2014 part 1 – Plans

Now it is decided: I am going to build a real railway. And guess what: The re-usability of the old railway set is soon to show itself to be just around 0%.

Before I can really get started, the technical bits must be settled.

The big dream is a computer controlled railway with automatically running trains, but where I can control one of the trains manually simultaneously.

Does computer control require a digital railway? Not necessarily. Theoretically an analog railway divided into isolated pieces of track can be controlled via analog I/O modules in a computer. That way, at least DC motors in locomotives can be controlled.

I did not dive very deep into that idea though. It is probably both easier and cheaper to go mainstream and digitalize. Later, I found out that digitalization means isolated pieces of tracks as well as DC motors in all locomotives anyway. But that is a different story.

I started out by visting a few dealers and by surfing a lot on the Internet. The were many considerations about DIY stuff or buying factory made digital equipment.

I soon decided to buy a factory made command station from Uhlenbrock and to build the accesory decoders myself.

I chose an Uhlenbrock IB-COM, because the price is not much higher than that of a kit and far less than any command station with display etc. In addition, it has Loconet, which I thought I would be using for feedback, because I had heard much bad about instabilities of S88. If need be, the IB-COM is also equipped with S88.

I only have one seriously bad thing to say about the IB-COM: programming of non-DCC decoders does not work. With some Märklin MFX decoders, you will get “fehler” 9 out of 10 times when trying to read a CV value. And the solutions described for Intellibox on the Uhlenbrock homepage do not work for IB-COM.

I have no idea whether other command stations are just as bad on that area. But at a convenient time and once I get more experience with different decoders, I think I am going to complain to Uhlenbrock support.

Post script: I have later on eliminated the problems with the MFX decoder by disabling all protocols except DCC in the decoder. That is possible in the socalled nachrüstung decoders from Märklin. But it is not possible in locomotives produced as Märklin MFX locomotives (unless of course a different decoder is being put into the locomotive).

I am still having a bit of trouble programming my DIY accessory decoders that I am using for turnouts. The problem is, that they are not able to consume enough power from the programming track. And that is how a decoder replies back to the command station during programming: It pulses with power consumption.