computer control

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by conor, Dec 5, 2004.

  1. conor

    conor New Member

    i posted this subject in the tech forum and they recommended i should post it here so heres the link to the thread in the other forum. post replys here, its probably easier. Basically i should clarify, i want to power and control DCC enabled trains with a DCC type system (no need for awkward wiring and lots of trains running on the same track) but i want to control it all with a computer.
    heres the link to the main thread. It has a link to the site of a company offering computer control but i dont know if it will power the track or it doesn' tell me what else i might need. Any help offered will be greatly appreciated.
  2. moria

    moria Member

    Hey Conor :)

    I am a user of CTI so perhaps I can help :)

    OK.. theres two seperate phases to this computer control stuff with DCC. The first is providing the DCC signals and power to the track to run trains. That is accomplished by using a DCC command station, whether Lenz, Digitrax or any other system.

    The second is computer control of many functions, such as switch control, signalling, timetabling, etc etc which is performed by a system such as CTI.

    Now, most DCC systems can be linked to a computer, using that manufacturers computer interface, and if that is happening, then the automation system in use can, generally, be used to provide computer input signals to the DCC system, and hence control the trains using the existing Command station.

    CTI is not a DCC command station and system, but it will work with existing DCC command stations to form a complete integrated system.

    My personal system is a Lenz 100, LI101F computer Interface, and CTI with about 6 modules.

    Now, with my system, since the Lenz system is linked to the computer as well as the CTI, this allows me to use the Throttles built into CTI to drive trains both manually, and automatically, but I still need the Lenz 100 command station to provide the actual track signals to do that.

    With regards to wiring etc, I am afraid your going to need both the DCC wiring as normal, and probably additional wiring and sensors to make the CTI system work, but it is worth it, or at least, it is for me.

    My CTI system provides a track plan on my computer screen of my layout, with all switches and signals shown. I have current detection circuits throughout the layout and based on train position, the CTI system controls all the signalling, grade crossing flashers, layout lighting etc etc all automatically based on train position. It also allows my to use buttons on my on-screen panel to switch switches and do route setting. It also has the ability to run trains automatically if I have had a hard day and just want to kick back and watch trains go by :)

    Hope this helps in answering your question.


  3. conor

    conor New Member

    yeah thats a great help graham. im thinking of buying a digitrax zephyr at the moment and then in a month or 2 when i get ued to how to run trains im thinking of changing to computer control. so basically i ill need the interface that digitrax produces going into 1 serial port and then a second interface that cti produces going into another serial port? i dont suppose you have any pictures of how the cti modules all come together before going into the PC do you? this is the bit that has me a bit confused. i can understand that to say run 16 signals i need either 4 train brains, or 2 dash 8s or to go for the most cost effective way get 1 dwitchman module but say i had 4 train brains, How do they all hook up together. is it a case of a daisy chain of one to another or do you send a lead back from each module and hook them together using a form of socket?

    i have posted my proposed track plan in the logging forum and it would be great if you could take a quick look and tell me how many modules it looks like im going to require. just to control turnout to start with. As money becomes more plentiful and the layout expands i will expand the computer control to signalling and all the other things you have mentioned in your post.

    Final question, is this easy to wire (well i know nothing in life is "easy") but is it a farily straight forward wiring sysyem. This is the main reason i want to go DCC. It seems like i loose all the awkward wiring like having isolated parts of the track etc.

    It would be great if you could post a picture of your wiring setup just to give me an idea what im letting myself in for.

    Thanks for the help,

  4. moria

    moria Member

    Conor Hi :)

    okay.. I had a quick look at the trackplan, and it looks like you have less than 16 turnouts.

    Assuming you use snap action switch machines (Peco style), as I do, that would require 1 train-brain module and 1 Switchman module. You would use one control from the 4 on the Train-brain to determine direction and one output from the switchman for each turnout, so the switchman can control 16 turnouts as it has 16 outputs.

    Wiring for the turnouts is a little different from conventional switch machine wiring with CDU's. Take a look at the CTI documentation in lesson 9 under timesharing :) It requires (for safety of the switch motors) a couple of diodes in the circuit to prevent stray feedback)

    The wiring is certainly no more complicated than conventional wiring for a layout, and in my mind, once you have the boards set up, its simpler :) An additional part, however is that you have to write a couple of lines in your control program to make the switches operate, but again, its simple stuff if you follow the examples.

    The boards themselves all daisey chain together. There a cable from your serial poart to a 2 way splitter, then cables from that splitter to the first board.. then first board to second.. then second to third... etc etc then last board back to the splitter making a closed loop.

    I'll try to take a photo or two and upload them later today of my system )


  5. conor

    conor New Member

    excellent, thanks graham. The photo would be a great help.
    Thanks again,
  6. moria

    moria Member

    Conor, greetings :)

    Sorry about the delay.

    OK as promised some pics, which hopefully will make sense.

    First the Modules themselves:-


    On each module, you can see two telephone sockets marked with coloured dots. These are the network connections to the computer.. its a simple case of link red to green, red to green, red to green etc etc till you have the closed loop.

    Secondly the Panel area with all controls (This area, including the staging yard, apart from the facia panel indicators, will all be hidden when the second layer goes in on top :) :-


    Important Note:- I took this whilst working on the layout wiring, Normally there is a cover on the two 120V AC transformers you can see next to the lenz Base Unit. Please don't take this photo to mean I accept or condone the leaving of 120V AC wiring / transformers exposed to fingers or other body parts :)

    Finally the computer screen which controls the entire lower level of the layout :-


    The black lines are the trackplan. The blue lines are where a train is currently sitting (4 tracks in the staging yard) White is pointwork and what position they are in, signal repeaters are shown, lightblue squares are switch drivers and route setting and on the right are control buttons and accessory buttons for doing things like building lighting and main power on/off etc etc.

    Hope some of this helps.

  7. conor

    conor New Member

    thanks graham, its all starting to make sense now.

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