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.

Using MRGui on Windows

MRGui is our configuration utility for MRBus based devices.  It simplifies the process of setting the various EEPROM configuration options for each node, using a user-friendly GUI that runs on Windows, Mac, or Linux.  In addition to setting EEPROM configuration options, MRGui can also be used for general purpose programming of AVR microcontrollers.  The instructions below take you through the steps to get up and running with MRGui on a Windows platform.

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Modelling Time Locks on Switches

Time Locks – An Introduction

In the real world, manual switches within signalled territory are protected by devices called “time locks”.  The purpose of these is to prevent a switch from being opened in the face of an approaching train.  When the conductor wants to open the switch, he unlocks it and starts the timer running (how this is done depends on the model of time lock).  The time delay gives any train too close to stop – or sometimes too close to even see a restricting signal – time to safely pass over the switch before the points are changed.  It also triggers the signal system to display restricting aspects around the block, so trains that are further out are alerted to the presence of an open switch.

Once a programmed amount of time has passed, the timer indicates to the user that it has expired (often by a white or green light) and then releases a locking mechanism that allows the points to be moved manually.   (This is commonly done with a locking pin through the throwbar that is retracted, but there are other mechanisms.)

Time locks aren’t just a good idea – they’re required by law here in the US.  Under 49 CFR 236.207, either approach or time locking is required of manual switches in signalled territory.

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Interfacing With ISE’s Fast Clocks

The idea of a clock that runs faster than real time to compensate for the compression in our model world is nothing new.  The idea has been with us since at least the 1960s.  It provides a way to schedule our operating sessions, providing a sense of real time passage and urgency without needing literally thousands of feet of track to represent the vast distances covered by our prototype railroads.  Aside from being a display on the wall, guiding operators’ train movements, fast clocks have remained an isolated system, our model world unaffected by the passage of scale time.  Think about all the things in our daily lives that are linked to the time of day and you’ll quickly realize how odd that is given all our other technological advancements, and how much potential is in that idea.  I believe fast clock integration is one of the huge, unexplored areas left in the hobby today for added realism.

In this article, we’ll show you how to build an inexpensive device that allows you to synchronize items on your layout to fast clocks by using MRBus, the networking protocol that connects the Iowa Scaled Engineering Networked Fast Clocks, in conjunction with the popular Arduino prototyping environment.

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Is the ARD-LTC2499 as Accurate as an Agilent 34401A?

The ARD-LTC2499 was designed from the beginning with the intent to get as close to perfect accuracy as one could with an out-of-the-box Arduino Shield, while still keeping the cost affordable for mere mortals like us.  We chose one of the best 16-channel ADCs on the market and matched it up with a high-performance voltage reference.  To see what the accuracy really was, I borrowed Nathan’s 34401A meter and put them both to the test.

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Pausing Time: Using Fast Clock Hold Mode

Have you ever been in the middle of an operating session and disaster strikes?  A train derails, shorting out the DCC system, taking with it a power district, or even the entire layout. The problem is eventually fixed, but in the 5 minutes it took to restore things to the way they were, your fast clock kept ticking away. With a 3:1 ratio, all trains are now  suddenly 15 minutes late.

Wouldn’t it be nice to simply press a button on the fast clock to pause time, then with a single press, restart the time right where it left off?

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Using Berrett Hill Touch Toggles with MRServo

One of the most interesting electronic parts to come on the market lately is Berrett Hill’s Touch Toggles.  They’re little electronic switches that operate by the proximity of your finger.  There’s no mechanical movement, so you can put them behind acrylic control panel faceplates and other such and still operate them just by touching the surface.  Unlike a mechanical switch, they never wear out, and they come with built-in indicator lights. Continue reading

Solar Car Teams

As alumni of the Iowa State University Solar Car Team, Team PrISUm, we recognized that many of Iowa Scaled Engineering’s products could be used by teams competing in solar racing competitions.  In fact, MRBus had its origins in the Sunrayce ’99 car, PrISUm Phoenix.

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