NCE Powerhouse to JMRI - options?

mikegillow Jan 24, 2019

  1. mikegillow

    mikegillow TrainBoard Member

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    My club is in the midst of a complete replacement of our old layout. One thing we are reusing is our NCE system. We also want to incorporate JMRI for mainline turnout and traffic control. We have a CTC booth that overlooks the layout. It is roughly 50 feet away from where the Powerhouse command station is located.
    I'm considering options for connecting to the NCE Powerhouse command station. It has a 9-pin serial interface and I really don't want to run a 50 foot rs232 cable. Plus, the thing that we end up running JMRI on isn't going to have an old-style rs232 port.

    I originally assumed the JMRI host would be located in the CTC booth and intended to use a "serial to ethernet" converter and connect the devices over a network. But I don't know if the Powerhouse serial interface requires hardware flow control and that impacts the options for a converter. Does anyone happen to know?

    I have also been considering lately the possibility of using a Raspberry Pi 3 to run JMRI rather than a Windows box. In theory, that could be located next to the Powerhouse and connected via a USB to serial adapter. Then use a separate Pi or Windows box to run Remote Panel in CTC. Anyone with experience with a similar configuration? Pros/Cons?

    Thanks!
    Mike
     
  2. Keith Ledbetter

    Keith Ledbetter TrainBoard Member

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    If it were me I would probably hook a pi3 up right at the command station with jmri (serial to USB) then just remote into the pi and run it headerless with a Windows machine.

    As long as you have reasonably fast wireless it should work fine.
     
  3. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

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  4. RCMan

    RCMan TrainBoard Member

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  5. Keith Ledbetter

    Keith Ledbetter TrainBoard Member

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    Guys getting a bit off track since he said he was reusing the NCE system.

    Basically he is asking how to not have wires running all over the place not for a new dcc system.
     
  6. jdetray

    jdetray TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Mike -

    If you have not done so, you should post your query on the JMRI users group on Groups.io.

    https://groups.io/g/jmriusers

    Not only will you be able to get advice from the JMRI developers and other experts, but a number of the developers are also NCE users.

    - Jeff
     
  7. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

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    If you can JMRI with a brand new system and sell the old and get a couple hundred bucks back selling the NCE system on top of that, sounds like a win... :)
     
  8. mikegillow

    mikegillow TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the thoughts, but moving to a new DCC system isn't an option.
    @jdetray - It had been a while since I checked the JMRI group on Groups.io. If I can carve out the time I'll try to swing by the Syracuse, NY club open house on the 24th and see if I can chat with Ken Cameron.
     
  9. jdetray

    jdetray TrainBoard Member

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    Mike -

    A chat with Ken sounds like an excellent idea. I have learned a lot from him via his user group posts.

    - Jeff
     
  10. mabcat

    mabcat New Member

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    50ft is right at the maximum length for RS232 which I guess you're aware of. It's less than the maximum length for active USB though. So one option is to use the RS232/USB adapter you're probably going to use anyway, then extend at the USB end.

    Our club is in a similar situation to yours and we're still working out what we permanently want to do. We currently have a Windows laptop with JMRI a metre away from the Powerhouse, using RS232/USB, and it works, but it's in a painful spot for doing configuration. If we used an RPi only 2 people in the club can maintain it. We do want to replace a CTC board, signaller panel, and a bunch of yard panels with JMRI panels. So we're looking to do the remote panel thing. I'm leaning towards RPi because a little money gets all-new components with predictable behaviour and a hint of industrial-strength.

    You'll want good remote access to the JMRI machine both because your panel needs might outgrow one single CTC booth, and because your CTC booth/dark corner under the layout might not be very comfy for configuring JMRI. I know our CTC isn't, apparently chairs weren't prototypical on New South Wales Railways.
     
    mikegillow likes this.

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