QUAKER VALLEY Railroad - Now with 2 CTC Panels on a Touch Monitor
   
New CTC Panel  Changes in progress August 2012

This page describes the progress on the Quaker Valley Railroad and a discussion of JMRI turnout and signal lever operations.

Older info on the CTC panel development can be found at http://www.quaker-valley.com/CTC/CTC_Index.html

A three part pdf tutorial for the JMRI Panel Pro and Layout Editor is available at http://www.quaker-valley.com/CTC/JMRI_Panel_Tutorial.html

The Quaker Valley Railroad has been developing a CTC Panel using the Panel Pro feature in Decoder Pro since 2003 when I saw the CTC panel Bob Jacobsen and Nick Kulp were developing.  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 in1.7.5.  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 had acquired a clunky old touch screen monitor which allowed me to change the lever position by touching them on the screen.  This can mean no more mouse or trackball for the Dispatcher.  Now I have obtained one of the new flat panel touch screens which has made it 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 all turnout levers active and block detection on the single track QV line under control of the NCE DCC command station.

In late 2009, I added some new hardware from RR-Cirkits, creating a stand alone Loconet allowing me to complete block detection of the Conrail mainline. It also will allow addition of signaling track side. Hardware includes a Locobuffer USB, TC64 Tower Controller, BOD8 block detectors and 4ASD signal drivers.  This setup does not require a separate command station and integrates with my NCE system using JMRI Panel Pro.  So I continued to update the JMRI Panel Pro created CTC panel. The January 2010 screen looked like this:

2010 Dual CTC panel
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.  Detection was added to the lower panel as shown by the TOL indicators. At this point in 2010, only 3 or 4 detectors were left to install. All of the turnout levers worked, so the Dispatcher had abandoned the old DC control panel with push buttons and rotary switches and controls everything from a dual monitor PC setup. The CTC panel occupied one entire monitor. The other had the JMRI menus and a layout editor screen showing field signal indications.

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 that in 2006 using transparent sensors to control a 3 position icon.  Since then the newer versions of JMRI have multi position sensors, and it has worked well to add the signal levers to the Quaker Valley CTC panels.  The signal levers shown now work pretty much like the prototype..  I had redrawn the background graphics using the 15 wide by two high USS panel included with Panel Pro.  I moved things around a bit in 2009 and 2010 to align better with the levers below.  I also 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.

December 2011 Quaker Valley CTC Panel

2012 QV CTC PanelPRR Pendulum for Clock

Santa came early in 2011 and delivered a HP 2105TM touch monitor.  This is a HD quality flat screen with touch capability and can be found under $300.  Because of the higher resolution, I was able to split the old CTC panel into two larger panels, spreading out the graphics and icons.  Both the Quaker Valley and Conrail panels share the same monitor, but a touch will bring one or the other to the front.  The latest version of the panel still includes sound to the code buttons and some toggle switches. I had also added a bell when the trains OS (go on sheet) at each of the QVRR control points and when a B&O train shows up from Punxsutawney or Cumberland and when trains are powered up in the Conrail Staging. Using a faster laptop, I am encouraged to add more and more animation and sound to the panel.

Several years ago I added a JMRI clock to the QV CTC panel .  After upgrading to version 2.6, I experimented 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.  With the space permitted with the new monitor, I thought it should be moved off of the panel and found a nice oak wood case to  house it.  I later added an animated pendulum to the regulator clock.  The swinging pendulum shows through a tranparency in the clock body on the xml panel.

The track diagrams for both panels were developed using MS Paint.  I cut them from the older dual panel and resized and cleaned them up.  Making the Conrail panel more than the prototypical US&S panel 15 wide, I was able to create some space between interlockings and move two turnout levers that lived on the upper panel before.  I added a US&S plate to each panel, the one I had created from a scan of a real plate from a photo.  I cleaned up the lettering and then added it to my panel.  This has been contributed to JMRI and is part of the current release and also in the group files area. Since it made sense, I have also moved it off the background and made it a re-positionable icon.
US&S Builders Plate  Another image I contributed to the JMRI project is a "knockout" replacement button like so Knockout image to be used where only one lever position and light is needed as in positions 8, 12, 18 and 24 of the Conrail panel above.  And I more recently contributed (version 3.1.4) some wider lever icons that make it easier to touch the active area of the icon with mouse or touch screen.

The Quaker Valley 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 Conrail panel 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 same Westbound staging yard.  Johnstown and Harrisburg are the Eastbound staging yard.

Overlapping Conrail CTC Panel on same screen

2012 Conrail CT Panel

With more room, I added the traffic control lights and traffic direction arrows to both panels. I had placed that logic in the panel in 2008, but saw a more prototypical way to display them in Dick Bronson's 2009 clinics and on the Rule 281 Series DVD from CTC Parts. (link to CTC Parts)  These traffic control lights 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. The DVD convinced me to make these lights blue as per a PRR panel on the prototype. That was real simple to edit and change in Panel Pro.

It was actually easier than I thought to make the two CTC panels separate frames.  I have always included all of the tables (sensors, turnout, route and Logix) along with the CTC panel and layout editor panel in one large xml file.  I simply moved the old CTC panel, renamed and resized it and saved the complete xml under a new name.  I then restarted JMRI, loaded both the new panel and the original panel files.  It warned me I was loading a duplicate layout editor which I skipped.   I resaved the complete file and closed JMRI.  I checked the xml with WordPad and didn't find any duplicate Logix or routes.  I reloaded JMRI and the new panel and did not see any duplicate turnout or sensor table entries.  All was good.  I simply removed the icon elements from each panel that were not needed.  I reworked the graphics and continue to refine the new panels.

We now have had the touch monitor with the two panels in use at several operating sessions.  As expected, the Dispatcher was able to flip back and forth at a touch as parts of both new CTC panels are visible at all times.  The levers are activated by touching them left and right of center.  A stylus is available if fat finger have issues, but I have already created wider versions of the lever icons that provides a bigger activation area.  The regular trackball (mouse) can also be used.  The layout editor screen is still running on the laptop display to show signal aspects.  This latest screen shot shows how some of the internal signals were hidden except while in edit mode.  Compare this screen shot with the one further below from 2010.

2012 QV Layout Panel



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 something like the panel shown on the left.

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 position.  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.

Oh, and the Alarm icon shown below Laurel Run on the Conrail panel. That is tied into a magnetic proximity switch on the aisle bridge which permits operators and guest access to the layout room. When the aisle gate is opened, the alarm light flashes and the signals on the railroad drop on either side. When the gate is closed, railroad traffic can flow again. This proximity switch is tied into one of the BOD8 detector boards. In order to further protect the trains, power is actually cut to the aisle bridge and approach tracks when the gate is open. This is done with micro switches and not tied into Panel Pro.





In order to fully develop signaling on the Quaker Valley, I started to add signals to the CTC panel in 2009. That was a situation that is very unprototypical. And I needed a better way to watch the signal response to the railroad and to the CTC panel as I developed the Routes and Logix to control it all. I turned to the Layout Editor and developed the layout figure shown here:

Layout Editor panel

Since that time, I have added and refined the SSL (Simple Signal Logic) behind the signals shown. The turnouts are animated in the layout editor and the signals work. In edit mode, the layout editor allows you to open the signal logic and correct it. I have JMRI showing occupied track in red or maroon. Unoccupied tracks are show in black. The layout editor panel shows all of the internal signals I used to complete the Simple Signal Logic. These intermediate signals are internal and now only show when in edit mode. I have added the signal held Logix to many of the lower panel (Conrail) signals and just recently added a CTC-ABS switch to make the signals pop back up when running for open house guests. When in CTC position, the CTC panel takes charge and holds (Red) signals over what is essentially an ABS signal logic.

PRR style signal at laurel RunProgress on signaling was slow in 2010, but the east bound signal at Laurel Run has been installed on the railroad and is a working PRR position style single head mast. I have assembled a working prototype of the two headed PRR position signal which will display clear, approach and stop aspects on the upper head and light the lower head for restricting moves. Two of these will be installed on a signal bridge at the west bound Laurel Run location. The restricting aspect will control entry into the Lynnsburg yard.

I continue to update parts of the CTC panel as I have been learning how to better use the newer Logix, grouped sensors and the multi sensor icon introduced in JMRI version 1.9.1. I am now running the 3.0 version of JMRI Panel Pro, and will continue to upgrade in the future.  So how does this all work in Panel Pro?  I developed a JMRI demo panel for a NMRA clinic in 2006 and have delivered to my local division as well.  Check the web page here for a complete introduction to US&S CTC construction.

During the first half of 2012, I have developed a JMRI panel tutorial.  It comes as a three part pdf file and describes how to use Panel pro to develop a CTC panel and  to use Layout Editor for a complimentary animated panel with block detection and signalling.  Check the web page here for the Panel Tutorial.



I had been using an AIU Auxiliary Input Unit and 14 BD20 block detectors from NCE since 2003.  All mainline turnouts were converted to using a mix  of accessory decoders including CVP AD4HC, NCE Switch-It and Snap-It.  In late 2009, I added some new hardware from RR-Cirkits, creating a stand alone Loconet allowing me to complete block detection of the Conrail mainline. It also will allow addition of signaling track side. Hardware includes a Locobuffer USB, TC64 Tower Controller, BOD8 block detectors and 4ASD signal drivers.  The BD20 detectors actually have 1 or 2 loops through their core, where the BOD8 does not require but a single pass straight through. This Loconet setup does not require a separate command station and integrates with my NCE system using JMRI Panel Pro.  (More info here)  I have completed the process of updating the JMRI Panel Pro created CTC panel.  The image below was borrowed from Dick Bronson and the RR-Cirkits website.  It has been modified to show the relation of the various connections used to make all of this come to life on the Quaker Valley.  On the layout the DCC bus is split into 4 power districts each protected by a fast acting breaker.  I use DIN plugs on the cab bus, using twisted wire for the data lines.  Over Thanksgiving weekend 2011, I completed the wiring for the accessory bus and activated a second DCC booster which is completely separate from the DCC track bus.  I also added the recommended snubbers to control the noise on the track bus.This should avoid the noise issues that have  accidentally reprogrammed the accessory decoders on more than one instance.  I hope to eliminate any erratic accessory decoder operation after these changes in the wiring were made. 

Quaker Valley JMRI Connections

Sweet!  And JMRI is always getting better.  Seems the JMRI guys add things just as I need them.  Or before I know I need them. For example, I now plan to connect the second NCE command station to JMRI, providing a program track that will not shut down the layout.  The JMRI developers have now gone well beyond my original wish list. Integrating the NCE and LocoNet hardware into one functioning system allows me to replicate the prototype US&S CTC machines of the 1960s and 1970s. I continue experimenting with the layout editor and it does make it easy to develop signaling as I am adding signal hardware to the railroad. More recently I have experimented with Ken Cameron's RobotThrottle3 script and modified the BackAndForth script to run trains during open house events.  And Decoder Pro / Panel Pro is still freeware.  Thank you Bob Jacobsen, Dick Bronson and the rest of the JMRI crew!

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

Learn more about CTC panels in the Rule 281 Series DVD from CTC Parts. http://www.ctcparts.com/video.htm

Signal and detection hardware from RR-Cirkits. http://www.rr-cirkits.com  I used the Tower Controller in 2009, but would recommend you look at the LNCP.  I have helped a friend implement detection and signalling with the new hardware distributed locally around the layout.  I also have shepherded two PA clubs to go this route.  Stand alone Loconet information.

A three part pdf tutorial for the JMRI Panel Pro and Layout Editor is available at http://www.quaker-valley.com/CTC/JMRI_Panel_Tutorial.html

Pictures and plans for the host layout can be found at http://www.quaker-valley.com/QV_Layout.html

Revised November 14, 2012

Bob Bucklew
Quaker Valley Software
bob@quaker-valley.com

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