When planning a new layout, unless it’s tiny in size, there doesn’t seem to be much of an argument to go with anything other than DCC control. To start with the basic wiring is a lot simpler – you don’t need to create lots of isolating sections to control locomotives individually.
I say the basic wiring is a lot simpler because wiring for DCC can become incredibly complicated if you want it to be! Here lies the magic of DCC – it is easily but also massively expandable. Just want to run a couple of trains manually? Not a problem. Want to run a fully automated layout where you don’t need to do anything except press start? Easy! And DCC is capable of everything in between… However, if you don’t start using DCC from the outset upgrading later isn’t always an easy process.
If you look at the planned layout drawing you might have noticed there is no provision for a control panel. This is because the control panel will be “off-layout”. In fact, it will be entirely virtual!
The layout has been designed to be viewed (and operated) from a full 360 degrees so there isn’t any sensible place to put a built in control panel. For this reason the layout will be controlled with the Z21 controller from Roco/Fleishmann. This system enables you to use a mobile device such as a iPhone or iPad as the controller and, because almost everyone has at least one of those devices these days, they can also download the free app and join in at any time. The Z21 can also interface with a PC for fully automated control provided you have the correct software installed.
Because there is no built in control panel it will mean that all the points on the layout will need to be controlled electronically. This will then enable the entire layout to be controlled from an iPhone.
The thought of an entirely virtual control panel may horrify certain modellers who have become attached to their buttons, levers and switches! But, even though this is a layout set in the last century I intend to use the latest developments from the 21st century to control it!
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