Blog

8/9/19

Soon new features
Junior and DUO apps will be free upgraded to Inertia Drive mode

Arduino Train Icons
8/5/19

Collapsible test rail track complete.
An update of the Arduino Trani DEMO application with a new type of inertial control has been published on Google Play. It is possible to change this mode to standard. To test the inertial method of train movement, I needed a test track, which I made with a cardboard backing. The result was a convenient collapsible design.
After completing the tests, the inertial control type will also be implemented in all my other applications, but with advanced customization options. Soon video about it!

Test rail track
8/1/19

Start refreshed my apps.
Full compatibility with the URB project and Protocol 2.1 sketches. First app with new features is available. Soon free update paid versions.

7/25/19

New experimental app.
New UI. Inertial drive. Need your opinion about cab interface.

7/9/19

DIY LED lights for passenger cars.
Several recommendations for the installation of lighting passenger railway cars using ordinary LED strips. Soon the video will be published, but for now you can see the diagram. You can also watch a video about the installation of the light system on the locomotives.

7/20/19

Wireless URB

Started tests

7 wireless URB
6/12/19

URB project is complete

MASTER PLAN OF URB PROJECT
  • Android app for DC train control
  • Protocol 1.0 — manage junctions and tracks
  • Hardware device based on Arduino UNO and Bluetooth
  • URB 1.0 — first working concept of Universal Railway Bus
  • Adding control for any railway layout devices
  • URB 2.0 — change hardware to Arduino NANO and HC-05
  • Arduino Train App apps and Protocol 1.2
  • Integrating to the project modules and sensors
  • Creating rules and documentation for build any railway
  • Global testing
  • First release (URB 2.2 and ArduinoTrain BTControl)
  • Opening site arduinorailmaket.ru
  • Presented full functional example of Big Layout
  • Adding snippets and the mulifiles sketch
  • Migrate from arduinorailmaket.ru to arduinorailwaycontrol.com
  • Protocol 2.0
  • Updated Arduino’s network concept (URB 2.4 – URB 2.9)
  • Presented app line Arduino Train
  • Adding extended thrust control
    (18-speed to DUO, DNT and 9-speed to other apps)
  • Decreasing PWM frequency to 122 Hz for smooth motion of trains
    Last versions DEMO, Junior Lite, Junior Pro, DUO, TNT, DNT apps are full support these thrust features
  • Protocol 2.1 & URB 2.X.122
PLAN COMPLETED
There will be no more changes. The project is fully ready for use.

The current version of URB project provides full control of all devices for any railway layout. The universality of the project allows its adaptation to any external management systems and any railway periphery of any scale and manufacturer.

My Android apps will work properly with wireless units

Future. Next project.

  • Wireless URB concept
  • Hadware for migrate to wireless — URB 3.3
  • New very cheap unit with minimal hardware set
  • Testing concept
  • URB 4.0
    Protocol 3.0
    Documentation and Arduino software
    New feature — smart Loco
    New feature — scripted motion
    Other new features…
    Online train location sensors
    Mixed train dispatch
    Full automated railway layout
    AI & "Live" layout
6/9/19

Wireless future of URB Project.
For the past few months I have been testing wireless URB units. As a result, unit version 4.0 was created. It is incompatible with the previous ones and most likely the code for the wireless project will also be somewhat different. Therefore, the project will be divided into two parts. The first part — the URB versions 2.X and the transitional model URB 3.3 will remain as the URB project. The wireless part will be available only to the members of the URB Club.
In the photo there is a test of wireless data transmission between URB 3.3 and URB 4.0 units.

URB 4.0
Wireless connections between URB 3.3 and URB 4.0
5/29/19

Starting new series about using the URB Project.
The first episode tells about the method of building the system on the example of the layout of my friend from Hungary. The second episode shows how to use a byte variable to transfer the state of the railway lines to local URB units, and how to make an Indication Panel in practice.

This series will continue...

5/20/19

All tests wireless URB 3.3 passed!
The system of wireless units turned out to be very convenient. I was afraid to use the SPI interface, since it is complex for modellers. But everything turned out to be simpler, for NRF24 there is an excellent library with network support. Now I am gradually writing software and examples for using new units.
But maybe 3.3, this is not the latest version of the URB unit. There are some new ideas.

URB 3.3
4/30/19
Arrive PCB URB 3.3

PCBs for the wireless unit URB 3.3 arrived. Thanks to Torben and Eric for donating.

4/29/19

Introduce to Electricity for modellers

Another mission of the modellers described below is warmly supports of mythical devices and their magical properties. Mostly these people discuss decoders DCC and sensors. I don’t want to be Gulliver in the eternal war between supporters and opponents of various DCC systems, but I’ll make some remarks about infrared sensors.

Most of the video by these "proficient" modeller recommend the installation of the module from the infrared LED and the receiver under the rails. At the same time, only one tenth of them mention that for correct triggering IR-sensor need be glued to the bottom of each locos and cars the stripe foil. And practically no one gives correct working examples with different speeds and number of cars on trains passing on such a sensor. Also silent about the effect on infrared sensors of sunlight and other side effects leading to false positives. And there is absolutely no information on how to process and use signals from sensory systems to automate the railway layout.

As a result of activities of these guys, a normal modeller, after several failures, either refuses to use sensors or is forced to invent very strange constructions. For example, I saw a very good modeller who invented the sensor from the wire dragged under the locomotive and the contact pads placed between the sleepers. This is certainly an interesting solution, this was applied at the end of the 19th century on real railways, but now no one does these constructions. And this is a very precarious and potentially problematic solution.

However, I am not writing this post for criticism of authors offering false information. I have another suggestion - I will make on my channel a series of videos about the basic electrical solutions of railway automatic and control for modellers. And all these examples will be supported by a full description. If you have a plot for such videos, then write me a message.

And I will begin with the simplest concepts, such as current, voltage, polarity, Ohm and Kirchhoff's laws - from all that you have forgotten from school times.

Gullivers Travels
4/27/19
Bad modellers

Hello Gollums :)

I like my target audience. Some people interested in my project are greedy, grumpy and very ungrateful adult personalities. These are the most interesting people, I get great pleasure exploring their psychological portrait. In Russian for such modellers there is a saying: "Собака на сене", idiom of this expression in English — "as dogs in the manger".

These people are uninteresting, envious, technically illiterate and have great self-conceit. As a result, they are lonely and very aggressive. The core passion of such people is hoarding. So, I am trying to help this people out of this situation. And it is really simple. Start playing with your railway! An alternative to this is oblivion.

4/16/19

Soon updating all sketches with code for a motor-driver L298 to 122Hz

I will set the frequency to 122 Hz for Arduino pins 9 and 10. This means that timer 1 with divider 256 will be used.

It is obvious to me that if most DCC decoders use a frequency of 100 Hz and this is the most recommended PWM frequency by manufacturers of miniature DC motors, then it is necessary to use exactly 122 Hz.

This is not a problem for the project itself, as it is possible to use any settings and any frequencies. That is, you can use 490 Hz and do not change anything in the sketch.

It is also possible not to change the design of the existing URB units at 122 Hz. Just in this case it can't to simultaneously use the servos and the motor-driver on the same unit. No more problems for transferring to 122 Hz.

3/31/19

Fully automatic Reverse Loop is complete

Arduino Train DNT correctly shows the direction of the train after passing the loop. This is another unique feature of the URB project. Full description is available for URB Club members.

3/21/19

Fully automatic Reverse Loop

I got the best implementation of the management of the railway loop. Robust and fully automatic operation, independent of the position of theturnout. Power switching does not affect the move of the train. And another very important surprise. Soon.

Fully automatic unidirectional Rail Track Loop
3/20/19

Protocol 2.1 — Precision Thrust Engine Control

Accuracy at fingertips – original programing code for the Thrust Slider in the Arduino Train apps now expanded. Protocol 2.1 now supports 18-speed control mode. All applications, except Demo, now support this version of Protocol. See changes on Orange Book.

USB Phone charger for Arduino
3/16/19

Test 18 loco speeds

Test new features 18 speeds moving of a loco for update application DUO passed successfully. The train moves beautifully at low speed.

USB Phone charger for Arduino
2/11/19

Easy solution for 5V power to the URB unit

For power supply circuits URB need 5V. The easiest way to do this is look at the photo. Chargers for mobile phones give 5V and current up to 1 A, this is quite enough. You only need to change the cable USB-microUSB to USB-miniUSB.

Please use it only for experiments or if you use a single command station to control trains. In other cases, you need a power supply with currents from 2A.

USB Phone charger for Arduino
1/19/19

I think about new feature. Like Inertia.

New feature
Testing from computer

 

Magenta signal

Magenta signal  Running and troubleshooting

To examples on this site are hard to go wrong, but shit happens :) If you have collected wires and a circuit, have included, but it does not work – we will look for the reason. At the same time you will understand how to act in such situations.

...nothing was working!

This is a quote from a real user message. The problem is that it is impossible to guess what went wrong. Therefore, the first thing to do: Don't Panic – you can't do something fatal with voltage of 5V. The biggest mistake: creating a short circuit or overload pins of the chip will only lead to the fact that you need a new Arduino.

If you turned ON the power (or plug USB cable) and the LEDs on the Arduino did not light up, or blinked and went out, then you incorrectly connected wires. Or you have a broken Arduino or problems with the power source.

Solution

Disconnect all wires except power wires and turn on the circuit again. If the problem persists, replace the Arduino, check the power supply with a tester and, most importantly, carefully look at the correctness of your wired connections.

The verification algorithm is simple, you need to divide your scheme into parts. And consistently add to it your items. So you localize first, and then fix the problem. Therefore, first of all, testing begins with the power supply.

"I can't connect via Bluetooth"

You can use any Bluetooth modules in your project. These modules are often very similar to the HC-06(05) I recommend. Unfortunately, many people like the beautiful name of BLE and Bluetooth 4, but this standard is designed for minimum power consumption, so a level converter is needed. In addition, the assignment of pins on other modules may be completely different. Consult the documentation for your modules if you want to use them.

My applications are connected over an Android Bluetooth. The rule of verification is as follows: if you could pair the Bluetooth module with the phone, then connection is works.

Test BT connection

To finally test the connection, upload a simple sketch to your COMM unit. Open the Serial Terminal Arduino IDE. If you are not mistaken with the wires, you will see Protocol 2 commands transmitted to your COMM unit from the application.

Serial RX TX crossing

The most common mistake is the wrong connection of data wires RX TX between the Bluetooth module and the Arduino. I highly recommend using the URB unit, it solves most of the problems of this kind. When using the unit's URB together with the BT modules, do not forget to install the Level Converter!

Test BT sketch
Motor-drivers

Train don't move

Produced are a lot of different variants for Motor-drivers modules. There are even a few dozen modules based on the chip L298, and they differ not only in location but also in the number of pins. Most importantly, there are two standard ways to connect Arduino to dual channel drivers: by six and by four wires. My sketches provide a six-wire connection. If you have another module, change the code according to your module.

The most common two problem situations:

  • when you forgot to connect your circuit with a COMMON WIRE
  • when the Driver A is controlled from the application, and the locomotive is on rails connected to outs B, or voltage measurements are taken on the Motor-driver outputs B

Please check your wires circuit connections carefully.

Solution

First check out the Arduino pins with unplugged the Motor-Driver. When you moving the thrust slider in the application on the corresponding to the ENA and ENB of Motor-Driver pins the voltage should be change from very close to zero to the Arduino's supply voltage. When you pushing buttons for changing the direction of motion should be changed the state of the corresponding pins IN1 IN2 and IN3 IN4 from a high level to a low level and vice versa.

If all the previous steps are completed, but the locomotive still does not move, then with digital multimeter checking the condition Motor-Driver and the locomotive.

Unlock screen

Tricks

I received several complaints from users of my applications on turning off the screen of the Android device. Firstly, this is not a problem – as soon as you unlock your phone or tablet, the functionality of the application will recover. But you can also increase the sleep time of the screen when idle, or even turn off this power saving function of the Android operating system.

I have this parameter set to NEVER. Compared to the constantly on Wi-Fi, this has virtually no effect on the discharge of the battery.

Where to buy Arduino details for the project

Buyers guide — How to cheap buy details of Arduino

I did not want to write this guide for a long time, because I thought in Internet the information was enough to indicate that this is a very cheap project. I am the same buyer of these goods as you are. That is, I do not produce, sell or advertise the producers of these details. And I do not have any benefit from such activities.
But I was wrong, it turned out that this is very important. I will give my method of buying these goods and the approximate prices.

The first advice

Is to take several identical parts at once, it is not only cheaper, but also relieves you of the need to re-order. Be greedy! For example, for my project you need a few Arduino NANO, when buying five pieces on the trade portals such as aliexpress.com or alibaba.com one piece will cost only $3.2 (2.7€). On Ebay 5 pieces of Arduino NANO will cost 3.3€ for one, but the delivery will be much faster.

Prices compare

The second advice

Be very careful when choosing a product on these trading portals – the product description is often very brief and uninformative. For example, you can buy cheaper the same Arduino Nano Atmega168P, but with another CPU (need 328P) which will very restrict you in writing sketches and applying in the project. Also apply this recomandations to modules of Bluetooth and Motor-drivers, compare the picture on my site and on the sites of sellers, they should be identical (in part because of this I bring pictures instead of diagrams).

Find details

The third advice

Buy from local vendors consumables (wires, connectors, etc.). Shops such as Radioshack are almost everywhere. If you look a little you will find that very often next to you there are private sellers of details of Arduino, it is slightly more expensive than on sites, but at times faster. Plus there will be communication, often people trade Arduino not for profit, but for the sake of a hobby (just like me).

All items for one URB unit bought in this way are for me a less than $4 or approximately 3€.

Local vendors

Comparison URB project with manufactured solutions

Now let's just count. I will compare the price of electronics, without wires and power supply blocks, for Example of a Symmetrical layout presented on it site. I'm not so sure about real prices, but approximately in out June 2018 so:

Conclusions

I took the simplest set of parts for installation the electronics for "Symmetrical track plan" from the site of Horby. And it's not even a wireless console. The price difference with the same functionality eightfolded, this despite the fact that the expansion options for my project is much greater. The attempt to calculate the price of the necessary components from the Pro series from the company ROCO led to a difference of 25 times!

And for me it was a bit surprising that I did not find on these sites a classic set for DC control.

URB Project
Detail Quantity Price $ Price €
URB unit 2 4.00 x 2 3.40 x 2
Arduino NANO 2 3.50 x 2 3.00 x 2
Arduino Train Junior App 1 9.99 9.99
Servo SG-90 4 1.40 x 4 1.20 x 4
Relay 2ch 2 1.20 x 2 1.10 x 2
Bluetooth HC-05 1 2.80 2.60
Motor-driver L298 1 1.50 1.30
Total 37 34
DC control

All well-known manufacturers have ceased production DС control systems.

DCC control
Detail Quantity Price $ Price €
Hornby DCC Select Controller 1 139.99 121.99
Digital Locomotive Decoder 2 25.99 x 2 22.50 x 2
Hornby Accessory Decoder 1 52.00 48.99
Surface Mounted Point Motor 4 12.99 x 4 9.99 x 4
Total 296 256