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1. Overview:

  • This new video (#668) shows a Z-Stuff Infrared Block Signal Detector and Relay AUTOMATICALLY controlling two 3-rail O-gauge trains on the same LIONEL O-27 track loop.
  • This is probably one of the SIMPLEST methods you can use to control two non-DCC trains on the same track.
  • It just requires 1 "Stop Block" to be cut in the center rail (or either rail if using 2-rail track), and then placing the detector-relay combination at the end of the block.
  • Although the demos use O-gauge trains, this detector-relay combination should be able to control trains of just about ANY gauge, 3-rail or 2-rail — using AC, DC, or DCC track power.

Maximum Current:  (updated 12/24/23)

2. Links:

3. Video Part 1: ("Delay From Front")

  • Part 1 shows a Z-Stuff DZ-1012v Infrared Block Signal Detector placed at the END of an isolated "Stop Block" in the center-rail.
  • The Detector's time delay is used to cut off the power in the block -- which will STOP a following train that is following too closely behind a leading train that just passed through the block.

4. Video Part 2: ("Release From Rear")

  • Part 2 -- using the "Release From Rear" method -- shows a Z-Stuff DZ-1011 Infrared Block Signal Detector placed several train-lengths "UPSTREAM" of an isolated "Stop Block" in the center-rail.
  • When the following train activates the Detector, the connected relay will START the leading train that is stopped in the Stop Block.


  • Although a DZ-1011 Detector was used for this Part 2 demo, the newer DZ-1012v Detector is recommended.
  • The "Delay From Front" method shown in Part 1 is the RECOMMENDED method. But in some cases this "Release From Rear" method may work better.

5. Related Earlier Discussion:

6. The Drawing:

  • The below image shows a photo of detector-relay unit, and wiring diagram -- as used in "Part 1" of the video.
  • Other drawings are on the web page that is linked above in Para. 2.



Images (1)
  • v668-fig2c-photo: Photo of detector-relay unit, and wiring diagram
Last edited by James Ingram
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I saw this on youtube yesterday or the day before. Pretty interesting use of the Z-Stuff controls. Others may have know this, but I had no idea they had anything like that or what they had could be used like this?  

In the past, I recall seeing a few folks around here asking about controlling trains like this for displays and other things. This should be a good tutorial for them, it was for me! Thanks for posting!

BOB WALKER posted:

Z-Stuff IR detectors were used to accomplish two trains on the same loop in my October2007 article in CTT. The IR detectors sensed the train location and controlled the power to designated insulated blocks. 

Hi Bob -

  • Thanks for posting a copy of that automatic control article.
  • FYI:  I have enjoyed reading some of your great CTT articles and viewing some of your videos, but that particular article I was not aware of it.


  • I would claim the method shown in this new Video #668 video using the newer DZ-1012 detector, is a bit SIMPLER.   (You might not agree with this claim.  Also, the DZ-1012 was not available until 2017.)
  • In this video #668, we used just ONE detector, ONE relay, and ONE isolated "stop block".
  • Also, we can run just ONE train (manual operation, when not running both trains) in the forward direction -- without having to add any electrical switches.

In the system you show in the 2007 article, I think that system is more prototypical -- and also more "fail-safe" -- because I believe each train is protected by a block. It would be interesting to see a VIDEO of that system operating.

Also, DZ-1012 May Run MORE Than 2 Trains

With this DZ-1012 type of  system shown in the video, you can sometimes run MORE than 2 trains -- IF you have a longer mainline, and IF the locos run somewhat similar speeds.


  • In the 1992 videotape V92902-5D, I did a demo using the "APS Electric Eye" (which functioned similar to the DZ-1012.
  • Like the DZ-1012, the APS Electric Eye had one normally-closed contact, one normally-open contact, and an adjustable time delay.
  • The video shows FOUR LGB trains being separated, and operated by just 1 Automatic Block.
  • There's an excerpt of that video shown in Part 2 of Video #668 at about the 18 minute point, which can be viewed with this link: .  The complete video V92902-5D can be viewed at .
Last edited by James Ingram

I just recently uploaded a new "Part 3" of this video -- that shows a Z-Stuff DZ-1012 detector controlling 2 trains using the "Release From The Rear" method.

If you're familiar with old "Insulated Rail" method of controlling two 3-rail trains on the same track , this "Release From The Rear" method works similar, except we're using a Z-Stuff detector & relay in place of the insulated rail "Control Block".

The method shown in earlier "Part 1" video "Delay From The Front" is still the recommended method, but this "Release From The Rear" method shown in Part 3 may work better . . . . IF:

  • (a) if the track loop is really LONG (and the DZ-1012's maximum adjustable time delay of 55 seconds is not enough to keep the two trains separated) or
  • (b) if you want the stopped train to remain stationary until the moving train travels MOST of the distance around the loop before the "stopped" train starts.


Just For Review:

  • Part 1  showed a DZ-1012 used for the "Delay From The Front" method (recommended method).
  • Part 2   showed a DZ-1011 used for the "Release From The Rear" method.
  • This new  Part 3  is similar to Part 2 -- with the difference being that the DZ-1012 works better because its adjustable time delay of 2 to 55 seconds, handles unequal-length trains better than the DZ-1011 with its fixed 1-second time delay.
  • The  AutoControls Video #668 Wiring page  shows the wiring diagrams.


The "insulated rail" method and associated video was discussed in an earlier forum thread
"Talley Ober's Insulated-Rail 3-train, 3-rail O-Gauge Automatic Control System Uses No Relays Nor Electronics"

Last edited by James Ingram

Mr. Ingram, your videos are very insightful. On my medium sized layout a train will traverse the entire layout, reverse direction, before returning to the starting point. Would you be willing to review my track plan and make recommendations as to where to install the Z Stuff sensors?

Thank you,

Jay Furlong

Lebanon, PA

I just saw your message today.

I'm not sure I can help you, but I would be HAPPY to take a look.

My contact info (phone & email) is at .

I assume you're using "analog" (non DCC) ??


For reversing a train or trains, it seems much easier to do it using the NCE "DCC Controller".

If you can find a minute, watch about 30 seconds of Video #829,  .

It shows THREE trains running point-to-point, no blocks, 1 Z-Stuff detector.

@AlanOGauge posted:

Any thoughts on using this system for older postwar Lionel engines, the article seems geared towards newer can style motors that draw only an amp max.

THANKS for your interest in this control system.

* The Z-Stuff instruction sheet for the DZ-1008 relay says: "The contacts are rated for 10 amperes at 24 V AC."
( Reference: )

I also attached a copy of those instructions.

Since you'll probably be running significantly LESS than 24 volts, when running "analog" locos, you could probably safely exceed even those 10 amps.

That's 5 amps or more each --  for 2 "current-hungry" O gauge locos.

  • If you have any further concerns, I suggest you contact the Z-Stuff owner/designer Dennis Zander by telephone (during "normal business hours").
  • He's always been very good about answering my questions.

His phone number is 585-377-0925  (it's also at the end of the PDF instruction sheet that I uploaded).


Thanks for the update. Always wanting to learn, multiple train operation was a concept I tried as a youngster, could not figure it out. Several years ago when I got back into the hobby, brought out the trains, serviced them and had the engines serviced, it was because of this forum and another forum that shall remain anonymous it all started to make sense.

I do have a copy of Bob Walkers article, goofed on the wiring and sent the relays up in smoke. Q#$%%$Y&T*(&^!

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