Planning

Planning your installation

Planning your Installation

Taking time to plan your installation is vital, as you will then only need to order the items you actually need.  A rough scale drawing of your layout is useful, as you can then add the positions of the aerials on that, and see where the reader boards need to be.  Remember that it is much cheaper to use quad readers than either dual or single readers.  Also using longer aerial cables give you more flexibility, although you do have to be careful about spacing of aerial cables.

Starting your planning

Make a scale drawing of your layout.  This need not be complete, but areas such as stations and fiddle yards, where there will be more RFID points are essential.  Track that go out "into the country" need not be drawn, as it will become obvious as to where the RFID points will need to be, and whether you need single, dual or quad readers.
You need to think about how you want to use the information from the RFID points.
If you are interested in shunting and assembling trains in a fiddle yard, then you would probably want a RFID point at the start of every siding, as each wagon can then be tracked as it goes into the siding and is decoupled.
In a station, you may want RFID points at each end of the platform, and also in the middle, as this would enable trains to be slowed and positioned accurately with respect to the platform.
On a main line, you may want a RFID point before a signal, and another after a signal - this would allow detection of the train to make sure it does not overshoot the signal, and also to give accurate representation of block occupancy.
You can always add more RFID points later, and because the RFID field is very tightly controlled, RFID points can be close together - adjacent tracks will not interfere with one another.
Also, if at a later stage you wish to alter a RFID point position, this can be easily done, with, at most, the cost of a new aerial.

Working out what you need

Once you have the positions of the RFID points on you plan, then you need to group them into multiple readers. The order of RFID points into readers does not matter, as the software will be able to map them later. However, there are some very important caveats on the aerial wires. Beacuse the aerial wires are carrying RF signals, it is essential that they do not interfere with one another, as this would result in either a degraded or non-existent performance. Aerial wires should be kept at least 1cm apart, and should not cross. if there is excess wire, then this should be snaked under the baseboard. Do NOT be tempted to bundle aerial wires together for the sake of neatness. Do NOT coil aerial wires. However, aerial wires can, if necessary, cross other wiring, but it is best if this is done at right angles.

Once you have the positions of the readers and the aerial wires, then you can work out the runs of the RJ45 cables. These can be bunched. The hub can be placed under the baseboard, but I prefer to put it somewhere it can be seen and got at, as there are both feedback devices on the hub board, and switches which you may need to use. There are limits as to how long the RJ45 cables can be.  In general, the total length between the hub and the far end of the daisy chain should not exceed 20 metres - this is due to capacitance in the cable.  In practical terms, this should be more than enough except for the very largest layouts, in which case you would probably have more than 32 RFID points, and these can then be grouped into different hubs.

A quad reader just requires one RJ45 cable back to hub. Dual and single readers are daisy chained - either 2 duals, one dual and 2 singles, or 4 singles. You will need to set the addressing on the duals and singles, but order does not matter. You can now work out what RJ45 cables you need.

I prefer to use colour coded RJ45 cables - it makes the wiring easier, especially when connecting to the hub. I use 8 different colours, roughly corresponding with the resistor colour code, so if I have to remove the hub, it's easy to get the cable back in the correct slots.

Unless you make you own RJ45 cables (which may be more expensive), the cables are only available in a variety of set lengths, so work out which lengths and which colours you need.

The ethernet cables between your computer and hub should be Cat5 or Cat5e - and consequently will have a distance limitation of 50 metres or so.  In extremely large layouts, you may need to have routers to extend the length, or even use a wireless router (see Ethernet on the Technology pages).


Ordering Checklist

For a new installation, you will need a Hub and a power supply. In addition, you need to order the number of readers you require, making sure that the lengths are correct (short medium or long). You also need the RJ45 cables.  The readers come with mounting brackets, which make them much easier to install under a baseboard.  You can always add extra readers at a later stage,   If you attach the aerials to the bottom of your baseboard with masking tape, you will be able to move them without damage if you find that the RFID points are in the wrong place.

Note that all components come fully tested and working.

Checklist

Hub

Power supply

Single readers (how many of which length)

Dual readers (how many of which length)

Quad readers (how many of which length)

RJ45 cable (length, quantity, colour)

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