The Signaling System you have been waiting for!
Simple electronics: plug and click connections, pre-assembled boards
Complete! Software includes the knowledge you want for prototype signaling!
Affordable! Lowest cost system available
Fast to install! Have your signals working over the weekend.
Grapevine Connectors diagrams
- Open, non-proprietary format. Use these
to write your own software
control train-order signals
(semaphore and searchlight)
collect data from detectors
regulate fast clocks, analog and digital
controls highway crossing flashers and gates
controls industry gates and "blue flags"
controls any "other device" (a led, a slow motor, a relay) on event or time
"talk" to Working Weighscales
and can even network computers together.
Is The Grapevine prototypical? YES
A complete control network for your model railroad
The Grapevine is the backbone of your signaling system. The Grapevine is:
- a hardware network, and
- a software format for sending information over that network
- Is The Grapevine a complete system? YES: The Grapevine can
- control switch motors
- control signals
Is the Grapevine up-to-date? YES:
- Satisfies the CFR 13-foot rule for signaling. You will own the only network fast enough to satisfy real railroad rules
- Signaling software comes with databases of aspects for prototype railroads
- Select the aspects/indiactions for your railroad
How do I assemble it and wire it?
- The Grapevine is the only microprocessor-based network for signaling in model railroading
- You will be using today’s leading edge communications technology
- Exclusively optimized for model railroading
View the Grapevine Connectors diagrams
Will The Grapevine be ‘orphaned’?
- No soldering
- All printed boards boards come pre-assembled.
- "Plug and click" the cabling
- All the connections are done with plugs and sockets
- The node-to-node cable uses telephone plugs
- The node-to-detectors use 3-wire plugs
- The node-to-signal boards use 14-wire ribbonwire connectors
- Power supply wires use "crimp-on" spade plugs
- Spend your time railroading, not doing complicated wiring
- Download the Grapevine Installation Instructions
We have published all the data formats for you
You can use anybody’s brand of detector
You can use any type of signals, including the ones you made yourself
meets the prototype's 13-foot rule. The whole system (detector-> Grapevine->
computer-> Grapevine-> signal) can respond to occupancy in under 0.1 seconds dropping a signal from a "proceed indication" to "red" before the lead axle has travelled further than 13 ft past the block boundary.
The "off delay time" follows the prototype practice; the prototype has a 5 minute rule. The hardware "off time" is
2.0 seconds. You can further adjust the off time in software.
The detector output is fully isolated from the track power. The detection section of the detector gets its miniscule power needs from the command control track power, while the logic section gets its power from the single Grapevine power supply. Each detection circuit has its own on-board led indicating occupancy.
Voltage drop across the detector is insignificant. Diodes are not required in adjacent non-detected blocks.... which means you can install this system incrementally.
Current rating is 7.5 amps continuous (30-amp peak).
The detector comes in 3 versions, all optimized for DCC.
- 8 blocks/board, through serial port
- 2 blocks/board through parallel detector
ports (up to 8 "parallel "detectors per Node)
- "Parallel" detectors also detect
'motion'. Excellent for hidden or staging track applications
board drives searchlight-type
signals, semaphores, color-position signals (CPL), Pennsy position-light-signals and 3-color signals.
searchlight signals each board drives up to 24 bi-color leds in all 7 possible aspects (R, G, Y, and flashing R, G, Y, and dark). The aspects displayed are set by you in software, and can be tailored to any
- For position-light signals use 2-ports each
- Color-position signals (CPL) use 2 to 10 ports, depending on number
of lamps on each signal.
- Driver outputs can be used to drive stall motor switchmotors.
- These boards are designed for the Tortoise and the Hankscraft machines (AS&S,Switchmaster,...).
- NOTE: Signal driver outputs can be used to drive relays (e.g. for grade-crossings, reversing loops, or wyes).
- Power supply
Board-to-board logic cabling and wiring
- The only item you have to supply is a single power supply that provides 12 to 18 volts somewhat filtered dc. A suitable supply would be a 12 volt transformer, with a full-bridge chip, and a 2000 ufd cap. across the dc side (all available at Radio Shack).
- From this power supply, you run two #18 or #22 wires around the railroad. Then you run a connector wire from each to the boards. All the power supply connectors to the boards are crimp-type, slipping onto lugs on boards. Soldering is not required.
- Each board has its own on-board 5-Volt regulated power supply.
- Total power requirements (amps) are mostly set by how many leds/signals you have.
- Cabling between the boards can be supplied. The main logic wire between the network nodes is ordinary 6-wire phone cable with phone-type (RJ12) connectors.
- The cable from the network nodes to devices is ribbon cable. Connectors are included in the price.
- The interface board includes the 6-ft long cable with its DB9 connector that attaches to your computer.
- USB alternative to Interface Board
- USB-COMi for $48 (January 2005)
How to install your Grapevine Network hardware
If you want to write your own software for driving Grapevine here are:
Grapevine Message Protocols in
This the message format for sending and receiving data on your Grapevine system.
in an Excel spreadsheet, in PDF format.
See the 3-position semaphore driver in action
See the motor linkage and Semaphore Driverboard in action
Grapevine generates DCC packets and data. With
ProTrak Grapevine can be your DCC system.
A unique Grapevine device. Weighs cars and engines
with near zero deflection - run engines directly over the scale.
Grapevine Price List
All prices subject to change without notice.
Prices are shown on the ProTrak/Grapevine Order Form.
NOTE: Grapevine Boards can not be shipped to addresses outside of the U.S. and Canada
Working out number of boards you need
- 1 interface board (optional). Or use USB-to-serial converter.
- For other boards
- First estimate: for each-dispatcher controlled passing track.
- 1/12 node
- 1/8 Driverboard for signals and switchmotors
- 1/2 to 3/4 Detector board
- Detailed estimate
- Count controlled switchmotors (crossovers count as 1). Divide by
8. Total equals number of driver boards
- Count signal heads, and divide by 24. Total equals number of
- Detectors can be counted as hanging off Node boards.
- Number of Nodes equals number of detectors divided by 8 (24
on multi-deck railroad).
- Total of 1 and 2, and divide by 4 = number of nodes (usually
controlled by number of serial detectors)
- Actual required number of nodes/signals will be slightly higher
This page last updated: May, 2008