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PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT - Marklin Central Station 3 - Part Two

John Chandler

JOHN CHANDLER introduces the second in a series of articles about this new Marklin Control System.

Part 1 of this series gave an overview of the new Marklin CS3 Controller.

In this article, we see how the CS3 is adopting state-of-the-art smart-phone technology to provide an easy-to-use touch screen display for controlling locomotives and hinting at its use in controlling the layout itself. We will also see how the unit connects to the outside world.

In the previous article, we had a good look at the new Central Station. In this second part, we take a look at the practical side of things.

With the Central Station 3 and the Central Station 3 plus, Marklin gives railway modellers a digital control unit which offers many options for networking and control. Thanks to the high-resolution, modern colour touchscreen, the two control knobs and the integrated track diagram panel, controlling the trains and the entire layout is extremely simple. Marklin has dispensed with the function keys previously used; the individual functions are now controlled by the touch-screen. If you want to call up a new menu or assign a new loco to the control desk, you just swipe across the screen like you would on smartphones and tablets.

Marklin Central Station 3 features

Click the image to see a larger version, showing control features of the CS3. Note - although the screen text is in German, there is an option to run in English.

On the CS3, the central focus is the layout (track circuit diagram), which gives you most information about present operating conditions on your own layout. Another important feature: the control displays. These provide information on the running condition of the locos and control the individual functions on the locomotive assigned to that controller.

The following digital formats continue to be supported in running operations:

  • The classic MM2 format
  • DCC format
  • mfx format
  • World of Operation with its mfx+ format
Marklin Central Station 3 Locomotive List

The features of the Locomotive List. Click the image for a closer look. Note - although the screen text is in German, there is an option to run in English.

On the CS3 the locomotives on your layout are managed in a Locomotive List which includes all the relevant information for the operation of each loco; mfx and mfx+ locos log themselves in automatically as usual, and for other formats there are supporting input aids such as the search function, database support and the loco card-reader available. MM2 and DCC vehicles can also be entered manually. To access the Locomotive List you just swipe across the lower edge of the touch screen.

The model you want will be fished out of the Locomotive List and with another swipe to left or right is assigned to one of the two controllers. So you want to trigger a loco function? A window can be opened separately for the left-hand and right-hand controllers which will display the function keys applying to the loco currently active on either one of them. The number of elements shown depends on the extent of the functions available on the respective locomotive. The maximum is 32 functions, which can be controlled by the current decoder generation in mfx operation.

Marklin Central Station 3 Locomotive Control

Click the image to see a larger version of the image, which shows the locomotive speed and function controls. Note - although the screen text is in German, there is an option to run in English.

32 functions for each locomotive? That sounds rather a lot. But these functions are also able to trigger complete operating sequences which have previously been defined as such. As a railway modeller, operating sequences such as preparing a loco for service, the departure from a station, the “decoupling waltz" (decoupling stock with Telex couplers from a loco including the necessary movements), the sequence of operating sounds heard in the depot and similar events can be defined once and then called up at any time to suit the current state of play – this option is optimally supported by locos fitted with mfx and mfx+ decoders. The functions currently active are indicated by the differently-coloured function symbols. Locomotive speed is displayed by a bar diagram. The speed can be altered either by swiping a finger up and down this display or by the classic method of using the rotary controllers.

On the CS3, the mfx+ models have a special feature. For these models, there are special control panels which give a picture of the actual locomotive controls with realistic features, such as replenishing fuel and keeping an eye on the boiler pressure. Since such a locomotive in this particular operating mode demands the model railroader’s full attention, only a single mfx+ model can be run on the screen, as was earlier the case with the CS2.

Marklin Central Station 3 connections

The connections on the rear of the CS3. Click the image to view a larger version.

The CS3 is backwards compatible: If you are already previous Central Station controllers, you can continue to use them. However, with the CS3 you should only use the Central Station 2 from hardware version 4.x. Users of the CS3 plus by contrast can combine with a CS2 with hardware version 3.x or earlier. This only applies when no further CS3 is integrated into the entire system. All these restrictions only apply when the respective terminals of the units are used for the supply of power to different power sections on the layout. If further CS2 units with hardware versions prior to 4.x are used purely as controllers, then this arrangement is not a problem. One thing to remember: the CS3 only accepts booster MN60175. As they have no mfx feedback facility, the earlier boosters MN6015 and MN6017 are less and less useful as power supply units on the modern model layout – and mfx+ operation with these old boosters was totally impossible. That’s why there is no connection provided on either version of the CS3 for these obsolete units.

For connecting extra units such as the booster MN60175, further Mobile Stations, feedback module L 88 (MN60883) or to connect a MN60216 CS3 plus there is a connection provided on the CS3 as standard. If more connections are required for these units, a MN60125 terminal can be used to increase the number of connections. Each terminal added in series increases the number of terminal points by four. Theoretically, a series a hundred meters long could be built up in this way. And if that were not enough, then further terminals could be integrated with each further CS3 plus or CS2.

Powering the CS3

For OO, HO or N Scale layouts, to supply CS3 it is only advisable to use switched-mode power packs like MN60061. Gauge 1 and G Scale modellers have the alternatives of switched-mode power pack MN60101 or LGB51095 With up to 5 A current to the layout, even power-hungry double-headed trains with illuminated cars are no problem. By the way, the last two power packs are only approved for use on these larger gauges. For safety reasons, such potentially high currents are not suitable for OO or any smaller gauges.

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