This is Ken’s installation of BlueRail Trains bluetooth controller board in a Bachmann OF 4-4-0. He relocated the Bachmann board to a lower position to clear the BlueRail board. The BlueRail hooks up with a 9 pin to 8 pin connector. The wood cross pieces are where double sided foam tape is attached to install the BlueRail board. Ken decided to make it dead rail also. In a odd bit of luck the 430mAh 11.1V LiPo fits snuggly in the oil bunker. The tender shell needed to be trimmed a bit to fit the battery. Ken said it went together nicely, and runs beautifully. Next step: lettering and mild weathering.
Darby Marriott is a middle aged professional currently residing in Kitchener, Ontario Canada. While not managing the development of state of the art broadcast communications software products, Darby enjoys planning and building his new layout: the Grand River Railroad – Canadian Pacific Waterloo Sub circa mid-1960s in S Scale. Darby is also a volunteer with the St. Jacobs and Aberfoyle Model Railway. With a mindset on utilizing the latest technology in any given discipline, BlueRail was a logical choice for Darby when selecting a control mechanism, given its reliance on smart app software and wireless BlueTooth. The other significant factor was the capability of integrating battery power, thus alleviating the need to wire the new layout while providing a hassle free operatizing experience.
The chosen motive power to match the prototype was an S Helper Service SW9/SW1200. This engine proved to be the ideal candidate to receive Bluetooth control under battery power. The dimensions of the shell allow the BlueRail board to be located perfectly above the motor with just enough clearance in both height and width. Powering the system is a three cell 11.1V, 400mA battery situated in the front of the loco.
A pair of switches allow control of two different circuits. The first circuit is used to provide power from the battery to the BlueRail board. The second circuit routes power from a charging track back to the battery. This allows the loco to be charged while on the rails and not in use. The switch buttons are positioned precisely beneath the two exhaust stacks, allowing for easy access to enable or disable the desired circuit. A reed switch is also in line with the battery and provides a touch free method to power the loco on and off. A hidden connector was made accessible underneath the loco to disconnect or directly charge the battery if necessary.
While retrofitting the loco, LED head lights and a cab light were installed and make use of three out the four available BlueRail accessory controls. The optional 8-pin, 5” wiring harness was used to complete the custom wiring arrangement, as were the optional pre-soldered dead rail lead wires.
When set to Freight mode in the BlueRail iOS app, full throttle was calculated to be 30mph scale speed. While at full throttle, a running time of over 2 hours can be achieved on a full battery charge. Battery charging takes approximately ½ hour.
Top Speed: Fright
1st Speed Step: 2
Start Voltage: 1.2v
Update Period: 10ms
Wiring and component drawing
Wiring and testing the switches
Test fitting the BlueRail board and batteries above motor and test running
Test fitting the BlueRail board and batteries in shell
Kevin Stevens of Oklahoma uses a BlueRail board to power a standard DC train layout and remote operate trains with an iPad. The idea is to use the to leads from the board that would typically run to the motor (orange and grey wires in diagram below) and use those to power your track on a conventional DC layout. This also leaves 4 accessory leads available for light or accessories (which can also be controlled from your smart device). Kevin houses the board in a protective box and hooked it up to a 19 volt power supply. He brought his control box to the N scale layout of Dave Salamon in Owasso, OK to try it out. Dave’s layout is called the “Deep River Southern” and is a DC powered N scale walk around layout with an Armstrong type elevator. You can read more about the “Deep River Southern” here.
John L has an indoor G layout that travels between rooms in his house. The track is actually between floors, so in some rooms it is near the ceiling while in other rooms it is near the floor. Desiring something he could operate with his iPad, a BlueRail board was installed in a Bachmann 4-6-0 Anniversary edition (video below). Although this large loco has higher amperage than smaller scale locos, the slipping stall current is only 1.5 amps. As long as you aren’t pulling long loads up steep inclines (and don’t install special traction tires) these locos operate nicely.
Bob H. Walker is a retired electrical engineer from Tarzana, CA (Motorola, TRW, Teledyne, Corning Glass) who has written over 40 published articles on O Gauge trains and train technology. Bob developed his own battery powered train control system to operate O gauge trains, and is the holder of 5 US patents in the field of solid state wireless radio communications. Many of his other articles introduced the use of robotic servomechanisms used in conjunction with the operation of model train layouts. Bob uses a BlueRail board to operate an O gauge GP7 which he has operated and tested under many conditions, gathering data (some of which will be shared below). The GP-7 is completely self-contained and battery powered. Bob has also installed a BlueRail board in a boxcar with a connection coupler that allows him to switch out various locomotives to pull the train. With this design he has operated an Alco A Unit, an S2 Switcher, a Lionel 0-6-0 Dockside and a speeder. A third car can be towed behind the boxcar housing a battery (when additional battery capacity is desired), creating a very flexible separation of motor power, bluetooth control, and power source.
Here is some video footage of Bob operating his trains:
Bob powers his locomotives with a 1000mah Lipo battery or a 2000mah NiMH battery (in the trailing car). On the BlueRail board he sets his Start Voltage at .6 and the Update Period at 20ms. Bob ran a series of current drain tests. Here is an excerpt from those results:
Half-Speed motor – no load
Full-Speed motor – no load
Half-Speed motor – heavy load
Full-Speed motor – heavy load
Because these boards use bluetooth low energy, the bluetooth module itself contributes very little to the battery drain.
Kevin Spady is the builder and owner of the Pudding River Lumber Company. Pudding River Lumber company was featured in the 2016 On30 Annual. If you have not seen Kevin’s scenery and model work in person do yourself a favor and make some effort to do that sometime. Here is a link to the Pudding River’s photo stream on facebook. Kevin is a member of the South Coast On30 Modular Group in Southern California.
Here are some photos of Kevin’s kit-bashed Bachmann 2-6-0 Mogul with battery powered BlueRail in progress.
We look forward to posting more photos when the loco is complete.
Steve Seidensticker was President of the San Diego Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park for 11 years and is now owner and operator of the Gopher Canyon Line which is a G Scale outdoor garden layout in San Diego, CA. As the facebook page describes, the trains are about the size of a “loaf of bread”. Steve has installed a BlueRail board in a scratch-built GG-20 on a GP-9. Steve recently ran this loco at an operating session at Gary Siegel’s garden railroad in Santa Barbara. With the BlueRail board, the loco is able to pull a maximum of 14 cars on a level track and 7-8 cars on an incline. Here are some photos of the loco, which is believed to be the first bluetooth “loaf of bread”.
The Gopher Canyon line is a fictitious standard gauge RR that connects the Wisconsin towns of Ashippun (both Old & New), Horicon, Ixonia, Green Bay, and Gopherville.
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).
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).
Bob Delbridge is a retired Combat Systems Test Director for the Navy who led a team of technicians to test electronics on combat ships. When not playing golf, Bob runs O scale steam engines. His BlueRail board is installed in a Weaver RS3 with a Norfolk and Western paint scheme running Dead Rail. He uses 2000Mah, 9.6v NiMh and 2200Mah, 11.1v LiPo battery packs. Bob’s home videos show some great switcher slow speed operation (and a curious cat).
In keeping with his Navy training, Bob has documented some great data:
Test engine is a Weaver RS3 with traction tires on one axle. Motor is a Pittman 8514. 4 LEDs are installed, 2 at each end of engine (dual lights).
Used 5 Boxcars and a Caboose. Here’s the consist:
Weaver RS3 N&W #306 – weight 33.0 oz
Atlas Boxcar SAL #17388 – weight 19.2 oz
Atlas Boxcar GN #18748 – weight 18.9 oz
Atlas Boxcar A&D 2272 – weight 18.5 oz
Atlas Boxcar N&W 120055 – weight 17.7 oz
MTH Caboose N&W 500833 – weight 13.6 oz
TOTAL weight – 139.3 oz or 8.7 pounds
BlueRail Blue Horse circuit board install, using a 2000Mah 9.6v NiMh battery pack from All-Battery, fully charged.
Layout is approx 12’x12’ loop, with 3-rail track. The center rail is removed, making the layout a 2-rail layout but using 3-rail wheelsets on all engines and cars. Maximum grade is approx 2%, undulating grade. The curves are 072 (36” radius) and the overall length of the loop is 1/3 mile (calculated from using the MTH DCS system which has an odometer built-in).
Used Ipad Air, fully charged, with BlueRail App installed.