Monday, 8 April 2019

Lighting and a new controller

New Controller

I do some programming work for an insurance company in the USA. I have just completed my recent tasks and, thus, have received a payment. Some of this has gone towards purchasing a new controller. Having had a bit of a bad experience buying 2nd hand, I thought that I might buy a Marklin CS3 but then I was bothered if anything went wrong, I would have to return it to Germany. I, therefore, decided that I would purchase an ECOS from Coastal DCC, my regular DCC suppliers.  I realise that Kevin of Coastal would have to send the unit back to ESU if anything did go wrong but at least I would be dealing with someone that I know and trust.

I am extremely happy with the unit. I have just said to my wife that I think that it is the best DCC controller that I have ever had. It was extremely simple to set up. One of my locos was missing in the built-in lok list but it was very easy to download it from the ESU web site. Having entered all of my DCC points into the controller, I can now operate them using a touch screen and without having to remember their code numbers. I know that I can do this with JMRI but my wife has banned any computers from the bedroom so I have to find other ways. (I haven't explained to her that the ECOS is just a Linux box in disguise but...).


As this railway is quite compact and is, what I like to refer to as, a "Train Set", I am trying to make it have a bit of life rather than being a serious model railway. One way to do this is to install lighting so that we can run dusk and nighttime sessions. I have shown how I have been building little circuit boards with LEDs attached. This is OK but a bit of a faff making them every time that I want to light something. I now have a solution.

I wanted to light the carriages but didn't want to spend £20.00 on each carriage by using the Train-Tech units. These are very clever but don't light u until the train moves, which doesn't strike me as too prototypical. I found a company called Layouts4U that have lighting units at just £6.00. These units come with an LED strip, some wires, a battery and a reed switch. You install the reed switch in the roof of the carriage along with the LED strip. Wave a magnet over the roof and the light comes on, wave it again and the light goes off. Brilliant!

I have fitted a set each into two of my Rheingold coaches and then tackled the little four wheel local carriages. I found that, as they were quite short, I could cut the strip and light two carriages with one set. There are two tiny black wires that go from the controlling carriage to the slave.

I have now ordered a 2m length of LED strip and am going to install some into the new Goods Shed. Having 2 metres of this will mean that I can light all of my forthcoming buildings easily. They can all be connected to my under-board lighting circuit and be switched from the front panel.

In addition, I have bought some street lighting and yard lighting from Amazon at not much money for 10 of each. These also get wired into the lighting bus. The stations are lit from the street lighting and the yard has some taller double lights. Should look great when I switch it all on.


I have been on a building binge. I talked about both of the stations in the last post. Since then I have bought two houses, a Bakery/Butchers (Bakerei and Metzgerie) and  a fun fair! The fun fair is to go beyond the reverse loop whilst the houses are for the station area. One big mistake. I was happily building the Bakery when I wanted to place some people around it. The people looked very tall and I found out that I had bought, and spent 7 days building, an N scale model! My wife likes pretty things so it has gone on her shelf and a replacement kit ordered.


I nearly had a crash on the railway a few weeks back when I was trying to shunt some wagons in the yard and run a train around the outside. Some yard operations require coming out onto the main. I did this and had a great fumble trying to stop the resulting mayhem. I thought about this and decided that a signal was the way to go.  On my next order with Lippe, I  placed one for a Märklin 70391 Home Signal with a Narrow Mast. This is a digital signal and incorporates a feed to the track that is under its control. I also ordered the bits to make the point onto the main be digitally controlled as well. I gave the point and the signal the same DCC address (well Märklin MFX address) and now, when I switch the point, the signal goes to danger and it removes power from a length of track running up to the signal. Switching the point to the main puts the signal at clear and power is restored. That keeps everything tickety-boo.

How is it so far

Everybody tells me that this is the best railway I have ever built which I agree with. It is great fun just to switch it all on (thank you Alexa!) and run some trains for a few minutes and then turn it all off again. I have avoided building a plan of the railway on the ECOS because that is getting a bit too close to JMRI. I can't see how it will keep me going for years but then its life is dependent upon the room that I have to use so who knows what is going to happen and when.

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