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Traincontroller 04: Divide The Layout Into Blocks

When the drawing of the layout has been made on the switchboard, it is time to add the ‘blocks’.

Blocks are used to prevent trains from colliding. A block is a stretch of track in which the presence of a train is monitored by sensors (this is often called occupancy detection). Other trains that would like to make use of that same block are not allowed in. They get a red signal, until the track ahead is clear.

Also, Traincontroller uses the blocks to create routes. Selecting a route will switch all the junctions needed to get from A to B. We’ll look at this in a later video.

How to choose where to create blocks and place sensors on the layout? Well … common sense would be the best guideline here I guess. Usually, a block should be long enough to hold a train. Driving rules can be created though, that prevent trains that do not fit in a certain block from entering it, or stopping in it. So, not all blocks need to be able to fit the longest train on your layout.

There is just one very important rule. That is NOT to have any turnouts or crossings inside your blocks. Also, it is not necessary to create blocks between junctions that are close together. They will be treated by Traincontroller as a ‘junction street’. The tracks in between are part of the junction street and will be correctly reserved by trains on a route, such that other traffic can not enter.

This video is about dividing the layout into blocks. The next video will be about adding the train detection sensors. Then … after all this preliminary work … automated train driving can start!



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10 thoughts on “Traincontroller 04: Divide The Layout Into Blocks

  1. Hi Rudy,

    I’m looking at using Train Controller for my new layout. I am just designing the blocks and starting to lay the track and I want to make sure I design them correctly. In my new layout I have a few places where I have some very short lengths of track between the turnouts. Do I need to create a separate block for this track or can I just leave it as ‘unblocked’? Is this what you mean by ‘junction street’? I’m not familiar with that term.

    Thanks and keep up the great videos.


    Posted by Warren | December 10, 2017, 06:12
    • Yes, it is perfectly ok to leave tracks unblocked, specifically the short sections in between junctions. Blocks are only needed at place where you intend for trains to be able to stop, like at a station, or if you have a long stretch of track that you like to divide in say two or three blocks, with a signal in between, like in reality.


      Posted by RudyB | December 10, 2017, 08:29
  2. Hi Rudy,
    Thanks for the great videos on Train Controller. I am looking into ways of automating my layout and this has been very helpful. One question that may seem dumb, but I cant seem to find the answer anywhere.
    The blocks you create in the programme for occupancy detection etc, do they need to be physical blocks on the layout
    ie do they need to be electrically isolated or can the layout be electrically continuous ?


    Posted by Alan | January 4, 2016, 23:07
    • That fully depends of the type of train detection you plan to use. I use reed switches and a magnet under the train to detect them. In that case blocks don’t need to be electrical separate sections, apart from the insulators needed in case of using electrofrog turnouts. Of you use current detection to detect occupancy, then the current detection stretches need to be isolated from the main line.


      Posted by RudyB | January 5, 2016, 16:25
      • Thanks for the reply Rudy
        I am migrating up to DCC and have had my DC layout for quite a few years now. I have already got plenty of reed switches as the layout was divided into blocks before with one rail isolated, but the blocks are probably not in the places I want them now, so I was hoping I could just connect up the whole track.
        When you spoke of current sensing detectors, I thought the track would have to be split, would that have to be on both rails ? Do you have any knowledge of pro’s and con’s of the two sensing types.
        Once again, thanks for the great site, its so much easier than trying to understand the manuals.
        Kind regards


        Posted by Alan | January 5, 2016, 20:06
      • Current detection is a permanent sensor, as long as a train is drawing a current the detector is ‘on’. Reed switches are momentary, they switch shortly when the train drives by. Most people prefer current detection, it is more widely used. I prefer reeds for their simplicity, less wiring, and lower cost. Traincontroller works fine with momentary sensors and until now I never had any detection problems.


        Posted by RudyB | January 5, 2016, 22:39
  3. Hi Rudy,
    Great range of videos and really helpful. I’m working my way through them and getting lots of encouragement and pleasure from them. I have noticed the blocks on my layout do not display the block names unless I am in edit mode. I do not seem to be able to display the names in run mode. I think I should be able to but cannot find why not. Any ideas, hope you can advise and keep up the great videos.


    Posted by Malcolm | September 24, 2015, 11:42
    • Hi Malcom. If you’d get into Edit mode, then click your Switchboard once to have it selected, then go to menu View > Switchboard > Customize. Click the Blocks Tab, there you will find the options you are looking for.


      Posted by RudyB | September 24, 2015, 12:06
  4. First of all : Thanks for the Videos. They are a great help to me as a beginner!


    Posted by Def | June 7, 2015, 12:54

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