I have added a small control panel to the main baseboard. I always struggled to use my smart phone to control the Bluetooth relay board, and when I adopted DCC I realised one hand-held device is plenty and this has to be the throttle for the trains, not a phone for the points. I designed the baseboard to give a minimalist appearance, and the control panel rather spoils this, but the panel will let me operate the layout far more easily.
I am committed to DCC operation for my H0 trains, but I want to keep the ability to run my 00 trains and indeed brand-new H0 acquisitions from an analogue controller. Because of this, I want to keep the ‘traffic’ side of the controls separate from the ‘traction’ controls, even though I usually operate the layout on my own. I like having tactile feedback from controls too, and this means physical switches not a touch screen, and dedicated switches for each turnout and not the menu system of a DCC controller.
And so, I have ended up with seven toggle switches as ‘point levers’ for the Tortoise point motors. Logically, the baseboard might have four control panels (one for each of the three locations plus the main line) but the locations are close together and it would be quite overwhelming to do this. So I have all seven switches together on one panel.
The panel is a wooden box from a child’s jigsaw puzzle. I cut some grooves and glued in strips of darker wood to make the mimic diagram:
The wiring is nicely simple. There are nine wires from the panel to the layout: one wire for each switch, and two wires for the split positive and negative power supplies. I used some slender 12-way cable bought on eBay, each core is 7/0.2 mm strands and I have three spare cores.
The attachment of the panel to the layout is anything but simple. I arranged some strips of wood, glued them onto each other and then into the box to make an angled tongue:
The tongue fits into a slot on the front of the layout ...
... and the panel hangs over the front of the layout, low enough to be as unobtrusive as possible and high enough to clear the doors of the cupboard underneath:
The relay board is now redundant, but remains in place for a rainy day. I would have very much liked to tackle an Arduino project to control the relays (and the points connected to them) from a wireless panel, but I put off this project for so long it got blown away when I saw a demo of the Megapoints system. It does not seem worthwhile to tackle a home-made solution when a ready-made system can be had off-the-shelf. At the same time, Megapoints wants to take two dedicated wires to each stall motor and I could not find enough enthusiasm to rewire the motors and change the power supplies. So the layout has its seven toggle switches.
I would like to use servos for the points on my next layout. I hope such a layout will connect into the Shelf Island project, and if I use Megapoints to drive the servos it could have duplicated control panels, one panel here and one in front of the new layout. This is something for me to look forward to.