This section outlines great layouts by talented model railroads who have employeed the C/MRI system to control various portions of their railroads. If you have a layout with a C/MRI system and would like to showcase it here, please see the bottom of this page.

Featured C/MRI Installations

Thom Vanderlip's B&O Grafton Division

Rick Rideout's L&N Henderson Subdivision

Steve Hayes and his Western Pacific

Nick Kulp and his Cornwall Railroad

Ed Crone and his Automated Operation

Lee Nicholas and his Utah Colorado Western

Bob Truax’s Great Northern - Old Goat Division

John Shankland's Hi-Rail Chicago Burlington and Quincy

Bill Gruber’s Reading Lines

Steven Mallery's PRR Buffalo Line

Jeff Warner's PRR/RDG/WM South Central Region

Michael J. Burgett's Chesapeake and Ohio

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Thom Vanderlip's B&O Grafton Division

Thom states that his Grafton Division has been enjoying the application of the C/MRI for 16 years. "I started with the very original Universal Bus Extender Card (UBEC) with an IBM adapter card for a parallel application including a full implementation of Computer Cab Control. When I decided to move the computer upstairs, away from the railroad, I converted from the parallel UBEC to using the serial USIC. The C/MRI setup receives inputs from over 100 optimized detectors drives xx prototype style B&O color position signals. The dispatcher controls the train routing using an 8 foot long CTC panel. At the present time I'm converting from CCC to using the NCE Corporation DCC for train control along with upgrading the C/MRI to take advantage of the distributed serial option using multiple Super USIC cards. I'll most likely be using all SUSICs nodes, rather than SMINIs, since I already have an abundance of the original 8255 based I/O cards. I think the C/MRI is truly great and looking forward to my upgraded system giving me another 16 plus years of operational enjoyment."

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Rick Rideout's L&N Henderson Subdivision

Rick Rideout, the owner of Rick's Products, is one of the original C/MRI Users. He started out with the original UBEC approach using the very original design I/O cards using the 8255 ICs. Rick reports that, "After diving into the C/MRI implementation, I just couldn't believe how straightforward the application became. Set up one OS section all the rest are identical except for a few number changes."

To top it all off, the system works today as good as the day it was installed nearly 15 years ago. Besides being tied into the CTC panel and controlling the trackside signals, Rick reports that "The C/MRI also drives his fast-time clocks and drives a speedometer readout at each of his OS sections." To accomplish this, the C/MRI measures the time it takes a train to traverse through an OS section and knowing the length of the OS section it computes the train speed and drives a numeric LED readout at the OS location. It is true, once you have a C/MRI installed on your railroad you will be amazed at the additional applications you will dream up and implement.

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Steve Hayes and his Western Pacific

Steve started with the C/MRI in 1996 and is the person that actually first suggest setting up the C/MRI User’s Group. Now he is one of the group’s most frequent contributors. His WP runs from Oakland to Salt Lake with branches to Reno, Turlock and Bieber, set in the late 60s. It’s a huge setup with 700 feet of main line sporting 9 passing sidings; all located in an 1800 square foot dedicated basement.

Steve and his crew use the C/MRI, in a combined parallel and serial approach, for signaling, dispatching and computer cab control. An IBEC parallel node serves the area near the dispatcher and two serial nodes cover the remote regions. The C/MRI interface, via the CTC panel and 36 I/O boards, controls all mainline turnouts and 100 trackside signals. Forty-five cab relay cards (CRCs) are used to implement the CCC option.

Steve says, “From the beginning it was apparent to me, and it still is, that the Chubb system is the best way to implement the Dispatcher’s board and all the associated lights, switches and signals. For train control I would most likely now go with DCC but at the time DCC was still under development and no radio control was available. I had radio control throttles with my DC so thought that as long as I had the C/MRI for signaling, why not add in the CCC option? I did and I’ve been running with CCC and radio control ever since.”

Steve feels it is very important for new users to be able to visit with those with considerable experience. That’s why he asked Dave Gibbons to start the C/MRI User’s Group. In conclusion Steve states, “The C/MRI system we have built for the WP continues to amaze me. I didn’t even have a computer when I started this project, so this has been quite an adventure! Thanks for the trip Bruce!”

Please visit Steve's Web Site.

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Nick Kulp and his Cornwall Railroad

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 .

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Ed Crone and his Automated Operation

Thanks to the egging of Paul Cesak, another ling time C/MRI user and User’s Group participant, Ed has achieved something that he had always though was a pipe dream. He’s used the C/MRI to develop a fully automated system that runs up to four trains simultaneously with three doing coupling and uncoupling routines. Once Ed flips the switch he can stand back and watch the trains in operation. The sequence takes about 20 minutes and includes around 24 coupling and uncoupling moves.

Ed states that, “Over the years I have come to appreciate the flexibility of the C/MRI and what it can accomplish. The last few years I’ve been working more with the software, mainly getting the kinks out of the system for reliability handling the automated switching simultaneously with 4-train operation. It has been a fun project, and frustrating at times, that could not have been accomplished without the C/MRI.”

Ed has the whole operation captured on a CD showing sections covering both the Electronic and Layout. Understandably most model railroad operators shy away from totally automated operations. However, setting up for a few trains to operate automatically while you and your crew operate others can be a very rewarding aspect of the C/MRI. For more information on what Ed is doing you can contact him via E-Mail.

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Lee Nicholas and his Utah Colorado Western

Lee’s outstanding Utah Colorado Western has been featured numerous times in the model press as well as in Great Model Railroads video tape #27. He is also a great proponent of the C/MRI system including holding seminars on the subject as well as sponsoring extremely popular operating sessions attended by prototypical oriented operators from all around the US. Train control is by Rail Lynx providing a direct IR link between each walkaround throttle and the engine(s) being controlled.

UCW operator Jon Robinson is the brains behind the C/MRI installation. Prior to the adopting the C/MRI, Jon spent hundreds of hours designing his own interface. He spent untold hours and wore out the knees in more than one pair of pants, crawling around under the layout hooking everything up. Although his efforts provided the UCW with a reliable interface for a number of years Lee and the UCW crew decided in 2000 to replace the system with Bruce Chubb's C/MRI system. As Lee stated, “Updating to the C/MRI gave us a system that was easily expandable and one that I could easily maintain and program.”

UCW operator Rod Loder was the inspiration behind creating the CTC machines for the UCW. He’s done the same for many other layouts around the country. His company, Photo Electric, now offers a full line of CTC parts and panels. The first panel supplied for the UCW in 1990 was the US&S style machine used on the Southern Pacific in Eugene, Oregon. (That’s also the machine copied and simulated for use in Eugene Oregon on the SV Oregon System).

In the spring of 2000 it was also decided, along with the change to the C/MRI, to replace the SP board with one from the UP. The new machine is also of US&S vintage and was part of the UP's dispatch center located in Pocatello, Id. Rod’s company completely refurbished the machine with the UCW track and lever arrangements making these old relics look factory fresh just off the "Showroom Floor". All hardware is original to the machine which includes: switch and signal levers, code buttons, toggle switches, lamps and glass lenses and all the contacts behind the scenes. Good friend, John Signor of Dunsmuir, CA, provided all the artwork for the track panels. They are photo etched on aluminum by a company in Wisconsin.

The C/MRI system along with Oregon Rail Supply 3-color signals were installed in a 3-month period; June - August of 2000. Don Wood, of Easee Interfaces, assembled and tested all the required C/MRI cards and built up all the cables. The UCW crew tore out the old system, installed the C/MRI, did all the wiring with the new trackside signals and everything was up and running perfectly in 3-months. As Lee states, “I am very pleased with the CMRI system it was easy to install and program and performs very well.”

For more information about the UCW and its C/MRI application visit Lee’s excellent UCW WEB Site.

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Bob Truax’s Great Northern - Old Goat Division

The GN Old Goat Division is a full-basement HO layout based upon the GN mainline and branchline operation during the 1940s and 50s with breathtaking scenery and exquisite detail throughout. Bob’s unrelenting attention to detail all carries over to the C/MRI installation which is a piece of art. The interface wiring is extremely neat with everything in its proper place.

Bob started out using the C/MRI for signaling as well as for Computer Cab Control (CCC). He wanted exquisite prototypical sound in all his custom painted GN steam engines and at the time the only real choice was PFM sound units.

With the coming of Soundtrax DCC decoders Bob switch train control over to DCC, giving his CRC cards to a local club, and expanded his C/MRI for more prototypical signaling including the control of numerous grade crossing protection devices.

The photo showing Bob’s interface illustrates how neat and organized one can make a large C/MRI installation. He chooses to make notched cubby-holes for plugging in all the cards. This older photo shows the numerous Cab Relay Cards in the center with the top of the I/O cards shown below. The Optimized Detectors, plugged into their slots, are shown to the right. His current setup has dropped the CRC cards, added more I/O cards and changed from the ODs to the DCCODs.

Walter Griffin, a frequent contributor to the C/MRI User’s Group, is the brains behind Bob’s C/MRI setup that uses a single IBEC parallel node programmed in Visual Basic. Walter’s programming includes a very detailed CTC track diagram display on the computer’s monitor with dispatching inputs accomplished via the keyboard. If you would like more information on Walter’s approach you can frequently find him on the C/MRI User’s Group.

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John Shankland's Hi-Rail Chicago Burlington and Quincy

One of the reasons that John decided to go with the C/MRI System was the capability to create a computer monitor screen of the action on the railroad. As you can see by the photo the outcome can be quite good. Due to the complexity of the junction in the middle of the railroad he elected to represent the railroad track plan in a blend of traditional track plan configuration and CTC straight line schematic. If you can see the detail in the photo you will notice that he has reprogrammed the ASCII character sets to allow the “drawing” of nicer looking lines. The corners are rounded, and the diagonals are connected. This monitor screen features working turnouts, occupied blocks with the cab number and direction of travel shown. The block ahead is in green with a cab number and direction if it is assigned but not occupied. He could have include signal repeaters on the screen but found it unnecessary.

Some of the other features are: Cab Relays, Speed indication, Prototypical signaling, Automatic staging, Automatic parking in staging with stopping sections, and future crossing gate control. In addition He has several automatic routes using the computer and detection to throw turnouts, great for casual guest demonstrations of the railroad.

One of his favorites things about C/MRI is the ability to make what would normally be major changes in the control of the railroad by simply changing a line or two of code.

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Bill Gruber’s Reading Lines

Operation: The Reading Lines is operated monthly by a crew of up to twelve people. The timetable allows for nearly thirty trains to be run during each session. Most of the freight traffic is bridge traffic, that is, coming on line at one connection (staging) and making its way to another connection (staging). About 15% of the freight traffic finds its way to on-line industries or yards. Movement of trains is done using a CTC machine, operating rule book and radios for communications with the dispatcher, tower operators, yardmasters and train crews. A fast clock is used to pace the rail traffic and an operating session usually last about four hours. Operating positions include yardmasters, CTC operator, tower operators and various engineer/brakeman jobs. Four separate hidden staging yards are used to bring traffic onto the railroad from un-modeled portions and connections with other railroads such as the B&O, PRR, NYC, ERIE, LV, CNJ, and PRSL.

CMRI: The Computer/Model Railroad Interface (C/MRI) has been used since 1993 and mainly acts as an interface between the CTC panel and the railroad. The CTC panel is based on a prototypical Union Switch & Signal panel. There are presently over 500 I/O lines controlled by 2 USIC’s which are used mainly to monitor and relay information via the CTC panel. All main line switches and signals are interlocked by way of the computer and several modes of operation can be used (i.e. CTC, ABS, etc.). During operations, CTC mode is used where the CTC operator routes traffic over the system. At “open houses”, a modified “Automatic Block Signal” mode is run and several switches (turnouts) are automatically controlled thus eliminating the CTC operators position. Since installing the CMRI, I have been able to increase the volume of traffic over the system while cutting down on the radio communications. Additionally, since interlocking, there has not been one derailment caused by inadvertently throwing a switch under a moving train! This is especially important to me since there are lots of hidden track and staging yards on the railroad.

DCC: When the railroad was converted to CMRI control, DCC was installed concurrently. The Reading Lines uses a Digitrax system. Some cabs are radio controlled. All locomotives are equipped with decoders.

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Steven Mallery's PRR Buffalo Line

Steven Mallery, who just happens to be a prototype dispatcher for Norfolk Southern working the same geographical area that he models, runs his mid 1960's era PRR Buffalo Line from South Williamsport, PA to Buffalo, NY as a point to point layout with three staging yards representing Enola, PA, Buffalo, NY, and Erie, PA. The principal classification yard at Renovo is supplemented by four small local yards. Half of the 230 feet of HO scale single track mainline with passing sidings is on two levels allowing plenty of space on the other single level half for a major layout feature, the heavy helper grade necessitating helper assistance both up and down hill. A card style waybill system dictates car movements and thereby randomizes train lengths, with the resulting train sizes ranging from 25 to 55 cars. The Dispatcher communicates with the yard via telephone, but he uses radio to contact the road crews operating their trains with NCE DCC. The main purpose and goal of this CTC controlled rail system with 12 fully functional interlockings is: Prototypical Operations, including everything from operating rules, signal rules, car movements, train scheduling and blocking. Making this happen consumes a staff of 7 to 9 road crews, two yard crews, one Yard Master and a Dispatcher. The objective is to be as realistic as possible, and use of the CTC system contributes to that realism.

Operating sessions started in 2002. From his CTC panel, the Dispatcher (who else but Steven himself) controls all mainline switches. Steven built the layout with full electrical track circuit detection between and at all interlockings. He put resisters on the wheels at both end of every single car on the layout, so his system can tell immediately whether interlockings and mainline tracks are occupied or clear. Not only can he tell where trains are, but also his safety circuits won't let the switches move while an interlocking is occupied. After starting to install some Chubb SMINI boards in late 2003, Steven held his first session using some signaling in February 2004 with three adjacent interlockings fully signaled. The effect on the background noise level just from reduced radio chatter because these signals eliminated need for as many dispatcher contacts was so noticeable that the room seemed almost too quiet to his regular crew.

A total of 15 SMINI boards are installed to handle the 170 inputs and 380 outputs needed to control the complete railroad. One of his regular operators, Ray Fisher, wrote the control program in QB4.5 using structured code. The program accepts the track condition indications and CTC lever settings as input. To protect the structured code, he incorporated the unstructured Chubb provided interface shells customized for this layout, by encapsulating them within sub modules. To supplement the detection-triggered protection, he included software interlock protection for switches when signals clear not-yet-occupied routes across those switches. Now, not only are switch movements locked when a car actually occupies an interlocking, they are also locked when a signal gives permission to occupy that interlocking. The program also allows Steven to set the signal for the Renovo yard lead in fleet mode so that he doesn't have to micro-manage that track while the Yard Master needs headroom for some classification moves. Full software traffic locking in both directions is also in place!

The signal aspects displayed are Clear, Approach, Stop, and Restricting, an adequate subset of the full PRR signal aspect set. When Steven selects a route and requests a clearance from his CTC panel, the program evaluates the route, currently active traffic locks, and the settings on all other signals. It then selects which signals and aspects to display if it can safely honor the request. As trains pass signals, the program makes their aspect revert to Stop. As trains vacate locked tracks, the program releases appropriate traffic locks for trains in the opposing direction.

One essential feature for programs interfacing with SMINI boards is to have an aggressive error handling capability. Because of random fluctuations, sometimes attempts to read SMINI inputs fail, and the Chubb interface shell logic identifies such situations by setting an error indicator. If this warning is ignored, the returned values, that are set to zero when the warning is set, may cause serious problems, as when they could be confused, for example, as an indication that an occupied track has been vacated, when in fact the train is still there, or when they seem to say that a switch is in motion. Steven's program repeatedly saves the value of the last good read from each SMINI board. Then when a random read error occurs, it reuses that saved value, thus preventing occasional fluctuations from causing unexpected results.

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Jeff Warner's PRR/RDG/WM South Central Region

This HO scale layout features the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), Reading Railroad (RDG), and Western Maryland Railway (WM) in South Central Pennsylvania and Maryland. It is comprised of two decks in a 22' x 36' basement. It is set in the transition era of the mid 1950's with both steam and diesel locomotives. It is a "proto-freelance" railroad (it is not meant to be an exact "replica" of the actual railroad, but rather capture the "flavor" of what these railroads were in the 1950's). The layout models the PRR from Baltimore, MD to Marysville, PA with additional staging at Lancaster, PA. The WM and RDG are modeled from Baltimore, MD to Rutherford, PA (via the "Dutch" and "Lurgan" lines) with additional staging at Cumberland, MD.

Control is DCC with a radio-equipped Digitrax Chief system. The C/MRI system is used for a computer controlled CTC signaling system with emphasis on prototypical operations. Five SMINI nodes will be used to control 56 signals and detect occupancy/switch positions for a computer based CTC machine. A dedicated keyboard is used by the dispatcher to control the system. This CTC machine is very close to a circa 1990's machine and was largely designed by my dispatcher (actual Conrail/NS dispatcher, Steve Mallery -- see his layout also on this page!!!). The program is written in Borland C 5.02 and utilizes the BGI for VGA graphics. The computer also interfaces with the Digitrax Loconet to control main-line switches via NCE Switch-Its.

Oregon Rail Supply signals (type G or "V" for RDG, type D for WM, and position lights for PRR) will be used on layout with repeater boards for every interlocking above the layout to provide better visibility (especially in crowded aisles). Four aspects (clear, approach, stop and restricting) provide an adequate subset of the prototype signals. Even with only 50% of the C/MRI system installed, a dramatic decrease in radio traffic was seen in the first operating session. Mistakes were also cut down as the signals make it much clearer for road crews to determine proper clearances.

Operations began in January 2001 and require 12-15 people. Contact information if you'd like to see or operate the layout can be found at: http://jwarner.pennsyrr.com

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Michael J. Burgett's Chesapeake and Ohio

Mike writes: "I have always had an interest in railroading and in railway signal systems since I was about eight years old. I always enjoyed wiring my Lionel layout and in later years my HO scale layout. It was this interest that led me to learn as much about railway signal systems as I could. Today I put this information to good uses in my job as a Signal Maintainer for the Canadian National Railway in Pontiac, Michigan.

Model railroading is still my hobby. I have recently completed the Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) system on my friend Chuck Liford's layout, who models Conrail's Indianapolis Line from Berea Ohio to Indianapolis, Indiana circa 1998.

I now turn my efforts to working on my own "Dream Layout." I am currently in the very early stages of building my first large 1,400 square foot double deck layout. My HO scale railroad will model the Chesapeake and Ohio's (C&O) line as accurately as possible between Clifton Forge and Gladstone, Virginia in August of 1965.

The historical aspect as well as the operational aspect is my main focus in the construction of this layout. Making the operator walk away with the feeling that he has spent a day back in time working for the C&O is the objective to this effort."

You can see more of the progress on Michael Bugrett's layout at http://www.ctcparts.com.

 

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Posting Information

Would you like to see your C/MRI Application featured on the JLC WEB Site? If you would please send a maximum of 3 high quality color prints, slides, or digital files (jpg or tiff), to Jeremy Jordan along with a paragraph or two defining your C/MRI application, programming language, experiences and achieved benefits. One of the photos needs to include you in the picture. All the photos should illustrate the C/MRI and its impact on your railroad. If you include your email address and/or a related railroad WEB site, it will most likely be included as part of your application's write up. All write ups are considered provided without any monitory or other provided benefit and may or may not become a part of the WEB site display as solely determined by JLC Enterprises.

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