The curious case of Märklin CS3 Track Diagrams

Posted on by Jan

As you might have noticed, Control Desk-style diagrams don’t show up in RailControl Pro and the CS3 Web App, while the so-called Panels are displayed just fine. Let’s take a closer look at why this is happening.

Update: Märklin has fixed this issue with software version 2.5. Make sure RailControl Pro and the software on your CS3 are up-to-date to enjoy all your Track Diagrams. Read more

Screenshot of CS3 Panel-style Track Diagram
Panel-style Track Diagram on CS3

With the introduction of Central Station 3 back in 2016, Märklin also introduced an all-new track diagram style. Gone were the tiny black lines in a square that could only be rotated by 45°. The new approach was to place your articles on the layout and connect the endpoints. CS3 would then draw the connection automatically with smooth curves. Sounds nice, but in reality, it’s still a lot of work to get it right, since the curves go in all directions. These diagrams also require a lot of screen real estate, while they don’t resemble a real track diagram like the ones you might find in a signal box. Looking back, the layouts on CS2 did a much better job.

That’s why, after some community backlash, in December 2019, Märklin introduced an extra style with CS3 update 2.0: the Control Desk. Control Desks are basically a mix between a Panel and a CS2 layout. Articles are still automatically connected like on Panels, but the connections are black straight lines with 45° angles, like on CS2. A good solution, right? Well…

Screenshot of CS3 Control Desk-style Track Diagram
Control Desk-style Track Diagram on CS3

While it shipped on the actual CS3, Märklin never bothered to show them on the CS3 Web App. I discovered that only if you edit a Control Desk, the CS3 WebSocket sends all the data for it to the CS3 Web App, but it never gets displayed. I will do some further research in an attempt to get them to RailControl Pro in a convenient way, but I can’t promise anything. So what’s the story here? Did the contract with their web app development party finish? Is it a bug they never bothered to fix? I have no idea.

Long story short: Control Desks are not accessible by any sort of API endpoint out of the box. This makes them useless if you want to control them remotely.

As a workaround, Märklin provides a way to convert Control Desks to Panels. Not ideal, but it’s something. I wrote a support article about it, which is linked to from RailControl Pro.