User Showcase – David Rees

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David Rees is a life long model railroader and founding member of BlueRail Trains. Prior to BlueRail Trains David worked as a Creative Director in the development of games, toys, robotics and app-enabled high-tech products. When David is not developing or running all-things-train, he enjoys playing in the San Diego classic rock band “FreeMartin” and coming up with excuses as to why his 55 Chevy isn’t running right now. He is also a member of the La Mesa Model Railroad Club.


Pictured to the left (click for close up) is a BlueRail board in the tender of an HO Bachmann 2-8-0 consolidation. The board is designed to fit almost any HO steam tender. The board accepts a standard 9-pin connection harness. In this implementation the board uses a 9-8 pin connection harness plugged into the DCC-ready 8-pin port on the board underneath. The underlying board could also be easily removed and the BlueRail board could be wired directly.

Pictured next, an HO Kato EMD F40PH is an excellent loco to put a BlueRail board in. The board fits easily in the loco shell, and the loco comes with Ditch Lights which can be run by the BlueRail board. Out-of-the-box the ditch lights in this loco take their illumination from the headlight LED, but adding 2 additional independent LEDs is a fairly easy modification. These 2 LEDs were wired to the green and violet wires (ACC3 and 4). The BlueRail app makes Ditch Lights easy to setup and use as seen in this video



A larger steam locomotive like this HO Bachmann 4-8-4 American Freedom have plenty of room in the tender for both a BlueRail board and a battery. This loco has the full Dead Rail kit which includes a BlueRail board, an 11.1 Volt 450ma Lithium Polymer Battery, and a magnetic reed switch. This kit is completely plug and play and can be easily installed in minutes. The reed switch allows you to turn the battery on/off with a magnet. For an HO loco you can get 3 or more hours of operation time on a full charge. The image below shows a close-up of the installation, with the board and the magnetic reed switch attached to the top of the shell (with double sided tape).

These photos were taken on the North County Model Railroad Club layout in Oceanside, CA. A big thank you to them.


Down below this is an HO Bachmann 2-8-4 Nickel Plate which also has a BlueRail board with battery on board. Once you switch a locomotive to battery power you suddenly realize most of your performance problems were caused by connectivity issues between your wheels and the track.


The final picture at the bottom is the first bluetooth board BlueRail ever made in 2012. This is a standard Lionel 8602 3-rail loco. The prototype board contains a bluetooth low-energy module which was hand-made by Pete Skeggs of BlueRail Trains and runs on AC power. David had built a (200 ft) three-rail layout in his basement which included steep grades and sharp turns ultimately resulting in disastrous derails (broken locos) when operated under conventional power by undisciplined nephews. After researching the digital command options available and having recently helped develop products for the new (2011) bluetooth low energy protocol, they set to work on a fun project. Programmer friend Eric Laun wrote the iOS control app, and the first bluetooth train came to be.

The first board was nicknamed Boxcar Willy as it was too large to fit in the Lionel shell and had to ride in the tender. This first board still runs well (despite its unsightly appearance).