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Discussion Starter #1
Today's model technology make it possible for self-driving trains, locomotives that can be commanded to do more than move at a specified speed and direction. I'll make the distinction between this and automated train control which is presumably completely hands free.

I can imagine a system using
  • a PC that has a description of the layout routes and destinations, track car location and used to coordinate train activity (i.e. signals and turnout)
  • mechanisms to detect locomotive location
  • 2-way locomotive communication
  • methods for entering switchlists
  • methods for starting trains
With such technology, it is possible to command a locomotive to move to a specified destination (e.g. station, yard) following signals and maintaining speed indicated by the signals.

It can also have way freights where locomotives pick/drop off cars and return to a yard or station when complete. (Human intervention may be needed to uncouple cars between cars).

Such a system would allow a person to dispatch multiple passenger/freight trains and way freights at arbitrary times and the system would accommodate various delays and mishaps.

How interested might you be in such a system as a commercial product?

(For some it may be more interesting to develop such a system than use it).
 

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There are layouts such as you envision now operating.

I've tried before, without luck, to find a thread here on
the forum where the owner demonstrated his DCC multi
train layout operating fully under control of the computer.

The layout has occupancy detection that the computer
uses to control the trains, starting them and setting
speeds to avoid crashes where tracks cross.

Maybe someone with more tech saavy than me can
find that video.

Don
 

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Discussion Starter #3
yes, i saw that video. multiple trains running across the layout on intersecting routes with nothing other than DCC and occupancy detection.

what about way freights that can pick/drop off cars with some manual help with decoupling?
 

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Sounds similar to what I plan on building, except I'm using arduinos over wifi instead of DCC. With Summer coming up the coding is on hold, but the next step for my test track is setting up block detection and turnout control, then get two trains to take turns going around the loop and swapping between spurs. After that I'll try to drop off and pick up cars between each loco. That should be enough to handle the majority of what I want to accomplish.
 

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TrainController software can likely do anything reasonable, if you are willing to put the time into configuring it to do what you want. Another user had a switching layout and he used that software to do shuttling operations in the yard. Certainly if he had electromagnets under the track, or even better, decoder controller couplers, that could be automated as well.
 

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It would eliminate one of my favorite parts of the hobby: actually running the trains. Just sitting back and watching does absolutely nothing for me.

It would have the same fascination as LEGO Mindstorm: it would be cool to execute the code just once, to see if I could do it, and then the novelty would be gone and i would never do it again.

So nope, not for me, thanks. I'll keep dialing in my speeds, switching directions, etc. from my handy-dandy handheld.
 

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CT -- the difference I think comes down to whether or not you write the software yourself. Since I do write my own code, I'm still technically in charge of running the locos. My planned layout doesn't have any distinct individual loops though, so I can't just set some trains to run and forget about them. For me, the option is full computer control on most or all of the trains, or else I can run a single train and the rest of the layout would essentially be dead.
 

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I had to go with automation as I am a lone operator. I have a lot of trouble running more than one at a time manually. Too many oooops. Currently I can run 5 at a time with automation and with my next version I will attempt running 7 trains at the same time. I like what appears to be a mass state of kaos.:eek:
 

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It would eliminate one of my favorite parts of the hobby: actually running the trains. Just sitting back and watching does absolutely nothing for me.
What has not been mentioned (I may have missed it) is that TrainController allows you to run a train using your typical handheld while TrainController can be running other trains under it's control.

For example, this allow me to control a way freight and perform switching operations while having to account for the other trains the program is running.

I enjoy it.

Frederick
 

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Discussion Starter #10
several of you mentioned using automatic train control to run trains as surrogate operators while you either run a passenger/freight or do way bill switching. I was unaware of this. thanks for enlightening me.

and it appears that there is little need for any additional hardware features to do this beyond DCC and properly place occupancy detectors.
 

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I was playing with Lego mindstorms and made a train (playmobil) with a color sensor i.e. Inverse direction whenever detect red. That made me wonder why not a model train with a "brain" that could read signals (stop, slow...) is there something like that already?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Imagine the spectacular crashes you could have while you debug the system! :D
for debugging, you simply need a "stopping block" - an isolated section that is unpowered when the signal is stop - beyond the signal.

I was playing with Lego mindstorms and made a train (playmobil) with a color sensor i.e. Inverse direction whenever detect red.
how big is the color sensor and how big and bright is the red signal it detected?


That made me wonder why not a model train with a "brain" that could read signals (stop, slow...) is there something like that already?
to "see" a signal, you would need to identify multiple locations of varying sizes to monitor for specific colors. That would be a significant amount of hardware and processing within the locomotive.

Existing centralized control recognizes that a specific engine is in a block approaching a signal and controls the speed of that locomotive. This requires no extra hardware in the locomotive
 

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I was playing with Lego mindstorms and made a train (playmobil) with a color sensor i.e. Inverse direction whenever detect red. That made me wonder why not a model train with a "brain" that could read signals (stop, slow...) is there something like that already?
I've never heard of anything like that. There's more to it than you're thinking. Just like in real life, you have the train engineer that controls speed, but you also have dispatchers tracking the trains, planning the routes, throwing the switches, and setting the signals. By the time you build the hardware and software to control throwing the turnouts and setting the signals on a model railroad, its a small step to have it also control the speed, stopping, and starting of the trains too. Having a separate optical system to start/stop the trains seems like it would be far less reliable than an integrated system that does it all.

Mark
 

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Well...I am just wondering! And definitely no expert in electronics or computer programming. The idea in my mind is something like having the computer inside each train, give them some sensors (I believe they are LED sized) and the capability to communicate with each other (Bluetooth?!) and also communicate with accessories (like in DCC...) everything connected to a regular computer where the person controls it all. Besides this I like the idea that signals were not wired.just there for the train to read
 

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I'm too far out of my pay scale to be of much
help in today's digital capabilities beyond the
currently available DCC controlers et al.

But I do think that to have any form of automated
control of DCC trains you are going to need more
than isolated blocks and occupancy detectors. There
must be some device to 'talk' to loco decoders with
ability to stop and start on command.

I guess you could go to the way it's done in DC,
just simply have a relay that kills the power in certain
iso blocks thus controlling the train, but the sudden start and stop of the train is kinda toy like.

Don
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I guess you could go to the way it's done in DC, just simply have a relay that kills the power in certain iso blocks thus controlling the train, but the sudden start and stop of the train is kinda toy like.
on another forum, someone models an automated subway. He has multiple blocks approaching a stop with different size resistors to slow the train and gradually increase speed. Yes, he uses DC.

With centralized control, optical detectors can detect the train at multiple locations approaching a stop (or any spot on the layout) and control it's speed via DCC. Multiple detectors also allow speed measurement.

again, centralized control and sensors on the layout avoid any additional electronics in each locomotive. the approach depends on how many locomotives you have.
 

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centralized control and sensors on the layout avoid any additional electronics in each locomotive. the approach depends on how many locomotives you have.
The hardware and software to automate a layout to any degree desired.

One particular automation application supports both DC and DCC, although the hardware needed for a DC setup is limited to offerings from one small company. There used to be two but so often happens with small companies they faded away.

My layout is fully automated and is intended to support both DC and DCC but the DC hardware is having issues and it was from the company that "faded away" so I am on my own to determine why it is not working.

The layout works fine with DCC.

Frederick
 
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