how to manage a module meet?

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alanetm
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how to manage a module meet?

Post by alanetm » Sun Jan 13, 2013 8:39 pm

I have a couple of questions on how any module meet might be organised:

How does the DCC system get specified - it's no use for folk all to turn up with different throttles akin to their own system.

If a meet is run on a specified DCC system who provides the central DCC command station? How is it ensured that it is capable of the load that might run?

If a module (or set of modules) is capable of switching moves if the owner is using a DCC system not running at the meet how do spare throttles get provided. Still that applies to just run his locomotive anyway.

At the moment I have a passing interest in building a module but unless I can be certain that if I come along with my NCE throttle I can run, there is not a lot of point. ;)
Alan

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torikoos
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by torikoos » Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:18 pm

Hi Alan,

build a module anyway, it's a fun 'smallish' project that can be build to a different prototype, locale or whatever than what you have done so far. :-)
just build them to our new standards and you should be 99% compatible with most modules being build now, or can be adapted relatively easily to whatever standard is in your area.
Here in the southwest the predominant DCC system in Lenz, so there are several people who can provide a throttle, and others will provide the command station and or booster(s).

So the best thing to find out is what your nearest group is planning or is already using, and build your modules according to that. It doesn't matter if you can't provide our own throttle, I'm sure others will be willing to lend you one (or take turns) at meets. If there is no group yet, and you're planning to set one up yourselves, then it needs to be decided what to use of course.
At much larger gatherings, from all over the country, things could get a bit more complicated, but that will not happen very often.

Koos
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Gloriousnse
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by Gloriousnse » Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:45 pm

800360 wrote:I have a couple of questions on how any module meet might be organised:

How does the DCC system get specified - it's no use for folk all to turn up with different throttles akin to their own system.

If a meet is run on a specified DCC system who provides the central DCC command station? How is it ensured that it is capable of the load that might run?
Based on our experience of running a couple of these in the HO Freemo standard (you don't say what type/scale of module you were planning):

The DCC system would be specified by the team organising it - that would probably be the system used by the group organising it, and in that case would be provided by (the members of) that group.

For practical reasons, the only exception to that I can see might be if a small group was organising it and knew they had larger numbers coming who used a different system, it's feasible that they could arrange for the second, larger group to provide the power equipment.

Ref power, we ensure we are adequately powered by using our experience of previous set-ups during planning, and arranging to have the required boosters there to supply enough, or more usually more than enough power.
If a module (or set of modules) is capable of switching moves if the owner is using a DCC system not running at the meet how do spare throttles get provided. Still that applies to just run his locomotive anyway.
Speaking from our own group, we are used to approaching things from an exhibition layout point of view, and the folks in our group tend to 'pool' our throttles, so there would be spares around. Other groups may not work the same way however, I would advise asking beforehand if you think there is likely to be a problem...

PS - From our operations point of view, we wouldn't envisage an operator standing next to his own module all day just switching that, if we all did that there wouldn't be much point in joining them together... ;)
At the moment I have a passing interest in building a module but unless I can be certain that if I come along with my NCE throttle I can run, there is not a lot of point. ;)
Just on a practical basis, obviously your NCE throttle will not work unless NCE is the system being used. (That system is used by some other groups involved in the HO Freemo however so there are likely to be setups that will use NCE.)

If you are attending a meet where NCE is not the system then check with the organisers as to whether they have spare throttles that could be borrowed.

Something actively being researched at the moment is the use of available (and potentially extremely cheap) JMRi wifi-based throttles, they have the potential to become a standard throttle that will work on any major DCC brand, which would eliminate the 'my DCC throttle doesn't work with your DCC system' challenge.

So far these have been used regularly at meets and they work quite well, but we have not yet relied on them to run the entire layout at a meet - we plan to test that at Weston-on-Trent in April.
Martyn Read

calaf01
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by calaf01 » Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:58 am

At Seaboard Southern we've set up our modules so that they can use either NCE or Digitrax, though I believe you have to be a bit careful with the UTP plates you put in to plug the throttles in. I think you can use Digitrax connectors in sockets wired for NCE but not the other way round. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong there. That's not to imply that you can mix Digitrax and NCE throttles in the same session. If you're using a Digitrax command station, then all the throttles in use have to be Digitrax, and likewise with NCE command station and throttles. The important thing is they both use the same connectors and sockets. Lenz, however, I believe use connectors and sockets that are completely different physically. I don't know if it's possible to wire up Lenz throttles so they can use the NCE/Digitrax sockets. An expert will no doubt put an answer through. It may be that if you want to be able to run on either you need to have put in the two types of connections independently. That's not as far-fetched as it might seem because the loconet cable system that you plug your throttles into is completely independent of the rest of the wiring on the modules except at the command station, so I think it would be perfectly feasible if you're planning to run in setups that could use either one or the other of Lenz or NCE/Digitrax that you could put in separate loconet cables and sockets for each one and use the appropriate one when it comes to connecting it up on the day. Again someone will correct me if I've got this wrong. I haven't really seen it talked about, but I can't see how it would not be possible in theory. That duplication may be a step too far for some people, though.

If you find this too difficult to get your head around or you don't feel inclined to go to all that trouble, the other option is that you can just forget about it altogether. It means that no one will be able to plug throttles into your module and during the setup they'll just have to bypass your module with the loconet cable joining the modules adjoining yours. As long as you don't get too many modules of this sort all together in a setup it should be manageable. Mind you, I don't know what the meet organisers might say about that. You'll still need to be able to connect your track bus and accessory bus to the adjoining modules, but the standard for those is more consistent as long as you adhere to the NMRA BR standard, and as I said the loconet cables are completely independent of the rest of the electrics.

But the others are right. Get in contact with your nearest group that's doing modules and see what they're doing, since they're the ones that you are most likely to be joining up with. They will best be able to advise you as to what they do and how you can fit in.
Alan C.

PeterLJ
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by PeterLJ » Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:10 am

Hi

There is some confusion as to which throttle panel will work with which throttle! The Lenz panel is claimed to be compatible with both NCE and Lenz by Lenz and indeed we have run NCE off mine.

There is also a reluctance in some quarters to lending out an expensive throttle to an individual who has decided not to purchase one.

A possible solution is the use of JMRI WiFi throttle. As Martyn has said it will be tested but I know the Snake Bend, RS Tower, Western Union and Black Diamonds have all used them successfully. Obviously though all throttles would need to be WiFi. An interesting development here is the Hornby "eLink" for small set ups?

http://www.hornby.com/shop/2013-range/e ... ansformer/

The OpenLCB is also being investigated in some quarters.

http://openlcb.org/

All the best

Peter L-J

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Gloriousnse
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by Gloriousnse » Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:07 am

The important thing is they both use the same connectors and sockets. Lenz, however, I believe use connectors and sockets that are completely different physically. I don't know if it's possible to wire up Lenz throttles so they can use the NCE/Digitrax sockets.
Lenz and NCE both use the same bus, so (as Peter says) you can also use module with Lenz panels with both NCE and Lenz (but not Digitrax) - that provides a socket with both RJ and Din connections...

This kinda emphasises the potential the wireless option has.

If they don't already have a suitable device (and many folk will) anyone can buy a s/h 'throttle' (s/h mobile phone with the Android operating system) already for less than the cost of a pair of UTP or Lenz sockets for their module, and there would be no compatibility issues or potential for wiring problems between groups, plus the bonus of less wiring to setup on the day!
Martyn Read

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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by PeterLJ » Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:20 am

Gloriousnse wrote:If they don't already have a suitable device (and many folk will) anyone can buy a s/h 'throttle' (s/h mobile phone with the Android operating system) already for less than the cost of a pair of UTP or Lenz sockets for their module, and there would be no compatibility issues or potential for wiring problems between groups, plus the bonus of less wiring to setup on the day!
Hi Martyn

Re reading the subject heading "How to Manage .." perhaps we need to add to the spec that a JMRI WiFi throttle server will be available at all meets (for testing?). I know in practise this happens but we do not state it anywhere.

All the best

Peter L-J

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Gloriousnse
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by Gloriousnse » Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:30 am

I think it might be jumping the gun at the moment Peter, the wifi isn't even in the current spec IIRC, so I don't think mandating that everyone allows for it is really feasible!

But - if we can prove reliability my vote would be to remove the wired throttle bus from the spec (and all it's attendant issues) in entirety and replace that with a spec that meets will use wifi.

Again - we need to do proper testing, it's one thing for one or two folk to test something and find the basic setup works, it's another to be depending entirely on it and have maybe 10-15 people at a large meet trying to use it at once, for an entire day.

Interestingly the Aussies working on their own freemo spec who started down this road a couple of years later than we did went straight for the wifi option - there is no such thing a throttle bus in their spec.
Martyn Read

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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by warbonnetuk » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:39 pm

From my experience of using WiFi with JMRI and Digitrax I have instances where a loco selected on a WiFi throttle will suddenly 'drop off' and not respond and can't be recovered by reselecting on another WiFi throttle. However if selected on a regular throttle hard connected to the Loconet and then dispatched / released then it can be selected on the WiFi throttle again with no problems.

Not a regular occurance (once or twice during the operative time at a show) but it does give a potential reason to still have a throttle bus as a back-up / trouble shooter

Cheers

Dan
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BrianMoore
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by BrianMoore » Mon Jan 14, 2013 6:39 pm

I think it's important to let things settle for a while, and find out just how good the various "new" control technologies work. It's easy to forget just how recently the modular/ops/DCC combination has taken off as a USP of the NMRA(BR), and something that so many people now want to have a go at.

One of the reasons we got to where we are now was a lot of work, a lot of finding-out, various people playing to their own strengths and then joining with others who had different ones, some wrong turnings and a lot of compromise. From all of that came the experience to create the Modular Standards, and the enjoyable reality we have now of a few groups being able to meet regularly and have a load of fun with the whole concept.

Using cheaper, more "universal" devices will happen eventually, but "walking before running", and all of that.
Brian Moore

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Gloriousnse
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by Gloriousnse » Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:21 pm

Dan, that's exactly the kind of thing we need to check out...
Martyn Read

calaf01
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by calaf01 » Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:35 pm

I knew someone would be able to correct me, and it seems everybody has. Oh well. At least it got the topic moving in directions it might not otherwise have taken without me displaying my ignorance. Or am I being a bit too arrogant here?

The interesting thing that's come out of it for me is that it would appear that the wifi and the loconet bus are not incompatible, from what Dan was saying at least. So you could use both. Will they work together? It would be nice if some had tethered throttles and some had wifi ones. What flexibility that would be! I presume that there would have to be some care taken with compatibility. Is that a function of the wifi receiver? Do you have to have compatibility between the wifi receiver and the command station? Or are the wifi receivers universal? You see, I don't know anything much about the practicalities, but I love the ideas.

Sounds exciting, doesn't it? I've operated NCE, Digitrax and Android app, but someone else has done all the work and I've just had a throttle thrust into my hand. But I'm learning all the time.
Alan C.

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Gloriousnse
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by Gloriousnse » Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:29 am

calaf01 wrote:The interesting thing that's come out of it for me is that it would appear that the wifi and the loconet bus are not incompatible, from what Dan was saying at least. So you could use both. Will they work together?
The wifi effectively would run in parrallel with the wired bus of whichever system was in use, you can then use both methods on a layout at once.
It would be nice if some had tethered throttles and some had wifi ones. What flexibility that would be!
The downside of going down that route as a spec is that you still retain the difficulties of taking your module from group to group with differently specced and potentially differently wired busses, and either having to fit multiple panels to your board to be compatible with everyone, or risking no compatible socket in a crucial place...(or worse damage because somebody plugs something incompatible in incorrectly)

Throttle panels are about 17 quid last time I looked, so one each side for a module is 34 quid - two each side to handle compatibility with all three major brands takes you up to nearly 70 quid to be fully compatible with 'everyone'...ouch!

A wifi future means no need to buy any, so less cost. No need to install or wire any, so less work to build. No need to connect them on the day so less work in setup for a meet and more time playing trains. :)

Okay, in practical terms I doubt 'wifi only' would be how it would work in practice, we'd all most likely still put panels on for whatever local system we use, and we'd still most likely use those systems within our own groups. But if the wifi was the inter-working standard that would mean that if you were running something that was multi-group anyone could all turn up and participate with none of the present gnashing of teeth over bus/panel compatibility.
I presume that there would have to be some care taken with compatibility. Is that a function of the wifi receiver? Do you have to have compatibility between the wifi receiver and the command station? Or are the wifi receivers universal?
The Wifi box (wireless router) is connected to a computer running JMRI, which is connected to the command station, so the throttles talk to JMRI via the router, and JMRI tells the command station what the throttles are doing.
Martyn Read

calaf01
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by calaf01 » Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:36 am

Thanks Martyn. That makes it all much clearer. I can't wait to see it in operation on a big layout. Meriden?
Alan C.

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torikoos
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by torikoos » Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:10 am

I am with Brian on this topic. I think it is a little early days to be thinking of adding wifi to our standard, but is certainly something individuals could add.
( I have so far operated my home layout doing just that, with a SPROG connecting between a PC running JMRI and the layout, not owning another DCC system for a long time, if you already have a smart phone, and an available PC/laptop, adding a SPROG is the cheapest way to add a powerful DCC system (that can handle everything JMRI can throw at it) to any layout or Module).

However, from a meet point of view, it would be beneficial if the wifi router used on the day is password protected.
In many cases you wouldn't want and probably aren't connected to the internet at meets, but it is still advisable to use a password to prevent unwanted 'access' to your little (local) network and through that your computer(s).
Particularly during operating sessions, interferences could mean you lose connection and that usually happens just as your train is entering the final board and runs the risk of 'falling of the planet'..... Mr (or Mrs?) Murphy is always the uninvited, but ever present guest.

By the way, what hasn't been mentioned is that there are throttles for the iPhone too. There's WiThrottle (nothing to do with the Nintendo Wii), which is specifically designed to work with JMRI. There's both a lite version (which is free) and a paid version.
The paid version is less than £5,- and also capable of throwing turnouts and other accessories.
You can also operate a consist. You just type in the road number of the lead loco (and press set) , then press 'add' , it will then ask you of the relative direction of the lead loco (in other words which way is it pointing) , then you add the second loco (same question of direction follows), and you can just keep adding etc. I've tried it on my home layout and works a treat.

Koos
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Age is just a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, then it doesn't matter.

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