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Contents This Page

1. Other Manufacturers -- Automatic Controls [below]
2. About Command Control [below]
3. Advantages -- Command Control vs Block Systems [below]
4. Using Command Control & Block Systems Together [below]

1. Other Manufacturers -- Automatic Controls

Several manufacturers -- Circuitron, Dallee, Railway Depot -- to name a few, make electronic units that use current sensing sections or electric eyes or infrared signals to perform automatic slowdown, stopping and starting

However, they do not operate sidings, as far as I know. Using the magnets and track contacts is the only simple way, that I am aware of, that you can control the more advanced 2-Track Automatic Switching Block and the 4-Track Zellner Yard.

One vendor, Roecks Railroad Concepts (www.rrconcepts.com), appears to make electronic systems that perform similar functions to the LGB electro-mechanical relays.

2. About Command Control

You can also operate multiple trains on the same track using one of the many brands of command control.

You might say there are two distinctly different ways to control multiple trains on the same track.

One way is using block systems as described in this bulletin, using "dumb" (normal) engines that respond to the presence or absence of simple DC power in the track.

The other way is commonly referred to as "command control", using "smart" engines equipped with sophisticated receivers that respond to a sophisticated command signal that travels through the track along with the power. A "smart" engine can be "commanded" to stop or slow down while it is receiving full track power.

This is somewhat similar in concept to a group of radio-control model airplane pilots, with each pilot using a transmitter to command the receiver in his airplane; except that railroad controls can use the rails as well as the air to transmit the command signal. Power can be thru the rails or battery, or both such as Locolinc.

In early 1995 LGB announced its Multi-Train system "Train Mouse Control" which is a form of NMRA-standard digital command control. Command control/remote control systems, such as CTC 80, Digitrax, Dynatrol, LGB, Lionel, Locolinc, Keller, Marklin, Model Rectifier Corp, Remote Control Systems, Wangro, and numerous others, equip each engine with a receiver (decoder) that allows you to control each engine individually on the same track, with no blocks, by using the "mouse" (or a transmitter) to send a digital signal to command a particular engine's receiver.

3. Advantages -- Command Control vs Block Systems

Some advantages of command control systems are as follows:
  • You can control engines individually on anyu section of the same track, not just the blocks.
  • The big claim of command control is "eliminates difficult block wiring."
  • You need not wire any individual blocks. The whole layout, regardless of how many engines, track loops and switches; can be one giant block.
  • Some command control system such as Locolinc have battery backup to smoothly power the engine across dirty or even dead sections of track.

For these above reasons, some operators will prefer the command control over the block-type systems.

However, the electromechanical block-type controls as described in this bulletin have distinct advantages, which for certain applications, merit serious consideration:

  • Control is "hands off" fully automatic -- as opposed to command control which requires you to manually control each train, plus each switch, plus each signal.
  • The control unit handles the slowing down, stopping and restarting of all trains with no human intervention.
  • The control unit operates switches automatically.
  • The control unit operates signal lights automatically.
  • Engines need no receivers or decoders -- only a magnet.
  • The cost of swapping out engines is lower -- to use a different engine on a block system, you need only stick a magnet on the bottom, not wire somebody's receiver inside the engine.
  • No electronics are involved -- these systems are rugged, low-tech electromechanical.

4. Using Command Control & Block Systems Together

Engines equipped with command-control receivers that conform to the NMRA Digital Command Control (DCC) standard (as does LGB), I believe, can be operated on these blocks systems while operating in the command control mode. This has not been verified by test, but from conversations with Jonathan Meador of LGB, I believe they will.

These block systems can also be "depowered". When depowered they act like a piece of straight track. Thus engines that are being command-controlled could travel over a depowered block with no problem.

Likewise, engines equipped with command-control receivers (that conform to the NMRA standard as does LGB) act like normal engines when the command-control signal is not present. Thus receiver-equipped engines could be used-on and controlled-by these block systems when they are operating as normal engines -- that is, not receiving a command-control signa

This page created Aug 2003, modified 5/2/2006 (12i01)  by (bottom include)
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