Author Topic: Unitrack Switch Control Panel  (Read 4484 times)

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Noah Lane

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Unitrack Switch Control Panel
« on: March 06, 2013, 04:23:27 AM »
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Hi everyone

I introduced myself in the N Scale intros thread, but just a quick disclaimer: I'm a newb, just getting back into model railroading again at age 31 -used to model when I was a kid but never lost my love for trains.

I'm almost two weeks into my first permanent layout (pictured below). It will eventually have 8 turnouts. I'm wiring it for DCC (NCE Powercab) from the start, but I don't plan to control the turnouts with DCC (reasons for opposition to this decision are welcomed). I'd really like to avoid using the stock Kato turnout controls.

My questions regard building a switch control panel. First, I'm confident I can create the map decal in AnyTracks/Illustrator, and build the sheet metal/plexi panel. I even know to use the DPDT Momentary toggles (w/ the X wiring to reverse polarity).  So got all that, but I would still like some sources on how people have gone about their panels. I've searched and found very little. Any ideas?

Also, because the momentary toggles always return to 'off' position, there is nothing to indicate the frog position. I'd like to wire red/green LEDs to indicate direction of the turnouts. I have almost no clue where to start when it comes to wiring the LEDs. Anyone have a diagram or link to a helpful source?

Perhaps the LED indicators route is over my entry level skill, but I like to think I'm pretty handy and a fast learner.

Thanks in advance!


Current state of my layout:




The rough layout (although several track pieces have changed):

peteski

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Re: Unitrack Switch Control Panel
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2013, 05:55:44 AM »
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Noah,
as far as control pane design goes, see http://forum.atlasrr.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=69275&SearchTerms=panel
There is probably another similar thread on this forum but the one on the Atlas Forum just popped inot my head.  If you search this forum, you might find some similar threads.

As far as wiring indicators for Kato switches, there was a person, also on the Atlas forum, who used track power to indicate the turnout positions.
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Noah Lane

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Re: Unitrack Switch Control Panel
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2013, 12:11:53 PM »
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Peteski- thanks, that Atlas thread is quite helpful.  I did try searching a number of phrases (here and on two other forums that I joined) to come up with Control Panel stuff and had very little luck. But I appreciate your help!

Noah Lane

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Re: Unitrack Switch Control Panel
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2013, 04:12:31 PM »
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Upon my continued search, I stumbled upon this rather helpful thread:

http://www.modelrailroadforums.com/forum/showthread.php?t=23791

DKS

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Re: Unitrack Switch Control Panel
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2013, 04:45:35 PM »
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“Everyone leaves unfinished business. That's what dying is.” —Amos, The Expanse

Noah Lane

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Re: Unitrack Switch Control Panel
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2013, 05:17:35 PM »
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Thank you, David. I need all the help I can get. I will say, stumbling upon your layouts (James River and Geordie and Daphne) were part of my motivation to finally get back into model railroading.  And subsequently reading your blog about your reasons for leaving Z Scale also contributed to my decision to go N Scale. Living in a smaller condo, I had originally thought I'd get back into the hobby in Z Scale. I'm happy with my decision.  But I just wanted to say thanks!

- - -

Upon even further research, I am starting to wonder if just controlling the switches with DCC Decoders isn't the simplest and even least expensive route?  I will just be using an NCE Powercab, but I see the Digitrax DS-52s control up to four switches (at around $20/each).  How do these two brands interact? In NMRA theory, shouldn't they work fine?  The NCE Powerkat looks like the same price but only controls one switch apparently? 

I will say that even as a kid, I always wanted a layout with a control map. They're just cool looking and seem like a more realistic tool to control your operations -more so than a Powercab. So I'd still prefer to go that route if it seems relatively feasible and not too much pricier than the alternatives.

peteski

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Re: Unitrack Switch Control Panel
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2013, 11:52:13 PM »
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Since you're running DCC, I found a thread with some ideas on how to wire the turnout position indicator using the track power.
http://forum.atlasrr.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=56730
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Noah Lane

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Re: Unitrack Switch Control Panel
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2013, 04:49:18 PM »
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I know this a bit of a bump, but I found this and thought I should share:

http://www3.sympatico.ca/kstapleton3/751D.HTM

They are toggles designed for Kato (or Rokuhan) switches. He sells a 10 pack of them for $79. At that price only one comes assembled, you have to assemble the other 9 units. Or for $12.50 each, they all come assembled (so, $125 for 10 assembled switches). They also include solder points for LEDs (he'll throw in 25 red/green LEDs for $2.50). One switch controller can control numerous turnouts, because they have a high enough MOSFET.  I spoke to the company owner Ken, and he is super helpful and very accommodating. 

This seems like a great option if you want a switch control panel for Unitrack.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2013, 04:52:47 PM by Noah Lane »

rogergperkins

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Re: Unitrack Switch Control Panel
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2013, 06:38:25 AM »
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I just stumbled onto your post on 25 May 2013.
I use Kato unitrack in n-scale and also use the NCE Power Cab, so I have experience with those two
items.
I have elected to power 26 of the Kato Unitrak turnout on my layout with the transformers I was using
on my layout before I opted to add DCC as an option for powering locomotives.

I am pleased with the controller and find they operate very satisfactorily in the context of my home layout.
I have not found any reason to spend the exact to operate the turnouts by DCC.

I welcome any comments that outline advantages of use DCC controlled turnouts.

peteski

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Re: Unitrack Switch Control Panel
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2013, 03:39:41 PM »
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I welcome any comments that outline advantages of use DCC controlled turnouts.

You can operate them from your DCC throttle.  You can also operate them by pushing buttons on their stationary decoders. That way either a dispatcher (on a control panel) or an engineer (on his throttle) can throw the same switch.  You can set up macros which will throw several switches together in a sequence (for example yard ladders).

But if you are happy operating your switches manually on either main control panel or on some local control panel then I see no reason or advantage to go with DCC control.
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rogergperkins

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Re: Unitrack Switch Control Panel
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2013, 03:55:30 PM »
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Thanks, since I am the sole operator, there is no advantage for me.