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Gaugemaster Unity
Layout Control System

Ian Fowler

IAN FOWLER introduces us to this new modular layout control system.

Unity Logo

NB - UNITY is not available to pre-order yet, but to be the first to know the very latest news sign up to our email updates and newsletter HERE.

Sometimes here at Gaugemaster, I get very lucky. One such occasion was the recent Warley exhibition at the NEC where my normal role is to deliver in any last minute items either on the Friday (if vital) or on the Saturday morning (if less so). In a year where we attempted our most ambitious stand build ever, neither came to pass thanks to my rather excellent colleagues, who were not only able to construct our stand, but also not to need anything extra on either day. Of course, this didn't happen by accident their planning in ensuring that everything required went on board first time, as well as their sheer hard work on all three days was admirable and something that I was very appreciative of.

This meant that I arrived at the show "light engine" and instead of using the goods inwards entrance, actually appeared via the front door. After a 5am departure and a good run up, I was surprised to see quite so many customers queued up waiting to come in when I arrived at 8.30, ready for the 9.15 opening time (for Early Bird ticket holders).

Although we knew of a Hornby event on the Saturday, which would inevitably prove to be some new announcements, it was noticeable how pragmatic other suppliers were in showcasing the journey between anouncement of a new item and ultimately delivery, rather than sticking their flag in the sand on a completely new project.

Here at Gaugemaster, we quite like to fly under the radar when it comes to our new items with most being already announced at our recent Open Weekend. One of these new ranges is UNITY a range of controllers which we feel best meets the need of today's railway modeller. Given that I was demonstrating this new item and had the pleasure of talking to so many modellers about it over the course of the Saturday, it felt only right that I share these thoughts with those of you not able to have the opportunity to talk to us face to face at the NEC.

Unity P Power Supply

Pre-production sample of the UNITY Power Supply.

UNITY is a contemporary analogue control system. Well, I say analogue control but the technology "under the bonnet" is actually incredibly complex and is often digital technology replicating analogue practices. So, for the purposes of clarity it isn't DCC but it IS very clever!

When we were developing this system, we looked at all the elements required to run a model railway and came up with the obvious trains and accessories. Consequently, we then went away and specified one unit that did everything, which was a great thing to do (and would have been magnificent) but the final price was equally "magnificent" to say the least, and ultimately we lost sight of the most important aspect of the project our customer. If we'd carried on along this path, too many modellers would have ended up paying for features they simply didn't want or need so a different approach was required. Something that allowed modellers to "have it their way", whichever way that might be.

A modular, plug and play approach solved this problem. Different elements were created with the intention of modellers choosing what it was they WANTED rather than what they were prescribed, with the goal of maximum flexibility and ease of use.

What we are close to achieving are five elements:

  • A Power Supply
  • A Twin Track Analogue Controller
  • A Point Controller
  • A Light Controller
  • A Sound Controller

The only necessary module from the above list is the power supply. Beyond that you can mix and match what you need, and all units simply daisy chain from one unit to the next using simple plugs and sockets. There is enough power from a single power supply to power one of every other module working together. Each module will have its own different power consumption so you will find that although you might need one power supply per twin controller IF you are operating double headed O Scale with a huge current draw, you can hook up numerous point controllers from a single power supply and combinations thereof quite happily.

Unity T Turnout Control

Pre-production sample of the Point Controller.

We are very close to receiving production examples of the Power Supply and Turnout Controller and it was these two items I had the pleasure of demonstrating. The aesthetics are very nice, and the modules received approval from those shown for their elegant and stylish finish with many individuals commenting that they would be happy to have these controllers "on display" at the front of their layout rather than hidden away at the back!

Our set up at the show was comprised of the following:

1 x UNITY power supply

Does what it says on the tin. It has overload protection and an attractive finish. Sockets for connection of other units within the family.

1 x UNITY turnout controller

Eight channels (all with their own CDU), simple push button operation on/off (lit as appropriate). Plug/socket arrangement for wiring your solenoids. Using the screw terminals, simply connect your A/Common/B wires to the back of the unit. If you are using our PM10 or PM20, then no soldering is necessary as these point motors also feature solderless connections. It connects to the power supply by virtue of the jumper cable provided.

8 x SEEP PM20 surface mount point motors

Our latest addition to the SEEP range these motors feature a highly durable metal outer case that sits on a tough plastic base. With low current draw and a manual switch too, this motor is proving incredibly popular, particularly the cost saving bulk pack of five.

The system performed flawlessly all weekend but as it stands, is just a very pretty point control system. The planned additions to the range are what distinguishes this system from other control systems. Remember all these modules simply plug into the system using the common connectors.

Unity C Twin Track Controller

Pre-production image of the Twin Track Controller.

The Twin Track Controller is packed with features, including yard mode, inertia, brake, an auto reverse and one extraordinary feature that we've never seen on an analogue controller before. We've seen a "naked" EP and yes, this feature works. But more on this nearer the time...

The Power Supply and Turnout Controller will be the first releases, primarily because it completes the circle following our introduction of the PM10 and PM20 motors and the PM50 and PM51 accessories.

The twin track controller will be the next release because that gets everyone "playing trains" with UNITY.

The next two modules will be released a bit later on, but they'll add an extra dimension to what you do with your layout and all operate within the realm of UNITY.

The Lighting Controller is for controlling lights on your layout, wherever you choose to put them. Each channel can be assigned an effect (such as various flickers and flashes) or simply on/off, and you simply plug in wired LEDs from the UNITY range wherever you like on your layout and turn them on and off at your leisure. Again, this is a solderless system with plug and socket connection and if there's not enough length of wire to get to where you want it to go, just buy an extension set from the UNITY range of accessories and your issue is solved.

Finally, the Sound Controller is perhaps not what you assume it to be. It isn't for locomotives because if that's your passion, you'd have gone DCC long ago. What we are interested in is the everyday sounds you hear outdoors. It may be a church bell, it might be a level crossing, police siren or even a bird in the trees. Simply plug in speakers to the back of each channel on the Sound Controller, select what sound you'd like (and yes, there will be effects too like echo and crackle), assign it to the correct output and away you go. You press a button and the sound comes out of wherever you place the speaker on your railway. The volume is adjustable and there will even be a microphone socket so you can put a speaker in your station building and announce that you've cancelled your own train, to the annoyance of your Preiser figures at the station. Finally, there will be a USB input so you can upload your own sounds too. We're looking forward to hearing what some of you capture!

All this can be achieved with the UNITY system which I described earlier as an analogue system. Of course, DCC modellers can enjoy the accessory control only should they wish to embrace the UNITY ideology so they haven't entirely been forgotten here.

There was lots of positive reaction to the concept at the exhibition and I had a lot of fun talking to those who attended. This made the long drive home a lot easier, despite the loss of voice (Mrs F says thanks by the way!) and tired feet.

I hope this goes some way to giving you an overview of what we are up to with UNITY and how we see the range developing over the next two years. We believe the system to have enormous potential and look forward to launching it in 2017. Be sure to subscribe to Right Lines for updates on how we are getting on.

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