NCE layout needs lots of help

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Hawkesburytrain

Active Member
Didn't want to steal the "Bus Wire" thread so I decided to start a new one

I tried to get some help at NCE in February and lately with no luck. So I'm asking for your help.

I bought the Power Pro 5 a year ago and thought it would be enough to run my layout, but as I go along building my layout, I'm finding every day that I need much more. But the problem I have is searching for info's as I get more and more confuse with everything I read.

First, to better understand what I need for my layout, you need to take a look at it here:

http://www.modelrailroadforums.com/...38234-Hawks-NEW-quot-MHO-Junction-quot-layout


I decided that I will be upgrading to wireless. If I understand right, all I need is the "Procab-R Deluxe Master Cab Radio Equipped" and a "RB02 radio base station", is this right?

With the size of my layout, I now know I need 4 boosters, but I need help in deciding which one is required for my layout, SB5 or DB5 or PB5?

With those 4 boosters, I will be splitting my layout in 4 blocks and for that I need 4 "EB1, Single electronic circuit breaker" or 1 "CP6, 6 Zone DCC circuit protector", which one is the right one I need?

While looking at everything else available from NCE, what about:
Do I need any "Accessory Decoders"?
Do I need any "Automation and Detection"
What about "Switch8-MK2 accessories"?

What about what's needed to connect the command center to my computer?
Any special wires?

Thank you all
 

fcwilt

Active Member
Hi Lloyd,

What is your long term goal for you layout?

Are you planning on having a computer automated layout?

NCE gear may not be the best choice depending on your plans.

Frederick
 

Hawkesburytrain

Active Member
Hi Fred,

My long term goal is to make my layout like a club. For now I'm the only operator, but would like to have 5-6. I'm totally new, but I've been looking at a lot of videos. Maybe one day to have a dispatcher for the operators, which means "computer" assisted operations.

I hope to have the rest of my frame work and track work done by year end. I also hope to have the bus line and feeders done and the tortoises installed and working. Now if having the tortoises working means to have the entire electrical system up and working with a computer, I don't think I have the knowledge to reach that point in the next 12 months, unless someone shows up here and does the work...lol

For me, short term, I want to run trains and do operations on my own very soon and I don't seem to have adequate equipment to do so.

I don't mind having to do modifications in the short future (2-3 years), as I know that the signalization system is another HUGE component of the layout with $$$$.

Hope you get the big picture of where I'm at

Thanks
 

fcwilt

Active Member
Hi Lloyd,

Do you envision having control panels at various points around the layout with controls for setting turnout positions or operating other devices?

Frederick
 

Hawkesburytrain

Active Member
I started working on toggle switches on my fascia. I have 2 done and 98 to go, but the 2 done are just wired and not installed (if that's what you mean by control panel) as for operating other devices, can you give me an example

Thanks
 

Genetk44

Active Member
Lloyd...I went to your other pist and I have a few questions. You show a diagram of what your trackplan is...and it is big with lots of track....so....1) is it finished, is all that track down and wired up and electrically usable? 2)Are you running trains over all of it?

You say here in your first post that "I bought the Power Pro 5 a year ago and thought it would be enough to run my layout, but as I go along building my layout, I'm finding every day that I need much more". What do you mean by that? What kind of problem are you having now?
 

Hawkesburytrain

Active Member
Hey Gene,

Like I said a few post back, I hope to have the rest of my frame work and track work done by year end. Everything left of the stairs is done, but not wired yet. I've been working on the feeders lately. I've been running a train on what's done so far to test all the tracks by plugging my Pro5 to the tracks.

They're not necessarily problems, as an example I thought that just the Pro 5 would be enough, I need boosters, I want signalization system and thought that all I needed was to wire them to the tortoises, but only that doesn't detect trains, so I'll need more to achieve all that I want. Like I said, it's not the problems, it's not knowing what is required to make everything work as smooth as possible
 
Hawke, just wanted to follow up from the other thread.....I'm a Digitraxx man, so I know nothing about NCE to help you along other than the suggestions I and the others made about the boosters and blocks. I'll still be following both threads to see how you're progressing. I too am looking forward to seeing her up and running. 2 trains of thought to remember......because of the newness to you of what you're attempting, it should also be exciting.....that to me is also what makes this hobby....and secondly, when 30 years ago I had to leave the hobby because of work/family, I/we didn't have the plethora of info literally at our finger tips like we do now. I too felt a little overwhelmed when I got back into it the past year...... But oooooooohhhhhhhhh what a relief to know that the help is out there......you are not alone. I laud your presence of mind to think ahead, but don't let it get to you or overwhelm you......remember....How do you eat an Elephant?

M


Logger Mike,
Charlotte, NC Area
 

roofintrash

Active Member
I'm gonna give you my best suggestion from my still somewhat newbie experience. You will only need to get 3 boosters,PB5 would be fine,as what you already have will run one of the 4 power districts. You will need 4 of the EB1 breakers. The CP6 you mentioned is for dividing up and protecting the output from 1 booster. You are correct on the radio cab and base station. As far as the accessory decoders go,those will only be needed if you want to be able to control turnouts from the handheld or some form of computer control. As for the detectors and signaling, I have not even scratched the surface of trying to grasp all that. Just my 2c
 

Genetk44

Active Member
Ok....I thought you meant the Pro5 wasn't giving you enough power to run trains. I can't tell you anything about train detection or signalization because I've never used it.
 

gregc

Apprentice Modeler
I hope to have the rest of my frame work and track work done by year end. I also hope to have the bus line and feeders done and the tortoises installed and working. Now if having the tortoises working means to have the entire electrical system up and working with a computer, I don't think I have the knowledge to reach that point in the next 12 months, unless someone shows up here and does the work...lol

For me, short term, I want to run trains and do operations on my own very soon and I don't seem to have adequate equipment to do so.
presumably your looking for a migration path from something that will allow you to operate solo on a partially completed layout to at least something that allow a number of people to operate the layout.

The Pacific Southern that has existed for over 50 years, has gone thru several evolutions. It is almost fully controlled by a PC, has 5 tower operators and is fully signaled. Signalling is important on the double track mainline of the Pacific Southern for engineers to know if they are cleared thru interlocks where multiple route merge.

Operating sessions are mostly passenger and freight trains moving between yards. Tower operators are responsible for controlling routes and signals for trains. The small number of way freights may required tower operators to give them local control of turnouts when switching industries on the mainline using panels. But many turnouts off the mainline are manually controlled using pushrods on the facia.

in other words, there is an appropriate balance between automated, remote, local and physical control of the railroad. The Pacific Southern has and had many experienced members to determine that balance.

Custom software and hardware based on Bruce Chubb's C/MRI is used to control the railroad developed by the current owner who is an electrical engineer. The Pacific Southern used custom hardware the allows the PC to communicate over an rs-485 bus (similar to a cab-bus) to input/output modules throughout the layout that allow the PC to monitor occupancy detectors and turnout position indicators and control turnouts and signals. It is also used for I/O of the remote tower panels.

Tower operators control a section of the layout through a fascia panel. Panel switches indirectly control turnouts and signals through the PC. The PC software will sense the state of a tower panel switch and control the corresponding turnout and signal contingent on interlocking rules dependent on nearby turnouts and signals.

The Pacific Southern controls locomotives using DCC, communicates with NCE cabs using cab-bus and has a custom rs-485 control bus for turnouts and signals.

how clear is your understanding of using a computer to control the entire electrical system of the layout?


For example, in the bottom left of your layout is a turnout governing the route route of a train. It would be controlled by a tower operator.

Signals on the siding on the left side of the layout would be controlled by a tower operator dependent on trains possibly coming from the opposite direction. (either you use signals or you talk to the tower operator across the room).

Not far to the east of that switch is a turnout for and industry and a crossover on the mainline. The crossover would be controlled by the tower but the industry turnout would be controlled locally from the facia, either physically with a push-rod or electrically with a switch.


regarding DCC.

I don't know if you realize this, but your PowerCab is both a command station and a controller (cab). A command station communicate with cabs on a cab-bus or through wireless cabs and controls the polarity of track volltage to communicate via the DCC protocol to the decodes in the locomotives. A small number of additional cabs (CAB06) can be added, but the PowerCab can provide a limited amount of current.

This may be fine to start with, but even non-running locomotives with sound may consume quite a bit of power. Ultimately, a single command station (SB5) will be needed. Your PowerCan can be used as a regular cab. But additional boosters (PB5) will be needed. The number of boosters will depend on the number of trains operated through the booster, so some thought is needed to determine how they are deployed. On the other hand, circuit breakers can be deployed to cover areas of the layout to help isolate problems.


as I said, it sounds like you need a plan that thru incremental steps can get you from what you need now to what you want in the future without backtracking too much and minimizing mistakes. Seeing how it's done on other layouts is one way to learn
 

fcwilt

Active Member
I started working on toggle switches on my fascia. I have 2 done and 98 to go, but the 2 done are just wired and not installed (if that's what you mean by control panel) as for operating other devices, can you give me an example

Thanks
OK that is good to know.


Before going on perhaps I should mention that my layout is fully automated (or will be when complete). I am using Train Controller software for control. For my DCC command station I am using a Roco Z21 with custom made "mini-boosters". For sensing and control I am using RR-CirKits Simple Serial Bus devices (MotorMan, WatchMan, SignalMan, TowerMan) which handle turnout control, occupancy sensing, signal control and general input/output needs such as controlling relays or responding to push buttons.


Anyway, just FYI that sort of panel with toggle switches is not your first choice if you are thinking of future computer assistance/control.

As you can imagine there is no (easy) way for a computer system to change the position of those toggle switches.

For a computer controlled system you would usually go with push button switches which, when pressed, would simply initiate the change of turnout position.

A computer could also initiate the change of turnout position in the same way as the push button switches.

One possible device for controlling turnout motors that allows both manual control as a first step and then computer control as a second step is a RR-CirKits "MotorMan".

This LocoNet compatible device can control, for example, 8 Tortoise devices. It also has inputs that can be connected to panel mounted push buttons.

The inputs can be configured to directly control the operation of the Tortoise devices giving you the desired manual control now.

Then, in the future, the MotorMan devices can be connected via a "Simple Serial Bus" (3 conductor cable/wires), which is then used by the computer to also control the Tortoise devices.


If possible you may want to consider doing things now that will not have to be removed in the future.

For example, occupancy detection. For computer control your layout needs to be divided into "blocks" which are electrically isolated from one other and fitted with occupancy detection.

As a first step you can build your layout with the isolated blocks, feeding power to each block as your normally would from your DCC power bus(es).

But if you include the installation of the RR-CirKits occupancy detection coils (one per block on one of the feeders) you will not have to change any existing wiring.

You will be able to run trains manually just as if the blocks were not present but in the future to implement occupancy detection you would simple connect the occupancy detection coils already in place to RR-CirKits WatchMan devices, using twisted pair wiring, which can be broken out from CATx cable.

The big advantage of using occupancy detection coils is that the block power wiring is completely separate from the occupancy wiring.

Many other systems require connecting the detection device in between the DCC power bus and the feeder wire as the current going to the block needs to pass through the device itself.

With this type of "inline" device either you have long/heavy feeder runs from a central location where the occupancy devices are mounted or you mount the devices around the layout, near the destination blocks, in an attempt to minimize feeder wire length.


As a bonus the RR-CirKits approach is the least expensive approach that I found (though I may have missed some brands).


Frederick
 

gregc

Apprentice Modeler
As you can imagine there is no (easy) way for a computer system to change the position of those toggle switches.
as i tried to explain, toggles can be used now, but with full computer control, the toggle switch will need to be disconnected from the switch machine and routed to the computer that is now controlling the switch machine. The control software can then either control the switch machine based on the toggle or control it directly. Depends on how sophisticated you want to go.

the need for and type of occupancy detection is unclear. One purpose is to allow provide a remote indication to a tower operator on one side of the room. Another is to provide input to computer software to prevent routing turnouts that conflict with train movement (i.e. interlock). A third is for controlling signalling. Having a mechanism for the computer software to input the occupancy detector state needs to be considered, as well as the software for using it.
 

Hawkesburytrain

Active Member
First I want to thank everyone, you've been more help than the people at NCE

- Hey Mike....... "How do you eat an elephant?" I would have the same problem as in this hobby.... I wouldn't know where to start

- Thanks Rick, this is great help

- Thanks greg, very well explained, I consider myself good with computers, but having to learn a computer program could be demanding depending on how much there is to learn. I dabbed a bit with JMRI and found that the learning process would be very time consuming, therefore spending less time working on my layout.
Here's a question, all those computer control programs are used away from the layout, so if you're the only one operating, do you keep running back and forth from the layout to your computer? In other words, if I'm the only one operating and I want to walk along the my train from the yard on the right to the container yard completely to the left, do I go to the computer first, set all my turnouts in the right position, than go back to the layout and then run the train? What about if I have a continuous passenger train running and I need to switch a turnout, do I have to run to the computer and make the change?

"it sounds like you need a plan that thru incremental steps can get you from what you need now to what you want in the future without backtracking too much and minimizing mistakes. Seeing how it's done on other layouts is one way to learn"

That's exactly it, I need a plan, but the problem I have is where do I start? In 6-8 months I hope to be able to run my trains around the whole layout and even do operations. Unfortunately seeing other layouts is tough since it's at minimum 1 1/2 drive to the nearest, unless I watch them on YouTube, but that wont answer any questions I might have.

- Hey Frederick, Thanks again, I know you've answered me before on the system in the signalization thread. I understand about the toggle switches now. Question, can all switches that leads to industries be on toggle switch and all switches on the main line like crossovers be hooked up to a computer system?
Like I said, for now I'm the only one that will operate the layout, so I don't want to go into to many complicated things. Hey if tomorrow 4-5 people are interested in having operation sessions every week, than yes I would need to switch to a computer system, but for now, this might take a few years, so how do I go about doing in it in steps, starting with power?

I must say Frederick that I had to read your post 4-5 times because there was a lot I didn't understand, being new in this hobby, but I'm getting there. I'm the visual type of person, when I see something, I catch on very fast, I'll take a video vs. a book anytime.

Again thank you everyone, so where do I start with my plan so that I can get trains running, switches working without having to redo wiring or spend huge extra money. (I don't mind having to redo a little or spend a little more)
 

gregc

Apprentice Modeler
JMRI and found that the learning process would be very time consuming, therefore spending less time working on my layout.
I found the JMRI wiki pages difficult to understand. I understand it to be collection of programs. It's not clear to me how well is scales and what it does and doesn't do.

Here's a question, all those computer control programs are used away from the layout, so if you're the only one operating, do you keep running back and forth from the layout to your computer?
Before converting to DCC my understanding is that on the Pacific Southern, you moved from tower to tower to both route and control your train. There were no tower operators. When they switched to DCC the removed most of the towers.

So if you have panels with switches for locally controlling turnouts, you could put the control software in a mode to give control of all turnouts to existing panel switches. Meaning that the control software sets the turnout to the position indicated by the switch (the switch still does not directly control the turnout).
 

Hawkesburytrain

Active Member
Thanks Greg,

If I understand this, that means if I don't turn on my computer, I can use the panel switches, but if the computer is on, than the program runs the switches? Once I open the program, does the program resets the turnouts in it's program the same as on the layout?
This would be like having 2 systems and they would probably be install in parallel?
 

gregc

Apprentice Modeler
If I understand this, that means if I don't turn on my computer, I can use the panel switches, but if the computer is on, than the program runs the switches?
First, I'm not talking about JMRI. I suggesting what PC control software can do. (i'm an electrical/firmware engineer. this is why the Pacific Southern uses custom software)

no, everything goes thru the computers. If the computer is off, the railroad is dead.

i'm trying to say that the control software on the PC can either use an input from a graphical user interface (gui) on the PC screen or the panel switch setting (an input to the control software) to control the turnout.

there may not be a need for gui. the computer just sits in the corner and ties everything together. Occupancy detection dictates signals and how turnouts can be positioned, even if "commanded" thru panel switches. In other words, the control software acts like an interlock, preventing turnout be set that would cause accidents.

For example. Imagine a train on the siding in the lower left of your drawing. A train is waiting there. There is a train approaching from the direction the waiting train want to go. there is a red signal for the waiting train because there is an approaching train in the block protected by the signal. The engineers sets the panel switch to route the turnout so that it can go. But the control software does not switch the turnout because the turnout is in the proper position for the approaching train to take the siding not occupied by the waiting train.

in the near term, the panel switch can be wired directly to the switch machine. All operation is manual. At some point you begin adding computer control and all that software does to drive the switch machine based on the panel switch. Then you start adding intelligence to the software. That could just be signaling or it could be interlocking as described above.

hopefully you have a clear understanding of what you goals are and how to obtain them. This will be ambitious if your not software savy.

Once I open the program, does the program resets the turnouts in it's program the same as on the layout? This would be like having 2 systems and they would probably be install in parallel?
If there is also turnout position indication, an input that indicates the current position of the turnout, the software on startup can figure out what the current routings are and continue from where it was turned of. Position indication can be obtained from switches on Tortoise switch machines.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Hawkesburytrain

Active Member
Hey Jerry, thank you very much.

I started reading your thread and it's very interesting, will keep on reading later.
I noticed you went through trial and error to get where you are at. Not because I'm lazy, but that's exactly what I want to skip since lots of people already have the answers to all the beginners questions.

My layout is probably 5-6 times bigger, therefore 5-6 times more work, I just don't want to make it 20-30 times more work with trial and errors, because I know myself, there's going to be lots of errors.

Question, If I'm not wrong you, fcwilt and Ken(D&J) use TrainController Gold, if I was to use this, can it be done at a much later date until all my tracks are done, tortoises and toggle switches installed? Also you mentioned you had Digitrax and so do the others, is it because NCE is less compatible?

Thanks
 




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