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Block detection and automation test/practice layout


gavino200

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gavino200

I just put this layout together to practice with. It's not wired yet. I'm planning on using it to learn how to work with block detection and automation before trying to apply it to the layout I'm building. Two loops, two sidings, a crossover and a yard. Anyone think of anything else that might be useful for the setup? I'll be using just locos or very short trains. I'll be using a Digikeijs system. Probably I'll check out JMRI and maybe itrains if I don't like JMRI. I'm using an old Lenovo laptop. I'm assuming computing power isn't an issue for this kind of thing. 

 

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TO get started you can just run the DR5088RC software from Digikeijs -- you use it to do basic set up but it will also report back which sections have which trains in them as well for testing purposes.  Obviously you need something more sophisticated SW wise to make actual use of it for automation, but for test purposes etc it is fine

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Martijn Meerts

Computing power can be an issue for bigger layouts with full automation, depending on what you're simulating, but for your test layout, the laptop should be more than enough.

 

Software wise, you can also have a look at RocRail. Personally I don't like it much, but it is full featured and it's free, and it's a good way to test everything.

 

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gavino200

I thought I'd have to wait to get more insulated joiners or improvise some myself. But I just remembered I only need to isolate one rail. So I can probably fire up this thing tomorrow. 

 

I'm not sure how to place the blocks in relation to the junctions/points, so I'll have to do some searching and improvisation. 

 

The DR5088 gives me 16 blocks. I'll probably set them up as follows.

 

1 block for each loop end = 4 blocks

1 block per yard line plus the long entrance line to the yard = 6 blocks

1 block per "station" piece = 4 blocks

1 block per side straight = 4 blocks

1 block for the double crossover = 1 block

 

Oops that's too many blocks - I'll need to decrease the yard to 3 lines. 

 

Edited by gavino200
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gavino200

The practice layout is alive and running. The Digikeijs system was very easy to setup. It was a bit tricky getting the Z21 and the DR5000 to link by Wifi. Fortunately, there's an IronPlanetHobbies video on YouTube that explains a crucial step.

 

The DR5088 block detector is functioning. 

 

I think I made a mistake buying the DR 4018 unit. This unit appears to manage junction decoders directly through DCC. That's not what I want. I want to manage them through LocoNet leaving the DCC "Bandwidth" open for controlling trains. Any thoughts @chadbag

 

It also looks like I need to get a DR4101 for each Kato junction to allow the DR 4018 to move them. 

 

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Edited by gavino200
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Yes the DR 4018 uses the DCC signal but does not use the DCC power to run your switches or whatever you are hanging off them.  You power them separately so you are not putting a load on the DCC control station.

 

HOWEVER, the Loconet wiring includes DCC wires as part of the 6 wires.  See this doc:

 

https://www.digitrax.com/static/apps/cms/media/documents/documentation/LocoNet Overview App Note.pdf

 

What that means is that I have my DR 4018 hooked to a Loconet output of the command station (actually I use their Loconet hubs and have it hooked to one of those) and just use the outer two wires (left outermost and right outermost) to feed the two signal inputs on the DR 4018.  I will admit I did not figure this out myself but picked it up from someone else at some point.

 

 

Edited by chadbag
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gavino200
1 minute ago, chadbag said:

Yes the DR 4018 uses the DCC signal but does not use the DCC power to run your switches or whatever you are hanging off them.  You power them separately so you are not putting a load on the DCC control station.

 

HOWEVER, the Loconet wiring includes DC wires as part of the 6 wires.  See this doc:

 

https://www.digitrax.com/static/apps/cms/media/documents/documentation/LocoNet Overview App Note.pdf

 

What that means is that I have my DR 4018 hooked to a Loconet output of the command station (actually I use their Loconet hubs and have it hooked to one of those) and just use the outer two wires (left outermost and right outermost) to feed the two signal inputs on the DR 4018.  I will admit I did not figure this out myself but picked it up from someone else at some point.

 

 

 

Great. That's good news. I do have it powered by a 12V wall wart. But I was concerned about signal bandwidth, not power drain. 

 

So your DR 4018 is the same as mine? It's not a special loconet version? Mine doesn't have a LocoNet imput. 

 

Can you tell me the model of the LocoNet hub that you have? It's connected by regular copper wires to the 4018?

 

Are you also using a DR4101 Switch Motor Interface for each switch? 

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My DR 4018 is the same as yours.

 

I have a DR 5097 hub and DR 5099 hub.  One is Loconet only and one is mixed Loconet and Xbus.  I am not currently using all the inputs/outputs 🙂 but figured I'd get one of each for future expansion.  The X-bus one is just in case I find some sort of thing to hook up.

 

I went and checked and my DR 4018 is actually hooked up to my booster DR 5033.  The Loconet B output on the booster has the DR 4018 plugged in. I would guess but have not tried it that you can hook the Hub up to the Loconet B output on the DR5000 and then hook the DR 4018 to that if you have multiple you wanted to hook up (otherwise you wouldn't need the hub).

 

I used a normal Loconet cable I made and just put the normal RJ12 connector on one end.  The other end I cut out the 4 inner wires just leaving the two outer wires longer, and used those on the Signal input on the DR 4018.

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gavino200

This video shows the setup for the 4018. It seems like it just runs directly off DCC. Basically it much be a bunch of decoders in a box. It's not what I expected but I think it'll be fine. 

 

Chad, you're just using a loconet cable as a simple power cable. It's not actually functioning as LocoNet. Right?

 

No big deal. I'm going to get a couple of more occupancy detector modules, so I can order the DR 4101s at the same time. As far as I know I only need one DR 4088 to have LocoNet, right? The rest can be simple DR4088s and I can just daisy chain them? Is that what you do?

 

 

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Sorry I didn't answer the DR 4101.  Yes those are what I use.

 

I am plugged into the Loconet jack with a Loconet wire that only uses the two outer wires (that carry the DCC signal).   I am not using the track output connector.

 

But it is not using Loconet packets per se but the DCC on the RailSync line.

 

I thought you were using DR 5088 RC with RailCom?  What DR 4088 are you talking about?  Did you mean daisy chaining multiple  DR 4018?

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gavino200
31 minutes ago, chadbag said:

Sorry I didn't answer the DR 4101.  Yes those are what I use.

 

Thanks. I'll pick some up. 

 

31 minutes ago, chadbag said:

 

I am plugged into the Loconet jack with a Loconet wire that only uses the two outer wires (that carry the DCC signal).   I am not using the track output connector. But it is not using Loconet packets per se but the DCC on the RailSync line.

 

Seems like ti would amount to the same thing. That's fine. From what I've read, my layout won't be large enough for any "bandwidth" issues. 

 

31 minutes ago, chadbag said:

 

I thought you were using DR 5088 RC with RailCom?  What DR 4088 are you talking about?  Did you mean daisy chaining multiple  DR 4018?

 

Yes, sorry, a typo (or a brain bungle more likely). I'm using the DR 5088 RC. I somehow thought it also used LocoNet as it has a LocoNet socket. I don't care that much. I like the system and am glad to be done with Digitrax. I know that lots of people like Digitrax and I'm not knocking them. They just aren't for me. 

 

So yes, do all of your 4088 modules have to be RC modules? Or do you just need one of them? And daisychain simple Occupancy Detectors through it. The RC unit is a good bit more expensive. 

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gavino200

Reading the Digikeijs manual it does look like each detector unit doe have to be a DR5088RC unit. I was confused by connection combination 6.2 in the manual where an example is given of daisychaining a DR5088RC and a DR4088Ls. It seems that they're just showing that this will work, however the second unit won't detect railcom. 

 

Further, it does look like, as I first thought that the Digikeijs system does in fact use LocoNet, and isn't just "compatible with" LocoNet devices. 

 

So, the @chadbag LocoNet trick could well work as a true LocoNet input for the 4018 switch control unit. If that's the case I think it's super weird that Digikeijs don't just add a loconet input to the DR4018. Perhaps they will. 

 

I have to order a bunch of DR 4101s to power my switches. I'm going to pick up a LocoNet hub too to try the trick, as well as two more 5088RCs and a 4088LN-OPTO module. 

 

While I wait for this to arrive, I'll get acquainted with the system the Maus, and start evaluating train control software. 

 

Ouch! That was a bit pricey. Now that I can test my DCC locos again, I think I'll sell off my old US locos to offset the cost. 

Edited by gavino200
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gavino200

At this stage I mostly just want to play around and experiment with them. But they'd be for the storage yard and the station. Mostly a safety stop at the end of the yard. Also a safety stop at the end of the station platform in case the deceleration method doesn't stop something. I think they could be handy in some other places too. 

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4 hours ago, gavino200 said:

At this stage I mostly just want to play around and experiment with them. But they'd be for the storage yard and the station. Mostly a safety stop at the end of the yard. Also a safety stop at the end of the station platform in case the deceleration method doesn't stop something. I think they could be handy in some other places too. 

 

So why wouldn't you use another 5088RC ?  I was just wondering why you'd mix in non RailCom detecting.  Trying to learn here.

 

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gavino200
6 hours ago, chadbag said:

 

So why wouldn't you use another 5088RC ?  I was just wondering why you'd mix in non RailCom detecting.  Trying to learn here.

 

 

Well, as far as I know the ability to perform precise stops using block detection and software like itrain, is getting better and better. But there still can be variability in how a loco can perform over time. Eg, clean wheels vs. dirty wheels. Clean track vs. dirty track. Motor deterioration over time. For the station it's really not a big deal if a train misses it's mark now and then. However, I'd like to avoid trains missing their mark on the holding yard, and derailing themselves. 

 

Would you be able to do a short write-up on your LocoNet trick? Did you take any photos?

 

Btw, what software are you using for block detection/automation? I'm thinking of starting with itrains. 

 

Edited by gavino200
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Martijn Meerts

If you want RailCom detection everywhere, then yes, you'll need the RailCom detectors. You can't daisy chain a non-RC detector to a RC detector, and still get the feedback. 

 

I can't say I see all that much point in RC for automation. Sure, you'll know which train enters which block, and if an unexpected train enters a block, the software can do an emergency stop, but then again, it can do that without RC as well. For example, iTrain will throw a warning when for example it expects train A to be in block B within 30 seconds doesn't actually arrive there within that timeframe.

 

As for iTrain, I've been using it on and off since version 3. I've upgraded to iTrain plus over the years when new major versions came out. The free/demo version should work to get things set up initially, and then you can request a trial license, which allows you to use the full version for 2 months. I believe it's also possible to extend this trial by 1 or 2 months if you have a valid reason. Also, have a look at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9iZzS78ZpATbICDKWD8bAA/videos, it's a pretty good set of videos on iTrain.

 

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Based on the objective of automation Railcom detectors comes into play at the station. When the RC detector identifies the train in the initial block that train can be

registered and controlled or trigger specific events. A scripts can be set triggering voice announcements for that named train for play back on the stations speaker.

 

Putting all the pieces together one can create all sorts of configurations. Hopefully I'll have some time to put the pieces together as an example.

 

Inobu 

 

  

Edited by inobu
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By the way, your choice of the OPTO detector was the correct option.  The OPTO reacts to relay type detection where as the CS is (Current Sensing). The OPTO

allows you to count down to a stop. This means that the reporting is created by a physical motion not electrical current. The speed variance has to bearing as it

is the physical position of the train that stops it.

 

Inobu 

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15 minutes ago, inobu said:

By the way, your choice of the OPTO detector was the correct option.  The OPTO reacts to relay type detection where as the CS is (Current Sensing). The OPTO

allows you to count down to a stop. This means that the reporting is created by a physical motion not electrical current. The speed variance has to bearing as it

is the physical position of the train that stops it.

 

Inobu 

 

Don't you need actual sensors?  The OPTO is just the inputs are optically isolated so you don't have issues with current/voltage/polarity etc for certain kinds of hook ups? 

 

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The OPTO is the separation of the DCC system it self. The DCC aspect of the layout has nothing to do with the sensing aspect.

 

For example a reed switch or optic switch will close the sensor loop which will report back to the Command station .  

A train can break an IR field or cover a light detector to activate the detection. This can be used as a trigger for automation.

 

 

Inobu

 

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1 minute ago, gavino200 said:

 

Ah, I thought that was an optical sensor receiver. It seems we've been talking at cross purposes. Crossed wires. Pun intended.

 

No its in reference to an opto-isolator.

 

This is where the two circuits are isolated from each other. Lets say the right side is DCC and the Left side is AC.

They interface where one can signal the other but they never electrically connect to each other.

 

image.thumb.png.c4cf0d339a178329ccb3152f019d1ad7.png

 

The CS version of the DR4088 is CS meaning Current sensing. This uses the DCC current to register occupancy or detection.

That device is part of the DCC system.

 

Inobu

 

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gavino200

No clue what that is. I was buying other stuff and saw this on the list at the store. I assumed it was an receiver for optical sensors that would integrate directly into the system, which would be good. I guess I'll either cancel it or send it back. 

 

I'll definitely be adding optical sensors to the system. 

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11 minutes ago, inobu said:

The OPTO is the separation of the DCC system it self. The DCC aspect of the layout has nothing to do with the sensing aspect.

 

For example a reed switch or optic switch will close the sensor loop which will report back to the Command station .  

A train can break an IR field or cover a light detector to activate the detection. This can be used as a trigger for automation.

 

Yes, that was what I was thinking.  Which would actually make this module very useful WITH the 5088RC modules -- the 5088RC modules detect in the block and report the train number.  This one with separate sensors can do totally separate detection (IR, reed switch, etc).  Very cool.  Thanks.

 

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Just now, gavino200 said:

No clue what that is. I was buying other stuff and saw this on the list at the store. I assumed it was an receiver for optical sensors that would integrate directly into the system, which would be good. I guess I'll either cancel it or send it back. 

 

I'll definitely be adding optical sensors to the system. 

 

 

It could still be useful.  You just need to get the separate sensors to hook to hit.  And since it is unrelated to the current sensing/DCC part (or however it would be described) it can be used in conjunction with it in a totally non-interfering way.

 

The DR4088GND/OPTO manual has some interesting example hook ups for it.   I may have to get one of these to play with eventually.

 

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