QUAKER VALLEY Railroad - CTC Panel New CTC Panel  Updated July 2009

Check out the progress on the railroad and a discussion of the newest Quaker Valley JMRI CTC panel at http://www.quaker-valley.com/CTC/QV_CTCnew.html

The Quaker Valley Railroad has been developing a CTC Panel using the Panel Pro feature in Decoder Pro since 2003.  In the summer of 2006, I attended the NMRA Philadelphia Convention and sat in on all of the JMRI clinics.  I met some of the key people behind the development and learned a lot, especially about the then newest features of Panel Pro in version 1.7.5.  I also gave a clinic describing how I was using JMRI Panel Pro with my NCE system to develop a virtual CTC panel.  I even have acquired a clunky old touch screen monitor which allows me to change the lever position by touching them on the screen.  No more mouse or trackball for the Dispatcher.  One of the new flat panel touch screens would be even nicer!

By the end of 2007, I had added three more AD4HC accessory decoders to the Quaker Valley, automating 11 turnouts or turnout pairs.  You can see how I mounted the CVP accessory decoder cards at http://www.quaker-valley.com/CTC/AD4.html

This completed the conversion of all main line turnouts to DCC control.  This permitted me to complete the CTC panel with active turnout levers as shown here.

The upper CTC panel shows the Dispatcher has aligned a westbound train which is through Twin Rocks and just took the signal at Moss Creek.  It will take the siding around a train on the main at Shinnton and is cleared into Costello.  There is a train waiting to come off of the yard lead at Costello.  Using the JMRI Logix, the signal lights on the panel drop as the westbound progresses through each control point.  The lower panel does not yet have detection except for blocks in staging at either end of the railroad.  But all of the turnout levers work, so the Dispatcher has abandoned the old control panel.

Click here for a look at the 2007 Quaker Valley CTC Panel

I always wanted to develop the panel to use the turnout and signal levers and code button just like the real ones.  I thought it would require scripting, but found a way around it in 2006.  Since then the newer versions of JMRI have multi position sensors, and it has worked well to add the signal levers to the single track Quaker Valley line in the top panel.  All four of these levers shown now work pretty much like the prototype..  I have redrawn the background graphics using the 15 wide by two high USS panel included with Panel Pro.  I have moved things around a bit since last year to align with the levers below.  I also have renumbered some of the turnouts on the lower panel.  It is nice to develop things on a screen and if it is not right, easily change it.  I suspect many will develop their model railroad CTC controls this way before constructing a full size CTC panel.

The code button at the bottom of each position is momentary and controls the turnout and signals. You can flip the turnout levers back and forth without setting the turnouts.  Only when the code button is pressed does the turnout and signal follow.  And because of the way the JMRI route function can work, they will only follow if the interlocking is unoccupied and the block ahead is unoccupied and the block ahead is not assigned to a train coming the other way.  No more throwing turnouts under moving trains.

With the latest version of the panel, I have added sound to the code buttons and the toggle switches. I also added a bell when the trains OS (go on sheet) at each of the control points and when a B&O train shows up from Punxsatawney. Using a faster laptop, I am adding more and more animation and sound to the panel.

I also added the traffic control lights on the upper panel. I had buillt the logic in two years ago, but saw a more prototypical way to display them in Dick Bronson's 2009 clinics. These are used to "reserve" a track for a train that is not yet there and stop assignment of that same track to another opposing train.

I continue to update parts of the CTC panel as I have been learning how to better use the new Logix, grouped sensors and the multi sensor icon introduced in JMRI version 1.9.1. I am now running a 2.6 version of Panel Pro. So how does this all work in Panel Pro? 

Sensors, signals and turnouts identified
Each position has three inputs from the Dispatcher.  These are the turnout lever, the signal lever and the code button.  There are three block detector inputs from the railroad and an internal sensor for the interlocking occupancy.  I use NCE BD20s which detect current in each block. These are connected to a NCE Auxiliary Input Unit (AIU) which is on the cab bus and makes the block occupancy info available to the command station and thus to Panel Pro.  If the turnout NT53 is closed (normal) and both NSx and NSy are occupied a Logix sets IS53 to active.  This might save me some infra red detectors.

My friend Ken McCorry uses an infrared detector at the points in each interlocking to hold this block occupied  when a car is over it. I have been experimenting with detection of my caboose fleet and will likely only detect them and not all freight cars. In 2007, I was experimenting with the Logix feature in JMRI to create a three second delay before the detector will clear. Since then the JMRI developers have made this even easier. I now have an internal sensor ISx to follow the real block detector NSx. ISx goes active intsantly when the block is occupied but has a 5 second timer before it goes inactive. In this way the flickering due to dirty wheels is gone. The new Logix made it easy to update the panel and so now only the internal ISx sensors show on the Quaker Valley panel.

There are two routes for the turnout.  One sets it Normal (Closed) and one sets it Reverse (or Thrown) to follow the turnout lever.  I have set up routes which only operate when the code button is pushed AND the center light IS545 is active AND the inerlocking IS53 is inactive AND the lever IT53 is set.  Panel Pro allows multiple sensors, so I have made sure the block is unoccupied before these routes are used.  I simply show the turnout position as driven by Panel Pro in the two lights above the turnout lever.  I have some local control panel lights that display the turnout position, but none are sent to the computer.  I don't see the need for feedback from the turnout on the railroad.  Turnouts in positions  49, 53, 7, 15 and 19 in the Quaker Valley panel above show turnouts in the Reverse position.

The signal lever has been much easier to setup with the advances in the JMRI release 1.9.1.  The multi position sensor icon for the lever follows the three sensors IS541,542 and 543.  The directions lights IS544, 545 and 546 are in a defined group so only one can be lit.  If the block IS53 is unoccupied, and the IS545 light is lit and the lever is set for east or west, a Logix will set the appropriate direction light IS544 or 546.  When a train enter the block IS53, the direction light IS545 is set active, dropping the direction light and setting all signal to red. Another condition in the Signal logix allows the Dispatcher to manually set the block to red after it has been assigned.  I have used a blinking red lamp IS547 which overlays the center red lamp for a 15 second delay. The sensor is transparent when inactive showing the underlying lamp. So it shows the signal as it drops to red.

I have added a JMRI clock to the CTC panel .  And I have recently upgraded to version 2.6 and am experimenting with Ken Cameron's NCE clock contribution originally out in version 1.9.2.  It now is a fast clock married to the NCE command station. I even added a toggle switch to turn it on and freeze time if the Dispatcher desires.

This background was developed using MS Paint.  I started with the dual background panel provided in the resource folder of Panel Pro.  This now includes a better shade of green and the button punch outs as on the real US&S panels.  I stacked two separate CTC panels one over the other as I need more than the 15 positions available on a single panel.  In fact levers 31 and 33 in the upper right corner control access to staging tracks on the double track Conrail mainline.  I reused the track artwork in the black areas from my older panel.  I even kept the Quaker logo in place.  I added a USS&S plate, starting with a scan of a real plate from a photo.  I cleaned up the lettering and then added it to my panel.  This has been added to the latest JMRI release or the group files area, and I have moved it off the background and made it a repositionable icon.
US&S Builders Plate

The upper section of the panel represents the modeled portion of my Quaker Valley line which runs north and south between Buffalo NY, through Costello and ending in Lynnsburg, a town in the hills of Western Pennsylvania between Altoona and Johnstown.  The lower panel section shows Conrail's secondary track between these two towns.  I have abbreviated the staging yard tracks on either side of the modeled lines.  In reality, the yards at McKeesport and Altoona are two ends of the Westbound staging yard.  Johnstown and Harrisburg are the Eastbound staging yard.

One other thing I added in 2007 is a startup reset of the levers and turnouts to the normal position.  When the panel first opens, it looks like this:

Notice that all of the turnouts and levers are unknown.  The NCE block detectors settle in at first, and this shows a train on the wye track at the west end staging.  My reset button is hidden in the bow tie of the quaker logo.

See the red dot?  Touching it sets off two routes.  The first sets all of the internal levers, turnouts and sensors to their normal posistion.  The second sets the turnouts on the accessory decoders around the layout.  I have this one staggered to bounce around the railroad, allowing the capacitors to recharge for the next machine. While these are running, I play a relay code sound file.

It is not necessary on the newest turnouts where I have used slow motion machines.  But these are too quiet,  I'll have to add some relay clacking sound to those levers.

Sweet!  And always getting better.  Seems the JMRI guys add things just as I need them.  I've been experimenting with the layout editor and it does make it easy to develop signalling for the time when I can add signal hardware. And Decoder Pro / Panel Pro is still freeware.  Thank you Bob Jacobsen, Dick Bronson and the rest of the JMRI crew!

Check out the older CTC panel used on the Quaker Valley at http://www.quaker-valley.com/CTC/QV_CTC_2006.html

and the 2007 version CTC panel used on the Quaker Valley at http://www.quaker-valley.com/CTC/QV_CTC_2007.html

Learn more about the JMRI project, Decoder Pro and Panel Pro at http://www.jmri.org

page updated 12/21/11

Bob Bucklew
Quaker Valley Software

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