Layout > JMRI & C/MRI


JMRI PanelPro display

Screen view of the JMRI PanelPro display for the layout's mainline. In this view, a west-
bound coal train crosses the diamond at Upda and has permission to enter the siding at
Tip Top and proceed on signal indication. Meanwhile, the dispatcher has cleared an east-
bound out of Williamson to Iaeger.

Operating nearly three dozen trains over a single track mainline during an operating session requires some coordination and control.  Thanks to the encouragement and assistance of friend Mark Ziebell, Tim decided to take advantage of JMRI PanelPro software and had Mark design a virtual CTC panel for the layout’s mainline. JMRI, a Java Model Railroad Interface, is an informal, open-source software group to assist model railroaders in controlling their layouts.  With the installation of Tortoise switch machines and Wabbit stationary decoders on the mainline switches (as suggested by Tim's layout design guru, Darin Umlauft), the JMRI panel allows the dispatcher to control the switches remotely.  Local control of these switches is also possible by installing a toggle switch on the layout fascia at the switch location.  In addition, Tim and Darin installed a “switch lock” feature for these switches.  By wiring a key lock in-line with the toggle, manual control of these switches is only possible by obtaining a “key” from the yardmaster or session superintendent.  Verbal authority from the dispatcher is required, as well, to operate mainline switches manually.

Turnout control on fascia

Mainline turnouts feature a plaque on the fascia showing the turnout's normal and
reverse positions when operated manually using the toggle switch. Manual
operation is only possible by inserting a key in the "dual control switch lock".

While the use of JMRI provides a fantastic means of interfacing the railroad and the NCE DCC system with a computer screen, it alone does not provide block occupancy to “see” the trains nor connect any signals.  So, thanks to the timely assistance of another friend, George Sorenson, Tim was able to begin to add this ability to the layout using C/MRI (Computer/Model Railroad Interface) components.  Installation of this system began in January 2010 with the assistance of Mark Ziebell and electrical expert, Mark Digerness, and now allows for mainline block occupancy detection.  Using 3 SMINIs (super mini-nodes) and 31 DCCODs (occupancy detectors), the system will provide all the occupancy detection and signal interfacing necessary to simulate centralized traffic control (CTC) for the mainline.

CMRI component panel

One of the two C/MRI system panels controlling layout occupancy detectors and for future
signaling. Two SMINIs and 17 DCCODs are wired at this location. Signals will be connected
to the SMINIs nodes that are shown unoccupied.