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.

Christmas On Track

Christmas time has come and gone again, and I did quite well in the gift department. I got all kinds of great things from friends and family. I got more than I should have and far more than I deserved.

First, from my father I got a Hawthorn Village Budweiser On30 train set. This is my first On30 train. On30 is narrow gauge – O scale trains which are 1/4″ to the foot, running on HO track, giving a scale track gauge of 30 inches or 2 1/2 feet. The set is made by Bachmann and sold by the Bradford Exchange. Currently, it is running around under the Christmas tree. Yup, sorry, no longer “mint in package”!

Hawthorn Village Budweiser Set

Next, from my sister, I got framed print of a 2-4-0 locomotive. Now this isn’t just any old print. The pen and ink drawing is made up of many other objects. For instance, one of the drive wheels is a clock face, the top of the smoke stack is a pie, the band around the smoke stack is a belt, and part of the cow-catcher is a fan. Ever part of the locomotive and its tender is actually some other object. A very ingenious picture, and sorry for my very poor photograph of it. It now proudly hangs in my home office.

Locomotive Print

That was basically it for the train haul this year, but great stuff! In addition, I got some gift cards to places like Barnes & Nobles, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy that will most probably end up being turned towards my railroad hobby. Now I just need some time to play with it all.

On a separate but related note, I know of quite a few young kids who got their first train sets this year. I am really pleased to see the tradition continuing. What’s more, these sets went to both boys and girls, and the trains were wooden, electric, and of various scales. Hooray for diversity!

I hope the season has been good to you and yours, and I trust that next year will be just as good or better.

Building A Locomotive

No, not a model one.  A friend of mine sent me this link to an amazing video of the construction of a “Princess Royal” class steam locomotive at the Crewe Works by the LMS Railway in Britain back in 1935. It is an amazing thing to watch these men building such a massive piece of complicated machinery without the aid of all the modern tools we take for granted. This is much more a work of personal ingenuity, muscle and determination than of finicky laser measurement and overbearing regulations. OK, so yes, I may be waxing a bit poetic, but it is still really cool! Next time I can’t figure out how to do some meager task with all the varied electronic tools I have at my disposal, I will think back on this construction and be humbled. And the next time you whine about your working conditions or amount of physical labor you have to do – watch this.

NMRA Convention – Arrival Day

Not much going on today. We got into Atlanta about 2pm and went directly to the convention to check in. All went smoothly and everyone is friendly – many evening singing! Not sure about why, but at least they are happy. Only got to go to one session today, on using JMRI to generate switch-lists for operations on a small layout, but it was good. Also visited the silent auction room and placed a few bids. There were lots of great items, but since I have confined myself to a few well defined niches it makes resisting easier. I will find out in the morning if I was successful bidder on anything. And finally, as can be seen by the picture, I picked up my official convention car in N scale. Very nice indeed.

Well enjoy the pictures such as they are, I will be doing more tomorrow and hopefully have lots more to say and an increase in both the quality and quantity of pictures.

Stillness by Rick Bragg

Night train through the SouthOk, this is kind of cheating to post this on my train site, but it is a great essay and really brings back the memory of trains from my youth, and my feeling for them now. A great way to head into the NRMA convention in Atlanta.

Then, sometime around midnight, I would hear it. The whistle came first, a warning, followed by a distant roar, and then a bump, bump, bumping, as a hundred boxcars lurched past some distant crossing. They were probably just hauling pig iron, but in my mind they were taking people to places I wanted to be. A braver boy would have run it down and flung himself aboard.

From Stillness by Rick Bragg, published in the July 2013 issue of Southern Living.