Author Topic: New layout and new electronics. LCC?  (Read 632 times)

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greenwizard88

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New layout and new electronics. LCC?
« on: September 01, 2019, 09:21:28 PM »
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I recently re-located my layout, and during the re-build decided that it's time to jump into the world of block detection and signaling.

I have a few DCC switch decoders that I've played around with, a Light-It or three, a Switch-Kat, and some AR-1's for reversing loops. I have a DCS51 + PR3 for throttle control and to interface with JMRI. So basically, nothing standard and very little money invested.

My plan so far is to use NCE BD20's for detection, and send the signal to a [device] that reports it back to JMRI for some very basic automation. In the future, I'd like to wire some signals up, too. Either controlled via JMRI or otherwise.

I think that I'm in the perfect position to start fresh with LCC. I can have an LCC device take the BD20 input and an LCC signal driver control signals, without even using JMRI after the initial setup. If I use JMRI, I can do more. At least, I think. There's almost nothing on LCC as a consumer product that I can find. The only company I can locate that makes LCC devices is RR-CirKits, and TCS mentions it with regards to the command station they haven't released yet.

Is LCC still too new of a technology? Should I stick with Digitrax for detection and signaling? I'm looking for any advice or input that isn't from 2015.

C855B

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Re: New layout and new electronics. LCC?
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2019, 10:26:13 PM »
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...There's almost nothing on LCC as a consumer product that I can find. ...

I've been wrangling with the LCC+DCC thing for probably four years. Dick Bronson (RR Cir-Kits) has done a lot of great work in getting LCC off the ground, but in a nutshell you're right. I believe a fellow in Australia is now offering an LCC product or products, but I don't recall what they are at the moment. Bear in mind there is a certain inflexibility at the moment to LCC, where the only "decoders" are fan-out processors; and that currently single-point controllers are not in the offing because most of the cost of each LCC node is in the CANbus support.

You might want to peruse the LCC forum on groups.io to read-up on it. Be advised there are a handful of fan-boys who will convince you that LCC is absolutely the wave of the future and there are layouts that actually exist operating under LCC. I chalk that up to evangelism rather than real-world practical advice. They are very helpful if it's the way you go, but all the advice in the world isn't going to solve the limited product selection.

I am constructing a large layout, and my decision was to deploy JMRI over Digitrax with two Loconet control stations (and buses), one for train control and one for accessories, allowing for the addition of another Loconet DCS if I run into capacity problems on the accessory bus. One of the key deciding factors is I have deployed R/C servos as switch machines, and there is not yet (...that I'm aware of...) any LCC support for servos. LCC could eventually replace the accessory bus, obviously, but for the foreseeable future DCC's rich product selection tips the scale toward staying with DCC.
...mike

http://www.gibboncozadandwestern.com

We don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents. We just don't tell anybody. -Bob Ross

C855B

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Re: New layout and new electronics. LCC?
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2019, 10:47:06 PM »
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Oh... one point I forgot... I think the whole thing with LCC's "autonomous" operation is a bunch of hooey. Brutal to say that, but here's your "advice or input that isn't from 2015" - use a Raspberry Pi as your JMRI computer. Cheap, capable, flexible and smaller than most DCC or LCC fan-out boards. That's what I do. You don't have to stress the LCC node configuration protocols and tables, just do what you know in JMRI and Jyphon and be done with it.
...mike

http://www.gibboncozadandwestern.com

We don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents. We just don't tell anybody. -Bob Ross

GaryHinshaw

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Re: New layout and new electronics. LCC?
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2019, 01:53:18 AM »
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I'll echo Mike's advice and add some stats.  I have a medium sized layout equipped with a Digitrax DCS240 command station, and a Raspberry Pi plus MacBook to run jmri and CATS.   I use a combined Loconet and RRCirKits Simple Serial Bus to send throttle and accessory signals over DCC and it has served me very well.  Accessory-wise, I have 72 DCC turnouts, 72 detection blocks, and 64 signal heads (controlled by RRCirKits Motorman, Watchman, and Signalman boards, respectively).  During a session, we typically have 15-20 locos (in 5-6 consists) out on the line at any given time, and it all seems to work without any loading issues.

I started down this path around 2014/2015, but if I were starting again today, I would probably make the same choice.  I'm especially happy with the RRCirKits boards (once you manage to decipher the documentation...).  Even though DCC is "old tech", it works and there is a great knowledge base out there.

John

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Re: New layout and new electronics. LCC?
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2019, 05:42:29 AM »
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Lots of good advice above ..

I run my layout using JMRI and CATS as the layout / signal controller on a Pi with a Locobuffer-II as the interface .. For detection , I use a combination of RRCircuits BODs, Digitrax BD-4s connected to DS64s and some other odd boards ..  2x BDL168s. There are 4 SE8Cs for signaling turnouts .. Its kind of grown over the years, but it all works, and ties together nicely . Finally, DCS100 for the brains, and 2 DB150s for power .. also radio

It mostly works as advertised .. sometimes when I have a lot of operators, the layout gets a little sluggish,  but overall its not a problem .. I have a boosternet, and a loconet for devices ..

greenwizard88

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Re: New layout and new electronics. LCC?
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2019, 08:18:33 AM »
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Thanks for the input guys. I'm leaning towards LCC, mostly since no one has said anything bad about it, and I'd rather not be tied down to a proprietary format such as LocoNet, even if it is a de-facto standard.

For the record, I do has a Raspberry Pi running JMRI for my layout. It's the only thing (IMO) that makes all of these electronics do-dads bearable.

railnerd

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Re: New layout and new electronics. LCC?
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2019, 06:12:49 PM »
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Thanks for the input guys. I'm leaning towards LCC, mostly since no one has said anything bad about it, and I'd rather not be tied down to a proprietary format such as LocoNet, even if it is a de-facto standard.

For the record, I do has a Raspberry Pi running JMRI for my layout. It's the only thing (IMO) that makes all of these electronics do-dads bearable.

Don't forget about C/MRI on Arduino, either.

I have plenty to say about LCC, but I'll follow my late grandmother's advice.

-Dave


John

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Re: New layout and new electronics. LCC?
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2019, 05:46:18 AM »
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Don't forget about C/MRI on Arduino, either.

I have plenty to say about LCC, but I'll follow my late grandmother's advice.

-Dave

I'd like to hear your thoughts on LCC ..

greenwizard88

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Re: New layout and new electronics. LCC?
« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2019, 06:54:58 PM »
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I thought about using Arduinos (Arduinii?), but I'm looking for a more "plug and play" solution.
I'd like to hear your thoughts on LCC ..
As would I. That's kinda why I made this thread...

railnerd

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Re: New layout and new electronics. LCC?
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2019, 01:25:48 PM »
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I thought about using Arduinos (Arduinii?), but I'm looking for a more "plug and play" solution.As would I. That's kinda why I made this thread...

If you are looking for a plug and play solution, I would heartily suggest sticking with Dick Bronson's stuff (RR-CirKits).  You'll also note that his products are essentially available in Loconet and LCC versions.

LCC is still the Wild West in terms of usage— I cannot recommend it to folks unless you have a technical background.

There are many technical nits I have against LCC over CAN, most of which have to do with über nerdy issues like how LCC is layered atop CAN.  CAN is a very nice messaging bus which is based around small packets.  OpenLCB/LCC uses large GUID data structures which do not neatly fit inside the CAN bus frames, thus nullifying some of the advantages.

The use of GUIDs as eventIDs is pretty neat from a CS point of view, but very opaque to debug for many folks.  Imagine being in a club and having one of your boards blow up— you then need to reconfigure things and make adjustments to "replace" an existing board— the "tooling" around reconfiguring LCC boards is still vendor specific at the moment.

Like I said, these are nit picky things, but as a guy in a club who sometimes gets ask to fix things, it isn't fun. That said, there are a few guys in our club who actively contribute to LCC.  I'm just not one of them.

I'm not sure this really answers your question...

If you are into tinkering with electronics and software, then LCC might be fun— if instead you want to operate your layout, you may want to consider more off-the-shelf options.  To me, dinking around with LCC felt too much like work.

-Dave

C855B

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Re: New layout and new electronics. LCC?
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2019, 01:42:58 PM »
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I'm looking at it from another perspective, the hardware. Since LCC was conceived, the entire small processor landscape has changed enormously. I envision off-the-shelf Arduino and Raspberry Pi processors as fan-out nodes connected to the operational host... probably another Raspberry Pi... via wired Ethernet, or in some cases, WiFi. Both processor families also have very inexpensive micro versions that could operate as single- or dual-device controllers, at less cost than, say, the custom DCC servo controllers I currently use.

Frankly, these devices/processors are always going to be less expensive than limited-run, custom-firmware PLC's (programmable logic controllers). It will just take some enterprising coder to develop plug-and-play software that JMRI will recognize as a distributed control device, and there you have it. I do think there are developers working on this very thing, I just haven't caught up with the current state 'cuz I have a layout to build.

So... summarizing LCC's liabilities: network protocol overload, high network hardware cost, custom hardware, custom firmware, conceptually obsolete. That about cover it?
...mike

http://www.gibboncozadandwestern.com

We don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents. We just don't tell anybody. -Bob Ross