An Example of DCC, Raspberry PI and NTrak

I was browsing the web looking for examples of NTrak modules, the standard for small N scale modular model railroads, when I came across the website of the Piedmont ‘N Southern club out of upstate South Carolina. While there is a lot of good NTrak information there, what got me really interested in their site was the detailing of their setup.  They have some pretty extensive documentation with pictures of the DCC equipment they use including Digitrax, JMRI, and yes, even JMRI running on a Raspberry PI.

Raspberry Pi running JMRI WiThrottle and serving as a WiFi Access Point
Raspberry Pi running JMRI WiThrottle and serving as a WiFi Access Point

To quote the website, they use the “RaspberryPi as an access point and JMRI computer. To simplify the use of JMRI and WiThrottle, we have a tiny RaspberryPi computer which runs JMRI, and also acts as a WiFi access point. So our members can simply turn on main power, and the RPi will startup and load JMRI. Within 2 minutes, members can connect and start running trains from their devices. The RPi has no screen or keyboard, so it can stay nicely out of the way in the electronics box.”

Interesting stuff, and I definitely need to go see it all in operation some time soon.

JMRI Up On Pi

Well, thanks to the help of some instructions and code I found on line cleverly named “JMR-PI“, I now have JMRI up and running on my Raspberry Pi. Truth be told, it really didn’t take much effort on my part. All I had to do was follow the instructions Matthew Macdonald-Wallace put up on the GitHub repository. If I am able to make any additions to contributions to the project, I will also put them up online.

But, now that JMRI is up and operational, I need to work on the Pi to track interface, be it SPROG or Digtrax PR3 or whatever. No reason to delay and no time to waste.

JMRI on Raspberry

Oh, also just a quick not that I did purchase a case for my Pi. I just can’t stand to have it sitting out all nekkid-like. I don’t know if this will be its permanent home, but it was cheap and also came with some heat sinks for the main chips.

Raspberry Pi Case

I got it off eBay for less than $9 including the case, heat sinks, and shipping. Can’t beat that even if I don’t end up using it for anything more than initial protection and prototyping.

Model Railroading in the 21st Century

OK folks, a couple of weekends ago at a local tech conference, BarCampCHS, I proposed a session called “Model Railroading for the 21st Century”. The proposal received an overwhelmingly (and surprising to me) positive response. So, I delivered it and the folks attending really seemed to enjoy it. What’s more, I know for a fact that at least one person who had no prior model railroading experience went to the local train show the next day and bought over $80 in trains to get started!

I just wanted to know what you thought of the presentation, what I might add or change, of if I should leave out anything. I plan on trying to give it some more around town to reach the uninitiated.

Thanks!

Model Railroading Presentation

JMRI Updates

JMRINot that I have any involvement with the development at all, but just wanted to make sure that folks know there have been big strides in updating JMRI – the free, open source computer interface to DCC for model trains.

First of all, the manual for version 2.14.1, which was the most recent version before yesterday, has been completed. You can find that newly completed manual at the JMRI site.

Secondly, the folks doing all the hard work have announced that the new version, JMRI version 3.0, is ready for primetime and has been released. You can read the release note, see what has changed, and access the downloadable code on the Release Notes for JMRI 3.0 page on the website.