how to manage a module meet?

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warbonnetuk
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by warbonnetuk » Wed Jan 16, 2013 10:47 am

While we haven't got a critical mass yet in terms of the number of modules and thus the issue is not immediatley pressing the control bus compatibility issue is def a question that will need to be addressed.

The NMRA Module Spec has, in my opinion, great potential to get members without a local group engaged - they can build something for home and then bring them along to a quarterly meet should they wish and get some engagement with other members. At present we have a relatively small base i.e. RS Tower, Western Union and the group of modules shown at the Kegworth convention (*) but there will be more coming on-line in the future, certainly from Seaboard Southern and potentially from other groups as well any 'lone wolves' sufficiently enthused.

By having compatibility issues on the control bus we do have the potential to deflate that initial enthusiasm. I also fully acknowledge that this is not a easy question to answer and that it is likely to fall to the same small group of SME's to try to resolve

Dan

(*) Happy to be corrected on the number of compatable modules out there at present
Last edited by warbonnetuk on Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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BrianMoore
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by BrianMoore » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:22 am

It is always important to think of how and where modules will be used.

Most modules will not travel anywhere, other than remain local to the club their owner belongs to. Even if the owner wishes to attend other modular meets/gatherings elsewhere in the country, s/he will firstly be in a minority of all module owners, and secondly, will probably only attend a couple of these "other" events a year, if that.

At Western Union, there's only one person out of four who has taken his modules outside of Devon, with the others only attending joint RS Tower events in Exeter alone, and that's not going to change any time soon - most others are not really interested in long-haul two-day modular events, as we live too far away from them.

For each owner to have to spend additional money to supply a facility that will therefore only be used a couple of times a year, and perhaps never by him/herself, is not a selling point.

I really think we're running away with trying to facilitate a "country-wide" capability that is not a priority at this time.

Why can't we just let things settle, see how they develop, and wait a year? As said anyway, there's still a minimum amount of modules out there. The primary idea of Modular is NOT to be able to take the modules long distances and have huge events, but to allow a smaller group of people to erect a railroad together, and operate it prototypically.
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by Gloriousnse » Wed Jan 16, 2013 12:21 pm

Brian, I think there's a danger of assuming everyone else views the modules in the way that you do. (And I'm acutely aware that I fall for that too! ;) )

Your group not only has overall less willingness to travel, but also has the advantage that the only other group near to you (us!) uses the exact same bus as you do, so there is no compatibility problem at a local level.

However, our group is mostly members who are willing to travel further, our closest(*) group are the guys from Bournmouth who we are currently incompatible with if you were to strictly enforce the spec...

(*Whilst our nominal home is Exeter the majority of our groups modules 'live' a lot closer to Bournmouth than they do to Plymouth!)

The world looks very different 'from up-country here' and working to reduce (or at very least, not allow any increases in) incompatibility between further modules/users/groups is very important.

Is this a big problem right now? No, most things being done at present are highly local in scope, if not in distances folk travel.
Will it become a bigger one? Yep. I have absolutely no doubt in saying that.

Right now most of us involved are keen to make this work by finding ways to work around incompatibilities as they come up, rather than allowing them to keep groups apart. But expecting things to always be solvable due to the parties bringing a 'can do' attitude is naive at best, there are already examples out there of folk saying 'i'm not going to that meet if they use system X'.
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Gloriousnse
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by Gloriousnse » Wed Jan 16, 2013 12:38 pm

There still remains the question of which type of panel the NMRA Buy, which in fact takes us straight back to square one, which DCC system, which is what we are trying to avoid.

The other problem is its all very well having a panel, you also need the throttle!
There is another way to make that work by combining tech.

For example the local groups keep a supply of 'spare' panels, (for WU these would be Lenz panels as that's the system you use.) If you run a meet and somebody visits with an incompatible module then (if needed) you add one of those panels to their module and their module now works with the wired bus, so the locals can use their wired throttles. If the local group then provides a wifi connection as well as the wired bus then the visitor does not need to purchase a specifically compatible throttle, neither does the group need to provide him with a loaner...

That's simple to describe like that, but the hard bit here is how on earth do you write a spec that covers all the possible configurations/combinations that could occur and still remain readable and easily understandable by a new group/person looking to implement it.

And that brings me back to the idea of the wifi being* the published 'interchange standard' - the one you know you can go anywhere and be compatible with. And if an individual group runs a wired bus then that's their choice and in addition to the basic standard, in the same way that certain other features are.

(*Subject to testing, yadda yadda....)
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BrianMoore
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by BrianMoore » Wed Jan 16, 2013 12:49 pm

Gloriousnse wrote:Brian, I think there's a danger of assuming everyone else views the modules in the way that you do. (And I'm acutely aware that I fall for that too! ;) )

Your group not only has overall less willingness to travel, but also has the advantage that the only other group near to you (us!) uses the exact same bus as you do, so there is no compatibility problem at a local level.

However, our group is mostly members who are willing to travel further, our closest(*) group are the guys from Bournmouth who we are currently incompatible with if you were to strictly enforce the spec...

(*Whilst our nominal home is Exeter the majority of our groups modules 'live' a lot closer to Bournmouth than they do to Plymouth!)

The world looks very different 'from up-country here' and working to reduce (or at very least, not allow any increases in) incompatibility between further modules/users/groups is very important.

Is this a big problem right now? No, most things being done at present are highly local in scope, if not in distances folk travel.
Will it become a bigger one? Yep. I have absolutely no doubt in saying that.

Right now most of us involved are keen to make this work by finding ways to work around incompatibilities as they come up, rather than allowing them to keep groups apart. But expecting things to always be solvable due to the parties bringing a 'can do' attitude is naive at best, there are already examples out there of folk saying 'i'm not going to that meet if they use system X'.
I realise fully, that people have different priorities, Martyn. Dan, in the post above mine, seems to be saying some similar things to me. I've no problem in striving to "set the gauge to 4 feet 8 and 1/2 inches" (so to speak) across the whole network, but to keep to that analogy, the loading gauges, tunnel mouths, left-hand/right-hand cab controls and signalling systems were many and varied. A King class locomotive couldn't run to Carlisle, and there was never a need for it to do so. I'm suggesting that if we just let things settle for a while (there's no big hurry), an answer may arrive through further experience and thought.
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by alanetm » Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:17 pm

Well guys, I had no idea that my original innocent quetsions would promote such an interesting dialogue. It certainly has produced some interesting thoughts.

It seems to me that most (?) would only go to a meet with one module (might be one or two actual tables - but laid out as one module) and that this only needs one throttle location. As it is reported (Tom Winlow above) that the NCE panel is compatible with all three major systems but with lenz having an adaptor cable, having only the one throttle panel is sufficient. Or have I misunderstood that?

The issue then is the visitor having a throttle compatible with the meets command station. WiFi is still aproblem as the visitor may not posses a smart phone either.

I do not think that all the onus should be on the meets organisers and that visitors should bear some responsibility for a satisfactory module operation. In that case I would opt for a visitor to wire a module with the NCE panel (tony's Trains) and aquire a cheap second hand smart phone with the meet organiser providing the router and PC/JMRI interface.

Alan

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Gloriousnse
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by Gloriousnse » Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:50 pm

Brian, bottom line is that Western Union at present is the only group who is using their modules primarily to operate at their regular local meets, nobody else is doing that to my knowledge, although Seaboard Southern's might in future?

The RS Tower group is unlikely to ever do that as we don't have a regular monthly meet, in the same boat are are many of the 'lone wolf' participants...basically the majority of folk that have built something so far have done so with at least a vague intention of travelling with it to meet up with other like minded folk...

Future compatibility is a much more pressing issue to a person not intending to use their module locally (not to mention that folk may be paying out for components that may be irrelevant in future.)
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by Gloriousnse » Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:01 pm

800360 wrote:As it is reported (Tom Winlow above) that the NCE panel is compatible with all three major systems but with lenz having an adaptor cable, having only the one throttle panel is sufficient. Or have I misunderstood that?
I believe that's the current spec as written. The flaw has been pointed out however that Digitrax users power their panels in a different way, and should a Digitrax user happen to plug in their panel power supply (as they may be used to doing at home or at their local group) whilst it's being used to run NCE or Lenz then much dead equipment could be the result.

That concept makes me very nervous, and I'm not alone in that...

Unfortunately that (plus the unfortunate fact that the majority of modules in service so far have used Lenz panels as that's what the groups who have built them use!) makes the Universal Throttle Panel a good deal less than the Universal solution it originally sounds like.
WiFi is still aproblem as the visitor may not posses a smart phone either.
That should not be a problem as you can purchase a used one to own as a dedicated throttle for less than the cost of the throttle panels...
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by alanetm » Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:41 pm

"Digitrax users power their panels in a different way"

Surely the management of the throttle bus at a meet is down to the meet organisers and would they not check that all modules are free from 'rogue' power supplies? before starting any running. If this a real problem (I am not sufficiently educated in the various panel wiring configurations) then that would surely drive the modular meets into a wiFi only scenario for visitors not having the meets proprietry command station compatible throttles.

Alternatively all modules should have a through bus not connected to any throttle panel on the module and the visitor would have to use another throttle position on the layout assuming a throttle compatible with the command station was available for his use.

Alan

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How to manage a module meet?

Post by tom_winlow » Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:57 pm

We seem to be addressing two questions at once. How we write a spec and how we organise a multi-group meet.
If the spec were to allow people to fit any panels, that is all the spec needs to say.
A meet organiser will put out a call for modules and this will specify something like "All panels must be Lenz" or whatever. Some people will have to fit temporary panels (already allowed by the spec), some will have the right one already fitted. In the situation where a temporary panel is fitted, the permanent one will have been electrically isolated and the spec doesn't have to consider it as it isn't part of the electrical system.
Of course it would be wise for the organiser to have an inspector to check the throttle busses of all visiting modules as they arrive.

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Gloriousnse
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by Gloriousnse » Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:05 pm

The reasons why would be the same ones as why you don't ever use domestic mains plug/sockets to join your track bus - you may put it together perfectly every time and never make the mistake, but it only takes one slip, or one other person 'trying to be helpful' and connecting it wrongly and you have an unsafe situation.
If this a real problem...<snip>...then that would surely drive the modular meets into a wiFi only scenario...<snip>
Hence comments in thread... ^^ ;)
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torikoos
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by torikoos » Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:31 pm

Interesting discussion.

I'm quite happy with the way the spec is written right now, but I am also aware that further thought needs to be given on how to develop it further.

The original question on how to manage a meet is indeed best answered by the hosts to specify the DCC system used for that day. Those who wish to participate then have to make sure that their module meets that spec.
As for the future, I do believe WiFi certainly has a role to play, and appears to be the standard that is 'multi platform', but requires additional investment. (A router, a PC, and a USB interface). Realistically, within the established groups , there are probably enough of these items around to set a Wifi system up fairly easy. A new group might not, and can't really be expected ('forced') to get these items either, hence my suggestion to make that a 'recommended practice' , not a 'standard'.

My personal situation is one that is a bit in the 'middle'. I can't make it to the majority of meets due to the nature of my job and it's consequences for my weekend schedules, so in that respect I operate a little as a lone wolf. However I am building a module, and have for the most part adhered to the standard, but controls are based on the two groups I am most likely to join them up with , Western Union and RS Tower , so it's Lenz in my case.

Long distance multi day modular gatherings is not something I expect to be doing any time soon. I am however Wifi 'prepped if the hosts were to provide that.

Koos
Koos Fockens -Devon UK. North American Model Railroading
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BrianMoore
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by BrianMoore » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:52 pm

Digitrax: Over-complicated, over-priced, and over here.
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PeterLJ
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by PeterLJ » Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:51 pm

BrianMoore wrote:Digitrax: Over-complicated, over-priced, and over here.
Brian

You can safely criticise a man's choice of wife, but not his choice of DCC system.

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torikoos
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Re: how to manage a module meet?

Post by torikoos » Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:06 pm

Not with said wife present however.... :lol:
Koos Fockens -Devon UK. North American Model Railroading
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