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2005-10-11

Arrival and departure displays

I have always liked watching the mechanical arrival and departure boards that can be found at many stations and airports so I added the ability for my software to display the arrivals and departures on my layout in the same fashion. The mechanical signs are known by the following names:



  • Solari boards
  • Flapboards, Flap boards, Flap displays
  • Split flap signs
  • Fallblattanzeiger

In designing the board I came across a problem in that in real life one finds such a display for only the station where you are, yet on a model train layout, we can really be monitoring multiple stations so I had to alter the design somewhat so that the tracks from multiple stations could be displayed together without it looking too weird...

In my software I already had the concept of 'tracks' and each track has a property that indicates if it is part of a station and if so, if it is a passenger station, etc. What was missing was an overall concept of a named station - which was a collection of tracks that formed that station. So while tracks at a station each had their own names, I had not tied them together. So I added the ability to associate any tracks marked as station tracks together in any order to form what I call a station - which can have its own name. I defined three stations for my layout so my timetable display could display the station names, and the corresponding track in the correct order...



If a train in present in a track but is not scheduled to go anywhere, the train name is displayed along with "Nicht einsteigen" (Do not board).
Trains that are scheduled to travel to a track that is part of one of the defined stations, it will display its name, destination and departure time. In this example you can see that the train 'S5' is scheduled to depart (AB = Abfahrt)  from track 2 in Ostdorf at 17:19 and will arrive (AN = Ankunft) at Wilsnack Hauptbahnhof, track 1 at 17:24.

There is also a train that is about to run through track 3 at the main station without stopping, so it displays "Vorsicht bei der Durchfahrt des Zuges" (caution while train runs through). Thanks to Jens Ullmann for the prototype text!

In the example above, an ICE will be departing from track 1 of Wilsnack Hbf. going to one of the hidden stations on my layout. For these cases, a random city name is chosen as the destination and adds to the illusion that trains arrive and depart from stations from far afield, not just from the stations one can see on the layout. The same is done when a train is scheduled to arrive from a hidden station too..

The display of the timetable would not be complete without the flapping down of the individual letters and numbers that are so much fun to watch...  here is a snapshot of one of the lines changing...


I find it nice to watch the board change as track become available and the arrival track is indicated. As departing trains leave the station, the departure information clears itself away until another train books that track for itself.

The time in the upper right hand corner is the current time.

When a line is changing it is accompanied by the sound of the boards flapping over.

Update 2007-4-22

The concept of the animated design has evolved into a fully fledged program - RemoteSign

I wanted it to be much bigger and able to be wall mounted so I created RemoteSign and now I have also made my software drive the remote sign. So now the departure and arrivals of my trains are announced on a full screen of any other networked computer I like. All the content, including the station and train names, is dynamic. When trains are destined to go into a hidden 'Schattenbahnhof' then it picks a German city name at random. If the train is going from one station to another on my layout then the appropriate stations are displayed. For example in the example below the S3 train will be leaving track 2 from the Wilsnack S-Bahn station for Wilsnack Hbf. at 22:48 and its arrival platform has already been allocated and we can see it will be arriving at track 3 in Wilsnack Hbf. at 22:45. On the other hand the ICE at track 04 will be leaving for Göppingen at 22:49 (i.e. it will disappear from view and go into a hidden siding)

Well actually, it looks much better than that because I reduced the screen shot by 50%  for this web page... Here is a part of the screen to show what the sign really look like:


You too can play with the software, you can download it from https://remotesign.mixmox.com (I need to somehow create animated gif images to illustrate the animation of the signs on the web. Until I can do that you need to grab a copy and see for yourself on your computer.)

If you want it to work with your train control software such as TPL, RR&Co, Koplooper, TrainNet, etc. you should contact the author and ask them to add support. I will do what I can to make it easy for them.

Now all I need to do is mount a flat panel monitor on the wall... an old PC will be able to drive it easily.

Here is a full size screen capture

Update 2016

I have taken the concept even further by adding the ability to define multiple RemoteSign screens in my layout software. This now allows me to have as many RemoteSign screen around the layout as I need. This in turn enables me to have one for each station, so a single screen no longer has to try and handle multiple stations on one.

I now have one computer running a screen at Senklerdorf, and a second one running a big screen a neighbor was getting rid of, for the main station and the S-Bahn below it.

I also added the ability to define actual train schedule names to each train and those are now used in the screens if defined.