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A Clean Sheet of Paper (Almost)


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Hello Everyone,

 

After spending the last few years away from the hobby I have decided to start over with a new model railway project and am looking for some new ideas, suggestions and experiences with the latest DCC technologies.

 

I have an existing 16 x 10ft OO layout that has been partially resurrected after a house move in 2010 but have designed a new 2 tier OO layout for a dedicated "railway room". I've built most of the baseboards and have laid some of the track, including a 2ft high 5ft diameter helix.

 

The old layout uses the Lenz Set 100 (2 handsets), approx 8 Lenz LS150 point decoders powering Seep PM1 solenoid motors. I used RR&CO TrainController V5 through the Lenz serial interface, primarily for manual route setting and controlling the points from a laptop. Most of my engines have Lenz Gold Decoders fitted. I never really had the time to automate the layout with block detection. Most of the components were bought 2005 - 2006.

 

Having browsed this forum over the past couple of years, I have read some fantastic suggestions and tips but wanted some opinions on the latest technologies being used. I'm currently at a cross-roads - do I keep all/some of my Lenz equipment or move to an entirely new system, such as ESU ECoS?

 

I have 'almost' narrowed it down to 3 options - although I'm still not 100% sure on the way to go.

  1. Retain Lenz Set 100 & LS150s - perhaps using LDT RS8 for block detection. Upgrade to the Lenz USB interface and RR&CO TrainController V8 Gold for full automation. I would also like to introduce iThrottle for some manual operation using iPad. The Set 100 handsets are a bit dated I feel.
  2. Move to something new, such as ESU ECoS - and intergrate everything using their suite of products - including EcosDetector and SwitchPilot. I may consider Cobalt Point Motors in this case rather than Seep PM1. I would still go for TC V8 gold for automation and iThrottle for some 'play time'.
  3. Move to ESU ECoS - but retain the LS150s and Seep motors for point control. Use EcosDetector and TC V8 Gold for automation.

I believe that in either option I would still like to support iThrottle and perhaps even JMRI (although I see enough Java code during my working day).

 

In general I feel a bit let down by Lenz - their products haven't moved on much over the past 7-8 years - and I've had enough of waiting for RailCom plus to become anything useful. I must admit though - I've not had any problems with the Lenz equipment that I have installed. I like the idea that ECoS have train identification with their detectors - pity it is not on all monitored sections though.

 

In addition to the main questions, I'd also be interested to hear from folks regarding:

  1. Which Reversing Modules do you use? Do they easily support train detection? I have 1 reversing loop and a wye in the new design - I'll need some form of block detection in these sections also.
  2. I have read on this forum that detection should also be added to Pointwork / Routes - to stop TC from changing points beneath trains that are traversing point work. How do you wire the detection module to these routes? How many separate detectors do I need for each set of points?
  3. Are your signals controlled entirely from software such as TrainController? I have not really got that far at looking into the signalling options yet.

I hope that I haven't overloaded my first post with too many questions - I have gone over and over different scenarios for a while now - but have finally arrived at the point where I need to decide on the block detection modules specifically - so that I can complete the wiring on the boards.

 

Many thanks in advance,

Best regards

Dave

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Hi Dave - I use Lenz Set 100 with LDT RS8s and RR&Co V7 so let me pass on some of my experiences.

 

I did start out with the Lenz LI-USB interface but I experienced a number of problems. Lenz eventually sent me a serial interface free-of-charge which resolved these. Others on the TC forum had also experienced the same problems (basically intermittent detection issues). Have a read through this thread of mine here - http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/37939-rrco-detection-problems-with-ldt-rs8s/ . If your laptop PC doesn't have a serial interface then you can use a simple converter cable. I got one of Ebay for £4.99 and it works OK with my laptop, although I normally use a desktop PC with serial interface for running the layout. The LI-USB device has now been replaced with the new LAN+USB (article 23151) but I've no experience of it.

 

You don't need to configure the turnouts for detection with RR&Co. When it sets a route from block A to block B, for example, all turnouts between the two blocks are part of the route and will be locked until block A is released by the train reaching the stop marker in block B.

 

I found using LS150s and Peco PL-10s not 100% reliable as the power consumption of the PL-10s is right on the limit for the LS150s. I believe the Seeps are in the same boat here. Also TC fires the turnouts whenever it sets a route regardless of whether the turnout is in the correct position or not. I found the reliability issue, and the constant firing of the point motors, a bit of a distraction and I've since replaced with Tortoise slow-action motors operated by NCE Switch-8 accessory decoders.

 

For signals I use Traintronics colour lights. These are fully automated under TC using LS150s which operate latching relays to control the signals.

 

And I don't have a problem that the Lenz is not as up to date as some later systems: if you're going to be running with TC automation then you'll probably be only making sparing use of the LH100 handset.

 

Robert

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Be aware of a rather irritating feature of RR&Co with Lenz that you have to tell the computer whenever you drive a train from the handset, otherwise RR&Co won't keep track of where it is going on the layout. Not sure exactly whose fault it is (Freiwald says it is a defect in the Lenz protocol but it probably wouldn't be a problem if RR&Co did train tracking differently) but either way it's a bit of a pain. At some point I intend to do a test with all my trains assigned to the handset, whether moving or not. and see if this causes system loading problems as the computer asks the Lenz system every so often whether each of these trains is doing anything.

 

It is possible to do just about anything signalling-wise with RR&Co if you're prepared to put the time in setting up all the internal logic. For example Widnes Vine Yard has signalling fully reflecting modern practice. About the only thing that can't be done in software is a flashing aspect, as it flashes too quickly to be controlled by a RR&Co timer so would need a flashing circuit doing in hardware. Some features of RR&Co version 8 look as if they will help with automation of signalling but it's a bit hard to tell from available information.

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Hi Dave,

Get your Lenz upgraded to V3.6 and enjoy it. Some systems can almost match its reliability, but none can beat it.

If your L1-Serial is working keep it otherwise the L1-USB is good.

I gave up on LS 150s in favour of the DAC20s from CML Electroniks - http://www.cmlelectronics.co.uk -(just a happy customer).

For loops the Frog Juicer is hard to beat.

I have no experience with RR&Co - I am a confirmed JMRI user.

best,

John

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Thanks Gentlemen for your replies.

 

Robert - thanks for highlighting the USB issues that you encountered. I might try the USB-LAN interface and see how I get on. I never caught on to the fact that there was a USB and a separate USB-LAN interface. I can imagine that I'd use RR&CO to operate the layout for the majority of the time - the kids however would like to use iPad. The USB-LAN would allow me to setup a wireless router for this. I never encountered too many issues with the LS150s and Seep motors - although they did require quite a bit of time to align perfectly. I also remember that if we screwed them too tightly to the underside of the baseboard some of them stopped switching. I did however pass the buck - the wife took on the job of wiring the point motors. I think I'll outsource the job to her again :)

 

Edwin_m - I did read about the issue with RR&CO not picking up the trains when manually controlling them via the handset. Let me know how you get on with your test. This was one of the reasons that I was thinking of changing over to ESU ECoS as I believe that it's a Lenz specific 'feature'.

 

John - Thanks for the info about the Frog Juicer - this seems to be perfect for what I need. As a JMRI user do you encouter the same issue that Edwin_m mentions - manually controlled trains are not picked up by the software for train detection?

 

Many thanks,

Dave

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Dave - if you do go for the USB-LAN interface (the LI-USB is no longer in production so would only be available second-hand) then you will need both your Lenz system upgrading to 3.6 and RR&Co to V7.

 

As for driving trains manually with the LH100 throttle, then RR&Co does not pick this up, the reason being I understand that the Lenz does not broadcast this on Xpressnet. Hence RR&Co is not able to see what's happening. No problem with driving trains manually if you use an RR&Co train window though. I've got used to doing it this way now.

 

Robert

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John - Thanks for the info about the Frog Juicer - this seems to be perfect for what I need. As a JMRI user do you encouter the same issue that Edwin_m mentions - manually controlled trains are not picked up by the software for train detection?

 

Many thanks,

Dave

 

 

HI Dave,

I have not had such problems with Lenz and JMRI

John

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