My layout project which I now have subtitled MADNESS because of it size 
is now at the stage were power and control has to be considered and as it will be basically a single operator and 
my M.O. will be to run it to a time table 
based on a G.W.R. mainline in the west of Britain.
I already have purchased an ECoS E S U COMMAND STATION .
Looking at some of the available software for train control I was wondering how practical it is and the capacity and capabilities , costs and the pros / cons of such systems as opposed to a more conventional control panel which may be more ‘Fun’ ?
A visit to Settle has given me food for thought and have in principle favour one over the other but want to be sure it is the right choice for me.
Decisions to made!
Any thoughts, experiences and words of wisdom welcomed 
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Your Ecos is capable of running certain auto routines of routes withought purchasing extra software to use that of course you will need to add feedbacks on the layout to implement it. This for some people may be more than enough in way of automated control.
I think with any consideration of implementing extra things the important question is what  are you trying to achieve?
For example if you have a larger layout there is a limit of what you are able to run at once as a single manual operator. You would need friends to come to operate a full schedule properly.
Going on from just using Ecos there are a number of packages available some free some with cost. These packages give you the ability to run complex routines as an individual.  With all of these you will have to buy feedback units for all the required detection areas which the number will relate to the size of your layout and of course these have to be installed.
All the software packages have a learning curve not just using them but setting them up as well  there is good support with the main software packages which is important as i think its fair to say most people need assistance at some point.
Which one to choice well i would say have a look at them some of the free ones you can download and evaluate the commercial ones usually offer a demo or trial version.  Jmri is compatable with Ecos and is free but most will say it is quite nerdy . I dont believe big bear another free one is compatable with Ecos..

Commercial ones the most common used are Railroad and co and Itrain   Both are very good but do have a cost both of these have support forums and you will find even on this forum there are people with expertise on these packages.

As i said earlier in the post "what are you trying to achieve"

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Jaz Avalley JazAvalley

ell GWR was the longest running of the Big Four, and allows some wonderful options.

Size is always a limiter, as is depth go pocket. Track is the first issue. I prefer Peco 75 (Peco 100 is popular and there are 'fancier' more expensive more rivet counting options, but knowing one major P4 exhibitor had to choke and replace with Peco for reliability, I would say use the bought stuff, it is quicker, more reliable easier to run stock, and easier to have some definitive ideas of costs moving forward. Yes I know I just painted a big shoot me sign on my back but I can live with it. I admire those who build their own exquisite track, but I think if they are honest that if they get much built at speed and with good effect they probably had the hands and the head and the knowledge to be up to the task, before they started this malarkey. The bigger the layout the more likely to buy ready to lay and have functionality this side of the next millennium the safer it is to be tried and tested kit.

That is not to say you can do a small part to super standard, just be realistic.

Now GWR is essentially 1923´1947 GWR can be argued to go further Ruffnut loves that and can expand. 

So you are looking at a high in railway terms before the the massive cuts boo hiss, and with loads of track and loads of super wagons and passenger trains to model.

If you want to keep the price down, at least at first, consider some landscaping, trees, and fields, if you are not strapped for cash, expand the minimalistic stations to add some town and industry.

Regardless of whether you are capable of the most exquisite scratch built buildings or rolling stack, you will inevitably want to fill some spots in a reasonable time, that means looking at either card kits or resin builds and the well known suppliers. Buy your kit look after it and the boxes, keep it dry, and retain some of its value! In case you ever ant or need to sell it.

Then you have to decide on the level of powered up, well your Ecos leads me to the DCC, and potentially working posts, working signals etc, not all at once but clearly asap s time and purse allows.Make sure points are far apart for your largest trains, not just a loco and say 6 passenger tracks, but think what if i go wagons, mineral trucks etc can be quite long. Allow a spot or two where you will expect to get nice photographs as you progress. This needs the track to align to a nice back ground, space for the necessary station and / or other buildings you deem desirable, and a safe spot for you to lean in and take low angle photographs (possible with the odd scenic item liftable to allow this.

Your phones can obviously do the light work, and modern cameras are good quality and easy to hold, so one hand to lean in, and one to photograph, or if worse comes to worse one hand to lean and one hand to re rail any derails! Make sure potentially difficult joins especially electrical ones can be reached later, and when i say later plan for years if not decades. Keep delicate items away from accidental bypass of your clothes and the kids or wife.

Preferably had a spot for one or two seats, and a safe spot for your cuppa, and a permanent or lift in lift out work spot, a lift out work spot can enable you to work in a warmer room if required then bring to the layout when advantage to do so or relegated to the dog house LOL.

Now this might not be the usual advice people hand out, but as time goes by, i think you might have some regard for these odd ball choices 😃

Old phones in the family can be useful as extra controllers, put the word out, old phones plus their chargers will be gratefully received-

Jaz Avalley

Model Railway Discussion Group
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Hi Jaz,
Many thanks for your interesting ideas  will keep in mind but scenic matters are some way down the line at the moment 
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I think Brian has hit the nail on the head with suggesting you try to evaluate your future needs and goals.  I have an Ecos and despite its ability to be able to operate in tandem with another controller as well as it being able to connect to a laptop for full programmable control at the end of the day the Ecos on its own is more than capable of doing everything that I am ever likely to want of a controller.  Once you have the layout diagrams set up intuitively changing points and accessories is a breeze and, in conjunction with the automatic route and reversing capabilities it will be surprisingly capable of a high level of automation on its own. 
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Yes trying to evaluate future needs and costs with a diminishing budget is sensible and prudent especially if some of the options are going to going to be expensive or even around the same cost.
Some form of automation would be desirable     for easy operation but  not practical re costs maybe it would be possible to future proof the wiring to add this later but this may not be a saving in the long term.
 I have a lot to learn and advice from different outlooks is helpful 

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Just remember as far as feedbacks are concerned with the eCos is you can only use S88. You can, I believe use railcom but you need extra bits and that incurs more cost.
Regards Len
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I suggest you sit and watch this video made by Iain Morrison who is a member here it really is an introduction to the use of Itrain the software package.
Iain has set up the screen so you can see part of the Itrain screen and what is going on and also a simultaneous  video of the actual layout so you can see train movement relating to the Itrain screen. Iain narrates in the video explaining what is happening and shows how as an individual you can interact with automated routines that are going on and change things on the fly.  Iain has made it well and not over complicated it so most people can watch and actually grasp what is going on. It is well worth watching to help you decide what level of control you wish to pursue.
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Briperran Will get a chance to look at Iain’s video some form of automated control would be desirable 
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I agree with all of Brian's advice - I'd just add that if you can get to see layouts that run trains automatically (assuming that is what you want) and talk to their owners in depth then I'm sure this would help.

You may have come across this already, but if you want to see automation on a grand scale take a look at the McKinley Railway.  If you'd like to see how to use TrainController / RailRoad & Co then I'd recommend taking a look at rudysmodelrailway - a whole series of really well produced tutorials.

I started with JMRI because it is free but in the end gave up the struggle; I looked at TrainController and ITrain and went with TrainController Gold because it looked like it would do everything I could possibly want (and it has).  It does have a cost - about the same of two quality DCC sound locomotives.  As I usually operate alone and wanted to have several trains running at once, well worth it.

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