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NCE Mini Panel with Point Indicator Led's ?


amdaley
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Hello Everyone.
Hope you are all well & keeping safe.

My system is the NCE Power Pro 5amp system.

As part of my layout I have a terminus which contain 34 points run with Tortoise point motors and running through NCE Switch 8's, Switch It's etc
At present I change the points using the accessory button of my Pro Cab.

I have a layout diagram on a control panel at one end of the terminus.
I plan to be able to change the points from this panel using an NCE Mini Panel which should work fine.

My question is ?
Is there any way to have point position led's on this panel with the Mini Panel or would I need to run cables to each Tortoise motor powered by a different setup ?
With 34 points I'm trying to avoid having to run all those cables between the control panel & the points motors.

Thanks Everyone.

 

Regards.

Tony.

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What switches are you planning to use on the MiniPanel ?   

 

If using toggle switches, or rotary switches, then (a) the switch position shows the route, and (b) a LED could be wired through a spare set of contacts on the switch.    But, the downside of those switches is they are incompatible with changing things elsewhere (eg. if you change a turnout on the ProCab handset, the toggle switch is now wrong!).  

 

If using push buttons, you'll need extra hardware.   You could wire back from every turnout motor, but that's a lot of wiring faff.   You could use another device in the panel to display the information, that could be another accessory decoder (to just light LEDs, if it were an Arduino or other DIY one it is cheap), or other devices.   

 

Or could use a computer screen, on say a Raspberry PI, which is fairly cheap to show the position of turnouts.   (The PI itself can take about 20 push buttons as inputs to change turnouts as well, so might do the job of a MiniPanel).  

 

 

There are lots of ways, but they all have issues over complexity or other constraints.  

 

 

- Nigel

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  • RMweb Gold

Beware, a Mini-Panel only has provision for 30 inputs (although you could control the two points of a crossover with one input).

 

Also, the Mini-Panel was designed around push buttons which it only needs to detect if they've been pushed (or are being pushed). On/Off switches require the use of two inputs per switch. You can of course have more than one Mini-Panel although I believe there is a limit as to how many.

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Ray's comments are important, and do sometimes catch out MiniPanel users....   If its "buttons per turnout", then the MiniPanel will control 15 turnouts, even with toggle switches, because two inputs are needed for a turnout (one for "left" and the second for "right").    Cross-overs can work as pairs.

 

There are ways to get more than 15 turnouts from a MiniPanel, the manual shows a simple example with a fan of four sidings, with only four buttons to control them.   Plus, one can use the "Macros" (routes) stored in the PowerPro to get more complex turnout operations from a single button press than the limited number of steps in the MiniPanel's memory.    I think going to any of these route-based ideas means push-buttons, and then LEDs on the panel won't come from the switches or minipanel.  

 

 

 

Comments from Tony on preferences for control are needed to give more detailed suggestions.  

 

 

- Nigel  

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I don't know if this one would be practical or not....

If there is difficulty in incorporating the panel LEDs  into the MiniPanel switching, why not have the LEDs independent of the switching, driven by a separate Alpha Mimic** module, with no connection to the switches or MiniPanel ?

If the Alpha Mimic is installed under or in the panel, then the only wires that need to connect this with the rest of the layout, are a pair of wires from the nearest place on the track power bus.

This would also eliminate the problem of disparity, or false indications given by the panel LED's if points or routes are switched from the handset.

 

 

Any thoughts on this, or is it a non-starter?

 

p.s. ** Alpha Mimic simply eavesdrops on point switching commands being sent out on the track or accessory bus(es) and uses that information to illuminate the appropriate LEDs on a mimic panel.. It doesn't matter where the points are controlled from, from a control panel, DCC handset, computer control program or any other form of switching. If it's by DCC, it's all the same to the Alpha Mimic. 

 

 

 

 

 

.

Edited by Ron Ron Ron
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Hi Everyone.

 

Thank you for the replies.

I was travelling  a lot yesterday so I'm just getting back to this topic now.

Sorry to be replying to everyone individually but I didn't want to miss any of the points you made.

 

Regards.

Tony.

Edited by amdaley
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19 hours ago, Nigelcliffe said:

What switches are you planning to use on the MiniPanel ?   

 

If using toggle switches, or rotary switches, then (a) the switch position shows the route, and (b) a LED could be wired through a spare set of contacts on the switch.    But, the downside of those switches is they are incompatible with changing things elsewhere (eg. if you change a turnout on the ProCab handset, the toggle switch is now wrong!).  

 

If using push buttons, you'll need extra hardware.   You could wire back from every turnout motor, but that's a lot of wiring faff.   You could use another device in the panel to display the information, that could be another accessory decoder (to just light LEDs, if it were an Arduino or other DIY one it is cheap), or other devices.   

 

Or could use a computer screen, on say a Raspberry PI, which is fairly cheap to show the position of turnouts.   (The PI itself can take about 20 push buttons as inputs to change turnouts as well, so might do the job of a MiniPanel).  

 

 

There are lots of ways, but they all have issues over complexity or other constraints.  

 

 

- Nigel

Hi Nigel.

 

I was planning on using SPDT momentary toggle switches to send commands to the Mini Panels to switch the points individually or through macros.

The Mini Panel is meant to be used with momentary switches so would not work with lighting the leds unless through some sort of relays which I'm not familiar with.

What I was trying to avoid is running wires from the panel to each of the 34 Tortoise motors on the terminus layout.

 

Regards.

Tony.

 

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16 hours ago, Nigelcliffe said:

Ray's comments are important, and do sometimes catch out MiniPanel users....   If its "buttons per turnout", then the MiniPanel will control 15 turnouts, even with toggle switches, because two inputs are needed for a turnout (one for "left" and the second for "right").    Cross-overs can work as pairs.

 

There are ways to get more than 15 turnouts from a MiniPanel, the manual shows a simple example with a fan of four sidings, with only four buttons to control them.   Plus, one can use the "Macros" (routes) stored in the PowerPro to get more complex turnout operations from a single button press than the limited number of steps in the MiniPanel's memory.    I think going to any of these route-based ideas means push-buttons, and then LEDs on the panel won't come from the switches or minipanel.  

 

 

 

Comments from Tony on preferences for control are needed to give more detailed suggestions.  

 

 

- Nigel  

Hi Nigel.

 

I am aware that I would probable need two Mini Panels for my number of points & how the macros work as I already use macros on passing loops elsewhere on the layout.

The problem is how to get the panels leds to indicate how each point is set & what route is set without wiring back to each of 34 Tortoise Motors.

 

Regards.

Tony.

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14 hours ago, Ron Ron Ron said:

I don't know if this one would be practical or not....

If there is difficulty in incorporating the panel LEDs  into the MiniPanel switching, why not have the LEDs independent of the switching, driven by a separate Alpha Mimic** module, with no connection to the switches or MiniPanel ?

If the Alpha Mimic is installed under or in the panel, then the only wires that need to connect this with the rest of the layout, are a pair of wires from the nearest place on the track power bus.

This would also eliminate the problem of disparity, or false indications given by the panel LED's if points or routes are switched from the handset.

 

 

Any thoughts on this, or is it a non-starter?

 

p.s. ** Alpha Mimic simply eavesdrops on point switching commands being sent out on the track or accessory bus(es) and uses that information to illuminate the appropriate LEDs on a mimic panel.. It doesn't matter where the points are controlled from, from a control panel, DCC handset, computer control program or any other form of switching. If it's by DCC, it's all the same to the Alpha Mimic. 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

Hi Ron.

I hadn't thought of Alpha Mimic as to honest I don't know anything about them.

I'll take a look.

 

Regards.

Tony.

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  • RMweb Gold

Whilst I use Prodigy Advance 2 rather than NCE, I use Alpha Switch D to achieve pretty much what you are aiming for. The points push-buttons are also LEDs, and the ‘brains’ align each button to the respective accessory codes of point motors/decoders, meaning you can avoid a myriad of wires to the control panel. The buttons work in pairs for straight or turn routes if a point, illuminating that selected. Crossovers can be paired up to share a single button for the linked route.

Each Alpha Switch D module runs 6 points but they can be linked up for greater numbers. Because of run-round loops and crossovers, I run some 35 points off 4 units x 6. Not an inexpensive solution but both functionally and cosmetically good for me.

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1 hour ago, ITG said:

Whilst I use Prodigy Advance 2 rather than NCE, I use Alpha Switch D to achieve pretty much what you are aiming for. The points push-buttons are also LEDs, and the ‘brains’ align each button to the respective accessory codes of point motors/decoders, meaning you can avoid a myriad of wires to the control panel. The buttons work in pairs for straight or turn routes if a point, illuminating that selected. Crossovers can be paired up to share a single button for the linked route.

Each Alpha Switch D module runs 6 points but they can be linked up for greater numbers. Because of run-round loops and crossovers, I run some 35 points off 4 units x 6. Not an inexpensive solution but both functionally and cosmetically good for me.

Thanks for that. 

I'll check them out. 

Tony. 

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7 hours ago, amdaley said:

 

Hi Ron.

I hadn't thought of Alpha Mimic as to honest I don't know anything about them.

I'll take a look.

 

Regards.

Tony.

 

As Ron says, Alpha Mimic reads the same commands sent to the accessories.

It is a 12-channel decoder driving LEDs.

 

You might also want to look at Alpha Encoder. It uses normal switches and encodes them into digital signals for the DCC system.

It is a direct plug-in to the NCE cab bus via a RJ12 cable.

Whilst it doesn't yet do route setting, it is a very simple method of making a control panel diagram with switches on a track layout and add Alpha Mimic to repeat the point positions.

Drop us an email or give us a call next week.

 

Best Regards.

The DCCconcepts Team

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2 hours ago, DCCconcepts said:

 

As Ron says, Alpha Mimic reads the same commands sent to the accessories.

It is a 12-channel decoder driving LEDs.

 

You might also want to look at Alpha Encoder. It uses normal switches and encodes them into digital signals for the DCC system.

It is a direct plug-in to the NCE cab bus via a RJ12 cable.

Whilst it doesn't yet do route setting, it is a very simple method of making a control panel diagram with switches on a track layout and add Alpha Mimic to repeat the point positions.

Drop us an email or give us a call next week.

 

Best Regards.

The DCCconcepts Team

 

Thank you for that.

I'm looking at the DCCconcepts products at the moment but I've also go to keep a grip on costs.

This could get very expensive very quickly.

 

Regards.

Tony.

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Low Cost methods: 

 

1)  Displaying LEDs  using a DCC accessory decoder which is set to the same addresses as the turnout devices.   There are numerous Arduino projects on the internet to do this.   Cheapest options will be to use either a couple of Nano's or a Mega (one) to get the required number of LEDs controlled.      

 

2) More Arduino.  There is an Arduino library for the NCE Cab-Bus available.  So, a handful of components to connect the Arduino to the Cab-Bus, and the Arduino can do anything possible on the Cab-Bus.    

 

3)  Use a Raspberry PI and a display screen on the PI to show the track diagram.   There are about 20 input buttons direct to the PI, with options for additional hardware to extend this to a larger number.   Output to a small LCD screen.  

 

 

- Nigel

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1 hour ago, Nigelcliffe said:

Low Cost methods: 

 

1)  Displaying LEDs  using a DCC accessory decoder which is set to the same addresses as the turnout devices.   There are numerous Arduino projects on the internet to do this.   Cheapest options will be to use either a couple of Nano's or a Mega (one) to get the required number of LEDs controlled.      

 

2) More Arduino.  There is an Arduino library for the NCE Cab-Bus available.  So, a handful of components to connect the Arduino to the Cab-Bus, and the Arduino can do anything possible on the Cab-Bus.    

 

3)  Use a Raspberry PI and a display screen on the PI to show the track diagram.   There are about 20 input buttons direct to the PI, with options for additional hardware to extend this to a larger number.   Output to a small LCD screen.  

 

 

- Nigel

Thanks Nigel.

I'll take a look at Arduino even though I know absolutely nothing about it. 

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On 11/09/2021 at 22:35, DCCconcepts said:

 

As Ron says, Alpha Mimic reads the same commands sent to the accessories.

It is a 12-channel decoder driving LEDs.

 

You might also want to look at Alpha Encoder. It uses normal switches and encodes them into digital signals for the DCC system.

It is a direct plug-in to the NCE cab bus via a RJ12 cable.

Whilst it doesn't yet do route setting, it is a very simple method of making a control panel diagram with switches on a track layout and add Alpha Mimic to repeat the point positions.

Drop us an email or give us a call next week.

 

Best Regards.

The DCCconcepts Team

 

Thank you.

I sent an email on Sunday so just waiting for a reply before proceeding.

Tony.

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On 12/09/2021 at 09:11, Nigelcliffe said:

Use a Raspberry PI and a display screen on the PI to show the track diagram. 

That is the approach that I take, based on using JMRI software on the Pi to both make commands to change turnouts and also monitor those changes and display status on-screen.

 

In my case, I have the control panel on-screen also, using a touch screen to enable point-and-click style control of turnouts on a diagram of my layout. This is very flexible, but does involve the up front cost of a large (22") touch screen monitor. You can achieve similar results much more cheaply with a smaller standard monitor.

 

The same layout diagram can be shown on a smart phone screen and it is possible to use the smart phone both to change turnouts and to view their current state. Of course, these screens are relatively small. 

 

Yours,  Mike.

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On 11/09/2021 at 00:11, Ron Ron Ron said:

I don't know if this one would be practical or not....

If there is difficulty in incorporating the panel LEDs  into the MiniPanel switching, why not have the LEDs independent of the switching, driven by a separate Alpha Mimic** module, with no connection to the switches or MiniPanel ?

If the Alpha Mimic is installed under or in the panel, then the only wires that need to connect this with the rest of the layout, are a pair of wires from the nearest place on the track power bus.

This would also eliminate the problem of disparity, or false indications given by the panel LED's if points or routes are switched from the handset.

 

 

Any thoughts on this, or is it a non-starter?

 

p.s. ** Alpha Mimic simply eavesdrops on point switching commands being sent out on the track or accessory bus(es) and uses that information to illuminate the appropriate LEDs on a mimic panel.. It doesn't matter where the points are controlled from, from a control panel, DCC handset, computer control program or any other form of switching. If it's by DCC, it's all the same to the Alpha Mimic. 

 

 

 

 

 

.

I heard back from DCCconcepts & the Mimic panel will do what I need so the required hardware is on its way. 

I need to sort out the Mini Panels first. 

I've started on installing the SPDT momentary switches on my diagram panel. 

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