A New Product Sneak Peek

pingpong-frontMost of us consider ourselves serious model railroaders – very much into prototype modeling, or at least prototype-based freelance modeling.  Michael and Scott are more in the former category, I’m more in the second.  But sometimes you just want to see a train run while you’re working.

A bit over four years ago, Michael put together something he called the “DCC auto-reverser” out of an Arduino, an LCD shield, and a motor shield.  We designed it for the St. Louis Railway Prototype Modelers’ meet to just operate a train back and forth on our short test track, stopping and reversing the engine when it tripped a sensor at either end.  As soon as Scott Thornton saw it, he wanted one for his IAIS Milan Branch so he could have a train moving around while he worked on scenery and other things.   Michael published an article on how to build it, and that was pretty much that.  We didn’t think of it as a product at the time.  It was just a clever hack we’d put together to solve a problem, and we put the solution out there for others who were interested in building their own.

We’d periodically get inquiries about building one, and a few questions about substituting newer parts since the original Arduino shields used were getting hard to find. Since Tam Valley exited the market and no longer offers their Train Shuttle controller, there really aren’t any commercial solutions (that I know of) to this fairly common need.  So, back in April we decided to finally give it a go and try making it into a real, complete, supported product. 

We figure there’s some market for exactly what we were using it for – show and store demo layouts – as well as things like Scott’s application of having some action on your point-to-point layout while you’re working, or maybe a trolley or interurban line running in the background on a layout.  Since I was already working on the Fast Clock redesign (more on that in the coming weeks), we felt that form factor – a fascia-mountable screen with four keys – was also well-suited to this problem.  A couple days prototyping and doing design work, and we sent the first version off to fabrication.   Firmware came together last weekend, as the weather was a bit hot and miserable outside.

So, I’m pleased to offer you the first look at a (yet unnamed) train shuttle controller.  Right now it’s the ckt-pingpong, and strangely right now Michael’s working on another project that’s codenamed the ckt-dingdong, so clearly the solder fumes and being shut in for months might be affecting us in bad ways.  My top contender for a name right now is simply “The Motorman” because thinking about the problem evokes images of a trolley making its way back and forth.  The fact that I’m secretly a traction nerd probably plays into that as well.

Features:

  • User-selectable DC or DCC operation
  • Up to 12V @ 2A output
  • Up to 14 DCC configurations for:
    • Locomotive address
    • Top speed
    • Acceleration/deceleration rate
    • Functions on all the time, in forward, and in reverse
  • One DC configuration for top speed and accel/decel rates
  • Programmable delay at each end stop
  • Manual tweaking to adjust speed and direction at run time
  • Stop/Run button so that operations can be paused
  • Open source, as always – all of the source files are here on Github

As I was waiting on a pizza to bake last night for dinner, I threw together a quick video of the controller, showing off its features while connected to a test track on my workbench.  Here’s a look at the new controller in action.

 

Comments

  1. When available I’ll take two, please.
    I currently own a TV Train Shuttle. I’m delighted with it’s performance on my 1:64/S Scale version of the MR2GO that I take on-the-road to exhibit.
    Over the years I have had many loop display layouts and always brought a back-up power / control system. If TV still sold their TS I would purchase additional for a back-up and use on my home layout for FUN/open house events.
    The accessory decoder of the TMTS is super cool as it drives a Digatrax stationary decoder that throws/closes a Rapido Trains switch machine with rotating target.
    Thank you for the MRH post and I look forward to purchasing the ISE-TSC.
    Charles Malinowski
    Carmel, Indiana

  2. That’s neat. Is this its own standalone DCC system? In other words, do you have your own command station built into this?

    I can imagine a use for something like this on my own layout… I have a logging branch, and it would be neat if I could have the Shay slowly trundling up and down the mountain constantly on its own if no one was available to operate it manually. But I think I’d want something a bit more sophisticated, so that it could navigate its way through the switchbacks automatically. I imagine I could build that using an Arduino configured with DCC++.

    Either way, neat idea.

    1. Yes, this is a complete, standalone DCC (and DC) controller that works independently from any other system you may be using. Accessory command control was recently added to the code, so it may be possible to automate the switchbacks. Contact us at support@iascaled.com to discuss in more detail.

  3. I have been looking for a shuttle/reverser for years – every few years I take a look.

    I have been out of model trains long enough that I don’t have any real DCC experience and am starting from scratch with one used DCC locomotive that I am not sure is working correctly. I want to get a streetcar to go back and forth, pause, and to automate a few other things associated with each stop.

    I built your Arduino based one last week and got it running ASAP – thank you.

    Thank you for posting the information on this product on github. I took the gerbers and ordered a few boards (including the switch). I can probably figure out most package sizes – but do you by chance have a BOM available? I want to make sure I have the right size for the resistor arrays and Y1, etc.

    Looking forward to trying this one out soon too!

    Thanks again!

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