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Android Cab control

At times I seem to get fixated on making a cab view control and to date I have made five such cab controls, each time with different technology, and each time it gets a bit better.

My first effort was built into the train control software.

Then I got an HP PDA device that had a wifi connection so I wrote a program that ran on that.

Then I made one that would display in a browser. In this version, I managed to superimpose signals showing the current signal aspect into the image.

Then I made one that would run on a phone using Blynk technology. It did not allow the flexibility to position the signal in the image so I displayed signals to the side, but at least it was now on my phone.

And now, I have made one that runs on a phone (and Windows) using AppGameKit

This version has a better speed display, in addition to the track speed limit and current desired speed of the train, speeds above the speed limit of the (lead) locomotive are shown in red. The speedometer scale also changes dynamically according to the maximum speed of the current locomotive.

As before, all available digital functions can be invoked by buttons, but now the buttons also make a realistic click sound. It also superimposes signals onto the track image. When one touches any control in the cab, the image outside the window goes out of focus for half a second to simulate the depth of field of the driver's vision.

It now also features a cab window frame with windscreen wiper.

The Locomotive name and current odometer is also displayed. The odometer changes as the train travels about and is an actual distance covered by that model, accumulated over the years.

When the signal changes it shows immediately.

A new feature is the ambient light of the track image can also be simulated from bright and sunny to pitch dark. The locomotive headlights light up the image too! Here it is getting somewhat dark and the loco lights are on.

In total darkness and no headlamps!  The ambient light data comes from the layout control software which will relay the current ambient light of the layout room. So, as a sunset occurs, we see sunset colors in the cab control on the phone!

(I plan on perhaps not having the reflective stripes show up without the headlamps.)

When inside an underground station that has its own lighting, the image is of course not darkened.

Oh, and it can also announce destinations etc. in German. When the train being viewed is dispatched there is a voice announcement stating that the driver has permission to start and what the destination is. If a trip is cancelled, that is also announced. 

When the train has been dispatched, the desired speed is indicated with a yellow marker on the speedometer, and also presented (below the digital speed indicator) in yellow. 84Km/h in this example:

As before, it can also:

  • Turn layout track power on and off
  • Disable unexpected train alerts
  • Pick any train and dispatch it to any destination.
  • Trigger any event in the train control software
  • Set any accessory address to red/green
  • Monitor any sensor address

The track images are cached on the phone. If the software is directed to use an image it does not have, it fetches the image from the Bw software. It can also request all the images for all tracks and caches those for instant loading as needed.

It is based on the RemoteSign command set, communicating with my Bw train software over the network.

I might add the Buchfahrplan information display so the person driving the train sees the prototypical journey information as they progress along their trip.


Quick guide to German pronunciation for English speakers

 There are a few very simple tricks to know how to pronounce most German words. 

Mostly, all the letters are pronounced similarly to English, but switch out these:

German "V" is said like an English "F"

"Viessmann" is  said "Fiessman"

 "Ludwig von Beethoven" is a said 'Lood-vig-fon-Bait-ohven"

German "W" is said like an English "V"

"Wien" (Vienna) is said as "Veen" rhymes with "bean"

"Weiss" (white) is said like "vice"

(Sadly, many Americans with that surname have lost track of how it is said!)

German "J" is usually said like an English "Y"

"Johanna" (female name) is said "Yo-hun-ah"

German "ch" when not at the start of a word, is pronounced like an extended hissy 'g' at the back of the throat (ç). Make the sound of air coming out of a faucet instead of water!

"Bach" (stream) is said "Bagggg"

"Ich" (I = first person) is said "igggg"

When "Ch" is at the start of a word, it is more like a "K" 

"Christian"(male name) is said "Kristi-yan" 

German "Sch" is pronounced like "Sh", don't change the "c" into a "k" like American "Skedule", say it like UK English "Schedule"

"Schule" (school) is said "Shul-uh"

German "S" in the middle of a word is pronounced harder, like "Z"

 Eisen (steel) is said "eye-zen" 

You may come across the "Eszett" = ß - it is simply a double "S" -> "ss"

 Gruß (greeting) is said "grooss"

"Th" is not like the English "the". Just switch in a "T"

Theadore - is said "Tea-a-door"

Ending "e"

English has a special rule that says that if there is an "e" at the end of the word, it is silent and instead modifies the sound of the vowel in the word, but German does not have that rule, so say an ending "e" as "uh"/"e"

English: "cash" is said "kash"

English: "cache" is said "kaysh"  (say the name of the vowel "a")

German: "Schule" (school) say the trailing "e": "Shul-uh"

Vowels ie and ei together

Many German words have these two vowels together and there is a very simple trick to get them right, by saying the 'English name of the second vowel'.

ie  - say it as the name of the English letter "E" rhymes with "he"

ei  - say it as the name of the English letter "I" rhymes with "eye"


Stein (stone) - say St <eye> n (Rhymes with wine)

Wein (wine) - say V <eye> n (Rhymes with wine)

Wien (Vienna) - V "E" n    (Rhymes with bean)

Eisenbahn (railway) - Eye-zen-baan.

Einstein (surname) - say "eye-n-st-eye-n" (most people get this name right, in fact all family names ending in "-stein" are pronounced like "-wine")

Spiel (play) is pronounced Schpeel


Umlauts are the two dots over some vowels, (called diaeresis). Just read an umlauted letter as if it was followed by an "e"...

Märklin -> Maerklin   "Mare-clean"

Möwe -> "Moev-uh"

Über -> Ueber

Other help


All nouns in German are capitalized, not just special nouns.


The names of vowels in German is very confusing for English speakers

"A" is called "ah"

"I" is called "E" "E wie Ida" (I as in Ida)

"E" is called "E" but sounds like "A" "E wie in Emil" (E as in Emil)

"O" is called "or"/"awe"

"Y" is called "Ypsilon" (Upsilon)


When spelling a word, it is common to drop into the phonetic alphabet mostly made up from common names of people that are unambiguous, just write down the first letter of the stream or words....

Dora Anton Ludwig Emil = Dale

Schule Ulrich Ludwig Theadore Zeppelin = Schultz


Liliput 111 locomotive

I recently bought an old train set which included some Märklin items (ES 800, CM800, and 3024) and in addition to those, an old 3-rail Liliput tank locomotive and a Shell tanker.


Cable ducts

Observe almost any railway track in Europe and you will likely notice a line of cement tiles running all along the track-bed. These are the covers of ducts that carry electrical cables used for running the railway.

I decided I would add some to my layout and set about creating some designs which could be printed on my 3D printer. The first question was, "How big are they?" I spent some hours browsing through the online product catalogs of European manufacturers who specialize in making the ducts and various trackside accessories for the rail industry. They come in almost every size imaginable!

I settled on making ducts 40cm wide, and designed them with gaps between the edges and covers.


3D printing for a model train layout

I watched the 3D printing technology progress from afar with great anticipation. In August 2020 I decided to take the plunge and see what I could do with the technology.

I decided to record my experiences as well as detail what the process involves in making something that is usable on the layout.

sample items printed with 3D printer


Distance marker stones

A few years ago I added modern distance marker signs around the layout. I decided I also wanted to have the old style cement markers that can usually be found along most German train tracks.


Indusi magnets

I decided to add some Indusi magnets to my layout. You may ask, what an Indusi magnet is...  Well it is not so much a magnet, it is resonance transformer that is located next to the rails of most German train tracks. When activated, these units, reduce the magnetism of a corresponding unit on a passing train, and that in turn triggers a signal in the train that can influence the speed of the train.

Typically these placed ahead of, and at main signals. They are also placed near level crossings. There are three frequencies used, and each frequency indicates a different type of speed check.

The first one encountered is usually at the distance signal, a 1000Hz signal tells the train driver that a main signal is being approached. A tone sounds, and the driver must press a button to acknowledge the warning within 4 seconds. If not, the train is slowed.

Then, about 250m before the main signal, a 500Hz Indusi will trigger a speed check of the train to ensure that it has slowed sufficiently in order to stop at the main signal.

The third one, at 2000Hz, is placed at the main signal. If this one is active when a train passes, then the train is stopped automatically.

This is what they look like, and the top is usually painted yellow:

Indusi mage from Wikipedia
Indusi prototype image by WHell  reproduced under CC BY-SA 3.0