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Decisions, decisions!

Vistisen

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Now that point building is underway and baseboards are almost complete. It is almost time to destroy about a third of what I have already built . A shame but it has to go to make space for Chard junction. Hatch was built as an end to end with a three track fiddle yard at each end. The fiddle yard at the right-hand end will now be replaced by the branch line platforms of Chard Junction. Here are a few of pictures that show what is about to be demolished.
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The new 10 lane fiddle yard for the double track main line will in the future be underneath the current Hatch station like this:

 

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(This is an old plan that only shows 6 tracks in the storage area, and is made in ANYRAIL using Tillig track. As I have previously blogged. I am now building points and using DCC concepts bullhead 'OO' track all designed in TEMPLOT. But you get the idea from this drawing).
This means that the hatch station baseboards will be raised from their current 77Cm to 90Cm in height. The fiddle yards underneath then will be set at 70cm and the boards containing the main station are at 75 cm. This gives me about a 1.3% gradient for the mainlines as they drop from 75cm to 70cm and a 2.3% gradient for the branch line as it climbs from the main station to the 90cm high Hatch section. The gradient on the current (about to be demolished) section is 2% and my Bachman 8750 pannier has no trouble pulling 15+ wagons up that! Mind you the Bachman collet 0-6-0 goods can only just about pull 8-10 wagons.
The 20cm difference between Hatch and the fiddle-yards is a bit too tight, but increasing it to 25 cm gave me gradients that I did not like the look of. I have done a test and the 20cm is OK though fiddle yard is probably the wrong name as there is not much space for putting things on rails. The DCC concepts point motors used on Hatch are rather on the deep side and there is need for drastic tidying up of wiring if trains are not going to strangle themselves.
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This brings me to the next decision, What do I do with control panels? The current panel for Hatch is a spaghetti solution.
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The problem is that I have got used to having both DCC controlled points and pushbutton switches with LED route indication on the control panel For Hatch this resulted in there being two 37 pin connecters between the control panel and the layout. Chard is much more complicated and I guess that there will be at least 200 wires between the panel and the layout. My current working symbolic design for the whole layout looks like this:
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There seem to be three possible solutions to how to wire this board
1. Carrying on using the current approach. I have at least discovered a 37pin parallel connecter system that has screw connecters which will make things much easier than the screw blocks currently in use.
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The pluses for this is that it is relatively cheap. Minuses include the need for soldering and lots of wires
2. DCC concepts have their ALPHA system. To be honest I’m not sure about this. I already use a NCE Powercab which seems to make things easier and cheaper. Pluses would seem to be two wires between the control panel and the layout, tidier wiring looms in the control panel as the Switches and LEDS are combined in one unit. The biggest minus is the price. Another minus is that there seems to be no programming options, for example the fiddle yards for each line have a three way and two normal points. It would be nice to be able to put a single ‘push to make’ switch on each line and have the correct points set for that line. I don’t think that this is possible. It has to be said as well, that the marketing for the ALPHA system is confusing (still, even though the new website is up) Since I’m planning to use the new DCC surface mounted pointmotors with their obligatory control board there seems also to be bit of an overlap in functions that means buying the same functionality twice!
3. I have just today discover that NCE have their own system for controlling dcc accessories with just two wires. https://ncedcc.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/200980015-Mini-Panel-The-NCE-Route-and-Automation-Controller I know next to nothing about it, but it seems to do the same thing as the DCC Concepts alpha system. Pluses include the ability to do route settings via ‘macros’ and not least the price compared to the Alpha system. The major minus is that there is no led indication of route settings which would mean that I can only reduce the number of wires, by about 50%. But then there is a new Alpha MIMIC product that appears to be able to create route indication by sniffing dcc signals from the power bus. So that might give me the best of both worlds.
I need to sit down and work out the prices necessary for each solution. The other problem is that there does not seem to be much experience of either the ALPHA og NCE system om this forum. What do others think about the best way to go?

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I don't think it will be a problem, but thanks for the warning. My multi pole connecters are only used to active the DCCConcpts dcc accessory modules not actually drive the point motors.  As I understand it, they short a circuit that acts as a signal to filp/flop the motor. I have used them on Hatch for several years with no problems. One thing I do need to be careful of is the number of LEDS that can be run on the same circuit for route indication. I used this site http://www.hebeiltd.com.cn/?p=zz.led.resistor.calculator to calculate the correct resistors. But they don't half run hot! I think that I need to return to som 'O' level physics to look at running in series/parallel.

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