Working Rocrail with Hornby Elite DCC Controller

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Working Rocrail with Hornby Elite DCC controller[edit]

Purpose of this document[edit]

This document is for beginners to Rocrail who want to use a Hornby Elite DCC controller R8214 and Hornby Accessory Decoders R8216 and/or R8247.

It explains how Rocrail adjusts for quirks of the Hornby Elite controller, which is now fully supported by Rocrail using a specific elite sub-library.

Drawing up a trackplan, identifying locomotives and motorised points to the system is covered by the Rocrail step by step quick start quide and the main on-line manual.

Rocrail nomenclature for points is switches and turnouts.

To progress to more complex train operations please read the Rocrail on-line manual in depth and filter out specific applicable information.

A layout will likely have to be reworked into isolated power districts and/or operational blocks with necessary sensors to provide feedback for say aspect lights or signals, train positioning, or allow trains to run automatically, or to schedules. Such activity is presently outwith the scope of this initial help document.

The Rocrail forum is a valuable user group facility worth checking periodically for applicable posts.

Introduction to Rocrail[edit]

Rocrail is an open-source freeware project that enables computer control of a compatible digital command control (DCC) model railway layout under a Windows or Linux environment.

Control a basic layout, run locos and switch turnout-points from a computer by simple mouse clicks, operate advanced manual working with or without block control, and/or run fully automatic scheduled train operations.

This is achieved by a server and client arrangement installed on the same or different computers depending upon user requirements. Control can be from a single computer linked directly to Elite, or other computer(s) on a local area network (LAN) connected to Elite, or using a remote computer over the Internet, if this has client installed. Control is also possible using mobile devices such as mobile phones or tablets.

Click for picture: [1]

Server is the engine room working in the background and client is a graphic user interface (GUI) connecting the human controller, footplate, signal box to a layout via Elite. The GUI is known in Rocrail as RocView but is referred to throughout this document as GUI.

Read the on-line manual for information on setting up these wider control methods.

Download and installation of Rocrail Files[edit]

Go to Rocrail [2] and from the left hand column select the download link for your platform - e.g. Windows or Linux. At the linked location choose the correct file type for your operating system - e.g. unicode for Windows. Save this file to say a desktop folder. Svn snapshots are available from here [3] as nightly builds to fix recent problems in various areas and may be used at risk. Check also the asociated build notes.

Important - Note that there are some performance issues running Rocrail under Windows and you must choose the file most suited to your version of Windows (Ansi or Unicode) - read the Rocrail manual section 'Running Under Windows' for more details.

If a layout computer does not have Internet access or files are being downloaded to a computer other than the one that will control the layout, save all files to a portable memory stick and transfer them onto the layout computer.

Once downloaded (and if necessary copied to layout computer) navigate to where the files are saved and double click the .exe file. After Rocrail has finished installation, access the applications from Start-All_Programs-Rocrail.

If you already have an earlier version of Rocrail installed a snapshot can be loaded over it without losing any trackplan or .ini file data.

Click for picture: [4]

Or make shortcuts and place them on the desktop.

Updating Elite[edit]

The Elite must have at least firmware vers.1.2 installed (check for this at Elite start up). It is advised to download the latest update (currently v 1.4.1) and instructions from Hornby web-site and install on the Elite. Check the integrity of all locomotive addresses and that Elite still works the layout in Standard and Classic Modes after any update.

Full instructions are available on Hornby's website explaining how to upgrade the firmware, especially if you are using Win 7/8.

Use the same USB cable to connect Elite to Rocrail pc as for the firmware update. For basic Rocrail operations an XpressNet cable is not required.

Amending Rocrail configuration (.ini) file[edit]

So that Rocrail software will recognise Elite as the interface unit, parts of the .ini file are changed to tell Rocrail which equipment is being used and then say how to find it.

Connect Elite to the running layout computer with USB cable and switch Elite ON. Look in Start-Control_Panel-System-Hardware-Device_Manager-Ports(COM & LPT) for the ‘com’ port number Elite is using (e.g COM4). If Elite is not connected and switched ON there will be no ‘com’ port allocated. In Win 7/8 the port may not state Elite until the port driver is updated using the Elite driver.

The preferred way to amend the .ini file is from within Rocrail main screen - from File menu select in turn Rocrail Properties and then Rocview Properties. Fill in the required information fields and/or click radio buttons. In the Controller tab select and add Expressnet as the basic controller, amend this to read Elite and select the radio button for the Elite. Depending if you want to run in Elite Standard or Classic mode depends if you need to tick the V2 box - see later in turnout addressing. Save and close these files. Then save and close Rocrail and restart.

Note: .ini files can be manually amended using notepad or similar basic text editor if you are comfortable using this method.

Important – if manually editing .ini files carefully change only those bits of the file to read as shown in this link [5]

Leave everything else alone then save the file – File-Save, and Exit the editor.

Getting started with Rocrail[edit]

Before a layout can be operated with Rocrail, the user must know how to correctly start and stop both server and client, draw a trackplan of a layout and tell Rocrail about locomotives and switches-turnouts-points. See the step by step guide and main manual for details.

Rocrail has introduced a 'Workspace' facility simplifying the final startup and shutdown procedures. This is best read about in the Rocrail manual, which explains how to set it up.

Some things to note about Rocrail[edit]

A trackplan, including the associated locomotive-switch-other tables should be saved to a meaningfull name (e.g. Your-Railway.xml) using File-Save/Save_As before exiting server.

All changes thus saved are uploaded to server. Rocrail must be stopped and restarted for the file to become effective before it can be used. The chosen filename will also write into the configuration file so that Rocrail knows which trackplan to use as default.

Do not use Windows close ‘x’ symbol to close the server DOS window as it shuts down without carrying out the full save process. Using Ctrl+x, Ctrl+c and/or Ctrl+Alt+Del task manager methods will also abort Rocrail too early.

Using Rocrail Workspace precludes this problem. A workspace is a collection of files that Rocrail uses at startup to automatically load your track plan. Set it up initially from the File menu.

Simply close down Rocrail from drop down File menu – File-Exit or Shut down Rocrail and Server.

8051 is the default server monitor port allocated by NMRA to Rocrail. This is set in Rocrail properties from the File menu.

Rocrail can reset early Hornby locomotive decoders (R8215) during power up and power down sequences. It is recommended that if users have this problem they replace these decoders with latest Hornby production (R8249_v1.3 NMRA compliant or R8245 Sapphire) or other make decoders, preferably installed by way of a plug and socket. This is not a Rocrail fault.

For Rocrail to operate points correctly the inherent Elite points addressing differences between Standard and Classic modes (due to legacy problems catering for the Hornby Select command station) must be adjusted. Rocrail can be set to allow and adjust for the Elite being in either mode. See later in turnout addressing.

Rocrail on-line manual[edit]

The Rocrail on-line manual [6] contains much information about equipment that Elite users may not need or do not have, and also tells how to operate beyond present Elite functional capability.

Refer also to the Rocrail quick start step by step guide.

The Rocrail on-line manual is a live Wiki document subject to frequent change, so please check periodically for updates.

Trackplan[edit]

To draw a trackplan refer to on-line manual section - Creating your first trackplan - for guidance.

Draw up a simple schematic of the layout. Do not bother with details like blocks or signals, etc yet. Just add basic track, straights, curves, turnouts, crossings, buffer, etc to mimic your layout. Do not make it too elaborate to start with as it will probably be amended later.

Place turnouts-points by picking Turnout left or right hand, clicking on grid, then re-orientating to suit. Other types of turnout are possible – crossing at right angles, double slip crossing (not diamond), or triple, 3-way. These won't work until they are listed - see later. You can also create your own track symbols - see on-line manual.

In automatic or manual operations modes point motors can be fired in sequence to set a route before a train moves.

The track plan background colour can be changed, select View-Track_Plan_Colour. Text can be placed single or multi-line, font resized and re-orientated to suit, but placing can obscure the track lines.

Save a new trackplan with a suitable name – e.g. Your-Railway2.xml using File-Save. If not Rocrail will save to the default name - plan.xml.

To get a trackplan to work with Elite it needs to be saved and Rocrail client closed down and restarted in sequence.

Server and client will by default be on same computer, unless operating over LAN using more than one computer or allowing friends to run (and probably trash) your trains over the web. If so read further into the manual and forums for how to set it up.

Listing locomotives[edit]

Read the Rocrail on-line manual, locomotive section to see what goes in which box, what is essential to make it work and what is just information.

Pictures of your locomotives can be added to the locomotives table. See the manual.

Listing Switches-Turnouts-Points[edit]

Rocrail calls them Switches in the manual so look for and read that section, but Rocrail calls them Turnouts in GUI area. Let’s generally call them Points for now unless otherwise stated.

Pull down menu Tables-Turnouts and define points in a similar way to locomotives, but only if they are solenoid motors and they are DCC controlled.

Manual points or solenoid point motors operated by analogue methods - passing contact/momentary switches, probe and stud, CDU or not, etc are not able to controlled by computer. For other types of points motors, such as Tortoise, see the manual. Populate turnouts table as for locomotives.

ID is users preferred words or numbers to call each turnout e.g. Point-1, P2, Pt 3A-B, T5, etc. The rest as required but they can be amended later if necessary.

Address and Port - These instructions apply only to Hornby 4-port point and accessory decoders R8216 or R8247. For other make decoders refer to manufacturer's data. Hornby point and accesory decoders have 4 ports and normal practice is to connect 1 point motor to each port, although for a track crossover junction 2 motors can be wired to a port.

For each turnout location on the trackplan an Address and Port value is required. Various addressing methods are available in Rocrail but the preferred way for use with the Elite is PADA. Hornby sends a different value to either address or port according to which Elite mode is in use - Standard or Classic. Rocrail can adjust for this as explained in this Rocrail Wiki section relevant to the Elite [http://wiki.rocrail.net/doku.php?id=hornby-elite-en . It explains how to set Rocrail to allow for operating the Elite in Standard or Classic modes.

To invoke PADA addressing set all address blocks to 0, then number each port sequentially to match the turnout number - e.g T1 = 1, T2 = 2 ... etc ... T99 = 99. There is no need to identify which accessory decoder you are using, just carry over the turnout number. Continue the addressing sequence for as many accessory decoders and turnouts you have.

Various other addressing methods are possible, e.g. NMRA, MADA and FADA. See the Rocrail manual for definition of these methods. Also see the basic Address-Port designation page. Scroll down to switch addressing for further details: [7].

Whichever addressing method is used Rocrail will recalculate addressing back to NMRA.

Again click Apply/OK and save to trackplan using File-Save, stop and restart Rocrail to make changes effective.

Programming track[edit]

CVs can be programmed directly from this tab: [8]

Operating a trackplan[edit]

Connect Elite to computer and power up layout. Start Rocrail preferably using the Workspace facility.

A nag screen will appear requesting a donation. Please contribute if you can as Rocrail is run by volunteers with donor support.

The user's layout trackplan should appear on screen. If not pull down menu File and Upload user’s trackplan to a new tab on the trackplan. Pull down menu Trackplan. Select Operate. Select Power On - lightbulb button. Users will be able to pick from a list of their locos, run them to throttle and use trackplan to switch points.

Unless users are at a more advanced stage of having power districts, blocks and feedback incorporated into their trackplan the layout screen is mainly for show for basic operations, but can be used to switch turnouts-points and control locos.

Operating locomotives[edit]

A list of locos and some details will be seen at the left hand side of screen. Pick a locomotive from list and click on throttle slider. Increase power by moving slider up, watch the numbers in the adjacent box increase (0-100%) and locomotive will move off. Or use a wheel mouse to control speed. Note speed step at which locomotive moves off and if required, set this as starting voltage V-min on Interface tab. Similarly limit top speed. Check and fine tune as necessary. Pick another locomotive and do same for that. Check each locomotive obeys throttle and runs correct way.

Click for locomotives page:[9]

Double clicking a loconame(s) will launch a floating throttle(s).

All trains can be started together (unwise) and all stopped together (handy – like the Elite Emergency Stop button) if required. Trains can all be run automatically, some automatically and some manually, or all manually.

GUI will echo all commands in the lower right hand window pane.

Operating switches, turnouts, points[edit]

Trackplan calls them turnouts so we will use that term here.

Click any turnout on trackplan and if address and port are correctly set the associated point motor will throw, using capacitor discharge unt (CDU) built into accessory decoder. Click again and it throws other way.

There is also a Switch Control button that will open a switchbox to allow turnouts to be operated.

When a turnout throws the physical layout, it switches on trackplan with coloured leg showing the track way setting. Check it throws on layout same way as it throws on trackplan. If it throws in wrong logic amend the switch table to invert logic. No need to rewire.

Any pairs of point motors can wired and addressed together to operate as one when switched on the user's layout, but how to echo/mimic this on trackplan is presently under investigation.

GUI will echo in the lower panes all turnout commands and logic sent and received by showing the associated address-port and if set straight or turn.

Switches can be made to fire in sequence either in Auto mode or by selecting a Route. Routes can be operated manually. See on-line manual for details.

Advanced operations[edit]

Read the on-line manual, visit Rocrail user forums, etc.