Category Archives: MRBus

Wireless DC Throttles: It’s a Project, not a Product!

Not everything we develop for Iowa Scaled is destined to be a product.  As part of our demo layout that we take to shows to demonstrate our “Interlocking In A Box” product, we needed a set of throttles – one to control each main line.  There was no particular need for DCC as the two track segments were isolated, and the simplicity of good old DC control would be more reliable anyway.  Wireless would be even better, as then there would be no cords to drag across our display or get yanked and damaged.  However, the only option on the market at the time was the Crest Electronics throttles and used Aristocrafts, which all commanded a hefty price.  As of writing this in September 2017, I’m not aware of anybody manufacturing new wireless DC throttles.

So, we’re electronics guys, why not build our own?  Over the course of a weekend in the spring of 2014, I threw together a prototype, and over the few months before the 2014 St. Louis Railway Prototype Modelers meet, Michael and I turned that prototype into a reasonably polished design.  Since then, we’ve had a number of folks ask where they could get a set of their own, or how to build them, so I thought I’d write a blog post on how they work and how to build your own from our design.

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Block Detectors – An Epic Tale

The development of ISE’s block detectors has been a fairly long adventure, so much so that the long, drawn-out development cycle through six or seven iterations has become a bit of a running joke between Michael and myself.  It’s served as a bit of a high water mark in terms of design revisions and major overhauls, and every time Michael and I have to rev something, there’s usually a comment of, “well, at least it’s not the !@#$ block detectors again…”

With today’s introduction of the CKT-BD1, I thought it might be interesting to let you all in on how this evolved, and how we arrived where we are today – a rock solid design that I believe in as much as our bulletproof IR sensors.   It’s the sort of thing that no sane manufacturer would do – sort of like running the corporate dirty laundry up the flagpole and waving it around.  But then again, we’re a different sort of electronics company, and Michael’s been arguing for years that I’m not quite sane…

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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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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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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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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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