Two words that changed everything

Yesterday I was idly reading the latest posts on the Model Railway Forum, as you do, and found myself on a post about a wiring diagram for a DC layout. Nothing too extraordinary there. Until someone commented the following:

I see nothing wrong with that as a starting layout. As you expand , then cab control make moving trains easier.

Cab control? I hadn’t come across that term before. Google launched into action, and about half an hour later I began to realise that there was a far better way of wiring up my own layout, and I might have to rethink it.

For the uninitiated, like me, here’s a quick summary of the concept of cab control. The layout is divided into distinct functional blocks, electrically isolated, and the power for each block is routed back to a control switch to toggle which controller should be providing power to it. It means that every control can control every piece of track, but each piece of track can only be controlled by one controller at a time.

For my own layout, I had intended on using just one of my two controllers, because it was only small, and isolation would be provided purely by the position of the points. Don’t get me wrong, this works, it’s just not as flexible or ‘clever’ as cab control.

This Christmas my family were generous enough to give me all sorts of model railway bits and pieces (thank you everyone!), including a soldering iron and various LEDs, so there’s an expectation that my layout becomes more electrically competent anyway. So perhaps now is a good time to implement cab control too, before the track is laid too permanently. The plan as it stands now is to add insulated rail joiners to created five isolated sections of track (see coloured diagram), use a common return rail to save some wiring, create a control panel with five SPDT switches, connect up my dual Gaugemaster controller, and use the accessories output to power my streetlights and other LEDs that will go inside other buildings. Still to be worked out is where in the circuit the track cleaner accessory needs to go. And of course I’ll need to teach myself to solder again.