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New Hornby computer based DCC system - eLink


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After some hesitation (I didn't want to risk having no railway to run!)  I have just upgraded my laptop to Windows 10. At first it refused to accept the USB connection but after resetting the elink controller my railway ran just fine ;-) 

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On 14th October I sent the following enquiry to Hornby, using their web site contact page:

 

 

"I am wanting to run a DCC system using several "controllers" based on smart phones. No-where can I see whether your Railmaster system will do this: it seems to imply just one computer and your catalogue does not mention extra apps.

 

My questions:

 

1) is this possible?

 

2) How much would software for four smartphones cost?

 

3) Can the system run on a Macbook? (Your site only mentions Windows.)

 

Note that I am only interested in loco control: points and signals are operated from a manual lever frame."

 

Hornby responded:

 

Thank you for contacting us and we will respond as soon as possible.

 

Nine days later I have heard no more from them.

 

I would have thought my questions were perfectly simple to reply to and that any company with decent customer service should be able to respond by return. I must say that I think Hornby really needs to get its act together if it is to be treated as a serious contender in the DCC market. It's such a shame because what I've seen of their system looks good. But they do not seem able to sell it to me.

 

Ian

Edited by clecklewyke
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  • RMweb Gold

On 14th October I sent the following enquiry to Hornby, using their web site contact page:

 

 

"I am wanting to run a DCC system using several "controllers" based on smart phones. No-where can I see whether your Railmaster system will do this: it seems to imply just one computer and your catalogue does not mention extra apps.

 

My questions:

 

1) is this possible?

 

2) How much would software for four smartphones cost?

 

3) Can the system run on a Macbook? (Your site only mentions Windows.)

 

Note that I am only interested in loco control: points and signals are operated from a manual lever frame."

 

Hornby responded:

 

Thank you for contacting us and we will respond as soon as possible.

 

Nine days later I have heard no more from them.

 

I would have thought my questions were perfectly simple to reply to and that any company with decent customer service should be able to respond by return. I must say that I think Hornby really needs to get its act together if it is to be treated as a serious contender in the DCC market. It's such a shame because what I've seen of their system looks good. But they do not seem able to sell it to me.

 

Ian

 

 

Ian,

 

Recently I've noticed that it does take weeks for Hornby to respond.

No idea why, a year or so ago, they responded in less than a week.

 

Anyway, Railmaster as far as I know will only run on Windows.

You need to buy a licence to run the app on smart phones or tablets.

When I bought the app when it first came out it was £9, so you would need to pay that for each device.

 

To link it all together you will need the main laptop/PC running RailMaster, and connected to a WiFi router.

The Smart Phones or tablet then run the app, which will connect via the WiFi router to the main PC/Laptop.

The instructions do state to assign a static IP address for each device.

 

HTH

 

Cheers

 

Ian

Edited by traction
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Ian,

 

Recently I've noticed that it does take weeks for Hornby to respond.

No idea why, a year or so ago, they responded in less than a week.

 

Anyway, Railmaster as far as I know will only run on Windows.

You need to buy a licence to run the app on smart phones or tablets.

9ETC0When I bought the app when it first came out it was £9, so you would need to pay that for each device.

 

 

Thank you for that, Ian. I am still amazed that a company aiming to develop a presence on the web, selling Wi-Fi dependent products, is so balefully poor at responding to a simple request for information.

 

If the information I need was on their web site I would not need to ask such simple questions. Amazingly I can find no reference anywhere on their site to the need to buy separate apps for each smart phone or tablet, nor does the app appear in their catalogue (unless I am being very dense), so I only found out about it from good old RMWeb. You were quoted £9 for it. Earlier on this topic someone mentioned a much larger sum. I wonder what it is now?

 

Ian

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Railmaster is developed by a third party for Hornby.  Hornby are not always the best people to answer questions on Railmaster.

 

The Hornby site has a forum specifically for Railmaster where questions are answered both by Railmaster users and the developers of the software:

 

http://www.Hornby.com/uk-en/forum/Hornby-railmaster/

 

Add-ons to the software, ie the pro version or the tablet or phone software are purchased through this 3rd party.  But as you say maybe Hornby should have some details on their website.

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Add-ons to the software, ie the pro version or the tablet or phone software are purchased through this 3rd party.  But as you say maybe Hornby should have some details on their website.

Thank you both for this information.

 

It is truly amazing that the Hornby site makes no mention of the limitations of the system and that you have to buy the software before finding out that for more than one controller you need to buy yet more software. I really doubt their commitment to the system,which is surprising and disappointing because DCC is such a fundamental addition to model railway technology and that everything these days is done by apps on mobile devices.

 

/rant mode on/

Their marketing team needs a kick up the pants!

 

I wish Simon Kohler was still around!

 

/rant mode off/

 

Ian

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You can download a demo version of Railmaster (RM) and use it for 90 days in llimited form, 2 locos, 4 points and 10 lines of programming. If you like it then you buy it from within the app.

The help screen within RM tells all about using handhelds, including old PDAs.

Hornby Railmaster Support (HRMS - the software people) is the dedicated 3rd Party support service for RM accessible within RM and which method also sends them associated files to help diagnoses.

If and when you ever get a pucka response from Hornby Customer Care (HCC - the hardware people) they will probably refer you first to the manual for RM and also to HRMS.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Unusual , from experience support from Hornby is normally very good and responsive. 

 

Give them a ring during the day ( Office Hours ) Monday to Friday on the Number from the website , I have no problems and have always got a good response either sorted the problem or directed to somebody who can.

 

Think your experience is highly unusual.

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As I said earlier HCC (hardware) will not be terribly helpful about eLink and Railmaster. Download the demo version (you get 90 days playtime) and if you have connection problems send HRMS (software) a request for help from within RM and they will get back to you really quickly.

The Hornby RM forum is stuffed with topics about RM and Win 10 and comms problems and how they are sorted - so please take the advice above and go look.

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Have you downloaded/read the Railmaster manual? http://www.Hornby.com/uk-en/downloads/view/download/item/470

 

It does say clearly in the Preface to the manual:

 

"Thank you for choosing RailMaster and the Elite or eLink DCC controller to

control your model railway layout using a Microsoft Windows-based PC."

 

I believe that you can run Windows on some Macs, but you need emulator software. Even with the emulator software, there is no guarantee that Railmaster will run satisfactorily.

 

So if you have a Mac then forget it unless you're prepared to experiment with an emulator like WINE or Parallels or can find someone who has already got it to work on a Mac. So your enquiry would appear to falls at the first hurdle - No Mac version.

 

Further on in the manual it does give you more information about the number of computers:

 

"• Network up to nine Windows-based computers together to control

different parts of a large layout as well as different loco rosters.

• Use your iPhone, iPod, iPad or Android phone or tablet with the optional

RailMaster HandHeld app, downloadable from www.my-apps.eu. You can

even use an older Palm OS 5 or Windows CE or PDA running Windows

Mobile PDA. Full details are in the Latest News section of RailMaster."

 

Now I don't have Railmaster, or any Hornby DCC kit, other thana some R8249 decoders, but perhaps Hornby thought that as you have access to the internet, as you had e-mailed them, that you could find all this out for yourself, just as I have?

 

 

 

 

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I thought I would impart my recent RM experience with regards to online response. I've been using RM for 18 months and to be fair I haven't had any significant problems although many little niggles which the RM forum and RM themselves have helped to solve promptly, that was until a few weeks ago. RM have had a large problem through the introduction of windows 10 causing a usb connection problem which involved a major update and smaller revisions. Although I'm not using Windows 10 but Vista I updated to the new revision and then my problems began, RM works perfectly setting points and routes but suffers from loss of control quite randomly when using speed step changes, this has also mucked up my programs which don't operate correctly anymore. I contacted RM with a help request through the RM program three weeks ago and there first reply was two days later, since then there have been half a dozen e-mails from them with suggestions for me to follow which I have duly done but throughout the exchange I got the impression they just weren't reading the e-mails properly. Finally nearly a week ago they offered to take over my computer to have a look at the problem from inside which I agreed to twice (as they asked twice) and since then I've had no contact at all. I cannot run my layout so finally today I've had enough and ordered a Powercab with a USB interface as I want to run trains.

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  • 4 months later...

Time has elapsed and I have been concentrating on developing the layout - baseboard building and track laying.

 

However, I've finally got round to trying out a Railmaster system on a PC borrowed from Richard Hodgson and I have tp say I am not impressed.

 

It seems incredibly clunky compared with a normal DC train controller. I had to keep my eyes on the vdu all the time to control the speed or use functions such as whistle etc. sounds. I am surprised that you could not use the direction keys to either change the speed or change direction.  Nor could the functions be mapped on to the function keys of the PC.  I want to watch the trains, not a computer screen. 

 

It is probably not a problem that only six functions can be displayed at a time but I did not like the limitation that there was no ability to control whether functions are latching or non-latching. I want to decide how long a "long whistle" should sound, not be bound by the whim of a software engineer.

 

There also seemed to be no way of removing the track design screen. I am not going to use accessory control so will not want to be distracted by it.

 

I have not tried it on a tablet or smartphone - maybe that is a better interface?

 

I also think their marketing strategy is flawed. I think it would be much better to follow Roco's approach with their Z21. Here the software for the handheld devices is a free download so you can try it before deciding whether to buy the necessary hardware. My next port of call will be the app store for my wife's smartphone to download the Z21 app.

 

I'll report how I get on but I suspect that Hornby is not going to get my business!

 

Ian

Edited by clecklewyke
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Time has elapsed and I have been concentrating on developing the layout - baseboard building and track laying.

 

However, I've finally got round to trying out a Railmaster system on a PC borrowed from Richard Hodgson and I have tp say I am not impressed.

 

It seems incredibly clunky compared with a normal DC train controller. I had to keep my eyes on the vdu all the time to control the speed or use functions such as whistle etc. sounds. I am surprised that you could not use the direction keys to either change the speed or change direction.  Nor could the functions be mapped on to the function keys of the PC.  I want to watch the trains, not a computer screen. 

 

It is probably not a problem that only six functions can be displayed at a time but I did not like the limitation that there was no ability to control whether functions are latching or non-latching. I want to decide how long a "long whistle" should sound, not be bound by the whim of a software engineer.

 

There also seemed to be no way of removing the track design screen. I am not going to use accessory control so will not want to be distracted by it.

 

I have not tried it on a tablet or smartphone - maybe that is a better interface?

 

I also think their marketing strategy is flawed. I think it would be much better to follow Roco's approach with their Z21. Here the software for the handheld devices is a free download so you can try it before deciding whether to buy the necessary hardware. My next port of call will be the app store for my wife's smartphone to download the Z21 app.

 

I'll report how I get on but I suspect that Hornby is not going to get my business!

 

Ian

 

I'm spoilt really as I have a large touch screen monitor that I use for RailMaster and on that it works great.

I just select the loco move the slider up and away you go.

Just leave it running and select another, there are direction arrows that can be pressed and you have the buttons for the cruise or shunt speed.

The track plan is always shown on the display, but when you select a loco, the loco control panel increases in size and goes over the top of the track plan, you can have two of these open at any time, maybe more, I can't remember if there is a setting in the .ini file that allows more panels to be shown.

Pressing the down arrow on the bigger loco control panel then gives access to all the function buttons.

When setting up a loco you can choose the sound file that is suitable, this will put the sounds to the function buttons, in the set up you can I think alter how long it plays for, not really momentary or latching.

Yes it would be nice if you could set latching or momentary, but there are a lot of DCC systems where you can't do that, although in a software set up you would expect to be able to do it.

 

On a tablet or smart phone you can switch between the loco driving screen and the layout plan due to the display size limitations.

 

I personally don't think you've given it a long enough try, it does take a bit of time to get used to and to find out everything it can/can't do but if it instantly drives you mad then there is no point in trying any further.

For the price I really don't think it's that bad for what it is, but that's just my opinion.

 

You can download it from the Hornby website as a trial but it's limited to two locos, can't remember the maximum layout size it limits you to though.

You could always get a head set and try the voice control on the pro version, that way you can look at your trains all the time and tell them speed up or slow down ;)

 

Cheers

 

Ian

Edited by traction
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It is probably not a problem that only six functions can be displayed at a time but I did not like the limitation that there was no ability to control whether functions are latching or non-latching. I want to decide how long a "long whistle" should sound, not be bound by the whim of a software engineer.

 

 

A quick Google reveals an entry in the RailMaster forum that the function name must end in "on/off". The function button will then turn on with the first press and off with the second.

 

regards

Richard 

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  • 1 year later...

I have a question about the 1A power supply (P9000) that is bundled with the eLink/Railmaster package. I understand this is suitable for up to 3-4 locos?

 

However, for 3 locos and 3 rakes of Hornby Pullman coaches with lights on the layout, would upgrading to the 4A power supply (P9300) supply make more sense?

 

The question is on behalf of someone not on RMweb. This is going to be a small layout based on the Hornby Trackmat fitted to a folding baseboard. I'd imagine the P9000 will be OK for the 3 locos but it's the fact there will be a dozen Pullman cars on the layout that makes me think the P9300 would be better for this.

 

Any comments/input greatly appreciated...

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I have a question about the 1A power supply (P9000) that is bundled with the eLink/Railmaster package. I understand this is suitable for up to 3-4 locos?

 

However, for 3 locos and 3 rakes of Hornby Pullman coaches with lights on the layout, would upgrading to the 4A power supply (P9300) supply make more sense?

 

The question is on behalf of someone not on RMweb. This is going to be a small layout based on the Hornby Trackmat fitted to a folding baseboard. I'd imagine the P9000 will be OK for the 3 locos but it's the fact there will be a dozen Pullman cars on the layout that makes me think the P9300 would be better for this.

 

Any comments/input greatly appreciated...

Although not a Hornby DCC kit user I would want a bit more than 1A available so that there is something in hand.

Using a Power Supply close to it's output power continuously is not good practice.

 

Cheers

 

Keith

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Although not a Hornby DCC kit user I would want a bit more than 1A available so that there is something in hand.

Using a Power Supply close to it's output power continuously is not good practice.

 

Cheers

 

Keith

 

Thanks, that's kind of what I was thinking. Better to have more power on tap...

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