I'm wondering what people would think about a model railway system
which controled trains like on out british standard gauge railways.
What kind of features would you want to assist the simulation
Um, er, ah, well, look around you, and see what people are actually
doing to simulate actual operation. It can be very realistic, depending
mostly on the amount of money and time available to the modeller.
Digital Command Control (DCC) can do pretty well everything, except
perhaps the "dead man's switch" on the locomotive. There are even
commercial signal-turnout interlocking and automatic train-control
systems available (some are non-DCC, actually.)
Or are you thinking of a computer controlled system? If so, google on
"computer software model railroad" and see what is out there. Software
for controlling layouts through a computer-DCC interface is quite well
advanced, to judge from some comments I've heard.
Fully automated model train control systems that simulate all actual
train movements, signalling, route-control etc, have been around for a
long time. In the olden golden days, they required loads of relays,
which were widely available after WW2 as war-surplus, and then again in
the 70s and 80s as telephone companies converted from electromechanical
to solid-state switching systems. I've found such layouts fun to watch
for 15 minutes or so - then I want to get my hands on a controller. :-)
I think there are ways to implement dead-man controls with DCC, and perhaps
even simulate vigilance controls such as what RailCorp has fitted to all our
Sydney suburban trains in the blind belief that it solves all the problems
of trains going out of control when a driver becomes incapacitated... 8-)
I don't think the hardware side would be too tricky - it just comes down to
designing and positioning of appropriate switches and actuators for them.
The software side might be a bit trickier since there needs to be a way to
first of all interface a pushbutton of some sort then a way to integrate
that with the command station firmware to shut down a train if the button is
released when the train's 'master controller' is not in the 'off' position.
Vigilance would be similar, and be a lot more of a software approach since
it involves timers, etc.
DCC throttles could easily be designed with one or two extra buttons - one
for a deadman feature that needs to be held in at all times otherwise the
train being controlled will stop, and the other for vigilance when needs to
pressed within a predetermined time period or the train will be stopped.
The deadman switch would need to be something easy to depress but set up in
such a way that the simple action of releasing the handgrip around a
handheld throttle drops out the switch. the VC switch can be a small
C. Dewick wrote in
Now let's imagine how this might work in practice. I've got a
Digitrax 400 type controller which has throttle knobs for two
locos but can actually run many more simutaneously by dialing one
up, setting the speed, then dialing up another loco on the same
knob. SO, two throttle knobs, 10 function buttons for all those
nifty sound effects, and now we add 2 deadman buttons...looks like
I'll have to grow some extra digits or hire a former accordion
player to run my trains! Methinks our quest for realism
can easily get out of control (no pun intended).
Well i've seen pictures of one 'nut's layout where he obtained the entire
cab assembly off a real locomotive, complete with control stands and wired
that up to the layout.
Obviously the thing to do is not modify you existing hand held throttles
- but to do it properly. Get the entire control desk from a modern
locomotive with all it's usual controls including the vigo, and wire them
up to your layout controls.
You will need an entire computer to interpret the signals from the
control desk and convert to your desired layout control system (DC blocks
or DCC doesn't matter), so you can implement all sorts of simulation
features in that interface computer. Get it to drive actuators to shake
the cab - give realistic vibration and shocks to the operator. Drive a
multichannel sound system to make the right engine noises. Put large
displays up in 'windows' and feed in a live camera feed from the model
down on the layout....
Heck, go the whole way and buy a million dollar train simulator, or
probably the best, just sign up and drive the real things :-)
Methinks if you are trying to control multiple locos independently in
this way, you're not actually driving any one of them :-)
John Dennis email@example.com
Melbourne,Australia Home of the HOn30 Dutton Bay Tramway
and the Australian Narrow Gauge Web-Exhibition Gallery
Dutton Bay URL:
Good point. I've known VERY few 'real' railroaders that model
railroads (a FEW, but not many). I HAVE known several model railroaders
that became 'real' railroaders, largely because of their interest in
trains. NONE of these are still active model railroaders, though a few
continue the interest via railfan photography, etc. From this admittedly
small sample I conclude, with reservations, that being a 'real'
railroader often kills the desire to model trains.
I think this is similar to the several persons I have known that decided
to start a 'basement' hobby shop. Their idea was to make their work
their hobby, and PLAY all the time. What really happened was that they
made their hobby their WORK, and had to WORK all the time. After a few
years all either gave up the business and went back to the hobby, or
dropped BOTH, and are now doing something altogether different. It's
another way to kill a good thing.
Most of us, IMHO, are model railroaders to escape from other facets of
our existence. A change of 'scenery' is often good. Too much of anything
is seldom good.
Ummm, I don't think so. It seems to me that he described several locos operating
independently, selected, put in motion and left to run, while another was
and treated in the same manner.
Not a good way to operate your models, unless you can multitask at warp speed.
The context is Norman's remark was "consist", I believe, which means two
or more locos run as a unit. But you may be right. Maybe he meant
running two or more trains on independent routes. Hey, Norman, what were
Ocean Springs wrote in
And in case no one noticed, that bulge in my cheek was caused by
pressure from my tongue.
I wake up grumpy. Other times I let her sleep.
Wolf Kirchmeir wrote in
I guess I'll have to resort to a new pair of HTML tags when I post
something like that: ......
I was actually referring to the ability to run multiple,
independent trains from such a controller to point out the
silliness of simulating a deadman switch.
Actually my new layout is designed to run a train or two that's not
attended by the operator. It's in an area where there won't be other
operators so I have a passenger train running in the background while
freights are also running. I have a panic button if things go wrong. Even
in my setup 4 would be an absolute maximum.
What DCC does poorly, without endless supplies of money, is operate a model
The whole intent of DCC is to link one controller to one locomotive so that
it, and every locomotive on a layout, can be driven individually.
Suitable new TTL drivable relays are available in the UK at 78p each.
What you continually overlook with your "haha" joke is that automation can
operate those parts of a layout that you can't, while you drive 'your'
train, thereby simulating real railway operation whenever you want to.