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Offline Martti Mäntylä  
#1 Posted : 13 March 2019 23:08:37(UTC)
Martti Mäntylä

Finland   
Joined: 15/11/2018(UTC)
Posts: 22
Location: Uusimaa, Helsinki
After having fun with k73 decoders in M-Gleis, I have spent some time thinking how to proceed with digital. In the end I decided to drop the CS3/CS3+ approach in lieu of an approach that I find more appealing and state-of-the-art.

After some browsing and reading I came to the realisation that I already had a quite capable central control unit in the shape of the track box that came along with my MS2. All I needed was some hardware to connect its CAN bus to a computer and run my stuff from there.

In the end, I bought the Startset 3 from CAN Digital Bahn. As to the control software, I narrowed my choices down to iTrain and Rocrail; I am a Mac user so some other alternatives were not attractive.

I have been very pleased with the quality of the pieces I received, although I still haven't got the correct feedback module. From the looks of the modules, one can tell that the makers are engineers, not marketing specialists, but they seem to know what they are doing.

I am particularly impressed at the points decoder WeichenChef 2.1. Each of its four outputs can be freely programmed to any protocol / address one can think of. Moreover, it can recognise the position of the switch / signal and report it back to the system bus. So, I can turn the switch or signal by hand, and all other components will receive a status message of the correct position. This is probably good from robustness angle.

As to iTrain and Rocrail, I have installed both on my MacBook and taken turns running them both. So far I haven't been able to really make a fair comparison because iTrain is quite limited without the feedbacks unlike Rocrail which has the useful feature that feedbacks can be simulated via the computer screen. So, I will try to keep an open mind until I get some more experience.

I must confess, though, that I am tilting towards Rocrail that seems offer more room for sophistication. I also managed to create a test track that iTrain cannot handle while Rocrail can. On a Mac, iTrain looks better, though.

In any case, both pieces of software work very well with CAN Digital Bahn devices. In the case of Rocrail, I found the mgbox library to be more stable than the officially recommended mcs2 library. In addition, mgbox handles mfx locomotives much better.

So far, I have been able to figure out how to make use of these new toys. Eventually, I will certainly face obstacles which require me to appeal for help from others. Please bear with me then.
- Martti M.
thanks 4 users liked this useful post by Martti Mäntylä
Offline Martti Mäntylä  
#2 Posted : 15 March 2019 22:26:49(UTC)
Martti Mäntylä

Finland   
Joined: 15/11/2018(UTC)
Posts: 22
Location: Uusimaa, Helsinki
Perhaps this is old news to this community, but I decided to share what I learned today. Perhaps it is useful to someone.

My CAN Digital Bahn feedback module has not arrived yet, so my progress has been temporarily halted. The pause nevertheless prompted me to get better prepared for the next steps.

Although I have a reasonable amount of M-track circuit tracks, I have hardly any contact tracks which would probably be better suited for a digital setup. Trying to get them from eBay at 6-7 € each would have been tedious, slow, and expensive, so I decided to try to make them myself.

Fortunately, from Stummis Modellbahnforum I found the entry

https://www.stummiforum.de/viewtopic.php?t=150711

which was bang on. My first try was not pretty, but it worked as intended. I went on to make five more.

I followed the recipe exactly except that I chose to remove the entire rail piece from the track before cutting it (with a manual metal saw), as I wanted to spare the track pieces from any unnecessary trauma. Moreover, instead of drilling a hole in the track, I simply routed the cable from the outer side of the rail. Those with power tools will probably do well by following the instructions to the letter. Anyway, I can testify that this method works as advertised.
- Martti M.
thanks 1 user liked this useful post by Martti Mäntylä
Offline Martti Mäntylä  
#3 Posted : 17 March 2019 20:29:10(UTC)
Martti Mäntylä

Finland   
Joined: 15/11/2018(UTC)
Posts: 22
Location: Uusimaa, Helsinki
Now that I wrote the previous entry (which perhaps was not such a great idea), I feel compelled to document for the benefit of mankind a small improvement to the method cited above.

Instead of inserting the connecting cable to the small hole at the top of the rail (which can easily go wrong), I stick it under the rail piece before I heat up the heat shrink. This attaches the cable snugly with the rail.

To route the cable, I use one of the small holes that M track have under the rails. I just need to lower the trackbed also at the frontside of the insulated rail piece to make room for the cable and widen the hole a bit with a small screwdriver. The result is very neat and the cable is nearly invisible.

I promise to return to proper digital stuff in subsequent posts.
- Martti M.
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