Automatic signaling and scripting system for railroad models

Patricka Jan 17, 2024

  1. Patricka

    Patricka New Member

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    Hello again,

    As stated in my introduction, I am building the prototype of a new signaling & scripting system in DCC and without computer. It is made of electronics boards only. They are programmed using CV as another decoder. You can access my YouTube channel for several video clips: https://www.youtube.com/@jurasecondairen/videos

    Few words about this prototype... The challenge is to be able to draw the signals along the layout without using a computer and a software. Each section is equipped with a single board which manage: the detection, the turnouts, the signals... When all boards are linked together with a control bus, they are communicating altogether to manage the traffic on the layout.

    The scripting module is used to drive trains automatically with different scenario (shuttle for example). While doing so, a user can control one manual train in the middle of the traffic without any risk of collision, all automatic trains following the signals.

    If you are interested in such project, feel free to ask questions... Also, I will be attending Springfield-Amherst (MA) show at the end of the month. You can come by my little test layout and have a live demo of the prototype. (Mallary, booth 155 with the On30 Dirty 30 group).

    See you there,
    Patrick
     
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  2. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Interesting concept of using decoders to control signals. I am mostly electronically and electrically inept. I have the most basic knowledge and skills in these fields, but seek to make my signals operational. I really don't know how to do it and where to start. I have built the signals, tested and installed them, but nothing else.
    It's N scale, and here's the signals.
    20230906_204654.jpg 20230906_204607.jpg
     
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  3. Patricka

    Patricka New Member

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    Hello,

    First, very nice setup!

    So your idea is to electrify those signals and control them according to the position of the turnouts I guess?
    I am not very familiar with US signaling system... What are supposed to be the aspects here: only red and green?
     
  4. Dragonslayer59

    Dragonslayer59 TrainBoard Member

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    Beautiful section of your layout. Well done
     
  5. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Are you familiar with LCC (Layout Command & Control?) It is an NMRA standard system/bus for modules controlling switches & signals, occupancy detection, and even throttles.

    I don't know of any available LCC modules that can perform occupancy identification (vial Railcom), and also perform throttle commands to control the detected occupant, but theoretically, one could be developed. There are commercial LCC modules that control trackside signals, switches, and monitor occupancy.

    I don't know of any Railcom detectors that use LCC to to communicate the identity of the occupying locomotive(s), but it is technically feasible.

    ...Scratch that, a TCS DCC booster could perhaps do that, but that's really expensive to use for zone occupancy identification.

    I am curious about your desire to avoid software. Is that simply avoiding software development, or using any software to configure a system, or use any software to operate that system?

    Or are you simply seeking to have a system that does not require a computer running JMRI software, or similar, to control and operate this system?
     
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  6. Patricka

    Patricka New Member

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    Hello,

    I know LCC but never had a chance to get my hands on it. But I guess that your point is to use this as the data bus instead of the one I am using today?

    The main ideas behind this project:
    • get rid of a computer and a software, so any user can install those programmed boards along the track with few CV without having any computer knowledge
    • the challenge of this electronic project: create autonomous and standalone boards that fit almost all the cases and in DCC
    • the signaling system and the scripting system combined together to be able to run automatic trains and play with a manual one in the middle of the traffic, especially during shows... and avoid any collisions...
    • put the foundations (this generic system) for other smaller systems (single board) to be able to have a shuttle on a DCC layout for example
    • create scripts and run them without computer: for example, train A go there! train B go there! and let the system manage the signals and drives the locomotives automatically.
    After all, it is almost for the challenge of having an integrated system, electronic based... And imagine: install the boards on each section, few CV to program, and the signalization is working on the layout.

    Also, being a software developer, I didn't want to play with my train and a computer together... so the electronic boards.

    Cheers,
    Patrick
     
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  7. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thanks!
    Ultimately I would like to have routing via switch position, and red, flashing yellow, solid yellow and green for colors. Tricolor LEDs installed.


     
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  8. Patricka

    Patricka New Member

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    As far as I understand, it is just a matter to drive LEDs depending on the position of the turnouts. Also these turnouts are controlled by simple "left/right" switches. If a switch is "left" then opposite LED (right) is red and previous LEDs on the layout are displayed accordingly by cascading the information (red/flashing yellow/yellow/green). So you have two "sub-systems": controlling the signals based on the turnout position and controlling the signals depending on the train position.

    Nothing impossible here. The only thing to do that might be difficult is to add occupancy detectors for realism to follow the passing train. Or me can simply have a script (like a timer) that displays the different aspects as soon as the train has past the signal.

    If you are interested, we can continue discussing this project together...

    Patrick
     
  9. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Some switches (e.g. Unitrack) are controlled by momentary (center-off) electrical switches, and do not maintain an electrical indication of which way the switch is thrown. If you use the power-routing feature of the switches to power the following tracks, then you can use the powered condition of those tracks to indicate switch position.

    You can also use series capacitors with static (not momentary) electrical switches to throw these track switches. Thus you have continuous electrical indication of the commanded switch condition, without burning out the switch machine's coil.

    *Note: "commanded switch condition" may not always be the "actual switch condition," particularly after a power cycle.
     
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  10. bas knippels

    bas knippels New Member

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    Folks,

    I was pointed at this thread by a friend of mine. It seems that Patrick here shares similar visions in controlling layouts as I do. I also develop electronics both for hobby as well commercially. So I am curious to what he has came up with.

    I have ofcourse many ideas and designs of my own for analogue and DCC layouts. But I am not here to steal Patrick's thunder here ;) I do like to discuss and spar about these kind of things.

    For now I do want to share one technology I have been developing. I have made an arduino library with which I can record and replay all kind of actions on a I2C EEPROM. This could be an analog train shuttle but I can also interact with commerical centrals via their bus systems such as loconet.

    This video demonstrates an automated decoupling and coupling action. I teach the actions by doing the operation myself and let my PCB replay it. It is quite versatile. You can also record several programs and play them at once. Occupancies and button switches are also recorded.



    I haven't done it yet, but theoratically you can automatically run around your wagons with the press on a single button. I came to believe that this method has a lower threshold for a-technical people than a scripted program. There seems to be a barrier between typing words and making trains go, despite how easy the syntax is. If you are interessted I am willing to share the library.

    Also if you want dedicated UNO Rs485 shields or some other kind of PCB or shield. I can supply you with gerber files. I can also supply files for SMT assemly at JLCPCB.

    Kind regards,

    Bas
     
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