I don't have experience with single or double slips or even with a three way turnout, so I can't really give any opinions on reliability of any of these. Hopefully some others with experience with these track pieces can jump in with their opinions.Looking at the layout it has the two complex intersections. I've been looking at alternative options to the single and double slips I have selected.
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The only way I've figured how to remove the double slip on the reverse loop intersection is through the use of a 3 way turnout. Not sure if this is a better option, it adds a S-bend to what would be a heavily used route.
The other intersection uses a single slip, and could be replaced with a cross and two additional curved switches.This doesn't effect traffic or throw anything out of alignment, it may be the better option.
What are your thoughts?
I've maybe stretched the truth slightly, but the software really is quite robust. The software is designed to work with a wide variety of sensors, like momentary contact sensors, so it has to be robust in tracking trains. If the train "picks the point" and actually goes down the wrong branch of the turnout, the software will be confused because it will detect occupancy in one block when the train is expected in the other. I've had this happen rarely. When it does, chances are the locomotive and some cars are likely to derail anyway which means you have to stop the software. In the software, I may then have to manually drag the train from one block to the other. But it is true the train is only configured once and I may have to just drag its position from one block to another. I also don't tend to manually reconfigure my trains a lot, so I've not missed automatic train identification.If the software is really that good at monitoring trains that makes things much easier. Encouraging to know you've only have to ID them the one time.
In this case, I would break up the helix and lead lines into 2 or 3 equal size zones and make them logically independent blocks. I'm not sure about JMRI, but TrainController defaults to only allow one train in a logical block at one time. You can override this, but I think it should be used cautiously in special circumstances. So if the helix & feed is 2 or 3 blocks, the software will automatically chain trains going around the helix without any special handling.The reason for breaking a block into 3 is to get those small end blocks as you've surmised. However breaking the block more times gives you the ability to have chains chase each other within the block, I figured the long decent through around the rear of the layout and down the 1-1/2 turn helix might be nice to break up since its over 4x the maximum train length, though maybe that's just overkill.
TrainController does support single and double slips. I'm not sure about 3 ways, but that's easy to mimic with 2 turnouts. So I'm sure it can handle your complex track junctions. As long as you have parallel independent routes through your complex track junctions, TrainController should be able to pass simultaneous trains through those junctions.I've been reading the manual, looks like for transponding you need at least Silver. It looks like it will be way easier than JMRI to implement.
I'm going to take another look at my layout, I think I could use a BXP88 (8 detection & transponding sections) to detect 4 staging yard tracks, and the A/D track. Not sure where the rest of the sections would be used best. I may just leave them open.
The remainder would simply be BDL168 detection sections without transponding.
How does the software handle complex crossovers? Is it smart enough to allow multiple routes through my complex intersections at once?
So SCARM tells me I have 31 switches. One of which is a double slip (2 motors), another is a single slip (2 motors), and a third is a three way (2 motors). So that brings me to 34 switch machines. Yikes!
That said there are a number of crossovers you could drive with a single motor, not sure if this is easier, or just a headache in the long run. Opinions?
If I remove the yard for construction at a later date I'm still at 25, which is still four SE8Cs so I may as well bite the bullet and go with the five I'll end up requiring to avoid silly wiring later. Ground throws with electrical switches are also only a few dollars cheaper if you need to power frogs, so might as well just do it with a Tortoise.