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Gentle Breeze Railway



07/15/23

Work on the Gentle Breeze Model Railway started more than 10 years ago.  I regret that I did not keep a journal at work so I am starting now with the Gentle Breeze Railway on the OGR forum.  It will take multiple entries until I have caught up with my progress to date.  I am a slow writer and it is easier to have shorter updates.  I have retired and just started the actual construction.  The first 10 years were building the Train Mansion (My wife’s name for the building stuck), designing the layout and developing the electronics and software.  The Train Mansion shown in the picture is two 30’ x 40’ stories.  The top floor has a bathroom, small kitchen, pool table, pinball machines and storage racks of trains.  The lower floor is the home of the Gentle Breeze Railroad.

IMG_5833

The goals of the Gentle Breeze Railway are:

  1. Trains controlled by people and/or scheduled or random computer control.
  2. 30’x40’ around the wall layout with a double mainline
  3. A yard with a turntable, city, town and rural.
  4. Turnouts controlled by touchscreen and/or computer.
  5. Manage the costs.
  6. Stretch goal to operate a model train like a real engineer with video from the engine and properly working ABS block signals.



Layout Command Control, LCC

8/18/2023

Layout Command Control, LCC, is an open source NMRA standard for controlling layouts.  The NMRA describes LCC in the following way: “Model railroaders expect a lot from the electronics on their layouts. They want to automate accessories, simplify operation of their staging yards, have fine control over layout lighting, and build realistic dispatcher panels. Home and club layouts are getting more detailed and complicated, and existing electronics for control systems are having a hard time keeping up.”  Random running of trains requires knowing the location, direction and speed of the trains.  In my evaluation of block occupancy methods I chose LCC.  LCC is the most efficient, scalable and cost effective way to monitor occupancy, control turnouts, block signals and accessories.  LCC nodes all have significant compute capability and use the Control Area Network, CAN, bus for bidirectional communication. The CAN bus is used by the electronics and cars and trucks.  The predominant CAN physical layer used by LCC is ethernet cables.Excellent presentations on LCC can be found here. https://www.rr-cirkits.com/Clinics/Clinics.html. The LCC network is a very efficient method to transfer block occupancy information to Traincontoler or JRMI.  My first priority was computer controlled random running of trains which require block occupancy.  With block occupancy the next step is accurate block signals and crossing gates.  The rr-cirkits “Signal LCC” nodes have enough compute power to implement complex prototypical ABS signals.  A link to a test demonstration showing LCC controlled signals and the cost associated with a LCC implementation. https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...utomation-test-trackA video of an engine going through block signals is in this link. https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...tive-of-the-engineer

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Last edited by carl552
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@carl552 posted:

Gentle Breeze Railroad

07/15/23

Work on the Gentle Breeze Model Railroad started more than 10 years ago.  I regret that I did not keep a journal at work so I am starting now with the Gentle Breeze Railroad on the OGR forum.  It will take multiple entries until I have caught up with my progress to date.  I am a slow writer and it is easier to have shorter updates.  I have retired and just started the actual construction.  The first 10 years were building the Train Mansion (My wife’s name for the building stuck), designing the layout and developing the electronics and software.  The Train Mansion shown in the picture is two 30’ x 40’ stories.  The top floor has a bathroom, small kitchen, pool table, pinball machines and storage racks of trains.  The lower floor is the home of the Gentle Breeze Railroad.

IMG_5833

The goals of the Gentle Breeze Railroad are:

  1. Trains controlled by people and/or scheduled or random computer control.
  2. 30’x40’ around the wall layout with a double mainline
  3. A yard with a turntable, city, town and rural.
  4. Turnouts controlled by touchscreen and/or computer.
  5. Manage the costs.
  6. Stretch goal to operate a model train like a real engineer with video from the engine and properly working ABS block signals.

Would love to see , more photo's

Layout Plan

07/17/23

The Gentle Breeze Railroad has two main levels.  The plans for the top and bottom levels are shown.

Top Level

TMR22T

Bottom Level

TMR22B

Initially I thought about using K-Line Snap Track. Rich Battista’s Black Diamond Railway DVDs got me interested in Scaletrax. An opportunity to buy a very large lot of MTH ScaleTrax on the OGR forum.  I offered to buy all the track for 50% of the prices listed for the individual track.  I picked up all the track at York.  More track was selectively acquired at auctions.  I also purchased Scaletrax from Rich Battista when he was converting to 2-Rail.  Scaletrax is a nice looking solid silver nickel track.  Most of the track is new or like new.  Older Scaletrax turnouts will be updated as shown in Dave Hikel’s OGR forum post.  Tortoise switch machines will be used instead of the Scaletrax switch machines for better reliability and looks.  The layout has 2,267 feet of track and 163 turnouts.  All the mainline, main yard and most of the siding will have a minimum curve of 72”.  Some of the industry sidings will have a minimum curve of 54”.  The dual mainline track is on a 5.25” center for clearance between a Bigboy and Lionel’s scale auto carriers.

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  • TMR22T
  • TMR22B

I'm sorry, but your "druthers" statements, your track plan, and your building photos leave a few unanswered questions for me.  If your track plan is truly around the walls, how will you reach derailments or other electrical or track issues that arise on the other side of your turntable, particularly at your yard throat?  How will you reach your wall storage tracks to swap out engines and/or rolling stock for use on the layout?  Are you really going to have that big of a lower level with just one way for trains to enter and exit?  What is the purpose of all those stub-ended tracks on the lower level and will all those switches be easily accessible?  Is that a "reachable" trolley line (in brown) on the upper level?

As you can figure out, accessibility is my biggest concern with this track plan!  Most builders keep their around the walls layouts with shelf dimensions of 30" or less, using islands (reachable from three sides) into the middle of the room for industry and or urban areas.  Just some food for thought if you're not too far along in construction.

Chuck

Electronics

7/19/23

The design of the electronics and software for the Gentle Breeze Railway took much much longer than the track layout plan.  A more detailed list of goals for the electronics is:

  1. TMCC and DCS manual control with traditional controllers and WiFi devices.
  2. TMCC and DCS computer control.
  3. Computer controlled scheduled and random operation.
  4. Computer and touch screen control of turnouts and accessories.
  5. Automatic Block Signaling, ABS, with each track block controlled by block signals.
  6. Several engines with First Person View, FPV, video camera.
  7. Connectors on all electronics for easier testing and debugging.
  8. A documented test plan and thoroughly testing all electronics before installing.
  9. Documenting all electronics and software.
  10. Master shutoffs


TMCC and DCS manual control with traditional controllers and WiFi devices is straightforward with off the shelf components from Lionel and MTH.  The TMCC track signal booster I got from Gunrunner John was added to the output of the Lionel Legacy command base.  AC power is controlled by a Dewenwills remote, a Antek toroidal transformer reduces the voltage to 18V, the electronics and trains are protected by a 7.5A Airpax Instant Trip and a TVS.  The train controlling electronics diagram is shown. 

Layout Electronics [1)

A computer can control trains by sending TMCC commands to the LCS Serial node.  To control a DCS train the TMCC command is converted into a DCS command and set to the DCS TIU.  The TMCC to DCS converter is described in more detail and the train controlling electronics is described in more detail here. https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...ormance-power-supply

https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...tive-of-the-engineer

https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...rom-train-controller

Attachments

Images (1)
  • Layout Electronics (1)

TrainController Gold

7/22/2023

TrainController Gold is the software that will be used to control the trains, turnouts and accessories on the layout.  The two predominant train control software are TrainController from Freiwald Software and JMRI which is open source.  A professional layout builder recommended TrainController.  He would give his clients the choice between JMRI and TrainController.  JMRI was free but it took more of his time to set up and program making it more expensive when his billed time was included.  Most chose TrainController Gold.  Significantly lower cost TrainController Bronze is good for smaller layouts.  TrainController can manage multiple trains on a scheduled run or multiple trains on a random/spontaneous run.   To do spontaneous runs TrainController needs to know the occupancy of all the track blocks and control of all the turnouts included in the run.  TrainController manages touch screen control of all turnouts and accessories.  Trains can be manually controlled through TrainController’s wifi app on smartphones, tablets, laptops etc. TrainController outputs Loconet commands that are converted to Layout Control Commands, LCC, (LCC will be discussed in another post) to control the layout. TrainController outputs TMCC commands to control the trains.  The TMCC command is converted into a DCS command and both are broadcast to the trains.  TrainController TMCC commands include speed, forward, reverse and toggle direction, boost and brake and Traincontroller has 19 additional TMCC addresses/commands.  The 19 Trancontroller TMCC addresses were mapped into known TMCC commands.  Using the Arduino IDE serial display with the TMCC to DCS converter all the TMCC commands are displayed and a table of TMCC, Legacy TMCC remote, TrainController TMCC address and the converted DCS commands was generated.

Train Controler TMCC Protocols

The TrainController map of the Gentle Breeze Railway is shown.

Screenshot [2)

The blocks and switches are in the process of being labeled.  The map can also be broken up into 4 submaps for easier touch control.  Another post will describe the labeling of the blocks, switches, accessories, etc.

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Images (2)
  • Train Controler TMCC Protocols
  • Screenshot (2)

Layout Command Control, LCC

6/18/2023

Layout Command Control, LCC, is an open source NMRA standard for controlling layouts.  The NMRA describes LCC in the following way: “Model railroaders expect a lot from the electronics on their layouts. They want to automate accessories, simplify operation of their staging yards, have fine control over layout lighting, and build realistic dispatcher panels. Home and club layouts are getting more detailed and complicated, and existing electronics for control systems are having a hard time keeping up.”  Random running of trains requires knowing the location, direction and speed of the trains.  In my evaluation of block occupancy methods I chose LCC.  LCC is the most efficient, scalable and cost effective way to monitor occupancy, control turnouts, block signals and accessories.  LCC nodes all have significant compute capability and use the Control Area Network, CAN, bus for bidirectional communication. The CAN bus is used by the electronics and cars and trucks.  The predominant CAN physical layer used by LCC is ethernet cables.

Excellent presentations on LCC can be found here. https://www.rr-cirkits.com/Clinics/Clinics.html.

The LCC network is a very efficient method to transfer block occupancy information to Traincontoler or JRMI.  My first priority was computer controlled random running of trains which require block occupancy.  With block occupancy the next step is accurate block signals and crossing gates.  The rr-cirkits “Signal LCC” nodes have enough compute power to implement complex prototypical ABS signals.  A link to a test demonstration showing LCC controlled signals and the cost associated with a LCC implementation. https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...utomation-test-track

A video of an engine going through block signals is in this link.

https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...tive-of-the-engineer

Carl, On my previous comment, I focused on the great looking building you have to house your layout.  I completely overlooked the detailed electronic control information you posted.  My apology.

The video of the test loop action in the attached link is quite impressive.  The signals worked like a champ!  When I was working as an electronics technician and engineer, I wanted to keep everything simple at home.  Now that I have been retired for almost 4 years, I have found myself more interested in things that can be done on the layout.  I have never considered adding signals to a layout, but I am quite impressed with several plans and installations on the Forum.  I really need to look things over more to really comment and question.  Please keep posting what you are doing.

Naming Convention

09/12/23

All the track blocks, turnouts, signals, uncouplers and accessories need to be named. The naming convention is based on the dual mainline. There are 30 blocks on the mainline. The first two digits of a name are the location of the block along the mainline. The third is the letter describes which side of the mainline the element is on. The mainlines are E for East and W for West. The fourth is a letter denoting the object being named. The objects are O for block occupancy, T for turnout, S for siding, B for block signal, U for uncouplers, L for lights, C for crossing signals and A for accessories. The next three digits are the LocoNet address for the object.

Traincontroller does not yet support LCC and a rr-cirkit LocoNet to LCC gateway translates the LocoNet commands to LCC commands.

Traincontroller supports TMCC commands. TMCC and DCS engines have to share the TMCC addresses. The TMCC to DCS converter converts all TMCC commands to DCS commands. Engine addresses need to be managed so a TMCC engine and DCS engine don’t have the same address.

Attachments

Images (1)
  • mceclip0
@carl552 posted:

Layout Plan

07/17/23

The Gentle Breeze Railroad has two main levels.  The plans for the top and bottom levels are shown.

Top Level

TMR22T

Bottom Level

TMR22B

The layout has 2,267 feet of track and 163 turnouts.  All the mainline, main yard and most of the siding will have a minimum curve of 72”.  Some of the industry sidings will have a minimum curve of 54”.  The dual mainline track is on a 5.25” center for clearance between a Bigboy and Lionel’s scale auto carriers.

@carl552 posted:

Electronics

7/19/23

The design of the electronics and software for the Gentle Breeze Railway took much much longer than the track layout plan.  A more detailed list of goals for the electronics is:

  1. TMCC and DCS manual control with traditional controllers and WiFi devices.
  2. TMCC and DCS computer control.
  3. Computer controlled scheduled and random operation.
  4. Computer and touch screen control of turnouts and accessories.
  5. Automatic Block Signaling, ABS, with each track block controlled by block signals.
  6. Several engines with First Person View, FPV, video camera.
  7. Connectors on all electronics for easier testing and debugging.
  8. A documented test plan and thoroughly testing all electronics before installing.
  9. Documenting all electronics and software.
  10. Master shutoffs


TMCC and DCS manual control with traditional controllers and WiFi devices is straightforward with off the shelf components from Lionel and MTH.  The TMCC track signal booster I got from Gunrunner John was added to the output of the Lionel Legacy command base.  AC power is controlled by a Dewenwills remote, a Antek toroidal transformer reduces the voltage to 18V, the electronics and trains are protected by a 7.5A Airpax Instant Trip and a TVS.  The train controlling electronics diagram is shown.

A computer can control trains by sending TMCC commands to the LCS Serial node.  To control a DCS train the TMCC command is converted into a DCS command and set to the DCS TIU.

Holy smokes, man! That is a monster layout! Your yard is going to be massive!

@carl552 posted:

Gentle Breeze Railway

The first 10 years were building the Train Mansion (My wife’s name for the building stuck), designing the layout and developing the electronics and software.  The Train Mansion shown in the picture is two 30’ x 40’ stories.  The top floor has a bathroom, small kitchen, pool table, pinball machines and storage racks of trains.  The lower floor is the home of the Gentle Breeze Railroad.

IMG_5833

The goals of the Gentle Breeze Railway are:

  1. Trains controlled by people and/or scheduled or random computer control.
  2. 30’x40’ around the wall layout with a double mainline
  3. A yard with a turntable, city, town and rural.
  4. Turnouts controlled by touchscreen and/or computer.
  5. Manage the costs.
  6. Stretch goal to operate a model train like a real engineer with video from the engine and properly working ABS block signals.


Be interesting to follow the progress of Goal #5. 

Last edited by breezinup

Hi SoutingDad,

The general theme is the Midwest and the engines and accessories that I like.

Hi Breezinup,

These are some of the things I have done to reduce cost.  My son,  daughter in-law, wife and I did all the interior finishing in the trainmantion.  I purchased all the track and switches second hand (About half was new.  The track cost was about 25% of retail.)   A discussion of lower cost block occupancy and block signals is here. https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...utomation-test-track  The goal is $12 per block signal.  A discussion on a lower cost power supply is here. https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...ormance-power-supply   Two of the concerns I have after building the test track are the time to install tortoise switch machines compared to the Scaletrax machines and the time to build the block signals.  I will stay with the tortoise switch machines for reliability and looks.  I may buy some the Wehonest block signals to save time.  I did buy Traincontroller Gold for $699 after a discussion with Dave HInkel.  I have been very satisfied with the Traincontroller's ease of use.

Carl

I put the plywood and track on the back wall.  This is one of the more complex part of the design with 4 levels crossing each other.  The each level height is at least 8" at when the cross.  This is a picture of the just the plywood attached to the back wall.

IMG_5855

This picture shows the back wall with track added.

IMG_8178

This work was actually done several months ago and I am just getting around to posting it.

I also built the main power supply with Legacy and DCS.  Details are here https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...ormance-power-supply

IMG_8215

IMG_8228

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Images (4)
  • IMG_5855
  • IMG_8178
  • IMG_8215
  • IMG_8228

Carl,

  Can you talk about the Train Mansion building itself a little? Is this building on your property or somewhere else? I am assuming it is new construction, if yes, was it based on a railroad station? If yes, can you identify it?

Sorry to sound like a lawyer, but it looks very interesting.

I like the switch stand, too. Do you know it's history?

Congratulations on your retirement. I recently retired last October.

Tom

Last edited by PRR8976

Hi Tom,

The Train Mansion was built in 2011.  It is behind our house the snow picture was taken from the deck of our house.  There is an easement on our lot for rain runoff from the hill to the right of the Train Mansion.  It is a deep lot but about half is in the easement.  It was amazing that my wife wanted the Train Mansion built.  She had three reasons: 1. I was planning to build a layout in the attic (Not many basements in Austin, TX) and she did not want me going up and down on the pulldown ladder as I got older.  2.  She wanted me out of the house.  She fixed me a sack lunch every workday for 46 years and after I retired she wanted to fix the sack lunch and send me down to the Train Mansion and I could return at 5.  3. She wanted to stay in Austin when I retired.  The Train Mansion is 30x40 and my wife thought the plans were getting bigger every time she saw them.   2011 was a good time to build in Austin because the boom had not started yet.  A friend of my wife said we should make it look like a small train station and it is generic station.  My wife's friend also gave us the bench which is in front of the Train Mansion and it came out of a Texas train station.  The switch stand came out of the small Soo now Canadian Pacific yard in Detroit Lakes Minnesota.  The bell came out of a Texas school.  I retired Jan 1 2022 and am enjoying it.  An interesting feature of the Train Mansion is the roof on the back.  The contractor had a new survey done so the back corner of the Train Mansion was 1 foot away from the easement.  When the city inspector came he side the roof overhang into the easement.  Our contractor cut off the corner of the roof because he said that was far easier than going to the city and asking for a variance.

IMG_8334 

Carl

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Images (1)
  • IMG_8334

I like the custom roof, being a builder I know how it is.  There is always a solution!

That’s amazing the scope & vision you have.  Don’t think many guys can pull this off successfully.  Having the wife kick you out of the house during the day was a blessing in disguise I guess  haha.  Funny story.

Keep going, totally cool.

Last edited by William 1

Carl, The Train Mansion was a great idea!  That makes sense your wife didn't want you going up those pull-down steps all the time.  We have them, and now that I'm 67, I really have some trouble with them, especially getting on to them to go down.  That's neat she packs you a lunch to go to the Train Mansion.  I like your contractor's solution to the corner of the roof overhanging the easement!  I'll look forward to seeing your progress!

Tom, this is the first I have seen you write that your retired.  Congratulations!  I remember all the great comments from your thread asking about layout ideas for retirement.

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