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Prodigy Advance and computer display options

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Apologies if this appears to be a repeat of an oft aired topic, but I’m a novice returner to model railways.

 

I’ve laid the first stage of track to be up and running, and invested in a Prodigy Advance 2. I have noted the comments on this forum and elsewhere about the challenges of running this particular DCC system with JMRI, but what I’ve found more difficult to find is experiences of which ‘mimic’ type software is fairly straightforward to set up and does work well with Prodigy.

 

I think my requirements are reasonably straightforward, as I’m not looking for track sensors or automation etc. But what I would like is a visual representation of my track plan with visible point (ie turnout)  direction settings displayed as a minimum, or, as a bonus, with on-screen control of said point settings. I have an iPad and a Windows 10 touchscreen laptop, and to use either would be an option.

 

i have points in not particularly visible (from the control location) areas of the layout and using on the Prodigy handset can lead to me failing to remember and then view point settings. Hence the wish for an on-screen display.

 

so what are my options? Or would I be advised to plan to exchange the Prodigy for an alternative? Whilst I’d rather not do this, if I did, which system would then align/link successfully with a suitable software (JMRI or other)?

 

thanks in advance for any help.

ian

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Everything you want to do can be accomplished using a Roco z/Z21 or a Digikeijs DR5000 using the free Roco Z21 application on iOS or Android

 

The challenge is the Win10 laptop but again that can be achieved using JMRI or much more easily by using software such as iTrain

Edited by WIMorrison

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I disagree that Itrain would be easier than JMRI - it’s absolutely bread and butter JMRI stuff. It’s what I use it for (with a touchscreen), no need to pay loads of money for automation features you don’t want. 

 

If you use the Gaugemaster DCC55 it should work fine I’d have thought.

 

if you’re changing system then just about anything that interfaces with JMRI will do it. Sprog is £40 or so. Arduino based DCC++ less than that. DR5000 is a good option as it’s not that expensive and designed to be compatible with various other throttles and software. ECoS is nice, but expensive, Z21 designed for phone/tablet use specifically. Take your pick really.  

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It is incorrect, to the point of being wrong, to say that the z/Z21 is designed for phone/tablet use.

 

The z/Z21 is the same as the DR5000 in that it is supplied without a handset but can used wired or wireless using a handset that meets any of the available interfaces with the major interfaces being Xpressnet on z/Z21 and LocoNet-T on the Z21. You can also use the WiFi Multimaus with both of these command stations. 

 

I found that JMRI had confusing documentation, that achieving anything was complicated and very frustrating.

 

 

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The Gaugemaster (made by MRC) systems have computer support in two things only:  the very basic MRC software (essentially on-screen throttles) and JMRI.   Nothing else.  So other software options means replacing the system, or using the Gaugemaster/MRC as an input to a second system (via a technique often called "sniffing" of the DCC output).

 

I agree with Njee20 - if this is just a display of turnout + signal positions, with on-screen operation of those turnouts + signals, then JMRI will do the job very easily to either your Laptop or iPad (or both, simultaneously).    JMRI documentation is a bit confusing, in part because JMRI is a giant Meccano kit of software bits, rather than a single approach to things.   The way out of this is to look at the various tutorials (called "clinics") and find one which is closest to your aims and use that.     Or there are people in the UK who run courses from time to time, such as via the Missenden Modellers group.  

 

 

Slightly side-ways option on your control panel would be a physical panel with LEDs and push-buttons to show the status of the turnouts.   There are several ways of achieving this, some possible with keeping the Gaugemaster/MRC system, though those might be more expensive than swapping the system to another maker. 

 

 

 

- Nigel

 

 

 

  • Agree 1

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Forgive me please, this is very low tech I know, but if all that is needed is a turnout setting indication, and this is acceptable from a fixed control position, wouldn't just LEDS fed from the turnouts do the job? I am presuming here that the turnouts are worked by motors with some kind of switches (DPDT/SPDT) attached, Tortoise, Colbalt etc, that could do this. Does mean extra wiring runs  of course, and not as flexible as a display that can/could be hand held/moved around  It's just a thought on the KISS/cheap principle, which is all I am mostly capable of dealing with.

 

Izzy

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48 minutes ago, WIMorrison said:

It is incorrect, to the point of being wrong, to say that the z/Z21 is designed for phone/tablet use.

 

The z/Z21 is the same as the DR5000 in that it is supplied without a handset but can used wired or wireless using a handset that meets any of the available interfaces with the major interfaces being Xpressnet on z/Z21 and LocoNet-T on the Z21. You can also use the WiFi Multimaus with both of these command stations. 

 

I found that JMRI had confusing documentation, that achieving anything was complicated and very frustrating.

  

 

The tagline on the Z21 website is "control with Smartphone or Tablet". Of course you can use other throttles, but it's designed for use with iOS or Android. Hence having dedicated apps.

 

Your inability to use JMRI doesn't make it an inappropriate tool, just that you didn't understand it, that's no problem, but no need to denigrate it. Using iTrain or similar would be using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. To achieve what Ian wants it's a case of adding turnouts to the turnout table, then drawing your mimic diagram and assigning turnouts to the relevant on screen schematics. A couple of hours work. You can then use mobile devices with a free app like WiThrottle, if that's your bag.

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1 hour ago, Nigelcliffe said:

......Slightly side-ways option on your control panel would be a physical panel with LEDs and push-buttons to show the status of the turnouts.   ......

 

1 hour ago, Izzy said:

Forgive me please, this is very low tech I know, but if all that is needed is a turnout setting indication, and this is acceptable from a fixed control position, wouldn't just LEDS fed from the turnouts do the job? ......

 

If all the OP (Ian) wants is an indication of points and route setting and is not particularly wedded to the idea of a "glass screen", then a physical mimic panel with LED's that indicates the point/route settings, is easily achieved, even with DCC control of those points.

It can either be just an indicator mimic, without the facility to operate the points from the panel (i.e. just displaying the point/route settings);

....or a mimic control panel that also allows for setting the points, as well as displaying what is set.

 

Not as flexible as a "glass screen" control panel and depending on which way you go about this, it could end up be more expensive, as Nigel says.

However, there is the advantage of....

not having to run any software (e.g. JMRI),

no need for a computer to be involved

or having to wait for a computer to boot up and start the software, before being able to play trains.

 

 

1 hour ago, Izzy said:

...........I am presuming here that the turnouts are worked by motors with some kind of switches (DPDT/SPDT) attached, Tortoise, Colbalt etc, that could do this.

Does mean extra wiring runs of course, and not as flexible as a display that can/could be hand held/moved around ...........

 

You could do it that way.

Simple, but more wiring; significantly so if it's a large layout with many turnouts.

 

However, it can be done via DCC, without having all that extra wiring.

More expensive (from modest to a lot, depending on how you go about it) , but it involves less wiring complexity and is almost off-the-shelf to buy and install.

It also retains the option to control points either via the DCC system (handset or console) and/or through a mimic control panel.

 

 

3 hours ago, ITG said:

...... I’m not looking for track sensors or automation etc. 

But what I would like is a visual representation of my track plan with visible point (ie turnout)  direction settings displayed as a minimum,

or, as a bonus, with on-screen control of said point settings. .....

 

Ian, it all boils down to whether you would prefer to use your iPad or laptop (a glass screen approach), or are happy (or maybe prefer) to have a physical panel with a track plan and LED's.

 

 

 

 

 

.

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30 minutes ago, Ron Ron Ron said:

However, there is the advantage of....

not having to run any software (e.g. JMRI),

no need for a computer to be involved

or having to wait for a computer to boot up and start the software, before being able to play trains.

 

Yes, those were the aspects I was thinking of.

 

 

 

 

31 minutes ago, Ron Ron Ron said:

You could do it that way.

Simple, but more wiring; significantly so if it's a large layout with many turnouts.

 

However, it can be done via DCC, without having all that extra wiring.

More expensive (from modest to a lot, depending on how you go about it) , but it involves less wiring complexity and is almost off-the-shelf to buy and install.

It also retains the option to control points either via the DCC system (handset or console) and/or through a mimic control panel.

 

That's very interesting. Would it be possible for someone to do a thread covering this, if it doesn't already exist. It seems a good idea, but a simpleton like me would have no idea how to!

 

thanks,

 

Izzy

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4 hours ago, Izzy said:

 

 

[ Alternative real-button and LED control for DCC wired turnouts ]

 

That's very interesting. Would it be possible for someone to do a thread covering this, if it doesn't already exist. It seems a good idea, but a simpleton like me would have no idea how to!

 

 

Firstly, if using turnouts operated by SPDT switches (eg. Tortoise, etc), then a local LED panel is trivial.  Either use a contact on the switch, or add LEDs as per the Tortoise manual to the feed wires.  Nothing needs to come back from the layout for this.  The extra wiring is all within the control panel. 

 

 

DCC controlled accessories (turnouts and signals) via conventional switch and LED panels.  This is a massive "can-o-worms", and cost-effective solutions become DCC maker system dependent. 

 

However, a quick flavour of options (almost certainly an incomplete list!):

Lenz (and other systems using Lenz bus).  Lenz have an input/output device to take switches for controlling accessories (turnouts).

Digitrax (and other systems supporting LocoNet ).  Large number of options from different makers.  Amongst the most powerful is the Signatrak (was CML) DTM30 board, which combines push button input, LED outputs, routing (either single button or entry-exit), LEDs which cascade (so if entry to sidings is closed, none of the siding LEDs show), etc.   Biggest hassle is perhaps understanding the vast number of options available on the board, and how to exploit them for a particular layout.    Or for those with large budgets, Uhlenbrock's "Track-Control" panel stuff, which resembles building a control panel from electrical Lego bricks. 

MERG (diy, well documented kits), the CBUS systems will do most things if the appropriate combination of boards are used.  But can be a bit daunting to get one's head around the combinations of boards, board names, what is a fully produced kit, what is some individuals interesting new option for code which runs on some boards, etc... 

NCE.   NCE's MiniPanel and AUI device can produce control panels.  Or there is DCC Concepts "Alpha" range of panel devices, whose base communication is the NCE cab-bus, so integrates relatively cheaply to NCE systems.

Other vendors.   DCC Concepts Alpha is a potential route, though can get expensive.  The Alpha panel switch and LED display gives the turnout control, there is a booster to power the layout.  Input from the existing DCC system comes from the track outputs and a set of adaptor cables, which allows the Alpha to take the DCC signals in, and then put them out again, plus allowing various handsets to continue to function.  An awful lot of components to juggle around means the cost can run away.

 

Or, adding in a computer interface, and using a RaspberryPI as the computer, that gives option to use the PI's GPIO pins as inputs and outputs to drive a physical panel. 

Or, various designs for some system architectures using Arduino microprocessors.  

 

Probably best to start new threads with specific questions than attempt to expand massively on the above list.

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Well, thanks all for a range of comprehensive and speedy replies.

If I read this right - and accepting I need to digest it further - it seems using JMRI may not present quite the challenge I first thought, given my (limited) aspirations of turnout indication/ switching on a glass screen track plan. 

 

I had thought about a physical mimic panel, but would probably wish to avoid the extra wiring and also a glass screen would be more mobile, given I have an operating well (largely for use at building stage or maintenance) but primarily would prefer to view and operate from one side of the layout.

 

i do have another question regarding DCC which for clarity I will post separately although it is linked to use of Prodigy (I have been told).

 

once again, thanks.

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12 minutes ago, ITG said:

.......I had thought about a physical mimic panel, but would probably wish to avoid the extra wiring........

 

There need not be any extra wiring on the layout, except for the wiring inside a physical panel itself, connecting the LED’s and switches or buttons to the integral electronic module that interfaces with your DCC system. 

 

There’s also the option of the DCC controlled physical mimic panel running as a separate system from your main DCC system.

 

Ron

 

 

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2 hours ago, ITG said:

Well, thanks all for a range of comprehensive and speedy replies.

If I read this right - and accepting I need to digest it further - it seems using JMRI may not present quite the challenge I first thought, given my (limited) aspirations of turnout indication/ switching on a glass screen track plan. 

 

 

Correct.  
I don't think this is a particularly difficult or time consuming task in JMRI, even for a complete beginner to the software.  

 

 

- Nigel

 

  • Agree 1

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