Considering Arduino Uses
for your Model Railroad?

I had a question sent to me from a modeller about arduino uses in building DCC++ systems as an alternative to commercial systems.  I am no authority on the subject so I forwarded his query to our club resident electronics guru, John Houghton.  He has experimented with using a miniature arduino computer for both signalling applications and for making a DCC control system. I have touched on this subject in writing about his former N gauge layout and work he has been doing on our current Nottawasaga Model Railway layout. Here is John's answer about arduino uses for all you electronic tinkerers.

arduino mega boardTypical arduino mega miniature computer board

"DCC++ is an open source program that can be installed on an Arduino. This is a small, cheap computer that has multiple input and output pins that you can program yourself. The person who wrote the DCC++ system did so to save hundreds of dollars for himself by not purchasing a commercial DCC system. It works well and I have it up and running myself. There are some limitations to DCC++ especially about programming a decoder, but with JMRI that can be overcome. 

You will have to be willing to learn to program an Arduino, tinker with some electronics and probably get into some programming. Here are some links for you to do further learning. 

Trainboard forum has an extensive posting on DCC++ and lots of variation and alternatives to you.

The Arduino main page is here.

The author of DCC++ has a web site.

The Model Railroad Hobbyist forum has extensive postings on DCC++ as well as the Arduino. Do a search for Arduino, SMA, or DCC++ to find lots of stuff.

For my latest version I have an Arduino Mega with a motor driver shield and a couple of jumpers as described on the DCC++ web page and it is connected to the track. I loaded JMRI on to a Raspberry pi3 , connect that to my Arduino Mega via USB and I have the Raspberry pi3 configured to start automatically, and run a web broadcast so that I can connect to it with my iPad via a VNC app. I then control JMRI from my iPad and I run an app WiThrottle so that I can run trains from my iPad.

I bought some of my stuff from China on eBay so search for Arduino Mega and motor control there. The Pi I bought from Adafruit. I already use the iPad for controlling trains on my layout and the club layout so that was not an expense, so for less than $100 I have a fully operating DCC system. Through all the reading from the above links, I see a lot of potential for doing things a lot cheaper than many commercial systems. And its a lot of fun as I am a tinkerer. "

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