Author Topic: Planning new layout - first steps  (Read 764 times)

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CRL

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Planning new layout - first steps
« on: February 18, 2019, 05:59:39 PM »
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I’m in the planning stage for a new N-scale home layout. However, I’m taking what some may consider to be a backwards approach. This is necessary because I don’t yet have any idea what space I’ll have available as the house is still up in the air. I’m hoping for about the same area as a double car garage, but that information won’t be available until we make our final build or buy decision. My wife & myself are now retired, with bad knees necessitating getting out of a two story and going to a single story house. So working on a track plan will have to wait, although I do have a general concept in mind.

Here are my primary operational rathers and druthers:

> DCC with layout control by computer and cell phone / tablet throttles.
> Ability to have computer run some trains on schedules while local trains and yards are operated manually.
> The above will require some type of signaling system, at least on the mainline and branchlines where computer controlled trains will operate.
> Dispatcher control during operating sessions. This will not be a “watch the choo-choo go round & round” layout.
> Peco code 55 track & turnouts will be used.
> Layout will be loosely based on the current Arizona Eastern trackage in Southeastern Arizona from Clifton to Globe with a fictitious connecting line from Three Way to Safford through Tollhouse Canyon and Tollgate Canyon along current US-191. This connection over the mountains was made necessary by (fictional) increase in volcanic activity in the Boot Heel Volcanic Field closing the main SP/UP line between Steins and Lordsburg. The inspiration for this location came from this video:
Start at the the 16:15 mark for an almost perfect N-scale scene.

The first 4 items need to be accomplished as cost effectively as possible. At present, all my locomotives are DC, meaning I’ll be converting those to DCC as a mandatory first step. I’m leaning towards TCS decoders (non-sound) since many of my older locomotives are not DCC ready and TCS has those split boards designed for non-DCC ready locos.

I’m also leaning towards the Digikeijs DR5000 command station since it has Loconet & Railcom capability. Digikeijs also has cost effective 16 channel feedback modules to enable using computer control of the mainline and branchline tracks for automatic train control. I’m a believer in using a single manufacturer system where practical to reduce interaction problems between components. Digikeijs also has loconet capable boosters and auto reverse loops.

I’ve considered JMRI for the software to drive the layout, but I’m not computer savvy enough and don’t have access to a 9 year old child to help me out. So I’m leaning towards using Railroad & Company Traincontroller program and it’s cell / tablet companion program +SmartHand. The +SmartHand program has the added very attractive feature of a built in Block Signal Indicators for the home and distant signals of the train being operated. All I’d need to do is mark the block boundaries with a dummy signal, or even a brightly painted pole. Although this program is expensive, it’s cheaper than installing a layout based signaling system and it appears to be a little less computer-nerdy than JMRI. That being said, the Loconet capability of the DR5000 and the detectors would allow the use of JMRI monitoring in parallel with Traincontroller.

Turnout control on the mainline, branchline, arrival/departure tracks and passing sidings will be by servos, controlled by the computer software. All yards and industrial turnouts will be manually controlled. The cab operator will be able to control turnouts on his train’s route unless the dispatcher (computer or human) has locked the turnout. There are a few cost effective sources for DCC servo controllers - Tam Valley & MegaPoints seem to be the leading candidates so far.

I have built some small DC layouts in the past, but this will be my first DCC layout. I’m hoping those of you with DCC and computer controlled layout experience will offer constructive advice if they see any inherent problems with this approach.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2019, 09:27:20 PM by CRL »

davefoxx

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Re: Planning new layout - first steps
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2019, 07:40:05 PM »
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I’m not trying to tell you which brand of DCC to go with, but, since you wrote that you want Loconet and Railcom, it is my understanding that Digitrax’s patent on Loconet is going to expire soon.  This means that there may be more brands adding Loconet as a feature.  In fact, the ESU system that I just bought has a jack for Loconet, but it’s not yet activated while the patent is still effective.

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CRL

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Re: Planning new layout - first steps
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2019, 07:51:39 PM »
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I’m not sure about Railcom since the Traincontroller program has the ability to track detected trains from block to block. I do think having Loconet would be an advantage, especially if using the Tam Valley QuadLN servo controllers which have Loconet feedback built in, but I’m open to suggestions.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2019, 11:28:14 PM by CRL »

CRL

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Re: Planning new layout - first steps
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2019, 05:27:06 PM »
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Forgot one additional requirement:

> Walk-in layout with no duck-unders.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2019, 05:29:40 PM by CRL »

CRL

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Re: Planning new layout - first steps
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2019, 12:23:07 PM »
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I stumbled across a couple of photo documentaries of the two primary branchline routes I want to base this layout on... the Clifton Branch and the Globe Branch of the current Arizona Eastern. The photos are low resolution, but they give a reasonable feel of the terrain. These will be useful since most of the line has no road access for on site research.

Clifton - http://www.trainweb.org/chris/Globe.html
Globe - http://www.trainweb.org/chris/aze.html

The Clifton Branch is much more visually interesting than the Globe Branch, but the Globe Branch has more operational possibilities due to more small communities along the track and has a short section of street running in Globe. It will still require more modelers license since most of the historic stations and rail service locations are long gone. The primary industry for both lines is copper mining.

The old water tower was still standing in San Carlos when the photos were taken, but it’s gone now. Stuff rusts very slowly in the desert.
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« Last Edit: April 02, 2019, 08:12:44 PM by CRL »

vt_railroad_guy

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Re: Planning new layout - first steps
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2019, 07:56:11 AM »
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I actually dispatch this railroad, so this is an interesting build for me.  Have fun!

CRL

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Re: Planning new layout - first steps
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2019, 01:29:39 PM »
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I actually dispatch this railroad, so this is an interesting build for me.  Have fun!
I hope it works out as I’m planning. My mother was born & raised in Globe, AZ and her grandparents were early settlers to Globe. I have early memories of the area from visiting my great aunt in Globe.

I may bend your ear some for your dispatching knowledge on these branchlines since there’s not much information that I’ve been able to find.