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Monday, November 09, 2020

Layout Automation ~ JMRI

The Computer Successfully Ran the Layout!

Java Model Railroad Interface is a free, open source program that works great for programing decoders, allowing the layout to be operated from a computer,  and even automating signals and other layout operation.

Last time, I installed a couple of Digitrax BDL168 occupancy detectors. Now I need to determine if they are in fact detecting. 

I'll use Loop A to test everything out. The cars can go 'round and 'round and I should get a good idea of how the program works and what to expect for the rest of the layout.

A Digitrax PR3 connects the command station to the computer:

After connecting the computer and all of the components together, I installed JMRI onto my computer. Then I drew a diagram of Loop A with its 8 electrical blocks, and assigned the proper BDL168 detection addresses to each block. Then I ran three cars on the loop to see what happens:

And it works! As you can see above the occupied blocks are red. The signal behind it turns red. When the car exits the block the signal turns yellow. When the car is two blocks away the signal turns green.

In this video I'm controlling the arched roof car that starts on the upper left while JMRI controles the two deck roofed cars behind it. JMRI does a good job of keeping the cars separated. Starting at the 1:45 mark I bring my car to a stop and the other two cars stack up behind it. Then I start it up again. Pretty darn cool.

A lot of folks have done great things with JMRI and while I've had great success with it, after spending some serious hours tinkering with this program I've decided to invest in TrainController Railroad & Co software and give that a go instead. JMRI is a powerful and versatile program but the lack of documentation on how to use the program is the deal breaker for me. After watching some YouTubes about Traincontroller I'm quite excited about it and look forward trying it.

But the important thing here is- the layout is automationable! And that was the whole point of it in the first place!

Yes sir! Automationable!


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