To recap – I plan to stick with Digitrax systems for controlling trains because the WVR has a significant investment in that technology. I’ve also decided on using local panels, DCC throttle, and a computer with JMRI software to operate turnouts. We will be able to run and route our trains, but Id also like to track their whereabouts…
Job #3 – Keeping Track of Trains
Since I’m modeling the steam era circa 1920’s – 30’s I’d like to plan for the implementation of signaling using semaphores. I also think that the movement of the semaphore arm is cool and adds a lot to the layout operation. In order to do this, I’ll need block detection. A detection block has a break in one of the rails at each end and a device for checking for occupancy. In my case the track will be divided into blocks around 12-15′ in length. With the mainline around 250′ in length, this should result in around 18 mainline blocks plus an additional 7 passing sidings which will need detection.
I have some previous experience with RR-CirKits BOD-8 occupancy detector and I like some of the features. It is system neutral in that it can be used with any other hardware that uses a 5V signal. Also the coils it uses can be placed remotely from the unit where track feeder wires are located. I will probably use these in conjunction with the RR-CirKits TC Mark II the I plan to use in my turnout control scenario.
I’m looking at using JMRI software to set up my automated signaling. It is free and widely used. The TC Mark II is connected to the Loconet bus and JMRI Decoder pro makes setting these up easy. Using the JMRI software I should be able to output commands to Loconet which I can decipher using my home made accessory decoders to operate servos which will move the semaphore arms.
Tomar makes a very nice operating semaphore with green, yellow, and red lenses lit by an LED. I plan to use these unless I can figure out how to make them myself. They are around $25 apiece and I’ll need a bunch (at least 50 if I have one at each end of the blocks). I hope my wife doesn’t read this! Well, I need to plan for this anyway, I may hit the lottery, right? If nothing else, I’ll gradually add these as I build the layout.