Micro Electronics

Model Railway Electrics – DCC Encoding

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So after the success of putting together a DCC Decoder, I decided to have a go at encoding.
I think it would be really fab if you could control or “shunt” multiple trains with perhaps infrared detection for example.
It’s also a far cheaper solution than some of the units out there at £80-90 up to the thousands, it won’t be as robust as some of these units, but it should have some additional features, and I like the idea of plugging it into the iPad interface I’ve already started on, so I could get locomotive control, turn building lights on and off and change the track points all wirelessly and for a small amount of money.
But boy this is different ball game to the decoding and I’ve spent hours and hours and just don’t seem to have any joy at all. I’ll persevere and I’ll hook up the decoder I made as well so I can decode the signals going through the rails… I’ll keep you posted as I’m determined to crack this one!

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An £80 Mesh Network Camera for Conservation?

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You’ll know I recently blogged about the Instant Wild project at London Zoo. Well the Instant wild project currently uses cellular based cameras, there really expensive and have limited ranges – they need to be within an area with cellular reception – a tall order in many conservation areas in Africa.
Well today the challenge is set – Can we come up with a camera that doesnt have the restricions of cellular networks and consistant maintainance requirements?
Its a simple brief, but its a real challenge!
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Model Railway Electrics – DCC Decoding

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So getting back into model railways is a little more difficult that the simple set up I had as a kid, its come a long way and instead of a simple 12v circuit we now have Digital Command Control (DCC). It runs on an 18v AC current and each locomotive, point or accessory can be controlled via binary signals sent though the rails.
This means you can control multiple devices on a single track instead of a train running round in the direction of the DC circuit.
To decode these signals, people purchase what are known as “Accessory Decoders” and they are really expensive, the ones I found could control 4 devices for about £40.
Step in Ardunio an a diode and an opto-isolator and evening or two coding and I have a Accessory decoder for about £18 that can control around 15 devices or “accessories”. I cant wait to get this fully hooked up, but after taking it to a friends who has an digital DCC Decoder and an LCD screen we managed to get some building lights turning on and off as well as point changing.Image

iPad Controlled Model Railway Turntable

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So following on from the creation of the model railway I wanted to make it as easy as possible to use. I already hooked an Arduino up to the board and always had a fascination with turntables. I wanted everything push button and with a modern twist so I added an Ethernet shield to the Arduino, threw a sketch together on the Ardunio to control a servo at different angles. I couldn’t find anyone else who had tried this simple approach to moving a turntable, it seemed to be a mix of stepper motors and infrared control – this was far far easier and quite reliable too.Image

DCC Model Railway Encoder

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Just quick picture of a DCC Encoder I am prototyping the idea is that this will drive trains and points and will work in conjunction with the DCC Decoders I already have working.

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