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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey there from a newbie!

Im planning on building my railway using dcc from the ground up. As I will be modelling a portion of the west coast main line and its adjacent carriage works I am interested in any information or recommendations on dcc and computer control. I have a hornby select controll and 4 locos with hornby decoders at the moment, but am not "married" to them.

The plan is to have the computer linked to the railway to look after the running of the trains to a timetable whilst I take control of the train movements and shunting within the carriage works etc. Id like to know which decoders and controllers will work with various software and how to go about linking the computer to the railway physically, is this a usb plug n play or a more complex bus type arrangment? Id like to have the controll panel (?) displayed on the moniter.

Also being new to the hobby, is it possible to controll the signals (I'll be using semaphore) using the computer/dcc to coincide with the points and permissions to enter the blocks of track. Ie if a portion of track is occupied by a train then the signal will be at danger untill the train as cleared that block etc. I know absolutly nothing about signalling or railway operation!!!!! Id like to make my train movements as realistic as possible.

I know this is a big ask but any information will be highly appreciated!
Steve
 

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Steve,

Look at DCC makers like Lenz, Digitrax, Zimo, Uhlenbrock (just whack the names into google, they all have good online presence). These are systems designed with automation in mind. There are software packages like R&RCo which can provide the full route automation you are interested in; it is all possible if you are prepared to learn how to use it, and then build the system.
 

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Some very short answers to get you started, this thread could run and run


QUOTE I have a hornby select controll and 4 locos with hornby decoders at the moment, but am not "married" to them.
For what you are planning, the Select and what I assume are "first generation" hornby decoders (by which I mean not the recently announced R8249 which is NMRA certified) will not be suitable. I won't go into the reasons why, there are plenty of threads on these two.

I will not recommend a particular system. We have threads periodically on this subject, you may able to find them with the "Search" option on the menu bar. The best advice is to visit a dealer where you can try them for yourself. Just about every type of user interface is available, from "do it all" handheld to desktop console. So long as the system has NMRA certification or a good track record (sorry couldn't resist than pun), you will be fine. Whether you want to twiddle knobs or push buttons to control train speed is a very personal preference.

QUOTE The plan is to have the computer linked to the railway to look after the running of the trains to a timetable whilst I take control of the train movements and shunting within the carriage works etc.

There are various commercial and some shareware programs about to do this. The best known is "Train Controller" from Railroad & Co. There's a link in the DCC section of the Links pages on the Forum. It's not cheap but it is definitely at the top end of what is capable.

QUOTE Id like to know which decoders and controllers will work with various software and how to go about linking the computer to the railway physically, is this a usb plug n play or a more complex bus type arrangment?

In the early days it was serial. Now it's either USB (eg Lenz) or ethernet - (eg ECoS, Hornby Elite?). I don't know about the other brands.

QUOTE Id like to have the controll panel (?) displayed on the moniter.
Train Controller will do this. There is also a program from GPP Software which I believe does this too and maybe more - Follow this this link

QUOTE Also being new to the hobby, is it possible to controll the signals (I'll be using semaphore) using the computer/dcc to coincide with the points and permissions to enter the blocks of track.

Yes. Check out the signals sub topic in the "Tracks, Layout and Scenery" Forum for information on signals. We've talked about operating mechanisms a few times. If you want to know about signaling "Railway Signaling and Track Plans" by Bob Essery pub. Ian Allan (link to Ian Allan website) is a good place to start.

David
(ECoS user)
 

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QUOTE Look at DCC makers like Lenz, Digitrax, Zimo, Uhlenbrock (just whack the names into google, they all have good online presence)

There are links to all these manufacturers (and a couple more) in the DCC section of the Links section of the Forum.

David
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for all that guys, Ive been prowling around the DCC forum and will follow the links provided. I deffo want to be able to run trains from the poot automactically and maybe use a hand controller when shunting around the yards. It looks like Ill be having to save up my pennies!

Steve
 

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Hi again Steve.

A good place to start is probably the 'DCC Command Station & Controller User Reviews' at the top right hand of this page. This will give you an idea of what each of the reviewed controllers is like to live with. I have an ECoS ESU controller myself which, while it is not cheap, is probably at the cutting edge of currently available controllers.

Cheers,

Expat.
 

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For the computer control TrainController from RR&Co is excellent and is about to get a major upgrade. Whilst the current version is very competent (v5.8) the next release (Version 7) is coming in 3 variants: Bronze, Silver and Gold.

It is due for general release in October and the website has all the current info - there is no doubt that you will be able to do all you want using this but making sure you get the right verison will need a little research. My guess is that Silver or Gold will be what you need although Gold really does look like it is aimed at running large complex layouts which it is where it has been tested to date. Silver is effectively the same level as the current version but with significant upgrade and improvement.

Geoff
 

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If I was buying a new controller at the moment, I would be having a really hard look at what is happening with the RailCom iniative.

I know that Zimo is very expensive, but some of the bi-directional feedback is very tempting.

Ultimately the thing that runs through these threads is what ever you buy, you have to be comfortable using it.

Cheers

John
 

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QUOTE I would be having a really hard look at what is happening with the RailCom iniative.

That's what I thought, but I think the current answer is not a lot. You don't have to buy a Zimo central control unit in order to benefit from RailCom. Most of the major manufacturers support it in their boosters. If you want to prepare for a future in which RailCom is doing something useful, you just need to buy decoders which support it.

QUOTE Ultimately the thing that runs through these threads is what ever you buy, you have to be comfortable using it.

Spot on.

David
 

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Dear All,

If you want full RailCom support and all the other advantages of Zimo, you can start with the MX31ZL. This is available from DCC Supplies (for example) for 320 GBP. This will get you started, but there is a limit with this controller of 4 amps. With the layout you are planning you may have to extend this by adding more controllers and/or boosters later as the layout is fully implemented.

It's not really fair to say Zimo are more expensive than others, unless you are talking about their controllers and now they have released the MX31ZL, that is not completely true. The Zimo Decoders are the same price (roughly) as the equivalent Lenz Gold decoders. The Zimo Sound Decoders much cheaper than the ESU Loksound and have more capacity (4 mins of sound). The main problem at the moment is a lack of UK sounds for the Zimo Sound Decoders, but they should come eventually. Zimo release new s\w for their equipment (controllers and decoders) which improve existing functionality all the time (by extending the way RailCom works, for example). All these updates are easy to apply if you have the MX31ZL (no extra dongle required) and it has a USB port, making it easy to connect to a PC.

The MX31ZL fits comfortably in the hand with a slider for the throttle and a thumbwheel for selecting the locos from the active locos list. This is easy to use, but you need to try the others and decide. There are hand-held controllers, or the desk type, which have different pros and cons, so you really need to try both and decide. For a desktype that is RailCom compatible, the ESU Ecos, also available from DCC Supplies at 375 GBP, is worth a good look.
 

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What route did you go down for this. I'm thinking about the same for the loft and are really interesting in finding out about what software can actually do in terms of automatically controlling trains around a layout and how "intelligent" is actually is.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Hi Da7thson,

With this layout Im currently at the stage of the baseboards. They are complete except for the lifting section to alow access to the room.

Ive got all the track and points and have 12 tortoise motors, the DCC points decoder that takes 8 switches (NCE) and all the wiring necessary, what Im missing is the software and the know how and componants to link the track to the computer!

I'm currently restoring another layout (Langton Heath, please see other thread) which is taking my spare time. I will utilise some of the track, points and tortoise motors purchased for the permanant home layout for the portable layout, which I hope to exhibit. Once this is done I'll crack on with the home layout, but can't do both at the same time because the home baseboards make a handy workbench for the portable layout!

Thanks for your interest.
 
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