Last weekend our NMRA Division, the Chesapeake, hosted a clinic on basic Arduino programming and its uses in model railroading. The event was very well attended, with some fellow Mid-Eastern Region members traveling from the Philly area and parts of Virginia, aside from numerous cohorts of our group. Aside from a few laptop to Arduino communication issues (for Windows users, dig into your Control Panel and see if a new COM port needs to be added, then select that in the Sketch TOOLS menu), the instruction was great and I am pleased to finally do something with all of the C programming classes I took 20 years ago.

As my end goal is to use Arduino-compatible microcontrollers to operate my locomotives, rather than DCC, I’ve recently purchased a K-Line S-2 switcher to rewire and build the control system around. I chose this as my first path for a few reasons:

  1. I can use the MTH track and power system in our possession to start operating on, rather than having to build an On2 locomotive and a section of test track hoping I have everything correctly squeezed into that teeny-tiny space.
  2. The locomotive is large enough to fit full size Arduino cards in it, plus a half bread board (or I will know for sure when it arrives) before jumping into creating custom circuit cards and buying the miniature Arduino boards I am likely to use.
  3. The three rail configuration means I don’t have to worry about power polarity right now.
  4. If (when) it works, I have a new switcher, independently controlled, that I can operate on the kid’s layout without having to buy another MTH controller.

We’ll see how this all works out.