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Offline river6109  
#1 Posted : 27 April 2016 04:14:20(UTC)
river6109

Australia   
Joined: 22/01/2009(UTC)
Posts: 13,853
Location: On 1965 Märklin Boulevard just around from Roco Square
Hi, having aired my interest in braking modules and braking and acceleration sections I would like to open up this topic to anyone who has entered a computer controlled system/ program, how they find it, how easy it is to programs it and what type of programs are available for an entry starter with other words a person who has limited knowledge.

What I hear it is the way to go and some of you have already in part explained or shown computer control programs but could we have a more detailed explanation of how it is managed, what programs you are using, how user friendly are they etc. etc.

I also believe there are 2 ways of detecting signals or pulses (sensors) from either the middle track or the outside track and we may can understand these options a bit more by explaining the good and the bad or preferred option.

another module I've prepared for my braking and acceleration sections are fade in fade out signal modules and I hope and most probably they can also be initiated via computer control instead of having a separate module for it.

it may also be important to lay out the run down procedures, similar to a review of a loco, so we can identify different aspects what is needed, brand names of programs,

hopefully some of us will take the advice, help and support which is needed to start off with and in the end saves us money on several different modules


I'm thanking you in advance for your input.

John

https://www.youtube.com/river6109
https://www.youtube.com/6109river
5 years in Destruction mode
50 years in Repairing mode
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Offline xxup  
#2 Posted : 27 April 2016 07:57:52(UTC)
xxup

Australia   
Joined: 15/03/2003(UTC)
Posts: 9,282
Location: Australia
As I use M-track I use both contact rails to sense and current sense from the middle rail.

Contact rail sense is for stopping somewhere.. You can use middle rail sensing, but it is unreliable as sliders can be anywhere on a loco or railcar, which means that a train can overshoot a signal or platform. Front wheels are always at the front and combined with contact track are the best way to detect a loco and prepare it for stop or slow down.

I use middle rail current sensing in areas where I need to trigger a secondary event that is not time critical. (e.g I might use a current sense to trigger the red signal after the loco has left the start and has now entered the block or maybe just to trigger the boom gates on a crossing. )

My advice to everyone who starts with computer control is to start small on a test layout so that you get comfortable with the concepts of starting, stopping, setting routes, reversing direction and changing signals etc. This also helps to understand the block lengths needed to slow and stop a train. During this stage, stay away from things like virtual blocks as they just confuse a learner. They are very useful, but not at the start. Likewise concepts where block length is measure to set the stopping point accurately - also a complication when learning.

The BIG concept to get you head around is that in a computer controlled layout signals do not control the layout. The computer does and it controls the signals. There is no need for braking modules or unpowered signals sections. The computer slows the train and starts the trains. This is how you have a signal be green and still stop at the platform.

Another thing to remember is that train number detection (e.g.g HELMO system) is (mostly) superfluous - the computer knows exactly where your train is on a layout as long as your turnouts work correctly. On value of train number detection could be to detect when turnout has misfired and the train is on the wrong track.. Hard work to do this - better to have good quality and reliable turnout motors..

I would set up two test tracks:
1. a loop with a two switches and two station lines to/from a single mainline so that you can see the computer select the alternate route when a train is on one platform. Lets you play with waiting time in a route etc . So two blocks at the station and two blocks on the main line. Now run three trains.
2. a shuttle line with a bypass in the middle running two trains. The plan here is not to do an Uncle Fester with the two trains.

Once the trains are working in the test loops, then add the signals.

As to software. They are all good - Rocrail has come a long way since I first looked at it and I believe that it is still free. I like WinDigiPet - it is expensive to start off, but the upgrade cost every two years is cheaper than most of the opposition.

One big recommendation is that you get something like a HSI-88 to get the computer to sense contact rather than use the eCOS or CSx as both of these controllers experience periodic problems with s88 detection. One version is good, but the next update brings problems until they are fixed again. Also the HSI-88 takes load off the controller so it can better listen to decoder conversations on the rail.



Adrian
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Offline siroljuk  
#3 Posted : 27 April 2016 09:43:37(UTC)
siroljuk

Finland   
Joined: 29/10/2010(UTC)
Posts: 377
Hello.

Adrian is right. If you use new technology like CS2 and it's newest software versions you inevitably runs into problems, large or small. You have to accept these problems. BUT ... at the same time when you try to fix problems you learn very much about possibilities which new technology brings with.ThumpUp ThumpUp
When you use old signals and other rely-based devices with new hardware and software you have to face many problems which can be solved though. The best teacher is practice and solution of difficult problems.

Then to the automation.

I would add that Keep everything as simple as possible. Think simple, if you have ( as most of you have) complicated layout, break the layout in simple functional parts. Make a good sketch for automation and test it carefully " on the table" before making it in real layout.

I think that the most important is that when you start to plan new layout you think during the planning all the time also how you are going to automate it. I know that old and ready layout is very difficult to automate.

Waiting impatiently for a new CS3 + controller, and opportunities brought by it and potential problems.

Happy Training everyone

Regards

Jukka

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Offline river6109  
#4 Posted : 27 April 2016 10:22:28(UTC)
river6109

Australia   
Joined: 22/01/2009(UTC)
Posts: 13,853
Location: On 1965 Märklin Boulevard just around from Roco Square
Adrian and Jukka, thanks for your input

how do overcome or go forward with an already existing layout, as you know I've designed these reflective opto coupler and they respond to a slider when passing over and as mentioned before they will replace my switching tracks and secondly I will be able to install them afterwards anywhere on the layout, suppose as long they are connected to a S88 detection module they should be fine (?)

John
https://www.youtube.com/river6109
https://www.youtube.com/6109river
5 years in Destruction mode
50 years in Repairing mode
Offline Danlake  
#5 Posted : 27 April 2016 11:36:48(UTC)
Danlake

New Zealand   
Joined: 03/08/2011(UTC)
Posts: 1,555
Hi John,

I can only agree with previous comments regarding computer control.

If you have some familiarity with a typical windows based program, it's fairly straight forward to do some simple programming.

Many people refrain from computer control because they assume it's all about just pushing a button and then sit back and let the computer do all the work. But is far from that. Many users would have split operation with e.g. some trains running on computer schedules while others are run manually by the user. It gives a whole new fun aspect.

And you will also be able to get much better speed control that looks proto typically.

What I have learned so far with computer control:

Avoid using the central station for feedback. Bypass system by having LDT-HSI. Faster and more reliable.

Make som planning on how many and where to place the blocks with sensors. A small simulation on paper will easily show if you are missing a block section.

Read the manuals first! I highly recommend to have a look through Traincontroller manual (e.g. the bronze version). Very well written and the concept is similiar for most softwares.

Defiantly start out simple. Don't start out with complicating automation of shunting freight wagons. Start with simple automation of trains on the mainline.

The computer only knows what it knows. There is some work involved in letting the software know the speed behaviours of each locomotive (speed profiling). And if you have made some changes on the decoder you will have to do it all over again.

Have you thought about just making small cuts in the K track to isolate the outer rail. Should be fairly easy with a dremel, even though the track is ballasted? I guess the main challenge will be to solder the S88 wires on the rail.

Brgds Lasse
Digital 11m2 layout / C (M&K) tracks / Era IV / CS3 60226 / Train Controller Gold 9 with 4D sound. Mainly Danish and German Locomotives.
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Offline siroljuk  
#6 Posted : 27 April 2016 15:36:57(UTC)
siroljuk

Finland   
Joined: 29/10/2010(UTC)
Posts: 377
Originally Posted by: river6109 Go to Quoted Post
Adrian and Jukka, thanks for your input

how do overcome or go forward with an already existing layout, as you know I've designed these reflective opto coupler and they respond to a slider when passing over and as mentioned before they will replace my switching tracks and secondly I will be able to install them afterwards anywhere on the layout, suppose as long they are connected to a S88 detection module they should be fine (?)

John


Hello,
Yes they are fine with s88. Someone seems to have troubles with S88 connected direct to CS2. Earlier when I had older CS2 hardware version I had troubles also but it was because of older version did not use opto coupler in S88 bus. I did burn my CS2 then, but Märklin Service repaired that and now I have better CS2.
I know that if you have very many S88 devices and heavy traffic, then you might have problems. In that case I recommend to use L88 and connect all your S88 devices via that device. You have to use own transformer with L88 and because there is some difficulties in CS2's latest software you should be patience with booting and rebooting CS2.
As far as I know L88 handles at least part of the S88 load and therefore eases CS2's quite poor CPU.

L88 have few good features which are quite handy in certain maneuvers. You can make L88 act like button-matrix, this is very good feature. Then L88 have 16 own S88 contact-inputs. I use these inputs with simple switch and make them as FLAGS. Flags are useful making conditions in route programming with CS2 ( and other soft wares can use them also). Read the L88 manual and let your imagination fly.


I have also one newer S88 device which is connected to L88 that device is for locos. Certain contact input and switch connected in that means one certain loco. When the Flag is up ( contact occupied) then that certain loco obeys route commands which are ment to that loco. Other vice if Flag is down (free) then you can drive loco, but because of programming of routes automated routes for that loco will not function.

At the moment I have 10 S88 devices connected to one CS2 with one booster and almost all contacts are in use through L88. And I´m playing around and test all kind of routes.

After testing enough then I'm going to use latest version of WinDigipet software, it is quite complicated but it's features and possibilities are very good.

Happy Training

Regards

Jukka
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Offline French_Fabrice  
#7 Posted : 27 April 2016 23:06:42(UTC)
French_Fabrice

France   
Joined: 16/05/2011(UTC)
Posts: 1,396
Location: Lyon, France
Hi John,

First of all, welcome to the world of computer driven layout !

I strongly suggest you to read the beginning of the thread https://www.marklin-user...ftware---Tips-and-tricks
and especially the post #2 which describes the basic concepts.

Apart that, most of important answers have already been written by other members in the posts above.
I'm going to try to bring some complements and/or explain things from my point of view...

What is the purpose of a computer driven layout ?

-To allow SAFE and COMPLEX automation of MANY trains, much more than your mind can handle and much much more than the ridiculous features provided natively by the CS2 (it's my opinion). Don't get me wrong: the word "ridiculous" refers to the set of features supported by the CS2 in terms of automation, not to the people trying to use them to achieve acceptable automation...
-To allow manual management of trains NOT already driven automatically, i.e. provide interactive play with some locos which are not under running automation: manage sidings interaction, manage a steam depot, prepare trains for running, insert them into a planned traffic, etc... The possibilities are close to the infinite !
-Be astonished BigGrin while the course of some trains is chosen at random by the software when running in automatic mode, and depending on the available free routes
-Create schedules (one time or recurrent) of trains running thru various locations of your layout, and run them
-Create animations of some scenes of your layout while trains arrive is special locations
-and many more...

What is not the purpose of a computer driven layout ?

-To interact ONLY thru your PC screen and click on some turnouts and/or signals and/or click on sliders to increase/decrease the speed of some locos, and always stay in manual mode. I think you can get quickly disappointed, as the number of things you have to manage at the same time may increase rapidly, and thus creates a major disaster ! The only gain of such an approach is a total rejection of the computer driven approach. The manual mode must be a complement of the automatic mode, and/or a way of testing things while setting up the computer control.

A word of caution: Interacting thru a mouse and a screen on your PC with your layout is different than interacting with a hardware Central Station. Some people like it, some people really dislike it. You'll have to choose your camp after a reasonable amount of test time.

What do I need to start ?

-As already said, a simple test layout to learn the basic concepts and discover how things run. Please, NEVER start on your definitive layout if your don't master the basic concepts. This simple test layout must implements the main basic concept, i.e. blocks, complemented by feedback occupation information of each block. Then routes (oriented segment of travel from one block to another) are implemented. This provides you the mandatory things to allow automatic traffic. Please note that a block without any feedback information is... nothing !
-A software like TrainController, iTrain, WinDigipet, Rocrail, JMRI...
-Digitized locos. Analog locs are not manageable by a software.
-Digitized turnouts (K83/M83 or equivalent driven turnouts). Analog turnouts are not manageable by a software.

Do I need brake modules ?

-For automatic mode, as already replied, NO. The computer does the job.
-For sections of the layout where blocks are not implemented, thus not eligible for automated traffic, it's up to you...

Do I need to implement signals at the end of the blocks ?

-For the general rendering aspect, yes !

Do I need to cut off power in sections before signals ?

-For automatic mode, as already replied, NO. The computer does the job.
-For sections of the layout where blocks are not implemented, thus not eligible for automated traffic, it's up to you...


What is the best software ?

It depends on many things. There are commercial software you must pay for any feature to be available. There are free software/open source software you can use with almost the same features and the quality of a commercial software.
Check first the quality of the documentation, the help available thru various communities (forum, online help, software editor...), the speed of implementation of new features, the richness of features, the robustness of the software, the cost, etc...
As already said, learn first the concepts - they are all the same in the various software, only the implementation may differ, then try to quickly implement them on the test layout. Some commercial software allows a test period without paying, with all features (or limited features) enabled.

Comparing the various software would need a dedicated thread and a lot of time.

Back now to more specific questions you asked for...

Sensors (feedback information) should use middle track or external tracks ?
It depends on :
-Type of track used : For K & C track, use of contact tracks (K-2295 for instance or Peco SL11 insulators) is generally the preferred choice. It corresponds to "external tracks" and use of the standard family of S88 devices (6088, LDT RM-88-N, Viessmann 5217...). I do not recommend the use of other devices like reeds/magnets (difficult to adjust precisely and all loks should have a magnet) or momentary contacts triggered by a pickup shoe (not reliable) like K 2299. For M tracks, if you can't find contact tracks section, the alternative is to use "current consumption detection devices" (a loco is present is a section equipped with such feedback devices), like Viessmann 5233, LDT RM-GB-8-N, or Marklin S88-DC feedback module - 60882. It corresponds to "middle track". You may also mix on the same layout traditional S88 detection and current consumption detection.
-Pros and cons of traditional S88 detection (ground detection) versus current consumption detection:
* "Traditional" pros:
.. Very easy to implement in a Marklin world (K & C)
.. Cheap
.. Reliable
.. Allow occupancy detection of lost wagons/coaches inside blocks
.. Any axle establishing the flow of ground potential is detected between the 2 external rails
.. The size of the detected zone is not limited on plain tracks (do not use on turnouts)
* "Traditional" cons:
.. one of the 2 external rails (the one which is insulated between 2 K2295 or 2 Peco-SL11) is not permanently linked to ground, thus allowing less conductivity and possible problems. This can be correctly cured by the 'diode trick' (See Ross Web site)
.. an already installed layout is not very easy to modify. This can be solved by cutting one of the two rails with a dremel or similar tool
.. for K track, you need to solder a wire, in the insulated section, on a rail (difficult and risk of melting tracks), or use of K 7500 plug (not beautiful, but there is a workaround)
.. may need more ground plugs outside of the insulated sections
* "Current consumption detection" pros:
.. Soldering on the central conductor is easier than on external rail (K-track)
.. Keep the 2 external rails to ground potential
.. Cases when ground detection is not adapted (when a loco is on a turnout, for instance)
* "Current consumption detection" cons:
.. sections of central conductor must be insulated
.. only a device consuming current (i.e. a loco decoder or a light in a coach) can be detected.
.. no lost wagon/coach detection is possible
-Other devices: infrared detection devices, RFID detection devices (see LDT web site)...
-Already owned devices: I know you have experimented optical sensors detecting the passage of a slider ("middle track" like). If the output signal can be inserted in the S88 feedback module, then you can easily reuse them.
-Ease/difficulty of modification of existing layout to set up the sensors (see pros & cons above)

A consequence of using feedback modules is you need to implement the S88 bus, either thru the native connection to the CS/Ecos, or thru LDT HSI-88 devices connected to the PC. In all cases, you are limited to a total of 496 feedback contacts. This is quite an important number, but your layout is very big.
An other consequence of using a PC driven layout is you need to setup a small PC network allowing the CS2 and the PC to communicate together.

Fade in/fade out signal modules reuse.

To be honest, I don't know a lot. I personally use Viessmann 472X light signal series with Viessmann 5229 signal decoders, and the fade in/out feature is provided by the 5229. The only thing I'm thinking about is LDT LS-DEC family of hardware signal decoders. I know if you plug in such a decoder a Viessmann light signal of 401x family, you'll be able to get such a feature... but LDT signal decoders are not that cheap...
Other members may provide more useful information on this topic...

A word of conclusion.

Computer driven layout is a huge world which provides fantastic possibilities.
In my opinion, everybody can succeed in such a world and have a lot of pleasure.
But, first you have to master the concepts and the implementation of these concepts in the software.
Be warned that such a software is a complex tool. It's NOT only a point & click affair.

The things you have to keep is mind are:
-Go each step after each other; take the necessary time.
-Learn something, then test it immediately on the test layout
-Be assisted by a friend who already knows the stuff and/or ask for help in the forum. Some members already know some sophisticated software and may provide help to you. Also use the dedicated forum of the software you have chosen. You will find many information and valuable answers
-Decide if you have pleasure while using a software, before going to modify your layout.

Cheers
Fabrice
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Offline Minok  
#8 Posted : 27 April 2016 23:43:17(UTC)
Minok

United States   
Joined: 15/10/2006(UTC)
Posts: 2,230
Location: Washington, Pacific Northwest
For computer control, the top recommended tools seem to be
#) Windigipet
#) Traincontroller

I've not built my layout yet, so I do have the benefit of being able to build it up with computer automation in mind, but it also means I'm relying on what I can read online and advice from others, rather than practical experience.

What I've learned so far is:
1) block length should be no shorter than your longest train you plan to run. Then break up your layout into as many blocks as possible that are no shorter than that minimum (there are some exceptions to this in the areas of switches I think).
2) Use L88 feedback to let the computer know when 'a train/cars' are in the block. Based on where you initially tell the computer the trains are, and how it adjusts the switches to route - and how the block L88 occupancy signals come back, the computer keeps track of where the specific trains 'should be'.

Beyond that, what this thread has indicated is:
3) Use a dedicated, independent L88 processing module - so this may discount the value of the CS3+ coming out even more... not sure. This is a general rule in electronics - have dedicated components that focus on doing one thing and doing it well. Its easier to assemble and maintain a system where a component isn't doing multiple things.
Toys of tin and wood rule!
---
My Layout Thread on marklin-users.net: InterCity 1-3-4
My YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Minok1217/
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Offline Minok  
#9 Posted : 28 April 2016 00:20:14(UTC)
Minok

United States   
Joined: 15/10/2006(UTC)
Posts: 2,230
Location: Washington, Pacific Northwest
Originally Posted by: French_Fabrice Go to Quoted Post


What do I need to start ?

-As already said, a simple test layout to learn the basic concepts and discover how things run. Please, NEVER start on your definitive layout if your don't master the basic concepts. This simple test layout must implements the main basic concept, i.e. blocks, complemented by feedback occupation information of each block. Then routes (oriented segment of travel from one block to another) are implemented. This provides you the mandatory things to allow automatic traffic. Please note that a block without any feedback information is... nothing !
-A software like TrainController, iTrain, WinDigipet, Rocrail, JMRI...
-Digitized locos. Analog locs are not manageable by a software.
-Digitized turnouts (K83/M83 or equivalent driven turnouts). Analog turnouts are not manageable by a software.



Fabrice, thank you for the very detailed and informative answer. I have a followup to this particular segment of your post.

Beyond the obvious of digitally controlled locomotives and turnouts and a layout separated into sensing blocks....

You need feedback (as you mentioned) which can be via an S88 solution (via a controller like a CS or some dedicated S88 module).

And the computer software running on a PC...

But you also need a way to get your computer software's instructions transmitted onto the layout tracks. So what are the options for that hardware part of the setup?

I gather that a Central Station provides the ability to interface to a computer and thus act as the hardware to push commands via the CS2 -> Track Box -> Track.

But is it possible without a complex bit of kit like a CS (or similar from other makers).. and can instead be done with just a simpler bit of hardware which only works on getting commands from the computer and patching them onto the Track Box ?
Toys of tin and wood rule!
---
My Layout Thread on marklin-users.net: InterCity 1-3-4
My YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Minok1217/
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Offline river6109  
#10 Posted : 28 April 2016 07:51:03(UTC)
river6109

Australia   
Joined: 22/01/2009(UTC)
Posts: 13,853
Location: On 1965 Märklin Boulevard just around from Roco Square
Hi everyone and thanks for your respond and advice.

I assume this is how one should proceed:

Step 1.) what I've read so far it is important to get used to the PC program, install it and read though it
Step 2.) set up a small test layout (what can you do when you don't have one ?)
Step 3.) use S88's
Step 4.) connect bits and pieces (is there a instruction how to connect all the wires and modules ?
Step 5) fill in data into the program
Step 6.) get to know the program
Step 7.) try one loco and see it it responds to commands
Step 8.) When do you integrate the PC with your ECoS ? e.g. RailComPlus feeback

John
https://www.youtube.com/river6109
https://www.youtube.com/6109river
5 years in Destruction mode
50 years in Repairing mode
Offline JohnjeanB  
#11 Posted : 28 April 2016 13:50:30(UTC)
JohnjeanB

France   
Joined: 04/02/2011(UTC)
Posts: 1,854
Location: Paris, France
Hi John,

Lots of very interesting comments above.
I use Rocrail since 3 years with S88, it is free, works very well, has a supporting forum (also in English)
My experience is:
- preferably use occupation information ( with C Track or K Track) and avoid slider operated contact tracks (M-track)
- have all the length of the block managed by 2 S88 contact sections (avoiding length of track without any detection)
- Each block has 2 contacts: one to slow down if required and show occupancy, the second to brake smoothly and stop if needed;
This second detection length should be the same on most block (I use approx 25 cm).
This allows to select for each loco the speed you want and by adjusting the braking strength, to have a very precise stop location for all trains.
- patience to learn all functionalities is mandatory and a few months are required to freally get started

Here are two videos of my computer-controlled train:
- the computerised turntable: Video Steam depot
- the train itself: Video Train layout construction

In my case Rocrail drives 31 locos simultaneously all with sound and mostly MFX.
Enjoy the fun of computerized trains

Jean
My layout videos
latest vid
hump yard
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Offline PMPeter  
#12 Posted : 28 April 2016 16:22:56(UTC)
PMPeter

Canada   
Joined: 04/04/2013(UTC)
Posts: 1,137
Location: Port Moody, BC
Originally Posted by: river6109 Go to Quoted Post
Step 2.) set up a small test layout (what can you do when you don't have one ?)


John,

I started using Rocrail after I had most of my layout setup. I entered all of my track configuration into the Rocrail Track Plan, assigned blocks, sensors, signals, etc. and got myself into a whole world of grief. So I realized as others have stated you need to start small and get a loop working, add a siding, add a block at a time, etc. So to start off I took my outer loop (regardless of how many blocks and switches it actually has) and defined it as one block with a sensor at the entrance and another one at the exit. The entrance and exit of this block was connected to 2 station tracks each given a block number and a pair of sensors. This then became my test loop and I could set up each locomotive, the signal aspects, and learn the features of running 2 trains automatically in a 3 block portion. You learn a lot doing this, especially regarding sensors and their location. I then decided to make all blocks bi-directional, learning even more.

Once you have this functioning properly you can start adding a second loop, additional blocks, and so on. If you add too many at once you tend to get into trouble since the computer calculates routes and movements you probably never considered and you get actions that you may not want. Therefore, add them, test them and don't be afraid to go back to a previous simpler track plan until you figure out why the PC is controlling the way it did. Usually in my experience it is a sensor in a wrong position which causes a locomotive to overshoot and foul a point and then proceed into a wrong block.

I have been using Rocrail for about 2 years now and probably have 15% of my layout "automated" in this fashion. It is definitely a learning process and not a plug and play situation.

Cheers
Peter

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Offline Minok  
#13 Posted : 28 April 2016 22:00:53(UTC)
Minok

United States   
Joined: 15/10/2006(UTC)
Posts: 2,230
Location: Washington, Pacific Northwest
Originally Posted by: JohnjeanB Go to Quoted Post

- Each block has 2 contacts: one to slow down if required and show occupancy, the second to brake smoothly and stop if needed;
This second detection length should be the same on most block (I use approx 25 cm).
This allows to select for each loco the speed you want and by adjusting the braking strength, to have a very precise stop location for all trains.

Jean


Jean,

Does this not mean that you really have 2 blocks that work together? The first block detects occupancy and is used by the computer to slow down the train, and the second block right after it lets the computer sense when you are in the stopping block and has it run it stop-train commands?
Toys of tin and wood rule!
---
My Layout Thread on marklin-users.net: InterCity 1-3-4
My YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Minok1217/
Offline Thewolf  
#14 Posted : 28 April 2016 22:41:13(UTC)
Thewolf

Canada   
Joined: 08/09/2015(UTC)
Posts: 1,956
Location: Saint Mathias dur Richelieu-Canada
Hi all BigGrin

I use Itrain...I should say...I am going to try

All that I have to say, the configuration represents a lot of work. A great deal of details to be verified. Forget nothing. It asks a big concentration.

I will see

Thewolf
Project The Richelieu Valley Railway-CS2-Track C- Itrain-Digital
Offline DaleSchultz  
#15 Posted : 29 April 2016 04:33:17(UTC)
DaleSchultz

United States   
Joined: 10/02/2006(UTC)
Posts: 3,974
good replies!

Start simple and test until you understand it.
No need for removing power and brake modules - that is analog stuff.
Signals are cosmetic.

See also: http://cabin-layout.blogspot.com/2006/11/computer-control.html especially the s88 positioning info...

Edited by user 22 April 2017 20:48:03(UTC)  | Reason: url change

Dale
Intellibox + own software, K-Track
My current layout: https://cabin-layout.mixmox.com
Arrival and Departure signs: https://remotesign.mixmox.com
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Offline PMPeter  
#16 Posted : 29 April 2016 04:33:18(UTC)
PMPeter

Canada   
Joined: 04/04/2013(UTC)
Posts: 1,137
Location: Port Moody, BC
Originally Posted by: Minok Go to Quoted Post
Originally Posted by: JohnjeanB Go to Quoted Post

- Each block has 2 contacts: one to slow down if required and show occupancy, the second to brake smoothly and stop if needed;
This second detection length should be the same on most block (I use approx 25 cm).
This allows to select for each loco the speed you want and by adjusting the braking strength, to have a very precise stop location for all trains.

Jean


Jean,

Does this not mean that you really have 2 blocks that work together? The first block detects occupancy and is used by the computer to slow down the train, and the second block right after it lets the computer sense when you are in the stopping block and has it run it stop-train commands?


I know you asked Jean, but I can answer as well. No most computer control programs define the block as having a sensor at both ends. It doesn't have to be a physical isolated block as in the old analog control world. In Rocrail for example when you trigger the sensor coming into the block you trigger the "Enter" sensor which then lets the computer determine what the action should be for the train (whether to speed up if it is a mainline track with no red signal ahead; begin slowing down if it needs to stop for a red signal; slow down if coming into a station for a stop; etc.) as defined for that block When it reaches the sensor at the end of the block it triggers the "In" sensor which then lets the computer perform the In function for that block (stop, speed up for the next block, etc. what ever it is you have set up the control to do).

You can have more than 2 sensors in a block where a middle sensor can trigger additional functions for the computer to perform. For very short blocks you can get away with a single sensor where the sensor becomes "Enter to In" and triggers both Enter and In functions through a timer.

Peter
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Offline MaerklinLife  
#17 Posted : 29 April 2016 05:38:40(UTC)
MaerklinLife


Joined: 03/02/2016(UTC)
Posts: 490
I am a bit puzzled with this computer driven stuff. I have the CS2. What happens if I want to take a train, and run it around, let's say with the Mobile Station, among the computer controlled trains? Is this possible? I have a hard time seeing how the computer can know where my train is, without me running it through the computer (not using anything else but the computer to manage the trains)?

If want the above, I cannot see how I can get past using braking modules in front if signals.

Also, if I want to run the entire layout manually one day, just because I feel like it - again, using a mobile controller - how will all the computer controlled braking sections react? Will they work at all? I mean, how will they know which train to slow down?

As I see it, if I want the flexibility of running automatic some days, and manually on other days, I cannot rely on the computer alone?

I might have gotten all this wrong.
Offline xxup  
#18 Posted : 29 April 2016 06:10:15(UTC)
xxup

Australia   
Joined: 15/03/2003(UTC)
Posts: 9,282
Location: Australia
Having the layout run manually instead of full automation is no problem at all. There are two options.
1. Continue to use the computer control software, but instead of setting the automatic mode you switch turnouts and drive locos from the screen.. You can even change the signal lights and switch turnouts by clicking on the screen.

2. You can also run without using the computer at all, but you must be able to control the signals, turnouts and locos from your central unit (e.g. CS2 or eCOS).

BUT you can't use switch boxes to switch turnouts or signals as you might in the analogue world - unless you have done some tricky wiring.. Perhaps others have better thoughts on this part.

You can run a train manually in the middle of an automated layout, BUT it is not manual in the way you think. You have to select the loco, select the start contact (usually the same as selecting the loco) and then select the destination. If the path is clear then the turnouts and signals will switch and the loco will move off to the destination. The computer is aware of your train in this instance and will stop the other trains to avoid collision.

You might be able to switch the turnouts manually (using the computer screen) and drive the loco using the controller (CS2/eCOS), but unless you have very long s88 contacts, your loco will be invisible to the other locos running under full computer control. I sometimes do this when I am shunting something on a siding that is not normally controlled by the computer and in no danger of collision with the automatically running trains.
Adrian
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Offline MaerklinLife  
#19 Posted : 29 April 2016 06:41:46(UTC)
MaerklinLife


Joined: 03/02/2016(UTC)
Posts: 490
Thanks for replying.

Originally Posted by: xxup Go to Quoted Post
1. Continue to use the computer control software, but instead of setting the automatic mode you switch turnouts and drive locos from the screen.. You can even change the signal lights and switch turnouts by clicking on the screen.

If I am away from my CS2, I some times operate a turnout using the MS2. Will I still be able to do this, and will the computer be able to see that I do this?

Originally Posted by: xxup Go to Quoted Post
You can run a train manually in the middle of an automated layout, BUT it is not manual in the way you think. You have to select the loco, select the start contact (usually the same as selecting the loco) and then select the destination. If the path is clear then the turnouts and signals will switch and the loco will move off to the destination. The computer is aware of your train in this instance and will stop the other trains to avoid collision.

Oh. So if I just take my MS and operate the train, there is no guarantee that the braking sections will work as they do when I use braking modules?

Originally Posted by: xxup Go to Quoted Post
BUT you can't use switch boxes to switch turnouts or signals as you might in the analogue world.

I currently operate my turnouts and signals from the CS2. Smile
Offline xxup  
#20 Posted : 29 April 2016 08:49:09(UTC)
xxup

Australia   
Joined: 15/03/2003(UTC)
Posts: 9,282
Location: Australia
Originally Posted by: MaerklinLife Go to Quoted Post
Thanks for replying.

Originally Posted by: xxup Go to Quoted Post
1. Continue to use the computer control software, but instead of setting the automatic mode you switch turnouts and drive locos from the screen.. You can even change the signal lights and switch turnouts by clicking on the screen.

If I am away from my CS2, I some times operate a turnout using the MS2. Will I still be able to do this, and will the computer be able to see that I do this?


No.. Unless your turnouts come with some kind of feedback mechanism that the CS2 understands and can relay back to the computer.. BUT WindigitPet and other software does come with a mobile solution that runs on Andriod and iPhones that you could use instead of the MS2 to set turnouts, signals and move trains. The computer is aware of things set using this type of software.

Originally Posted by: xxup Go to Quoted Post
Originally Posted by: MaerklinLife Go to Quoted Post
You can run a train manually in the middle of an automated layout, BUT it is not manual in the way you think. You have to select the loco, select the start contact (usually the same as selecting the loco) and then select the destination. If the path is clear then the turnouts and signals will switch and the loco will move off to the destination. The computer is aware of your train in this instance and will stop the other trains to avoid collision.

Oh. So if I just take my MS and operate the train, there is no guarantee that the braking sections will work as they do when I use braking modules?


The problem is not the MS2 or the CS2. The problem is that the manually operated loco will be invisible to the computer (and other locos under automatic control), because you may not trigger enough s88 contacts to tell the computer that you are on a route that an automated train wants to enter. To say this another way - Before an computer controlled loco moves into a block, the computer checks to see that all of the s88s in the block are clear (i.e. no trains or wagons there) after it starts the loco moving, it does not need to recheck the s88s in the route (not exactly true for all software or routes) so if your manual train suddenly triggers a s88 after the automated train starts, then there will be a high probability of collision.. The way around it is to make the s88 contact rails long enough that any size train in the block will always trigger a s88..

Originally Posted by: xxup Go to Quoted Post
Originally Posted by: MaerklinLife Go to Quoted Post
BUT you can't use switch boxes to switch turnouts or signals as you might in the analogue world.

I currently operate my turnouts and signals from the CS2. Smile


A good habit to have. ThumpUp
Adrian
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Offline JohnjeanB  
#21 Posted : 29 April 2016 12:45:14(UTC)
JohnjeanB

France   
Joined: 04/02/2011(UTC)
Posts: 1,854
Location: Paris, France
Originally Posted by: Minok Go to Quoted Post
Originally Posted by: JohnjeanB Go to Quoted Post

- Each block has 2 contacts: one to slow down if required and show occupancy, the second to brake smoothly and stop if needed;
This second detection length should be the same on most block (I use approx 25 cm).
This allows to select for each loco the speed you want and by adjusting the braking strength, to have a very precise stop location for all trains.

Jean


Jean,

Does this not mean that you really have 2 blocks that work together? The first block detects occupancy and is used by the computer to slow down the train, and the second block right after it lets the computer sense when you are in the stopping block and has it run it stop-train commands?


Hi Minok,

No, each block needs one or multiple sensors:

In Rocrail you have multiple possibilities for block detection:
- one sensor (ENTER2IN): your train has fully entered into next block and can free the previous block. Simplified functionning with some drawbacks (less secure and less smooth speed control)
- two sensors (ENTER and IN): ENTER: your train enters in next block and start decelerating if needed. IN: your train is fully in next block, frees previous block and stops if needed.
- three sensors (Enter, PRE2IN and IN): PRE2IN allows to stop shorter trains earlier (e.g.: a railcar in the middle of the platform)
- other possibilities

Each block:
-is bi-directional but could be set to one direction
- allows direction reversing (if selected)
- allows shuttle train operation with loco pushing the train without complications
- allows selective loco type (non-electrified which cannot be used by electric locos)
- allows ramdom waiting time, specified waiting time or loco-specific waiting time or no waiting
- allows trains longer than the block
and more.
It is really fun to program all this.
Cheers

Jean
My layout videos
latest vid
hump yard
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Offline DaleSchultz  
#22 Posted : 29 April 2016 15:42:44(UTC)
DaleSchultz

United States   
Joined: 10/02/2006(UTC)
Posts: 3,974
the way I designed my software, I dont have 'blocks' at all. I just have track segments, each of which can have up to 4 sensors (or 3 of its own and one in common with the next). Any number of these tracks can be joined dynamically to whatever length is needed for the trains to have exclusive use of tracks. Most segments just have a start and end sensor. If it is a track where I need to stop trains (stations, etc) then I add a 'slow' sensor near the end. If it is a very long station track then I can add an additional one so that if a short train is arriving it can treat the extra sensor as the 'slow' and then stop at the 3rd sensor....
Dale
Intellibox + own software, K-Track
My current layout: https://cabin-layout.mixmox.com
Arrival and Departure signs: https://remotesign.mixmox.com
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Offline PMPeter  
#23 Posted : 29 April 2016 16:19:03(UTC)
PMPeter

Canada   
Joined: 04/04/2013(UTC)
Posts: 1,137
Location: Port Moody, BC
Originally Posted by: DaleSchultz Go to Quoted Post
the way I designed my software, I dont have 'blocks' at all. I just have track segments, each of which can have up to 4 sensors (or 3 of its own and one in common with the next). Any number of these tracks can be joined dynamically to whatever length is needed for the trains to have exclusive use of tracks. Most segments just have a start and end sensor. If it is a track where I need to stop trains (stations, etc) then I add a 'slow' sensor near the end. If it is a very long station track then I can add an additional one so that if a short train is arriving it can treat the extra sensor as the 'slow' and then stop at the 3rd sensor....


What you are describing as "track segments" really seems to describe what the computer control programs call a "block". I think where people are getting confused is in the word "Block" which in the old analog world referred to an isolated section of track that could have power to it turned on or off. In computer control of a digital layout power to the track stays constant for the layout allowing both manual and automatic train control to happen at the same time. The computer controls the locomotive(s) selected for automatic operation, the switches for the route and the signals for the route. The signals become cosmetic and do not control anything.

Peter
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Offline Minok  
#24 Posted : 29 April 2016 20:00:39(UTC)
Minok

United States   
Joined: 15/10/2006(UTC)
Posts: 2,230
Location: Washington, Pacific Northwest
Originally Posted by: PMPeter Go to Quoted Post

You can have more than 2 sensors in a block where a middle sensor can trigger additional functions for the computer to perform. For very short blocks you can get away with a single sensor where the sensor becomes "Enter to In" and triggers both Enter and In functions through a timer.

Peter


Originally Posted by: JohnjeanB Go to Quoted Post

you have multiple possibilities for block detection:
- one sensor (ENTER2IN): your train has fully entered into next block and can free the previous block. Simplified functionning with some drawbacks (less secure and less smooth speed control)
- two sensors (ENTER and IN): ENTER: your train enters in next block and start decelerating if needed. IN: your train is fully in next block, frees previous block and stops if needed.
- three sensors (Enter, PRE2IN and IN): PRE2IN allows to stop shorter trains earlier (e.g.: a railcar in the middle of the platform)
- other possibilities


Thanks Peter and Jean,

I think I understand. It appears I was just confused about the meaning of terminology (I really should read the manuals to one of the computer programs to get a primer in terminology).

I had assumed that a block is the track segment in which an presence can be detected, that is, the section where the one outside rail is isolated and has a sensor wire (for S88 detection):

I thought a block was the segment of track between the rail isolations (|) <I give up on the ascii art, we don't have any way of controlling the font chose>

(direction of travel <--------)

.......................................... the block
........................______________/\_____________
......................./..........................................................\
...........=======================================
........... - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
...........=====|===========================|======
........................................||_detect this section


What you are saying is that a block is an organizational construct that can be constructed from one or more such detection zones (I'm leaving out the idea that a block could have zero detection zones by just being a segment on estimates):


(direction of travel <--------)

.................................................the block
....................._______________/\________________
...................../................................................................\
...........========================================
........... - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
...........===|===|=======================|===|======
................||................||.........................................||
.................\..................\_presence in middle..........\__presence on entry
...................\_ presence at end


Where the segment of track that is all 3 zones (for this example) are called a single block. (which in my wrong thinking would be 3 blocks)

That clarifies things well. Of course if the direction of travel on the track segment is reversed then the entry becomes an exit detection, and the end becomes an entry detection, as you have said.

I'm thinking that in the layout, there is no segment of track anywhere other than possibly on switches, which is not an S88 detection zone. That is, there is no track on the layout that you can have a locomotive or car without it being picked up by some sensor to know that track is not clear. Is such a concept overkill?
Toys of tin and wood rule!
---
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My YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Minok1217/
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Offline French_Fabrice  
#25 Posted : 29 April 2016 20:55:40(UTC)
French_Fabrice

France   
Joined: 16/05/2011(UTC)
Posts: 1,396
Location: Lyon, France
Originally Posted by: Minok Go to Quoted Post


...
I'm thinking that in the layout, there is no segment of track anywhere other than possibly on switches, which is not an S88 detection zone. That is, there is no track on the layout that you can have a locomotive or car without it being picked up by some sensor to know that track is not clear. Is such a concept overkill?


Hi Minok,

You are perfectly right. No overkill

No track zone, except the switches (and this can also be discussed but it's more complicated), should be left without a block being implemented.
If you left a segment without feedback, then the computer won't be able to know there is something on the track in such a zone, and as a result unable to take the good decision (prevent a train to go in this zone, trigger emergency stop, start a train in such a zone, etc...)

Reminder: A block is a segment of tracks (without any switches) when only one train/loco can be at a time. In a block, a train can be stopped if needed.
See: http://wiki.rocrail.net/doku.php?id=block-en

Cheers
Fabrice
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Offline French_Fabrice  
#26 Posted : 29 April 2016 21:41:38(UTC)
French_Fabrice

France   
Joined: 16/05/2011(UTC)
Posts: 1,396
Location: Lyon, France
Originally Posted by: Minok Go to Quoted Post
...

But you also need a way to get your computer software's instructions transmitted onto the layout tracks. So what are the options for that hardware part of the setup?

I gather that a Central Station provides the ability to interface to a computer and thus act as the hardware to push commands via the CS2 -> Track Box -> Track.

But is it possible without a complex bit of kit like a CS (or similar from other makers).. and can instead be done with just a simpler bit of hardware which only works on getting commands from the computer and patching them onto the Track Box ?


Hi again,

Well, you are right. It's a waste of money to have a CS2 priced at 800€, only to transform protocol instructions (MM, DCC, Mfx to locos/solenoid devices) over Ethernet into electric signals on the rails.

I have searched such a device, up to now without success.
I must confess I haven't investigated a lot, and I'm not very aware of such devices.

The general idea is to look for a hardware (with certainly a bit of software inside) providing
- Ethernet connectivity (preferred), or USB or Serial connectivity
- Ability to transform protocol instruction into electric signals (from the PC to the rails)
- (optional) Ability to provide feedback information ( I mean S88 occupancy feedback) and transform it to the PC. It's optional, because HSI-88 (LDT) is an alternative
- No GUI, no screen, no knobs, maybe an emergency stop bar can be useful, and an on/off button

This hardware "converter" should be complemented by amplifiers, I mean something providing enough power output.

Having said that, the summary looks like a CS2 without GUI/knobs.
When I search for such "entry class" devices, from known MRR providers, the result is not obvious Confused
I know a forum member (jpaulfr56) is using an entry level Station (TAMS Easy control ?) much cheaper than the CS2, and he seems to be satisfied. He uses iTrain to drive the layout.

Otherwise, there are a lot of hardware devices seeming to provide such abilities, but I'm no specialist.
See: http://wiki.rocrail.net/doku.php?id=hardware-en

Today, I would look at Arduino-like electronic boards... Vast topic.
Any knowledge is such an area is welcome.

Cheers
Fabrice

Edit: Oh yes -forgotten it- just suggested by my dear friend (nicrolfi), LDT offers a solution with cheap hardware.
See http://www.ldt-infocente...ku.php?id=en:dicostation
Manual is here: http://www.ldt-infocente...station_manual_24_en.pdf (MM & DCC supported, no mfx)
Also see at bottom of the page the compatibility with various softwares.
I never used it, so no advice on it, except the well known quality of LDT productions.
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Offline Minok  
#27 Posted : 30 April 2016 01:15:03(UTC)
Minok

United States   
Joined: 15/10/2006(UTC)
Posts: 2,230
Location: Washington, Pacific Northwest
Originally Posted by: French_Fabrice Go to Quoted Post

The general idea is to look for a hardware (with certainly a bit of software inside) providing
- Ethernet connectivity (preferred), or USB or Serial connectivity
- Ability to transform protocol instruction into electric signals (from the PC to the rails)
- (optional) Ability to provide feedback information ( I mean S88 occupancy feedback) and transform it to the PC. It's optional, because HSI-88 (LDT) is an alternative
- No GUI, no screen, no knobs, maybe an emergency stop bar can be useful, and an on/off button

This hardware "converter" should be complemented by amplifiers, I mean something providing enough power output.

Having said that, the summary looks like a CS2 without GUI/knobs.
When I search for such "entry class" devices, from known MRR providers, the result is not obvious Confused
I know a forum member (jpaulfr56) is using an entry level Station (TAMS Easy control ?) much cheaper than the CS2, and he seems to be satisfied. He uses iTrain to drive the layout.

Otherwise, there are a lot of hardware devices seeming to provide such abilities, but I'm no specialist.
See: http://wiki.rocrail.net/doku.php?id=hardware-en

Today, I would look at Arduino-like electronic boards... Vast topic.
Any knowledge is such an area is welcome.

Cheers
Fabrice

Edit: Oh yes -forgotten it- just suggested by my dear friend (nicrolfi), LDT offers a solution with cheap hardware.
See http://www.ldt-infocente...ku.php?id=en:dicostation
Manual is here: http://www.ldt-infocente...station_manual_24_en.pdf (MM & DCC supported, no mfx)
Also see at bottom of the page the compatibility with various softwares.
I never used it, so no advice on it, except the well known quality of LDT productions.



Yes, indeed we are "on the same page" (i.e. thinking alike) here.
The LDT DiCoStation does seem to fit the bill.

An Arduino or RaspberryPi sort of solution would also be possible. However, thats more for folks that want the joy of doing the hardware and firmware writing fun.
I am, at present, completing a course in VHDL (I took a university course in Verilog about 12 years ago) - so using that technology I'd even be able to program an FPGA to create the track signalling in a very fast and reliable way. All a wonderful project. All not where I want to necessarily spend my hobby time at this point. I think I'd get more "joy by the minute" in laying out track, building substructure, mountainsides, bridges, laying out train stations, and the somewhat less 'electronics involved' tasks. I think I can do both, and maybe some day, I'll even look at building an FPGA based solution that could do mFX (assuming its not cryptographically protected).. but for now I'll stick to someone else building/testing the hardware.

With the CS3/3+ imminent, the price of a descent used CS2 may drop in the next year or two, and be more reasonable to use, as well as the LDT DiCoStation and any similar products.

I like the HSI-88 solution, as it decouples that entire electrical feedback task from the signalling/control task.

Thank you for the insightful feedback.
Toys of tin and wood rule!
---
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My YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Minok1217/
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Offline DaleSchultz  
#28 Posted : 02 May 2016 01:02:28(UTC)
DaleSchultz

United States   
Joined: 10/02/2006(UTC)
Posts: 3,974
though 'blocks' used to be stretches of track that could be isolated electrically in the analog days, blocks can also be 'logical' pieces of track that can be used to keep track of booked/reserved, occupied track or even some area that a signal protects, etc. Blocks are very much part of the parlance of signalling rules on real railroads (Some German signals even being called "Blocksignal")

One of the advantages of digital operation is that 'logical blocks' can be constructed dynamically on the fly at run time to suit the trains involved etc. A pitfall to many is getting advice from the 'block mentality' crowd who make statements like "Decide what your longest train will be make your blocks at least that long" and "Ensure there is one block free behind each train on the mainline", etc.

Think outside the block.




Dale
Intellibox + own software, K-Track
My current layout: https://cabin-layout.mixmox.com
Arrival and Departure signs: https://remotesign.mixmox.com
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Offline Minok  
#29 Posted : 02 May 2016 21:51:01(UTC)
Minok

United States   
Joined: 15/10/2006(UTC)
Posts: 2,230
Location: Washington, Pacific Northwest
Originally Posted by: DaleSchultz Go to Quoted Post
though 'blocks' used to be stretches of track that could be isolated electrically in the analog days, blocks can also be 'logical' pieces of track that can be used to keep track of booked/reserved, occupied track or even some area that a signal protects, etc. Blocks are very much part of the parlance of signalling rules on real railroads (Some German signals even being called "Blocksignal")

One of the advantages of digital operation is that 'logical blocks' can be constructed dynamically on the fly at run time to suit the trains involved etc. A pitfall to many is getting advice from the 'block mentality' crowd who make statements like "Decide what your longest train will be make your blocks at least that long" and "Ensure there is one block free behind each train on the mainline", etc.

Think outside the block.



Thanks.

Its certainly true that you can have trains longer than the segment of track where you can detect occupancy in (which we won't call a block), a train can thus trigger occupancy signals in several sequential detection zones. Those zones, as is now clearer to me, are a subset of what it takes to make a block, but even still several blocks can be covered by a long train.

I can envision gaining some efficiencies if you make the longer detection zones the length of the shortest train, thus providing for the possibility of more traffic density when the trains vary substantially in length.

Of course such solutions require more complex planning/management but thats what a lot of the digital side of things is about.


Toys of tin and wood rule!
---
My Layout Thread on marklin-users.net: InterCity 1-3-4
My YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Minok1217/
Offline jpaulfr56  
#30 Posted : 03 May 2016 18:46:21(UTC)
jpaulfr56

France   
Joined: 12/07/2014(UTC)
Posts: 78
Location: BRETAGNE, Morbihan
Hi all,


I have a relatively cheap solution using a low cost central station from TAMS Elektronik’s, and I think that it will be interesting to show you, how my system is working.

I give you the link to my layout: Description is on #19 part

LINK

Cheers from Morbihan
Jean-Paul
Digital command TAMS Easy Control & iTrain. Period II & III
Link to my digital layout
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