Skip to content

About the Layout Control Operating System

The Layout Control Operating System (LCOS) is the firmware that runs the Lew’s Duino Gear Layout Control System for model railroad layouts. LCOS creates highly standardized, wireless Layout Control Nodes (LCNs) linked together in a Layout Control Mesh Network.

Lew’s Duino Gear LCOS Nodes are easy to install on your layout and connect your turnout motors, signals, lighting and accessories. The LCOS Configuration Package includes

  • The Configurator, an application that enables point and click configuration of your nodes, making LCOS a plug-and-play layout control solution; and
  • The Updater which helps you manage node firmware, apply updates and switch firmware between available variants.

What Can You Do With LCOS?

Lew’s Duino Gear Layout Control Nodes running LCOS can automate and control any device on your layout, from turnout motors and power relays to signals, crossings, lighting and animated objects.

LCOS is “locomotive control agnostic,” which means that it works with, and can enhance, any locomotive control system you choose. Here are just a few ways LCOS adds value to your existing loco control:

  • ALL LAYOUTS: Use your fast clock for more than a display — automate your layout lighting, play sound or run accessories using fast clock time. You can also have automatic ABS signals based on turnout position and optionally block occupancy. Easily run a mix of turnout motor types.
  • DC — Upgrade your control panels and cab control with electronic switching and indicators. Shorten your wire runs and enable electronic cab switching from multiple control panels.
  • DCC — With the DNDCC DCC Gateway, any DCC address can be mapped to any turnout or route allowing you to control individual turnouts, or invoke routes, from your throttle. Its also economical: you don’t need dedicated stationary decoders — the whole systems acts as a dynamic stationary decoder that can respond to as many different DCC addresses as needed.
  • CTC systems, DCC-EX and others [with appropriate interface nodes] can control turnouts will DCC commands, or go further and tap into and participate in the rich operational message stream generated by LCOS components for enhanced control and automation.

Object Oriented OS

LCOS objects are abstractions of physical objects on your layout. The essential elements of your layout — turnouts, signals, track blocks, lighting, scenic elements, etc. — are represented by intelligent software objects.

Objects contain all the embedded intelligence they need to do their job. Each layout object functions independently, applying internal rules while communicating with other objects. For example, a configured turnout object knows:

  • how to run its motor — whether servo, stall motor or coil motor;
  • how and when to run a frog relay or reversing relay;
  • how to receive and respond to alignment requests
  • how to sense and change alignment;
  • how and when to announce state changes;
  • how to trigger other objects to act based on alignment.
  • how and when to participate in a route.

The configuration process allows you to tell each node what objects you want it to control, which ports you used for which objects, and select functional options for each objects.

Although the Layout Control Mesh Network requires a MASTER node to direct communications, layout object functionality is decentralized. Decisions are made independently within each node, unleashing the inherent power of a multi-processor system.

The object oriented, decentralized design of LCOS changes how you think about virtually everything on your layout. In LCOS, each layout object is an independent thing with certain properties and behaviors. Once properties and behavior options are selected, the object seamlessly integrates itself into layout function. From a collection of independent objects, complex group behaviors automatically emerge breathing life into your model railroad layout.

Layout Control Mesh Network

Mesh networking is a variation on ad-hoc local networking that lends itself to both symmetrical and asymmetrical network topologies. Adding or removing nodes is easy with the help of the Configurator.

Topology is generally hub-and-spoke, using a MASTER node as the top hub uniting all the branches beneath it. The MASTER can have up to 5 children, as can each child. The depth of the topology can be up to 5 levels (including the MASTER), which results in up to 781 addressable nodes on one radio channel. Really large networks can be achieved by running multiple parallel networks on different channels.


The greatest advantage of LCOS object-oriented design is automatic scaling up to the 781 node (per channel) limit. Scaling is the ability to grow your layout network while maintaining the same level of performance.

Because each node is logically and functionally independent, adding a node does not impose a burden on other nodes. Instead, each new node significantly increases the amount of simultaneous activity the system can support.

The MASTER is tasked with managing communications between the five spokes it manages and can get quite busy in a large network. To facilitate scaling, the MASTER is designed to prioritize communication over all other activities, and it is not allowed to run cycle-consuming hardware drivers.

Getting Started

First, See the Layout Planning Guide for detailed guidance on planning your LCOS installation.

Second, using the methods and considerations explained in the Layout Planning Guide, develop a plan for distributing nodes around your layout.

Third, buy one of the Starter Kits, which contain a MASTER, one or more CLIENTS and a selection of peripherals. You can buy more Clients if you need them, or later when you are ready to deploy them.

Fourth: See the Quick Start Guide to get started. Download and install the Configuration Package. See the The LCOS Manual for step-by-step, detailed information on configuring and running your LCOS Nodes.