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My Little Railroad Buddy

Panels

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I spent quite a bit of time during December constructing control panels. One physical and two virtual.

The first panel I made was a physical panel for Halland Yard.




The purpose of this panel is to make it possible for my 3 year old son to switch cars at Halland Yard. Now all I need is to come up with an inexpensive throttle for him and he's ready to go.

The panel is made by sticking a printed label to 1/8" plywood. The switches are SPDT and eight of them are wired to a Team Digital SRC8. The other four are not installed yet, and just represented on the schematic. The panel took about 12 hours to build.

The Second panel I made a virtual panel of my whole layout (to this point) using JMRI. Read my blog post JMRI First Thoughts.



It took about 8 hours to figure out how to run JMRI and build this panel. A virtual panel is definitely easier than wiring a physical panel and easier to change.

The Third panel I made was a virtual panel using Model Railroad Automation.



It took about 2 hours to figure out Model Railroad Automation and create this panel. Although it is easier to build panels than with JMRI, the operation is not as full featured.

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Earlier this year I also made a virtual panel using RR&Co. TrainController (read more), which for me has been the best layout automation software I've tried, but at $350 for the version I need, I think I'll have to do without.

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When I started this layout, I wanted to create one physical panel at a centralized location and wire it up with a CML electronics DTM30. But I realized the folly in this approach is that every time you need to change a switch, you have to run back to the panel.

My plans evolved to wanting to have several small physical panels distributed and a centralized physical dispatcher panel for mainline operations.

Now my plans are pointing to a more virtual solution. Using several small physical panels and a virtual master panel for the dispatcher. Or maybe having just virtual panels and access via my PDA.

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