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CQC controlling Model Railroad??? - Deane Johnson - 01-08-2017

Model Railroads require some sort of interface to operate switches (track), lights, animation, etc.  I'm not talking about running engines, that's handled well by existing DCC (Digital Command Control).  While DCC has some capability of running accessories, a large model railroad has far too many switches and the like to operate from a hand controller.

With CQC's outstanding iPad/Android screen capabilities, I'm beginning to wonder if there is any possibility of using CQC to create screens assigned to various sections of a MR to operate the switches.  Switches themselves pretty much have a 12v. coil and when operated from a conventional wired panel usually have two push buttons, one for each direction the switch is to be thrown.  Switch machines usually have two SPDT contacts available for auxiliary use.

I'm preparing to build a large model railroad that will have upwards of 50 switches and some animation, one such being remote control diesel house doors operated with a servo which is controlled with an Arduino.  As I begin to assemble my thoughts on the electronic control aspects, I naturally begin to wonder if CQC could play a roll.  I'm thinking of a series of tablet screens that are dedicated to a section or perhaps operational route that one would simply call up on the tablet and have the controls at hand for that section.

It's necessary that each individual control function remain fairly simple and inexpensive due to the need to multiply it many times.

I have no idea whether this has any possibilities, or how one might interface CQC with the track switch machines, but that would be the basic need.  Here's a link to the most popular switch machine.  http://www.circuitron.com/index_files/Tortoise.htm

By the way, there is already a reasonably popular software that's being used called JRMI, but I don't know much about it at this point.  My sense is that it tries to do everything for everybody, and as a result gets more complicated to deal with.  I believe it may interface with whichever DCC system one already has, but I'm thinking of staying completely clear of DCC.  http://jmri.sourceforge.net/

Deane


RE: CQC controlling Model Railroad??? - Dean Roddey - 01-08-2017

Wouldn't a fairly obvious approach maybe be to use a PLC to control the hardware and then just have CQC interface to the PLC? There are already some PLC drivers in the drivers section of the forum, though I'm not sure if they are remotely the appropriate type of controller for this sort of thing.


RE: CQC controlling Model Railroad??? - batwater - 01-08-2017

Oh Boy, this brings back fond memories. I had a 20' dogbone shaped layout when I was growing up. 6x8 (4x8 split with 2x8 added) 2x8 ending in a 4x4. Interesting idea to tie in the automation. PLC for the I/O for sure, hmmmm.....


RE: CQC controlling Model Railroad??? - Deane Johnson - 01-08-2017

So, I guess by PLC, we're talking about an Arduino.  There are some articles on controlling switch machines with Arduino, I'll try and find them.

This would be a different sort of screen layout than used for home theater control, etc.  It needs a photo of a section of a track plan with buttons overlayed on it at the appropriate switch locations.  Each screen page would be for a section of the railroad.  One could even build in routing or scenerios on a screen much as we do scenes in home automation.

I haven't done anything like this before with CQC, I assume it's easy to add a picture background to a screen and then push buttons over the picture.  In my thought process in this thread, CQC would end up replacing the old "sit down in front of it" control panel we all remember.

I'm just returning to serious model railroading after almost a 15 year absence and has it ever changed.  I'm starting over knowledge wise.  The old central control boards are gone.  The new DCC with hand held wireless engine throttles calls for walkaround components.  Switch machine control can be hardwired in various sections, or hand held portable in some fashion.  That latter part is in a state of flux these days.

As a result of some of these changes, layouts have been raised to the 50 to 52 inch height which gives you a very intimate relationship with the scene before you.  Walking along with the train consist brings about a demand for hand held control.  I attended the annual train show at the auditorium today and there were probably around 12 layouts operating.  I found myself engrossed with one that had a track height of 50 inches above the floor.  I was amazed at the intimacy at that height, and when I moved to a lower built layout nearby, it became lost from my relationship and thus non-interesting.  Today etched my new height in stone.  That height also allows rolling under it on an office chair for wiring.

I'd really like to use CQC in this fashion, so I'm going to research that direction as deep as I can.  I have a ton of learning to do, not only how to use CQC effectively, but also Arduino.  Fortunately, my grown son is doing some RC things with Arduino, so he is of help in figuring this stuff out.  Who knows, if we were to come up with a really good system that caught on, we could open up a new market for CQC.  The model railroad publications have a big appetite for How-To feature articles wherever they can find them.


RE: CQC controlling Model Railroad??? - SomeWhatLost - 01-08-2017

while this is the exact sort of thing that PLC's were created for, I am not 100% convinced that it is the correct choice in this case...
simply due to the 50 switches... that is a lot of outputs... could get costly using an actual PLC for all that...
might be better to use a bunch of arduino's and a bunch of 8 port relay boards like this: 5V 1/2/4/8 Channel Relay Board Module Optocoupler LED for Arduino PiC ARM AVRC
probably end up being much cheaper over all...

do forget to add senors! while your ipad/tablet/touch screen idea sounds interesting, it would be even more fun to also have CQC automate stuff on it's own... for CQC to do that though it will need senors....

so, Dean, you got the Train Auto Config done in v5 yet? (ie like the the current room config, but for trains )


RE: CQC controlling Model Railroad??? - Deane Johnson - 01-08-2017

Somewhatlost, I think you're on the right track with that line of thinking.  The other advantage to the Relay board would be increased current flow capabilities.

I have an Ardunio here (unopened) for testing along with a Tortise switch machine.  I can order a relay board for a full test setup.  Those relay boards are insanely cheap.  Am I missing something?

EDIT:  I just noticed, they're shipped from China which explains the price.  No big deal, it just take a little longer.  Some stuff I've gotten from China has been here in about 10 days, another item is supposedly shipped, but has been almost a month with nothing yet.

If the consensus is that these boards should work with Arduinio, I'll order a couple for testing.  You can't buy lunch at McDonald's for these prices (and the boards probably taste better).


RE: CQC controlling Model Railroad??? - SomeWhatLost - 01-08-2017

only the arduino code to make it all work Tongue


RE: CQC controlling Model Railroad??? - Deane Johnson - 01-08-2017

(01-08-2017, 01:33 PM)SomeWhatLost Wrote: while this is the exact sort of thing that PLC's were created for, I am not 100% convinced that it is the correct choice in this case...
simply due to the 50 switches... that is a lot of outputs... could get costly using an actual PLC for all that...
might be better to use a bunch of arduino's and a bunch of 8 port relay boards like this: 5V 1/2/4/8 Channel Relay Board Module Optocoupler LED for Arduino PiC ARM AVRC
probably end up being much cheaper over all...

do forget to add senors! while your ipad/tablet/touch screen idea sounds interesting, it would be even more fun to also have CQC automate stuff on it's own... for CQC to do that though it will need senors....

so, Dean, you got the Train Auto Config done in v5 yet? (ie like the the current room config, but for trains )

(01-08-2017, 01:48 PM)SomeWhatLost Wrote: only the arduino code to make it all work Tongue

For me, that will be a bit of a challenge, but I'll get some help.  Fortunately, once a code set is done, it's a matter of repeating it over and over.


RE: CQC controlling Model Railroad??? - SomeWhatLost - 01-08-2017

if the spec for those tortise switch things is real, they max out at 16ma... could probably get by with a simple BJT or small FET to drive those, dont even need a relay... if it wasn't for the 12V part, you could just drive it from the arduino pin itself...


RE: CQC controlling Model Railroad??? - batwater - 01-08-2017

(01-08-2017, 01:24 PM)Deane Johnson Wrote: As a result of some of these changes, layouts have been raised to the 50 to 52 inch height which gives you a very intimate relationship with the scene before you.  Walking along with the train consist brings about a demand for hand held control.  I attended the annual train show at the auditorium today and there were probably around 12 layouts operating.  I found myself engrossed with one that had a track height of 50 inches above the floor.  I was amazed at the intimacy at that height, and when I moved to a lower built layout nearby, it became lost from my relationship and thus non-interesting.  Today etched my new height in stone.  That height also allows rolling under it on an office chair for wiring.
So, how does one work on the board if it is at 50 - 52"?  Are there access hatches in the middle or does the whole thing raise and lower?
I have a co-worker friend who's layout uses the wireless walk around throttle control. His layout is multi-tiered as well and has a spiral track in a corner that raises the train up to the next level.  Interesting concept.