This is a description of what is needed to control our freight cars in way that more accurately reflects real world factors that influence performance. It's obviously not for everyone as certain aspects of the system will only appeal to people who can appreciate the cost/benefit analysis of more realistic model response patterns and operational enhancements which come as an extra to DMCS.
The heart of the system revolves around the use of established ideas, but taking the concept to the maximum limits of the technology. There are four parts to this system.
1. A digital processor control system. Your home computer will suffice with the right software and interface module.
2. A controllable master unit for each train. A suitably equipped locomotive of choice will be ideal.
3. An intelligent linking system for the train. This can be carried in the freight cars.
Each freight car will need three components to work with DMCS:
- The first is a way of adding momentum effects to the car itself.
- The second is a control system which can respond to commands.
- The third is a link to the master unit.
1. A motorized axle on each truck, using coreless stepping motors, will power the freight car and provide dynamic braking. The other axle will support the linking system.
2. A infra-red transceiver module will fit on the outward facing axles to provide a continuous link through the train. These will use a slow IRDA protocol at approximately 256kbits per second.
3. A custom active digital control chip which will receive commands from the master unit and apply appropriate modulation of the current to the coreless motors.
The result is the first step towards a distributed intelligent control system. Now briefly as the rest of this is off topic as it deals with parts of model railroading that is not directly related to freight cars.
The controllable master system is a chip in our locomotives (which now have infra-red IRDA transceivers), when it couples up to a train, takes control of all the freight car mounted chips.
As a bonus it is possible to add to the locomotive a method of detecting grades, thereby through a time code cause the freight cars at the end of the train not to respond to the grade change until they reach it. So for example when going uphill the rear of the train doesn't respond to the gradient until all the train is on it. Secondly when cresting the summit different portions of the train will respond in a realistic manner.
Additionally the digital processor can can be encoded so that realistic applications of the trains brakes can be applied. Of course since this is a digital control system all the other benefits of such a system can be employed to enhance the railroad simulation. For instance why only have sound in the locomotives. Since each freight car has a chip it too could produce sound effects, like the squealing of brakes and even the sound of the knuckles as the couple/uncouple.
Advance User Functions for DMCS
Since each chip in each freight car is inherently programmable by the user the following functions cascade from the application of DMCS.
1. Integrated waybill attachment and re-billing of cars. The system can have a map of the layout and know where every freight car and locomotive is. A hidden bonus here is the quirky fun stuff like bad order bills. A freight car can actually cause operational difficulties by random actuation of its coreless motors.
2. Load simulation. Here you can automatically have the operational characteristics of the freight car changed to represent a loaded or empty car. In addition it's possible to simulate liquid loads sloshing around in tank cars. Again done by varying the braking effects upon the individual freight car through the coreless motors.
3. Automatic layout re-staging. By fully integrating the turnout control to the digital processor control system. This is a "Tower of Hanoi" problem in a sparse network environment. However, since the waybill generators can already be controlled by the computer software this should just be a matter of a database look-up function. Since all the units within the system are controllable, one can envisage an automatic shuffling of them on the layout.
The commercial possibilities for DMCS are promising, as there are several bonus control spin-offs. Manufacturers of toy trains can exploit this to good effect. For instance the "Thomas The Tank Engine" Line could have models where the faces of the characters could be animated using pizzo electric actuation. They could be made to smile, move their eyes and talk using the sound capabilities of the chips. In addition, since the trucks have coreless motors capabilities, they can be real troublesome trucks and actually run away from Thomas when being shunted. Or bang against each other recklessly.