate a layout with Traincontroller you can mix and match auto and manual so you could have the compter running a mainline on timetable and you can be sat in a corner with your handheld controller shunting to your hearts content in a yard somewhere.

Over to you Alan us "geeks" are a patient bunch.

Traincontroller here

http://www.freiwald.com/pages/index.html



Pete

Last edited on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 09:10 pm by wogga

John Dew
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Hi Alan

Couple of points to add to Pete's excellent summary:

You can retrospectively convert a layout, particularly a DCC layout, to computor control. It is however much better when desigining a new layout to plan for the fundamentals of computor control even though you dont initially instal all the hardware

I am not sure what DCC system you use but it is probably a good idea to have a separate power bus for the points (which of course must be controlled by a DCC decoder).

Pete has mentioned that occupancy detection is key so even though you dont initially install detectors the block configuration merits a lot of careful planning

As you know there are a number of enthusiasts here so you will get lots of help. It is interesting to see the different ways we have used the Software......Geoff with his switchboard and route setting for manual control, Brian with his signalls and Max with his Shunting Puzzle.....I guess Pete and I go for the full Monty

Hopefully a quick scan of the tutorial I wrote will help get an idea of the basics.....its in 2 parts because I am in the middle of reorganising/editing it

I would strongly recommend downloading both systems......RR&Co has a demo version and unlike Itrains a simulator.

I would also look at the forums for the two systems........ it will give you an idea of their respective development history.


Regards  

 

 

 

 

 

Last edited on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 05:40 am by John Dew

Alan
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wogga wrote: Most DCC systems are suitable for computer control infact i can only think that the Prodigy/Gaugemaster is not Over to you Alan us "geeks" are a patient bunch.

http://www.freiwald.com/pages/index.html



Pete


:twisted::twisted::twisted:

Hit a brick wall straight away, as I have two Prodigy Gaugemaster systems :sad::sad:

Thanks for your advice guys, I will go away and sit in a dark room and read up as much as possible, then the questions will start ;-)

MaxSouthOz
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You can probably get good money for the Prodigy's on ebay, Alan.  Then you can buy yourself a Lenz.  :thumbs  :mutley

Alan
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MaxSouthOz wrote: You can probably get good money for the Prodigy's on ebay, Alan.  Then you can buy yourself a Lenz.  :thumbs  :mutley
:cry::cry::cry::cry:

henryparrot
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What is this then?

ITs a prodigy computer interface cable

http://www.gaugemaster.com/prodigy_pc_interface.html

Edit /   I have had a look around since posting this apparently yes it connects to a computer but you can only use it with their provided software which changes cv`s and lets you make throttles etc.

You cannot use it with any external software because gaugemaster(MRC) refush to publish what protocol they use so you are stuffed.

Thats a shame because the base system is popular and nearly all people who have it are pleased with how it works

Brian

Alan
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I knew this would happen :roll:

If  a computer is going to run the layout why do I need the Prodigy or similar ?

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The computer just takes the place of the throttle, Alan.

henryparrot
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Alan

Because the computer has to interface with the dcc hardware in other words it has to be able to talk to the dcc system to tell it what to do.

Unfotunately nearly all dcc systems except the Gaugemaster(MRC) prodigy do that . Even a Hornby Elite does.

Personally think gaugemaster have made a big boo boo there.

Basically its the language used to talk to each other most common are Xpressnet and loconet plus a few others

Apparently gaugemaster wont publish what language their system uses so you cant talk to it.

I will look for cheapest solution for you you could keep the prodigy for normal use but switch to something else to use puter.

Brian

Alan
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:cheers Guys

I thought it was something like that !

So can I have one system that runs the layout DCC ( Prodigy ) and another that could run it from the computer ?

henryparrot
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Yes

All you do i set up a changeover switch to use either prodigy or the other system thats bits easy

What you need to do is find the cheapest system that will give you pc control i will have a look Alan but of the top of my head the Horrnby Elite is probably going to be the cheapest solution,

Obviously if you were prepared to spend a bit more there are better systems but you only want pc control so perhaps thats not neccesary.

Brian

Alan
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Thanks Brian

If you need some sort of DCC control system to power the computer, do you also need a different power source for the points ?

MaxSouthOz
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The actual power that operates the turnouts in TC comes from the LS 150, Alan.  That's the reason I went Lenz all the way.  I was joking before about ebay, but the reality is you should bite the bullet and buy an up market system and be done with it.

ECOS is the ultimate and probably not for you.  Lenz will run TC, I'm not sure about NCE, but playing with lesser systems is just asking for it.

Lenz make all the bits you need for train control.  That was my choice.

henryparrot
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If you want them controlled by the computer they  have to be controlled by the dcc system so what you have are things called accesory decoders the most common one used is the LEnz  LS 150 which doess 6 points.

This set up could be used by both the prodigy and a new pc controlled one

As with all things it depends what point motors you intend to use there are varoius accesory decoders some are better suited than others to differant point motors and of course you have to way up the cost of certain accesory decoders

For example i have 6  ls 150`s 1 nce switch and 1 switchpilot so you can use differant manufacturer ones dependant on what point motors you use.

Brian

MaxSouthOz
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Brian, I reckon that someone starting out shouldn't have a cocktail of brands and systems.  It's OK for experienced people like yourself, but it's a bit much for Alan to get his head around first off.  The KISS principle.

No offence, Alan.  :oops:

Alan
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None taken.......................But I am worried about the Kiss :roll:

John Dew
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Alan wrote: Thanks Brian

If you need some sort of DCC control system to power the computer, do you also need a different power source for the points ?


Using KISS..........Yes

You run a Power bus giving power to the track and DCC instructions to both the track and accessory decoders and a completely separate bus from a separate transformer to power the point motors

In my case, using Lenz, there is a third bus...for feedback

Incidentally I was in a similar position to you 3 years ago.......new house.....new layout......knew I wanted DCC and computor control but knew nothing  about either.

Did lots of research......came to the same conclusion as Max......use one DCC system its simpler.

I started work on the layout knowing the eventual aim but didnt buy the RR&Co software or interface for another 12 months but it was then plug and play because the correct wiring was in place...............of course during the first 12 months I was learning all about RR&Co with the demo version. 

 

MaxSouthOz
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Keep It Simple, Silly.  ;-)

Alan
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MaxSouthOz wrote: Keep It Simple, Silly.  ;-)

:mutley:mutley I didn't think a big Aussie would want to Kiss a little guy from sunny North Devon, but ............ I have heard of worse :pedal

Back on track :roll:

I am reading though all the threads at the moment in the RR&C section, think I am starting to get to grips with it all, to make sure that I am on line :roll: you need a decoder for anything that you want the computer to change ie point/signal/loco etc.

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Hi Alan, if its any consolation i have a Prodigy gathering dust on top of me bookcase lovely handheld throttle as well:sad:

When did my research i shortlisted to 3 systems, Lenz, Digitrax and ECOS i went for the ecos because it was progrssive and had nice controls which i don't use now. (Gucci)

Have a look at McKinley Railway videos (3 or so) on You tube it will give you a good overview but don't hung up on the hardware and wiring it is very very complex on their layout.

Oh Alan if you are ever near Lancashire you are more than welcome to pop in for a looksee.

Last edited on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 06:48 pm by wogga

wogga
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Alan wrote:
MaxSouthOz wrote: Keep It Simple, Silly.  ;-)

:mutley:mutley I didn't think a big Aussie would want to Kiss a little guy from sunny North Devon, but ............ I have heard of worse :pedal

Back on track :roll:

I am reading though all the threads at the moment in the RR&C section, think I am starting to get to grips with it all, to make sure that I am on line :roll: you need a decoder for anything that you want the computer to change ie point/signal/loco etc.


In a nut shell yes, it is one loco decoder for a one loco, for other elements we have what are called accessory or stationary decoders. These usually operate or control any thing between 4, 6 or eight accessorys and there are loads of options and you can mix and match manufacturers if you wish in most cases.

Alan
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wogga wrote: Hi Alan, if its any consolation i have a Prodigy gathering dust on top of me bookcase lovely handheld throttle as well:sad:

Oh Alan if you are ever near Lancashire you are more than welcome to pop in for a looksee.


:cry::cry::cry::cry::cry:

Still it will come in handy for something else, our British 00 layout will now have three hand held controlers !!!!!!

If only I was passing your door,that's one of the problems I don't think anybody within 100 miles has gone all the way to using a computer.

 I will keep the DCC system that operates the layout at the moment untill I really understand and start to add it to the layout, but I will start researching another system ;-)

Back to decoders, is the price of a muti decoder around the same price as a the same number of single loco decoders ?

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Don't worry, Alan.  We're starting to build up a lot of expertise here.  A bonus is we just picked up Chrish as a member so we've got Itrain covered now, as well.

I built a "stand alone" shelf layout for my first go.  That way I needed a smaller number of turnout controllers, block detectors and feedback modules and I could get my head around the process much more easily.

If you start from the track plan and work back, you can easily see all of the hardware you will need and with a small starter, it won't break the bank.  You can still operate your main layout while you are building.  My shelf layout has minimal scenery and so my energy has gone into learning about computer control. 

I'm having a break from it at the moment as the wretched NR is taking up all my free time, but it's still there for later.  On the 23rd there is a group coming to have a look at it, so I have put in another monitor for them to see the software at work, but I haven't even polished the track as yet.

I think from watching your threads that you have already got a suitable short layout?  That might be a good place to start working.  Small steps.  Ask many questions.  I think I have the World Record for dumb questions on this subject.  :roll:

Geoff R
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Hi Alan, glad to see you are coming over to the bright side:lol:

As to your last question, I find that in general a multi-decoder (I presume that you are referring to accessory decoders?) is about the same price as a single top end loco decoder. So in my case, using accessory decoders that operate 4 points - i.e. 4 pairs of motor solenoids - I have been paying around £30 for the 4, whereas Gold loco decoders cost nearly as much each.

 

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Alan as Geoff says you usually can get more bang for your buck out of an accessory decoder i'll give a quick rundown on mine.

LDT S88 Occupancy decoders at £50 (£38 in kit form)each will monitor upto 8 blocks so thats £6.25 a block.

NCE Switch 8 point controllers at £40 each will control upto 8 points so thats £5 a point.

LDT Signal Controllers at £50 (kit availible) each, each can control upto 4 x 3 aspect signals each so thats £12.50 per 3 aspect signal.

Pete

Last edited on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 08:08 pm by wogga

Alan
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Thanks again guys

I am going to download one of the free programmes and have a play, at the same time watch and listen to all you pro's :roll: and learn more about what it is that I would want from all this, as I don't think I want full total computer control, maybe just to run the long loops etc, leaving all the switching to be done by manual hand !

Is that feasible ?

John Dew
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You can do all manner of permutations........between fully automated and fully manual (using the software to set the route....ie the points

A typical scenario is to have the computor run a couple of roundy roundys......perhaps with a timetable.....together with a shuttle while the operator shunts the goods yard

You do need to be careful with the infrastructure  though..........its fine to simplify and economise by having certain sections of the layout strictly manual ie manual or non DCC points and sections of track without occupancy detection............but these become no go areas for trains running with the computor.................that doesnt mean that a loco running automatically cannot be run manually but it does mean the computor has  temporarily "lost" their whereabouts...........see my posts about occupancy detection to get a clearer idea of what I am rambling about 

 

 

 

Alan
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Thanks John

I am reading your all your threads at the moment :thumbs

If I was to set a programme to just the loops and not include the yards in the track-plan, would that work ?

And is it as simple as having a switch to be able to run normal DCC back on the loops, or would I need to turn the complete computer etc off.

John Dew
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Alan wrote:
If I was to set a programme to just the loops and not include the yards in the track-plan, would that work ?



Yes

There are two separate decisions you have to take:

[1] Points:   do you want all the points contolled by DCC Accessory decoders or just the loops. I would probably go for the former.

When I started for each LS 150 I built a duplicate mini switchboard for back up, testing and I wasnt sure how robust the DCC system would be.................I dont bother now its far easier to point and click with the mouse on the computor screen  to throw a point  

[2] Blocks: ie Occupancy detectors. For now I would just put blocks on the main lines and ignore the yards.......however I would wire the sidings so it is easy to convert later.....ie I would make sure that each siding was electrically isolated and that its power feed (the common return doesnt matter) was clearly identified and lead to a choc block before connecting to the power

As I have written before the block set up is critical to automatic operation.......do spend a lot of time at the planning stage

 

And is it as simple as having a switch to be able to run normal DCC back on the loops, or would I need to turn the complete computer etc off.


Simpler.....no switch is required at all. They are totally interchangeable

You can, and I do, run a train automatically (on a schedule) and run another loco using either the computor throttle or the DCC throttle.

Obviously if you are running a loco under computor control (ie automatically) you cant take manual control of that particular loco without clicking a couple of buttons on the computor but it remains on throughout.

  Regards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi Alan

 Welcome to the GEEK side:thumbs

don't get tangled up all in one go, the best way to look at it is;

1 software

2 hardware

1 go TC if you want all the bells and whistles. you also have a large support group within the forum. download the free trial version and go through the TUTE. the one John put together is superb and you will not find anything like it on the web. the thing to remember with TC;

1 you will have many moments of frustration followed by joy when it works.

2 there is always more than 1 Way to skin a cat with TC.

a top tip is when you save your work save it as V1, V2, V3 etc. so if you do mess it up you can go back to a working version.

2 i have a lenz aet 100 and it works without any trouble.

i use the lenz LS150 for the points (no problems) and i use LDT S88 Occupancy decoders, the s88's work out cheaper than the Lenz Occupancy decoders. the S88's are proven to work well with very little fuss. check back first before buying an S88 as you can buy different types.

 

and a little present for you

 



 

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Hi Matt

Long time no hear :roll::roll:

How is the layout............ no shed...................no second house coming on :roll::roll:

Thanks for your advice, this along with the rest of the geeks :pedalwill get me through it all, I'm just a little busy with other things at the moment to really concentrate on this computer stuff, but hopefully in about two weeks I will have more time :thumbs

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Hi Alan

yes long time no hear, i do try to get in as often as possible. the layout has been going slow recently. been doing a lot of study so no time for having fun.


                 

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