Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Arduino uses and wondering why there aren't more articles here

9299 views
82 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    May, 2016
  • 30 posts
Arduino uses and wondering why there aren't more articles here
Posted by Atchee on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 10:21 AM

I'm a retired electrical contractor and electronics tech (and machinist).  I've been heavily involved in the hobby at times and pretty much out of it completely at others due to time constraints and work. Since I've moved to Albuquerque my space limitations insure I'll be doing narrow gauge modules for a while.  But, anyway........

A good friend sent me an Arduino starter kit for my recent birthday.  Coincidently, I had been looking at them to provide a USB port for a CNC laser cutter / router / 3D printer I'm in the process of building.  And, I got to wondering why there aren't more articles on using Arduinos in the model railroad hobby.  I know that they have been around a while.

Curiosity got me to looking at the list of things I've been toying with building now that I have the time.  A stepper motor and an Arduino looks like a perfect answer for automating a turntable.  Speed is controllable, sensors can be placed to provide near perfect alignment (these things do run CNC machines, after all), and logic programmed in so the table polarity can be set to match whichever lead track was selected so there's no short - regardless of where the table is in it's rotation.  And, not every lead would need to be exactly spaced as individual track positions can be adjusted for.

Turnout control with an Arduino and a servo motor looks like a given.  All the information feedback ability (think relay contacts) you'd ever want is available, and the servo can be set up to move as fast or slow as is desired and the range of motion (and ultimate force of the points pushing against the stock rail) is adjustable per location - and repeatable.

Then there’re semaphores.  With a center point and adjustable movements to either side, a servo looks like a perfect actuator.  And, there's plenty of capacity left for signal system logic for whatever kind you use.

So, out of curiosity I priced a few of the other options for the commercially available items to do some of the above listed things and then went looking on the 'bay for Arduinos, servos, and stepper motors.  Arduino clones are available currently for under $4.00, servos for under $2.00 with free shipping. An Arduino will run more than one servo but at this pricing you don't have to.  This is cheap enough to put moving curtains and shades in a few structures, moving levers in a switch tower - stuff I wouldn't have even considered thinking about before.  I priced slow motion turnout motors and semaphore actuators as part of my comparing. The servo option is cheaper than the old twin coil option, and once installed if a servo fails it’s a dirt cheap fix.

I realize that there's things some of us are good at that other's don't have a clue about, but Arduinos have unbelievable support on You-Tube and a lot of the "mysterious code" is downloadable and is easily tweaked to do custom stuff. 

I full well intend to share my activities with this stuff when I get going on it (gotta get the garage heated so I have more than the kitchen table to work on) but I'm having trouble believing there aren't a bunch of folks that haven't gone crazy with Arduinos out there in model railroad land. Where are they? I don't see much in the forums here.

 

 

  • Member since
    October, 2006
  • From: Western, MA
  • 7,659 posts
Posted by richg1998 on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 6:18 PM

Apparently no interest here.

I have seen a fair amount of interest in the MRH forms. Nice device.

Edit.

Just remembered seeing a similar question in the MRR General Discussion forum.

Rich

N

  • Member since
    January, 2009
  • 2,729 posts
Posted by RR_Mel on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 6:48 PM

Welcom to the Forum Welcome
 
Actually there are quite a few working with Arduinos on the Forum.  I have a few post on my ventures.  One project being a 14 port random light controller for structure lighting using a UNO.  I’m currently working on a single target bi-color LED signaling system using a MEGA 2560.
 
 
Mel
 
Modeling the early to mid 1950s SP in HO scale since 1951
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 24,268 posts
Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 7:12 PM

 There are a few of us here doing things with Arduino - check some of the other posts in this section.

 I'm doing my own signal and detection system which will communicate to a computer (and eventually real) USS CTC panel using a simplified CMRI protoco with RS485. My previous layout used servos for turnout motors, that will continue but instead of the Tam Valley controllers I am making my own using ATTiny85 micros. You don't need to get special programmers - you can use an Arduino to program them. The signal driver and detection modules I am using Arduino Unos as the controller, with shift registers to expand the IO pins. As of now I am planning to just drive each LED in the signal head directly, no fancy multiplexing or anything. I've got most of the design worked out on paper. I'm working on schematics and board layouts for the servo controllers, I will need a lot of those, some driven by the CMRI nodes and some driven by local pushbuttons (for not CTC controlled turnouts like the yard). Next up is software for the servo boards, and then design of the nodes.

                             --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 8,278 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 11:20 PM

Hey Atchee!

I think you ask a very good question. I have purchased an Arduino starter kit and a few clone boards as well as the 'Arduino For Dummies' book, and I have the program on my computer. I have also done some reading and have some ideas but that is as far as I have gotten. I am a computer dinosaur so a lot of the terminology goes right over my head. Just figuring out what each component is and what it does requires a lot of reading.

However, I do plan on taking advantage of the Arduino capabilities to run turnouts, random lighting and signals. I actually already have all the Tortoise switch machines that I need for my planned layout. I didn't pay anywhere near current prices for them so my intention is to sell them off and go the Arduino/servo route for far less money. The profits will go towards decoders.

All I need now is a good solid kick in the butt!

Dave

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,060 posts
Posted by dehusman on Thursday, December 01, 2016 9:24 AM

From my perspective, a lot of the articles on Arduinos I've read seem like the person just hooks wires up to a board and it does stuff.  There hasn't been very much discussion about what an Arduino is, how it works or how I would get it to perform whatever magic they perform.  It seems like the people who use them "just know" how they work and for them its intuitively obvious.  For the rest of us it is not obvious at all and so we can't really understand why they would be used, let alone how they would be used.

Dave H. Painted side goes up.

  • Member since
    July, 2007
  • From: perogie flats
  • 39 posts
Posted by wvg_ca on Thursday, December 01, 2016 9:46 AM

Arduino's have been around for a while, and definitely do come in handy ..

I currently have a Uno setup for DCC++ with JMRI Decoder Pro for adjusting and storing CV tables for loco's,

Currently working on a multi temp sensor for grain storage bins ..

and also on  a high power universal DCC booster, with adjustable power out and display ..

Different forums have differing focus, there is some here, and more on the Arduino dedicated sites, such as Arduino.cc

 

enjoy :)

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 24,268 posts
Posted by rrinker on Thursday, December 01, 2016 10:13 AM

dehusman

From my perspective, a lot of the articles on Arduinos I've read seem like the person just hooks wires up to a board and it does stuff.  There hasn't been very much discussion about what an Arduino is, how it works or how I would get it to perform whatever magic they perform.  It seems like the people who use them "just know" how they work and for them its intuitively obvious.  For the rest of us it is not obvious at all and so we can't really understand why they would be used, let alone how they would be used.

 

A couple of us here are trying to change that. See the thread about random structure lighting - the suggestion was that an Arduino could do that, and it evolved into a "how do you use one to do that" and the result was a sucess story. I'm not yet at the point to present anything on my servo controller but I will when it's ready. I'd love to write an article and see if I can get it published, although it is one layer slightly more difficult that Detlef's signal driver that was in last month's issue so it may not fly. Plus I HATE writing.

There are a few people here who had little to no electronic experience and certainly none with microcontrollers and they are now using Arduinos and in some case designing their own shields - so it's certainly doable. Until a year ago I didn't really know much about Arduino, but I do have an electronics background and I previously played around with some PICs but never really got beyond the "blinky LED" stage. The random structure lighting applications really aren't much more than variations on the blinky LED thing, just using more LEDs and a duration of more than the 1 second used in the blinky demo. But once mastered (the blinky led examples, not the entire Arduino infrastructure), there's more that can be done without getting heavly into electronics or complex programming. The next level up would be things like signal controllers and turnout controllers that operate independently. Making them DCC accessory decoders or implementing a control bus would be the next level beyond that. An interesting possibility would be for large scale, especially battery powered large scale, to have an Arduino-based controller on board the loco to make it do things - sensors could detect position on the layout, another train ahead, maybe even see the aspect of an upcoming signal, and drive the loco accordingly - on board autonomous automation. With the various RF modules available, the loco could communicate with stationary equipment on the layout to do things like have a turnout set, and also could receive control input from an operator with a handheld throttle. The possibilities are endless.

                     --Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    January, 2009
  • 2,729 posts
Posted by RR_Mel on Thursday, December 01, 2016 10:42 AM

Randy you say you hate writing but your replies on my thread got me going on the Arduino.  Thanks to you I got my random lighting controller working great.  Getting my Arduino signal driver to compile was a bugger bear but I finally mastered it.
 
Thanks again Randy
 
 
Mel
 
Modeling the early to mid 1950s SP in HO scale since 1951
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
  • Member since
    January, 2010
  • 71 posts
Posted by nycmodel on Thursday, December 01, 2016 3:04 PM

I think you are going to see an increase in microcontroller use now that MR has posted an article in the December 2016 issue. My original layout used Bruce Chubb's original CIMR system and I reused some of the Optimized Detectors for my current, much simplified, layout's signal system. I had setup 2 road crossings, one with flashers and one with gates, but for several years they were manually operated as I debated how to use discrete electronics to operate them prototypically within the signal system. The MR article caught my interest and I immediately ordered an Arduino Uno starter set. I now have a prototype (manual pushbuttons) working and I am in the process of wiring it into the current system where additional ODs will provide input into the Arduino, the software will decide from what direction the train is heading (double track) and relays will power the flashers and gate motors. I have already purchased an additional Uno ($9.99) for future experimentation. It helps that I have a programming background but most of the model railroading examples that I have seen, including mine, only require basic logic and programming skills.

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 24,268 posts
Posted by rrinker on Thursday, December 01, 2016 4:15 PM

 It can also pay off to look at some of the better Arduinoo tutorials to get a feel for how the hardware side of things works. You have gadget X, can it connect to an Arduino? If so, how do you go about that? LEDs and pushbuttons are easy and fairly obvious. Some other maker's device like the OD? Some understanding of electronics principles helps figure out how to make that work (some may already know this, others may not). Servos are also pretty easy, but one trap that seems to get a lot of people (based on posts on the Arduino help forums) is that the USB port and onboard regulator cannot supply enough power to run most servos - you need an external power supply.

 It'a always good to have one or more of the 'standard' Arduinos like the Uno or Mega to experiment with, as most of the examples are geared towards those boards, but for permanent inclusion in my projects, I'm using the Nano. It's like a Pro Mini but the Pro Mini needs an external USB adapter to connect to the computer for programming, the Nano has a microUSB on board. Other then where the pins are physically located, it's the same as an Uno, except is also has 2 more analog pins. Last batch I bought was I think $14.99 for a 5 pack on Amazon with Prime shipping, you can get them cheaper from Chinese sellers on eBay if you aren't in a rush.

                  --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    January, 2015
  • 2 posts
Posted by ROBIN P SIMONDS on Thursday, December 01, 2016 7:54 PM

There is a lot more activity in this area than many realize. This month's piece was the 3rd, I think, in the last couple years talking about Arduino technologies.  That tells me the Editors are becoming aware of the activity, though I'm not sure they've figured out how to cover it the MRR format. But I seriously appreciate their efforts and suspect they will do more.

One of the issues that, in my view, gets in the way is DCC. DCC power users tend to want to try to do everything through the DCC system. That really complicates the issue of putting microcontrollers to work because you get bogged down in the interface problem and limited by the fact that DCC is not a bidirectional communication standard ... the transponder hack employed by Digitrax notwithstanding. The Model Railroading with Arduino project, an off-shoot of the Open DCC Project, is all about working on direct Arduino/DCC interfaces.

Given that DCC arrived in our collective consciousness first, it is not surprising that early interest in Arduino went the direction it did. That's great, but it leaves the true potential of microcontroller technology untapped. My observation is that microcontrollers work best if they are allowed to be the little computers they were designed to be. That means creating a unified system for layout control around the technology and then bridging (or not) with your DCC system.

On this subject I don't just talk the talk, I "walk the walk." I'm two years into an N scale project to build a portable layout relying on Arduino technologies to unify all layout control functions, all lighting and all animation. I did a fair amount of experimentation prior to plunging into the main build, and have been blogging about my successes and failures at thenscaler.com. I recently did a pair of blog entries to help launch folks who want to try this out on a small layout: Running a Small Layout with an UNO and Basic Signaling for a Small Layout.

I'm currently working on a permanent page to help newbies get oriented to the Arduino world and how it can contribute to model railroading at any scale. Should be up soon.

Tags: Arduino
  • Member since
    January, 2010
  • 71 posts
Posted by nycmodel on Friday, December 02, 2016 8:26 AM

With any number of us developing Arduino, or other microcontroller, applications for our model railroads, I wonder if there could be a central repository of circuits, code, etc? Right now the Internet seems the best place to search for these things but much of it is scattered about. Just a thought.

  • Member since
    January, 2010
  • 71 posts
Posted by nycmodel on Friday, December 02, 2016 9:03 AM

Maybe this forum is the best place for a repository? We can all post applications, code examples, etc. in the Electronics forum under either an "Arduino applications" heading or just "Microcontroller applications" heading to include those using Picaxe or Rasberry Pi microcontrollers.

  • Member since
    January, 2015
  • 2 posts
Posted by ROBIN P SIMONDS on Friday, December 02, 2016 12:11 PM

Perhaps this forum for general discussion about microcontrollers and perpherals, plus sub-forums by platform, since code examples and applications on different platforms don't necessarily cross platforms easily. Perhaps some GitHub space could be set up to share working code?  Just a thought.

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: QLD, Australia
  • 1,004 posts
Posted by tbdanny on Friday, December 02, 2016 2:02 PM

Hi all,

I was bitten by the Arduino bug a couple of years ago, and I now have five running on my layout.  My layout is a backwoods logging operation, and I was looking to reduce as many 'model railroad actions' as possible, and to enhance the simulation aspect of operation.

To this end, I purchased two Sparkfun Redboards (Arduino Uno clone) and installed them under the layout, one on each side.  These 'animation controllers' are used to run the following functions:

  • Loading and unloading timers - these are LED bar graphs which count up when a button is pushed, and clear when the button is pushed again.  In terms of operations, these represent the crews loading/unloading logs and other freight into the freight cars.
  • Dispatch decision - on the fascia, I have a panel with two LEDs and a button.  When the button is pushed, one of the LEDs lights up at random.  One LED indicates that the next train on the timetable should be run, the other LED directs the operator to draw an empty car request card, and attend to that.  It adds a bit of a random element to operations.
  • Water towers - once they're built, the water towers will have the spout animation controlled by the animation controllers, via a servo and some fishing line.

At the time I did this, I was using an old laptop with WiThrottle as the DCC system, and my smartphone as the throttle.  This was because the commercial DCC system I had didn't really offer much of a wireless option.  However, I found that with this approach, I was looking at the smartphone more than I was looking at the trains.  As such, I decided to switch to a more tactile system.  The goal was to have something where I could feel my way around the throttle, without taking my eyes off the layout.

After looking at some of the commercial systems, I realised that buying a completely new one would be out of my budget, and I wouldn't be using most of the features (e.g. consisting).  As such, I decided to make my own.  I found that there is an Arduino library for a DCC base station (as well as one for a DCC decoder).  Both the handheld controller and the base station are driven by an Arduino, with XBee wireless modules handling the transmission between them.

Having made my own DCC base station, this allows me to have the Arduinos tie into the system and work with it.  So far, I've used this to automate my staging.  This is done with a third Arduino controlling the staging behind the backdrop.  This is a two-track staging yard, used to represent logging camps 'B' and 'C'.  I equipped the staging controller with another XBee, with the same settings as the DCC system.

Only one train at a time is run during operations, so it's safe to assume that the last locomotive selected is the one being run into staging.  With this in mind, I modified the locomotive allocation code in the base station.  Now, whenever a locomotive is selected, the DCC address of that loco is sent to the staging controller.  If that address is on one of the two tracks, the staging controller sets the points to it and activates track power.  If it isn't, then the staging controller just holds that address.  Then, if it detects a train entering staging (via optical detection), it will switch the points to an empty staging track (if needed), then record that train as being in that track.

Ultrasonic proximity detectors are used to determine where the train is, and if it's stopped or not.  Once the train has stopped for a few seconds, the controller turns off power to that staging track.  Information regarding which train is on which track, the speed it's moving at and how far it is from the end is displayed on an LCD screen mounted on the layout fascia.

The Location: Forests of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon
The Year: 1948
The Scale: On30
The Blog: http://bvlcorr.tumblr.com

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 24,268 posts
Posted by rrinker on Friday, December 02, 2016 5:44 PM

 Do you have any more info on your staging controller? That's a very different approoach, using the ultrasonic modules. I'd like to incorproate something like that in my layout, since running a train in and out of staging is hardly a realistic activity and you can't alwas be sure that someone will be around who is willing to play 'mole' and hid behind the scenes and handle it.

As for the previosu reply about DCC - most of the people here are using Arduinos for standalone lighting animation. Use of them as a DCC stationary decoder makes a lot of sense - an Arduino set up to control 16 servos is a far lower cost per turnout than pretty much any option short of making an over center spring and just pushing the points back and forth by hand. The necessary DCC component is freely available software. My system is communicating via RS485. I COULD have instead used Loconet since I run Digitrax, and free libraries are available to handle the interface function, but the protocol is far more complex. Another project I had in mind was a handheld throttle using a wifi module and connecting through the WiThrottle interface of JMRI (or RocRail's equivalent - either way it's fairly simple HTML) so instead of a touchscreen smartphone or tablet, I'd have a proper knob and direction switch.

                          --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    May, 2016
  • 30 posts
Posted by Atchee on Saturday, December 03, 2016 8:55 AM

I'm for getting a dedicated space to post stuff.  It kills interest when you have to hunt all over the place for information - kinda like when I go to a big box store and have to hunt through various departments for a tool that should be in the tool department.  A resource for model train specific things as well as pertinant links for other general but useful stuff would be great.

 

  • Member since
    December, 2016
  • 2 posts
Posted by TamtheRam on Sunday, December 04, 2016 2:58 PM

Atchee I too am very interested in all electronics and especially arduinos for train control and dioramma enhancement. I have built a DCC controller using a UNO and a Mini Pro which came from Dave Bonars DCC page on the internet.

I works fine but being cheap I begrudge spending upwards of $25 cdn for decoders for my engines so am looking for schematics to build some. I have a few plans but it will have to wait as I am in process of moving. At the moment I am looking for an SMD component from the output of a Digitrax DH123 decoder that came in a used engine, the lights worked but wont drive and what looks like the output transistor(s) have a hole blown in them. I am trying to identify the component maybe someone here can help. :)Component (I can't upload photo will try later)

  • Member since
    December, 2016
  • 2 posts
Posted by TamtheRam on Sunday, December 04, 2016 3:06 PM

I think of an Arduino as a miniature PLC you can have it drive output based on routines like a fancy timer or outputs based on some input  with clever programing it can appear to be very random for lighting efects, sound effects of predictible like dropping crossing gates and operating the lights as a train approches. Now some of these thing are already available as stand alone but these little "PLC" can control the lot with inginuinty.

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,060 posts
Posted by dehusman on Monday, December 05, 2016 9:52 AM

What's a PLC?

Dave H. Painted side goes up.

  • Member since
    August, 2015
  • 371 posts
Posted by fieryturbo on Monday, December 05, 2016 10:19 AM

My guess is that Arduino is less commonly discussed on here because this forum is made up of people with many varying levels of tech inclination, versus that of MRH which may be a more internet and tech savvy crowd - it is a web-only magazine.

There may also be something to do with Arduino posing a serious threat to some of the companies that run ads in the magazine and online.  Digitrax, NCE, EasyDCC come to mind, as you can put together a competing Arduino system for less than $20.

I personally have a SPROG 3, but as soon as I get DCC++ going, I'll probably be selling it.  I have a single Uno right now for my turnouts, and bought a bag of sevos from China for $1.25 each - this is 10+ servos for the price of a Tortoise.

The old guard of model railroad manufacturers need to watch out.  The price ceiling is about to come crashing down on their heads in the next few years.

ROBIN P SIMONDS

On this subject I don't just talk the talk, I "walk the walk." I'm two years into an N scale project to build a portable layout relying on Arduino technologies to unify all layout control functions, all lighting and all animation. I did a fair amount of experimentation prior to plunging into the main build, and have been blogging about my successes and failures at thenscaler.com. I recently did a pair of blog entries to help launch folks who want to try this out on a small layout: Running a Small Layout with an UNO and Basic Signaling for a Small Layout.

I'm currently working on a permanent page to help newbies get oriented to the Arduino world and how it can contribute to model railroading at any scale. Should be up soon. 

Your articles are what inspired me to jump into this in the first place.  I knew there *had* to be a chaper alternative to a Tortoise that didn't suck.

Thank you, sir!

Julian

Modeling Pre-WP merger UP (1974-81)

  • Member since
    July, 2016
  • From: Cumberland Plateau
  • 393 posts
Posted by CentralGulf on Monday, December 05, 2016 10:57 AM

dehusman

What's a PLC?

 

 
Programmable Logic Controller. A relativley small computer usually used for dedicated simple applications, often single purpose, although complex applications do exist. No general purpose OS needed.
 
Generally programmed by engineers instead of application developers.
 
CG
 
  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,060 posts
Posted by dehusman on Monday, December 05, 2016 11:35 AM

fieryturbo
I personally have a SPROG 3, but as soon as I get DCC++ going, I'll probably be selling it.

What are the limitations for that system?  Does it allow 10-20 operators to be running trains at the same time?  Does it it have controllers that have knobs?  Will your system/controllers be compatible with other layouts in the area?

I have a single Uno right now for my turnouts, and bought a bag of sevos from China for $1.25 each - this is 10+ servos for the price of a Tortoise. The old guard of model railroad manufacturers need to watch out.

I bought some servos and could never get them to work right, they didn't have enough power to line handliad switches, plus by the time I added auxillary contacts to power the frogs, the price was way over the manual methods or Torti that I had.

The price ceiling is about to come crashing down on their heads in the next few years.

Depends.  Does the roll your own system have the same capacity and features that the commerical systems do and is the set up bullet proof?  Is it compatible with other systems?  Are the other things beyond the Arduino included in the price and set up (I am assuming you have some sort of laptop or other computer running the DCC software, the $20 include a computer).   A lot of these systems seem to relly on wifi and smart phones, does the cost if you are running multiple trains include the price of the layout owner buying multiple smart phones to run the trains (or are you assuming that visiting modelers will be willing to download and configure apps on THEIR phones to run YOUR railroad.)

I'm sure that the DCC market will evolve, but I don't know that the current systems are obsolete.  Most of the objections to DCC are based on hardware and interface, and some of that is user preference.

Dave H. Painted side goes up.

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,060 posts
Posted by dehusman on Monday, December 05, 2016 11:46 AM

CentralGulf
Programmable Logic Controller.

One of the big barriers to helping people use this technology is all the jargon and acronyms.  Go through the posts in this thread and count how many times a brand name or acronym is used, then count how many times that phrase or code is explained.  To get the technology widely adopted the number of explanations and definitions has to be about the same number.  Otherwide people will be scared off because they won't understand it.

Also the uses have to be expanded.  So far it seems like Arduinos are used for :

  • Lighting automation
  • Controlling switches
  • As some sort of interface in a home made DCC system

I don't really have any of those things (no real building lighting, switches are all manual operation, own an NCE system),  I am trying to figure out what I would want to use an Arduino for.

Dave H. Painted side goes up.

  • Member since
    August, 2015
  • 371 posts
Posted by fieryturbo on Monday, December 05, 2016 12:16 PM

dehusman

 

 
fieryturbo
I personally have a SPROG 3, but as soon as I get DCC++ going, I'll probably be selling it.

 

What are the limitations for that system?  Does it allow 10-20 operators to be running trains at the same time?  Does it it have controllers that have knobs?  Will your system/controllers be compatible with other layouts in the area?

 

 
I have a single Uno right now for my turnouts, and bought a bag of sevos from China for $1.25 each - this is 10+ servos for the price of a Tortoise. The old guard of model railroad manufacturers need to watch out.

 

I bought some servos and could never get them to work right, they didn't have enough power to line handliad switches, plus by the time I added auxillary contacts to power the frogs, the price was way over the manual methods or Torti that I had.

 

 
The price ceiling is about to come crashing down on their heads in the next few years.

 

Depends.  Does the roll your own system have the same capacity and features that the commerical systems do and is the set up bullet proof?  Is it compatible with other systems?  Are the other things beyond the Arduino included in the price and set up (I am assuming you have some sort of laptop or other computer running the DCC software, the $20 include a computer).   A lot of these systems seem to relly on wifi and smart phones, does the cost if you are running multiple trains include the price of the layout owner buying multiple smart phones to run the trains (or are you assuming that visiting modelers will be willing to download and configure apps on THEIR phones to run YOUR railroad.)

I'm sure that the DCC market will evolve, but I don't know that the current systems are obsolete.  Most of the objections to DCC are based on hardware and interface, and some of that is user preference.

To call anything in model railroading 'bullet proof' is a stretch, if not an outright error.  There are so many factors that can contribute to something working or not working on a layout.

Any cast off computer made in the last ~10 years will do for running a model railroad.  A suitable one can be had cheap/free.

There are only 2 kinds of phone controllers - WiThrottle and SRCP, the latter of which is supported on both Rocrail and JMRI.

There is no configuration on WiThrottle.  You connect to the wireless network the railroad is on, and it broadcasts what locomotives are configured in JMRI.  You can also store your personal locomotive IDs in the application - i.e. you can take your phone to any layout that has JMRI and use it.  the SRCP based controller is the same, without the convenient broadcast of what locos are part of the layout.

Unless you are firmly entrenched in the older technology, there is no reason to purchase any of these $300-$600 DCC systems on the market.

Just like IBM in computing, eventually these big players of the model railroading world will be toppled from their towers in the face of cheap and free open-standard technology like Arduino and JMRI.

To answer your question of a knob...here is a video of someone using the ESU Mobile Control II with AndRoc to connect to the free RocRail:

 

 

Julian

Modeling Pre-WP merger UP (1974-81)

  • Member since
    February, 2007
  • From: Christiana, TN
  • 1,652 posts
Posted by CSX Robert on Monday, December 05, 2016 1:08 PM

fieryturbo
There may also be something to do with Arduino posing a serious threat to some of the companies that run ads in the magazine and online.  Digitrax, NCE, EasyDCC come to mind, as you can put together a competing Arduino system for less than $20.

I really don't think DCC manufacturers are too conecerned about Arduino DCC systems.  I would suspect the vast majority of DCC users want something they can take out of the box, plug in, and have it work.  Additionally, when you consider the time it takes to get a home built system working, for many people it's cheaper to purchase a commercial system.  I actually built my own DCC system before there were Arduino's.  I had an MRC Command 2000 at the time and I designed my homemade system to do everything it would do, with plans to extend it's functionality later; however, when Digitrax came out with the Zephyr, it just wasn't worth it to me to keep working on it.

  • Member since
    February, 2007
  • From: Christiana, TN
  • 1,652 posts
Posted by CSX Robert on Monday, December 05, 2016 1:35 PM

I've got several model railroading projects that I'm considering usign an Adrduino on, but there is one that I have done.  For Christmas I like to put an HO scale train in the floor around the tree and an N-scale train actually in the tree.  I use an Arduino with a motor shield to run the trains.  I can control them using an infrarred remote, or I can set them to run automatically.  I can even have them triggered by a motion sensor when someone walks by the tree.

  • Member since
    May, 2011
  • 744 posts
Posted by Steven S on Monday, December 05, 2016 2:40 PM

dehusman
Does it it have controllers that have knobs?

Since it's a DIY system, you'll need to build your own.  Dave Bodnar has come up with a couple of WiFi throttles that have throttle knobs.  Both appear to be run by an Arduino Pro Mini.  The first has a two-line character display and 3x4 keypad.  The other combines the knob with a touch screen display by Nextion.

http://trainelectronics.com/DCC_Arduino/DCC++/Throttle/images/plexUnit1.jpg

http://www.trainelectronics.com/DCC_Arduino/Nextion_LCD/images/TopPic.jpg

 

dehusman
Does the roll your own system have the same capacity and features that the commerical systems

The DCC++ system is open source, which means that people are free to add features to it.  It's potentially better than any commercial system because it's limited only by the creativity of the people contributing to it. 

dehusman
Is it compatible with other systems?

No.  Just as your NCE throttle isn't going to plug into a Digitrax base unit.

dehusman
does the cost if you are running multiple trains include the price of the layout owner buying multiple smart phones to run the trains

No, but they're a lot cheaper than buying multiple throttles from Digitrax. 

 

  • Member since
    May, 2011
  • 744 posts
Posted by Steven S on Monday, December 05, 2016 2:51 PM

If anyone has a MicroCenter computer store nearby, you can get their house-brand Arduino clones really cheap.  The Uno and Mega boards sell for $6 and $10 respectively.

They only have 25 stores in the U.S.

http://www.microcenter.com/site/stores/default.aspx

(scroll down toward the bottom.)

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!