Nick's HO scale 48' x 24' Cornwall Railroad represents an 8 mile Industrial Shortline in Lebanon County PA that hauls iron ore from the oldest open-pin iron ore mine in the US; operating continuously for 272 years until Hurricane Agnes flooded the pit in 1972, closing the mine. The Cornwall Railroad interfaces with both the PRR and the Reading. Time frame is early 1950s.
Nick and his crew currently use the C/MRI to control 64 signals of 3 different types: Reading 3-color "cat-faced" signals, PRR position light, and Semaphores for the Cornwall. The layout is divided into 45 signal blocks. The interface has been upgraded in 2006 to 4 SMINI cards with an RS232-RS485 conversion card. The Smini cards replace the older, single node USIC using RS422 with 9 I/O cards. Nick's plans include making a replica US&S CTC panel that will replace the current computer graphic display. The older C/MRI hardware will control the panel and the CTC panel will be moved upstairs to the computer room to provide the dispatcher with an off-site area that will be a more realistic "feel" of remote operation. A laptop can be plugged into the layout interfaces when a smaller crew operates and Nick must act as dispatcher and Superintendant in the layout room. This method of dual control proves the flexibility of the C/MRI system and the PanelPro program.
A lift-bridge that spans the entrance to the layout uses micro switches and relays to electrically isolate the approaches to the gate and sets all signals to the bridge approach to red, plus sets a sensor indicator on the dispatcher's panel to red, indicating an open bridge.
Nicks layout is now using a graphic display for the dispatcher. It is written in JAVA and it is called JMRI PanelPro. It is a free program available at the JMRI Sourceforge site and it is a group effort by the JMRIusers group on Yahoo. The display mimics a US&S CTC panel but it includes the signals and occupancy indicators from the C/MRI information. The mainline switches are controlled by DCC accessory decoders by NCE. The PanelPro program communicates with the DCC command station via a USB Interface and a device called the Locobuffer-USB produced by Dick Bronson of RR-Cirkits , www.rr-cirkits.com . The graphic CTC panel has levers that move via mouse clicks and send a switch command to the DCC Command station. Feedback from the Tortoise switchmotors provide input to the C/MRI DIN card and is reflected on the CTC panel. The graphics on the track plan also reflect the switch positions by having the "points" move on the screen. Block occupancy is sensed by both JLC DCCOD sensors and RR-cirkit BOD8 block detectors. Sensors feed the SMINI inputs and are shown on the graphic CTC panel as LEDs that change from green to red.
The panel can be created by non computer programmers and is intended to be user-friendly. The Yahoo group members supply technical support in the same manner as the C/MRI group does on Yahoo. Bob Jacobsen wrote the original Cornwall PanelPro program in Java using the original QBASIC source code, written by Jeff Warner, as a guide. Nick rewrote the PanelPro program in May 2006 when he converted to the SMINIs. The new PanelPro panel also includes newer signaled areas like Lebanon, and several updated signals on the mainline for OS sections at major interlockings. PanelPro can also control switch routes and store them in route tables. Automation of trains can also be accomplished through simple scripts that can be activated during the session by the dispatcher. Fast-time clocks can also be controlled through the program with variable time ratios.
The JMRI program includes several tools for DCC users such as decoder programming, computer throttles that can run DCC -equipped locomotives, Digitrax Loconet tools for monitoring Loconet traffic, and all of the tools and icons that help PanelPro users create and operate computerized CTC panels for signaling. As of May 21,2006, the latest production version is 1.6.2 but the latest test version is 1.7.3. The test versions include more tools such as simple signal logic for adding signals to your layout and controlling them with PanelPro.
Nick states that, "Without Don Wood from Easee Interfaces and the contributors to the C/MRI User's Group the signaling system would still be a dream. Thanks also to Bruce Chubb for its creation and for his fine application manuals."
For more information on Nick's Cornwall Railroad see his WEB Site .