Iowa Scaled Engineering designs, manufactures, and sells many unique and cost effective products intended for model railroad and electronic hobbyists. Explore below for application notes to inspire your designs or browse the store to see all the products we have to offer.


MRServo is a simple, cost-effective solution for adding remote turnout control to your layout.  While MRServo works in a wide range of turnout control applications, each layout presents its own unique set of circumstances.  Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we have received from modelers using the product.  If you have a question not answered here, please contact us and we would be happy to help.

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From The Workbench – Products in Development

Michael and I have this concept called INYAP.  Between our day jobs, personal lives, ISE, and our hobbies, we both have very busy existences and often finding room to mature a project idea into a product is difficult.  It stands for “I Need Yet Another Project,” said with every bit of sarcasm that you’d expect.   It’s the stock response whenever one of us comes up with some interesting project that we want to tackle, but don’t quite know where to fit it in.  It can be roughly translated as “that’s a cool idea, but I’d need to be an insomniac with 27 hour days to actually get it built.”

However, every now and then, something is just compelling enough to make it through the INYAP stage and become a prototype.  If the prototype tests out and seems like something other people might use and can be manufactured at a price point we think they might pay, it might mature into a product.  I wanted to take a moment to share a couple of the new products we have in the pipeline here at ISE.   These are things that have escaped INYAP but you won’t find in the web store just yet.

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MRServo In Action

We always like to see what sort of tips, tricks, and clever uses our customers have come up with for our products.   I thought I’d take a minute to pass along a couple recent uses for MRServo that customers have shared with us.

Using lightweight extruded foam as a layout base has become pretty popular in the last few years.  It’s lighter and significantly cheaper than the traditional 3/4″ plywood, and much easier to sculpt into terrain.  Unfortunately it presents some challenges in mounting switch machines and the like.  Dennis from the UK has worked a clever method of installing the servos through the foam.  It also has the side benefit of being not significantly wider than N scale track, making very tight installations (such as in yard throats) possible.  Take a look at his mounting method on his website.

Moving up to the larger end of the traditional scales, our next clever use is in 3-rail O scale.    Bob Walker started with a Lionel FasTrack manual switch, and connected a a MRServo-2 with a 49MHz RC car radio to make a radio-control version.  The MRServo was customized to have full throw of the servo, rather than our typical throw suitable for the suggested mounting.  It’s connected to the radio’s outputs via another small relay, which provides the input signal for the MRServo board.  Bob sent along a few pictures of the system in action, which I’ve posted as a PDF.  Eventually he’s intending to upgrade the system to Zigbee radios, which should provide the ability to radio-address virtually an infinite number of switches.

If you’ve got something to show off, send us some pictures and a quick write-up at  We always enjoy hearing from our customers, and if you’ve got a good tip, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be featured in a future blog posting.

Reflow Soldering

Most Iowa Scaled Engineering products are designed using surface mount components to keep costs low (smaller boards) and allow the use of a wider range of components.  One of the primary tools in the assembly process is an oven to reflow the solder paste that attaches the components to the PCB.  Originally, we developed our reflow recipe using a thermocouple, a multimeter with temperature capability, and a stopwatch.  This has worked quite well.  Now, as a practical application of the ARD-LTC2499 Arduino shield, we take a closer look at the reflow process.

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Compost Monitor: 2014 Model

Last year, I built a Compost Monitor to get real-time feedback on the temperature of my pile.  After an initial unsuccessful attempt to build a probe, I was able to get a probe design that lasted most of the season.  However, by the end of the year, when I pulled the probe from the pile, one of the sensors had gone bad, likely due to moisture.  Therefore, this year, I set out to build a more rugged probe. Continue reading

Measuring Supply Current Accurately

The current measurement mode in most multimeters is sufficient for many applications.  However, when measuring the supply current of loads that draw current infrequently in small bursts, it becomes difficult to measure the real, average current consumption accurately due to the slow sample rate of the multimeter.  Many wireless telemetry nodes present exactly such a situation and calculating expected battery life relies on an accurate measurement.  Fortunately, physics comes to our rescue (along with a few widgets to make things easier…).

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Data Acquisition Arduino Shields

After developing several products focused on data acquisition, like the MRBW-RTS and a few currently in development like the MRB-DCCM (DCC Meter) and MRBW-DAQ (Data Acquisition node), we realized some of the ICs used in those designs would be useful on their own.  To enable rapid development with these ICs, a series of ArduinoTM shields was created allowing you to easily implement a wide variety of data acquisition applications.

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MRBFS – A Filesystem for Reality (and MRBus)

Imagine that you could talk to the physical world as easily as you can read and write files on your computer. Imagine you could read a file, and read the temperature of an experiment on your bench or of your compost pile outside. Imagine you could simply write “on” to a file, and equipment across the room (or across the house) would power up instantly.  Imagine those ideas were just the start… If I’ve got your attention, MRBFS – the MRBus Filesystem – is what you’ve been waiting for.

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