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7 - Wiring and simple point control



A recap: My layout relies on a lot of DCC concepts stuff - like points and wiring, Hornby RailMaster for point control, and Peco 75 Electrofog points. Specifically I have the RailMaster pro pack as well which in my opinion is actually essential on a complex layout. At the time of writing Hattons have RailMaster for £5 so even with the £29.95 Pro upgrade it's cheaper than a decent coach.


Here's my layout in RailMaster and on the right my locos are all ready to be used:


RailMaster has a pretty decent manual and the forums are well supported by a band of expert amateurs, but it's very easy use anyway. Once you have a layout designed you'll want to configure RailMaster to use this layout on start up from its settings:


Here my layout is set be Hastings and note I have selected the option "set points/signals", of which more later.


Configuring DCC Concepts Cobalt points with RailMaster or any other DCC control software is also really easy (probably why I bought them!). They have a switch on them to put them into set/run mode so they can be configured in situ and don't need to be connected to a controller's programming circuit and you don't use the Program Accessory Decoder option in RailMaster either. All you need to do is to use RailMaster's track design tool and drag a point on to the design surface and then drag the control buttons for it (the little red & green circles) to either side of the point which should snap into position. Right click on one of these to bring up the settings for the point:


You can set the type as "Cobalt point motor", specify its CV number and if necessary reverse the polarity of the point from here. In the RailMaster Pro edition you can also test the point from here by using the red & green buttons next to reverse polarity.
To set up each point in RailMaster I did the following:

  • Decide on the CV number for a given point
  • Entered this on the track plan in the RailMaster designer as shown.
  • Flip the switch on the relevant point motor to "set" mode
  • Used the test buttons in the setting for the point from the RailMasterDesigner. Note If you don't have Pro pack, save the design and do this from RailMaster itself. Nothing happens when you set the point in its programming mode - you are just saying hello to that point motor and setting its CV number to be the CV number of the command you gave.
  • Flip the switch on the point motor back to "run" and test it works by changing the point again in RalMaster to see that it moves as desired.

Note, any Cobalt motor that is switched to "set" mode will respond to any command to the track and inherit the CV number you send so ensure you only have the set mode on points you want to configure. I worked slowly and carefully with each point motor a time, a good friend working RailMaster to save unnecessary crawling around the layout and a couple of bottles of Fursty Ferret :-)


The same process works for the Cobalt SS system which I also have except that the control board can take two CVs for independent control of two sets of points. So there is a set/run switch for each side of the board but otherwise much the same process worked for me as for the DIP motors, I just worked on each side of the board at a time.


I did look at the DCC Concepts advice on the wiring to prevent trains running against the points, by isolating lengths of track running into the heels of the point on the rail connecting to the frog. However to be honest I got a bit lost and gave up. Actually with electro-frogs I can't see how a train would derail, what happens on my layout is that I get a short as the loco bridges the frog set the wrong way and just stops. However this does kill the whole layout but at least it can be fixed by hitting Esc on the Elite controller to reset.


Back in RailMaster - it's great to be able to go and have a session with your layout and start with it in a known state each time and RailMaster can set points on start up. To make this happen you need to do two things:

  1. Configure the settings in RailMaster to set points on a layout as per the start of this post.
  2. Set the direction of each point on start-up and assign it a start-up number both of which are done from the point properties in the Designer.

Note: the start-up number is the firing order on start-up - I have assigned each point on my layout a number between 1 & 10 and rail master will set all the points marked 1 together then 2 and so on so they don't all get set at once (you might not have enough power for that on a big layout).


What I am really pleased about is that all this works so well together and I only started modelling a year ago. Now I also have several options for doing things on my layout. For example DCC concepts have lots of advice about wiring up sets of point or assigning them the same CV number. However as well as having a start-up setting in RailMaster there are also Routes and Programs where it's easier (for me as a software engineer, and to save crawling around under my layout) to do this in an application.


Routes in RailMaster are yet another thing you set in the properties of points in the RailMaster designer (you can see them in the screenshots earlier in the post). You give the route a name e.g. "main clockwise" and set the point direction for that route. Once you create a route in one point it will show in a drop down list in other points so you can assign a whole lot of point settings to a route and it does signals too. Once you save your layout the list of routes shows up in the top right corner of the layout ( you can see the route "Main anti-clockwise" in the top right of the screen shot at the start of this post). Programs are similar but timings - I might try this but you need very consistent loco speeds in my opinion to fully exploit that, until loco detection becomes mainstream.


So all pretty easy until I started to setup the three double slips, and a couple of three-way points on my layout!


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