The Section Table

Before we dive into the workings of the Section Table, lets provide some background on Sections and how they are used with Dispatcher.

Requirements for using Sections

Sections may be used with a Panel Editor Panel, with a Layout Editor Panel, with a CTC machine, or directly without any Panel provided. Sections are part of Dispatcher and build on JMRI's Blocks and Paths structure. So before attempting to create any Sections, you should have Blocks and Paths fully initialized for your layout.
(An easy way to automatically initialize your Blocks and Paths is to sketch out a Layout Editor Panel of your layout, with Blocks assigned to each Track Segment, Turnout, etc. By assigning Blocks –and Occupancy Sensors– to all track items in Layout Editor, the Paths can be created automatically for you by the software.)

Layout blocking should be carefully planned, to provide "reasonable" Sections—Sections that make sense for a dispatcher to allocate to a Train.
For right-handed or left-handed turnouts switching mainline track, for example, this usually means including the turnout in the same block as the track entering at the turnout throat, and providing separate blocks for continuing and diverging tracks. Some prefer to have a turnout in a separate block, and that works fine also. From a dispatching perspective, tracks of mainline turnouts that branch to industries do not need to be separately blocked, but blocking here is acceptable. A layout blocking scheme that works well for Signals, should work fine for Sections also.

Signals are not required for using Sections, but Sections will work fine with signals installed. If signals are installed, the direction sensors included in Sections provide an easy way to set up simple APB signaling (see below).

Using the Section Table

All the Sections that JMRI knows about can be viewed using the Section Table. Sections can either be created manually within the Section Table pane, or they can be created automatically if you also plan to use Signal Mast Logic (see below).

To open this tool, select Sections in the Tables submenu of the Tools menu of the main JMRI program window.

Section Table Columns

You may change the order of the columns by dragging their titles, and sort the rows by clicking one of the sort triangles next to a column title. There are eight columns in the Section Table:

Creating a new Section

To Create a new Section, click the "Add..." button at the bottom of the Section Table pane. A window will be brought up that will allow you to define the blocks included in the new Section, and if necessary, designate which entry points to the section result in travel in the FORWARD and REVERSE directions.

Currently the user must manually select FORWARD or REVERSE for each Entry Point after all Blocks are added to a Section. The program will set some directions automatically, but others are left as UNKNOWN. An Entry Point should be set to FORWARD if a train entering the Section at that Entry Point would be traveling in the FORWARD direction. Otherwise it should be set to REVERSE. A possible future addition is to set directions of Entry Points automatically from the connectivity found in a Layout Editor panel.

For Sections with more than one Block, travel from a lower-numbered block to a higher-numbered block is FORWARD travel. Stated a different way, moving from a block higher in the block list to a block lower in the list is FORWARD travel. Similarly moving from a higher-numbered block to a lower-numbered block is REVERSE travel. For Sections with only one block, it doesn't make any difference which direction through the Section is designated FORWARD, as long as Entry Point travel directions are consistent. That is:

WARNING: If Entry Points are not consistent strange behavior may result when using the Section.

Section Table Tools

The Section Table has a Tools menu to facilitate use of Sections. Normally these tools would be used after all Sections are defined. The menu items and their use are described below:

Direction and Stopping Sensors

Optionally, each Section may have two direction sensors, one for the Forward direction and one for the Reverse direction. These are normally internal Sensors, bearing system names that begin with IS. They automatically follow the state of their Section. A Section has three states: FREE (not allocated to a train), FORWARD (allocated for travel in the forward direction), and REVERSE (allocated for travel in the reverse direction. When the state of the Section is FREE, both direction sensors are set ACTIVE. When the state of the Section is FORWARD, the forward direction sensor is INACTIVE and the reverse direction sensor is ACTIVE. Similarly, when the state of the Section is REVERSE, the forward direction sensor is ACTIVE and the reverse direction sensor is INACTIVE. These sensors may be used in signal logic to force signals for travel in the direction opposite to the allocated direction to RED (Stop). Tools are provided in the Section Table menu to automatically add direction sensors to signal logic or to automatically remove all direction sensors from Signal Mast Logic (see above). Alternatively, if Dispatcher is being used, it can add direction sensors to signal logic as needed.

Also optionally each Section may have two stopping sensors that indicate when a train in the Section has reached the end of the Section by traveling in the forward direction or in the reverse direction. Stopping sensors should be physical sensors on the layout, for example infrared point detectors. For manual dispatching, these sensors may be displayed on a panel to indicate to the dispatcher when a train has reached the end of its allocation. For automatic running, these sensors may be used to stop a train before it reaches the end of its allocated Section, and before it overruns a red signal, if signals are present.

Using Signal Mast Logic with Sections

If your signaling is based on Signal Mast Logic and the associated logic has been generated using the Layout Editor, then it is possible to also have Sections automatically generated based upon that same logic.

The tool to accomplish this can be found in the Signal Mast Logic Table | Tools | Generate Sections. Running this will immediately create Sections that each contain all of the Blocks between any already-defined Signal Mast Pairs. It will also set up each "Automatically Generated" Section so that they include those Blocks in the correct order, with the direction being set as FORWARD travel, going from the Source to the Destination Signal Mast. Please note that the Block details are not saved when the Panel is stored, but are re-created when the file is loaded.

The tool will also automatically create forward and reverse direction Sensors and place them in the Section, however currently the Signal Mast Logic does not use these and their creation is only there to allow validation of the Section (or inclusion by the user in unrelated Logix if desired).

Sections generated with the tool will only have a pair of Entry Points and simply follow the Path between the two Signals.

Direction Sensors (Forward and Reverse) are created by the Generate Sections tool, but - if desired - Stopping Sensors (Forward and Reverse) need to be added manually by the user via the Edit Sections pane that opens when you click the Edit button for a specific Section in the Section Table.

The details of the Optional Direction and Stopping Sensors are saved when the Panel file is stored.

To use the Sections that have been built this way, you will next need to set up Transits. Following that, you will also need to set the Dispatcher to use SignalMast Logic via the Dispatcher's Options menu.

Saving Sections to Disk

Use the Store item in the File menu of the Section Table (or the Store Panels... item in the Panels menu of the main JMRI window) to save Section information to disk. This information (and any modified Signal Mast Logic information) is saved with the configuration and Panels in an XML file, along with Control Panel setup and similar stuff. To store your panels in the same file (recommended), select File>Store>Store Configuration and Panels To File... or select Panels>Store Panels... in the main JMRI window.

Back to the Sections help intro.