To operate our layout(s), the Piedmont 'N Southern relies on several key elements:
- Adherence to minimum wiring standards, both NTrak and Bend Track, to insure reliable power and control transmission. (TODO: get photo of new and old module wiring)
- Modular power connectors and power strips, with matching track segments connected to allow switching any mainline from DCC to DC by just moving one plug from one strip to another.
- Support for DC operation (see above). Several members have DC locos which we enjoy running, and often visitors will bring DC equipment in for a test spin.
- Support for DCC operation. The flexibility of DCC really shines at shows, when we have multiple operators running numerous trains over the same trackage. We can simply focus on collision-avoidance, without having to route power to blocks.
- Digitrax DCC equipment. As can be seen in the photos, the backbone of our DCC system is the Digitrax Loconet. We built a custom DCC Tower where all needed electronics are permanantly mounted. This includes our DCS100 Command Station, DB200 Booster, UR91 and UR92 wireless transceivers, LNRP (LocoNet Repeater), PR3, and a RaspberryPi computer with integrated wifi access point.
- Wireless throttles. Both of the DCC "toolboxes" also have built-in wireless transceivers, one duplex and one non-duplex, to support various wireless throttles. (TODO: get photo of throttles) The wireless throttles are indispensable in our walkaround environment, and allow our operators to stand with or behind the crowd while running trains.
- JMRI software. We use the open-source JMRI (Java Model Railroad Interface) software primarily to program decoders in our DCC-equipped loco. If a laptop computer is available, we've also run trains using the Throttle feature (from inside the "pit"). The software has features for controlling the layout and running trains, but we're not taking advantage of that yet. The key hurdle is wiring the modules for train detection.
- WiThrottle use. JMRI has a Wireless Throttle server feature which can be connected to from iPhone and Android phones to function as a wireless throttle. The iPhone/iTouch/iPad app is called WiThrottle, and the Android app is called Engine Driver. One of our members is an active developer of the Engine Driver app, so the shows provide an excellent testing ground for new features.
- RaspberryPi as an access point and JMRI computer. [separate page]