Katzhagen - Obstacles

A glimpse from the planning stage into the distant future ...

WWW - What? Where? When?

The first obstacle I ran into was a suitable control system. Given the garden's size and its vegetation a stationary control panel, or several of them, was not an option. A tethered handheld control device was a predictable hazard for accidents involving material, the owner and guests. An analogue cable web - originating from one or more central points - appeared to be neither easy to maintain, nor easy to extend.
After close examination of the digital control systems established on the market in relation to my needs, these systems all proved to be too expensive for the features they provided out of the box (or rather didn't provide at all). As a result, I had to develop my own control system to meet my needs.

The list of jobs at first contained only the functions along the tracks and directly concerned with the tracks. Auxilliary functions which happen beside the tracks weren't considered at that time. I thought the auxilliaries would sort themselves out - right in time when the ground work would start.


Power had to somehow get from the meter in the basement to the tracks, the turnouts and all the other powered units in the garden.
When I read about WindowsCE and its use with handhelds (PDAs) in some computer magazine one morning in January 2003, an idea was sparked: A webbrowser based train control! After some theoretical research around WLAN (wireless network) and field bus techniques (simplified: devices attached to a ring of wire) it turned out that my idea had some potential. Even all points on the list of duties for the control seemed to be coverable.
Commercial products, say a handheld, a WLAN AccessPoint and a SingleChip-PC (the latter for conversion to "garden data") were purchased for the planned system. Based upon a completely new design a controller serving all kinds of devices (no matter if it would be operating cars, 'Jumbo'-transformers, switches or "just" illumination) had to be built. The wiring diagrams took about two months of work and the printed circuit boards could be ordered then.

Function principle:

Handheld via wireless -> SingleChipPC via RS485 -> Controller in garden -> Device

Handheld's track-diagram signal-box

Controller for switches, signals, light, usw.

A control system of interest for owners of analogue layouts, who refrained from going digital so far (not least because of cost issues).