self-contained wireless DCC for non-powered rails?

Taymar Apr 22, 2021

  1. Taymar

    Taymar TrainBoard Member

    Hi all, I've got a bit of a dilemma.

    I'm really happy with my smaller scale DCC setups (digikeijs DR5000, Zimo sound decoders and Roco wireless Lan throttle).

    I've dipped my toe into the water of garden railroads and am kitbashing/detailing a G scale loco. Problem is, the loco is radio controlled and battery powered, and the track is plastic and not electrified.

    Is there any way around this whereby I could still use a 'regular' DCC decoder and all the customizations it offers? At a real stretch I'm wondering if there is a command station that's very compact and could be powered by another battery, but that seems like a clunky solve.

    Thanks for any suggestions.
  2. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

    I see no reason why with battery power in the loco or a car or tender you could go with a decoder that is made for O & G scale like these... (I just found these so assume they will handle the current you need).

    Then the command station would also have to be in the loco or a car to send the the power and signal that would normally come from the track. DCC++EX could probably be made small enough to fit that requirement but would only send the signal. The power needed would have to come from the motor board attached to the Arduino base station or a booster connected to a motor board (all running off of a battery).

    Finally you could then use something like Dave Bodnar's wireless throttle to communicate with the on-board command station.

    An alternative would be to put a Raspberry Pi inside the train also and then use JMRI and a phone throttle to control the train.

    A lot of work but nothing that isn't really that hard to do. The simpliest would be the Pi/JMRI/phone throttle solution. Looks like with G scale it would all fit inside a car or two without much trouble,

    Taymar likes this.
  3. Chris Hall

    Chris Hall TrainBoard Member

    There's this option


    Looks like it will do what your after, provide a battery powered DCC system that will allow you to use an NMRA decoder (provided you add one of their converters in the mix).

    Downside is it looks like it is a proprietary system, so you would have to use just their equipment to connect up any turnouts/signals etc that you would want to use. And it doesn't look like it will work with JMRI either - if that's a road you want to head down.

    Airwire Catalog

    Knowing that there is a system out there means that this can be done in a DIY fashion - just need to figure a way out to do it.

    If you are just going to run one loco then what Sumner said with the JMRI/R-pi/WIFI would be the simplest option. If you want to run multiple loco's at the same time then you'll need something that can replace the base station and decoders.

    If you break the base station and decoder down into a really basic form, all it does is the base station take a specific signal, send it along the track and then the decoder reads this signal to control the speed, direction, lights and sound. What you need to do is replace the track as a form of communication with something else, say WIFI or Bluetooth. You already have the power supply onboard so not an issue.

    If you used an Arduino as a decoder, you should be able to assign a unique address (IP for WIFI or BD_ADDR for Bluetooth) to it and then wireless transmit the information from your base station to the Arduino which, through motor boards/relays etc, controls the loco. Very much like how they control multiple Arduino robots at the same time. Not sure which would be the better option though, Bluetooth or WIFI.

    Learn Coding with multiple arduino robots

    Good thing with the arduino is you can add multiple sensors to the loco for more control. By adding an IR sensor to the base you can just paint lines on the track where you want the loco to stop or when you want signals to change etc. You could even add a wireless charging capability and when the loco starts running low, it heads home to its base and charges up.

    Wow, this would be a really cool project and if I was back in NZ I think I would have a crack at it! I really like the idea of the plastic track. Solve so many problems..... ;)

    Anyway - a bit of food for thought for you and will definitely be following any progress you make with this!
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2021
    Taymar likes this.

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