Simple, affordable DIY Deadrail system

Discussion in 'Welcome to the DARK side' started by leadie69, Dec 2, 2020.

  1. leadie69

    leadie69 Full Member

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    Hello!

    OMG I hear you say.... Leadie69 is posting something again.... we all thought he had dissappeared!

    No, I am very much here, I just haven't been on the forum for a while.

    Anyway, the purpose of this post is to introduce you all to a Deadrail system I am using for most of my OO locos when I go to my local club or when visiting other folks layouts (for those of you who haven't come across the Deadrail concept yet, it involves controlling trains wirelessly via battery without using the track for power).

    A bit of background - Like most of us I started off with everything running DC. I then finally tried DCC, liked what I saw and started converting a lot of locos. There was a problem with this approach though. My local club, The Newcastle Model Railway Club (Australia), has a largish OO/HO layout that operates in DC one week and DCC the next so I had to keep checking each week to make sure I took the correct locos. I had previously looked into commercial Deadrail systems but was put off by price and availability. Then I discovered Arduino and suddenly there was a world of possibilities open too me.

    I have 2 DIY Deadrail systems - one for use at the club for primarily running trains round a big tailchaser and another for shunting on my micro layouts - this thread is about the former (I will cover the shunting system in a different thread soon).

    The system I use was originally developed by a guy in Russia called Steve Massikker and can be found on his site - https://www.arduinorailwaycontrol.com/

    Steve's system is designed to power trains conventionally via the track but I could see ways to modify it for on-board battery power and basic Deadrail operation - it just took me a while to find the correct parts and power. Obviously the circuitry won't fit inside an OO loco but I did manage to squeeze it all into a CTT van with runs directly behind the engine when using this system.

    Anyway, that's enough for this post - I'll explain more over the next few days. In the meantime I have attached a couple of pics below of the van and the "electrickery" packed inside it.

    Ian

    A plain CTT van

    But it is full of "electrickery"
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2020
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  2. steve

    steve Full Member

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    Thanks Ian.
    Glad to see you back.
    I am in the process of building a layout that your posting have provided ideas to incorporate.
    Thanks
    Steve
     
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  3. Gary

    Gary Wants more time for modelling.... Staff Member Administrator

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    G'day Ian,

    Good to catch up last week at the train club and it's great to see you have started this thread. Both of your locos ran around the layout smoothly and without a hitch. Looking forward to reading more about this. Thanks for starting the thread.

    Cheers, Gary.
     
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  4. gormo

    gormo Staff Member Administrator

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    G`day Ian,
    I have seen a couple of systems using this idea of dead rail / battery power.
    I think it is the way of the future, but most people I mention it to are not so enthusiastic.
    There `s the cost, the charging, the battery life, the size of the batteries.........all of which will be dealt with if the will is there and the uptake is good.
    I think it solves a lot of issues myself and has the potential to eclipse current methods.
    :tophat:Gormo
     
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  5. ianvolvo46

    ianvolvo46 Staff Member Moderator

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    I'm fascinated :scratchchin: more please Ian

    Ian vt
     
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  6. Andy_Sollis

    Andy_Sollis Full Member

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    I can’t see the photos?
     
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  7. leadie69

    leadie69 Full Member

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    Thanks Steve.
     
  8. leadie69

    leadie69 Full Member

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    Thanks Gary - it was good to see you too and I needed a push to share all this.
     
  9. leadie69

    leadie69 Full Member

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    Thanks Gormo - what it really needs is for manufacturers to get on board as it would be possible to fit batteries and the necessary circuitry in most locos if they were designed that way from the start - the boards I use have far more features and connections than are really needed so this could be possible even in a Pecket if it was planned for at the start of the design process.
     
  10. leadie69

    leadie69 Full Member

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    Thanks Ian VT
     
  11. leadie69

    leadie69 Full Member

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    Sorry Andy, I have fixed it and you should be able to see them now.
     
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  12. paul_l

    paul_l Staff Member Administrator

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    Great to have you back, nd back with bang as well - got the popcorn ready, but may need to get a few forms of liquid refreshment at the ready as well.

    Paul
     
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  13. Andy_Sollis

    Andy_Sollis Full Member

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    Oh. I was expecting a loco not a wagon.
     
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  14. leadie69

    leadie69 Full Member

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    Thanks Paul - it looks more complicated than it is
     
  15. leadie69

    leadie69 Full Member

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    I have a similar system fitted into a scratch-built wooden O scale loco but everything is still too big for a OO loco.
     
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  16. leadie69

    leadie69 Full Member

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    So time for some more info on the deadrail wagon.

    It is controlled by a free bluetooth app written by Steve Massikker for android phones (I don't believe he has a version for iphone). Apart from the batteries, there are only 3 components needed to make this work:

    ESP 32 development board

    Motor driver (stuck to the ESP32 with mounting tape)

    Voltage reducer/regulator

    The basic principal is that the voltage regulator reduces the power from 3 x 3.7volt batteries to 11volts which will comfortably power the ESP32 and the motor in the loco. The ESP32 receives the bluetooth signal from the phone and converts it a suitable Pulse Width Modulation signal which is amplified by the motor driver and sent directly to the motor in the loco. The birds nest of wires is actually pretty straight forward and I will draw it out properly for the next post. I have used a simple 2 pin plug and socket arrangement to get power from the van to the loco (similar to that used by Hornby for connecting their Ruston and Hornsby loco to the wagon with extra pickups). All I needed to do to the locos was cut the wires from the pick ups and wire the sockets directly to the motor. The beauty of having this built into the van is that I can use the one unit on different locos.

    In addition to allowing me to run my trains on any OO/HO layout, I also no longer need to worry about track and wheel cleaning and there is never a problem with points and frogs.

    Other than the space taken up by the components, the only downside to this bluetooth system that I have come across so far is that the free app only allows 7 speed steps (including stop), however you can modify the sketch for the ESP32 to change the speed of each step - this makes it fine to use when running trains to watch them go by on a tailchaser but I have developed a different infra red control system for use when shunting (a topic for a different thread).

    Until next time,

    Ian
     
  17. Gary

    Gary Wants more time for modelling.... Staff Member Administrator

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    Very nice Ian. Any chance you can provide links to where you purchased the individual parts from ?

    Cheers, Gary.
     
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  18. leadie69

    leadie69 Full Member

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    Thanks Gary - links coming up in next post.
     
  19. leadie69

    leadie69 Full Member

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    Time for some more info.

    As promised, here is the wiring diagram for this system.
    The input labelled as 5v on the ESP32 actually takes up to 12volts and reduces it to 5 volts.

    As requested by Gary, here are the links to these components if you live in Australia.
    ESP32 https://www.jaycar.com.au/esp32-main-board-with-wifi-and-bluetooth-communication/p/XC3800
    Voltage reducer/regulator https://www.jaycar.com.au/arduino-compatible-dc-voltage-regulator/p/XC4514
    Motor driver https://core-electronics.com.au/2x1-2a-dc-motor-driver-tb6612fng.html

    I had to modify the original ESP32 sketch from Steve Massikker just a little and I'm happy to share the modified code if anyone is interested in building this system. You can find the original code at the link below.
    https://create.arduino.cc/projecthu...c93f79?ref=search&ref_id=model train&offset=5

    Fire away if you have any questions.

    Ian
     
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  20. Andy_Sollis

    Andy_Sollis Full Member

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    Which one is the ESP32 ? The picture doesn’t say?
     

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