Test Track Update

It’s been a journey but at long last and after a number of challenges I have at last manged to get one train running around the upline stopping in the right blocks and switching the lights and sound off and on as required using iTrain.   I found a number of challenges on the way and its worth highlighting them for myself at least so I remember.

The setup and configuration of the DR5000 and block detection modules seemed to be going well before I connected to the layout.  The Railcom sensor (DR5088) I thought displayed the DCC train number and the Loconet and S88 blocks appeared to be working.  Now I have the layout up and running I can’t see the Railcom ID although the block detection is working and with the S88 detectors I have ended up connecting them directly to the DR5000 s88 bus rather than through the Loconet bus and module.  I was plagued initially with  short circuits showing on the DR5000, I’ve ended up with some of the Cobalt Point controllers disconnected as I’ve not  installed the point motors yet but I think the problem was the initial current draw on the detectors and point controllers, I’ve adjusted settings in the DR5000 to introduce some delays during startup and fingers crossed no reoccurrences. 

I’ve set all the point’s to straight through for the initial testing as it’s really iTrain that I wanted to get to grips with. I’d wired the frogs to the point controllers and directly back to the bus but pulled some of this out when looking for the shorts, I’ll go back now and wire up all the frogs correctly and I think back to the bus rather than the corresponding block feed.   The Cobalt SS Point motors are going to be a lot more fiddly to install than I expected, I will need to remove the springs from the Peco points and I may need to drop the motors below the ballast shoulder as I have some stock catching on the tie between the motor and the points. There are a number of different types of tie bar provided with the motors but I’ve not yet sussed out the correct ones for N gauge coming from under the bar rather than over.  I do now have the extension set so I should be able to mount some points away from the track as well using wire in tube connections.

Setting up I have used the DR5000 control functions to run the trains round the circuits. configure, test and trace issues with the detection blocks and wiring. I have a spreadsheet for each block with the measurements, track bus, accessory numbers, detector numbers and modules as whilst it’s fairly easy to track now It will be a different proposition on a larger layout.  I’ve mainly used the serial connection from my laptop, I have connected using the TCP /Lan Interface and my home router and whilst I was able to connect and configure the connection wasn’t reliable and so I have reverted to the serial connection.  I’ll test the IP connection again in the future on a clean network to see if the problem still occurs. For exhibitions I’ll always use a standalone private network but for home it would be nice to control the layout from my desk rather than the laptop.

iTrain configuration has been fun with lots of stuff hidden under the covers, the video’s from Bob Fuller on you tube have been invaluable. Bob Fuller ITrain Video’s

For the next layout I think the order of iTrain configuration  will be:-

  1. Track build using Anyrail with the blocks indicated,
  2. Switchboard /Track plan entered in iTrain ensuring that the blocks have enough space to show the train ID , the indicator and direction arrows
  3. Feedbacks measured and entered with the correct numbers
  4. Blocks created, numbered and linked to the feedbacks, stations identified
  5. Points entered and tested individually
  6. Group up track elements into the blocks, Connect it all together
  7. Trains added and configured
  8. Run and fix diagnostic errors
  9. Set up and test track routes
  10. Set up and test train routes

And that’s where I have got to today,  I’ve not yet set up the points, configured the locomotives or got into advance automation but if the basics work then the rest should fall into place

There is still lots to do even for the test track so thinking about the next couple of weeks my jobs are:-

  1. Reconnect the frogs and ensure that the trains each run around their loops
  2. Connect up the point motors so they are all powered, once complete set all the point numbers using the Digikeijs switchboard  Interface
  3. Remove the point springs and install the point motors. As these come with a mini harness they should just plug in once installed ready for tuning  the tie bar pull distance
  4. Fettle the track back down to remove any kinks and bumps to ensure smooth running
  5. Take photos of the stock to fill out the iTrain panels
  6. Continue to fettle the train routes to add more functions and complexity
  7. Figure out how to get 2 trains running on the same track/route and seeing them shuffle through the fiddle yard.
  8. Figure out why and how to get Railcom integrated- I really want to be able to put a train on the track, have iTrain detect it and add the train label to the block (More video’s to watch)
  9. Start learning how to do more complex automated manoeuvres and how I might use these in the future

The screenshot shows the Test track iTrain Panel with 4 train controllers and the switchboard. The Railcom detectors are used on the right hand side of the layout which is to simulate the fiddle yard and called a shadow station in iTrain. I’ve a couple of different configurations shown as I try and get them to show the train number. I have shown the track routes on the right hand side and clicking these sets the routes around the layout

Next time I’ll include some more pictures of the layout

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