Sunday, November 18, 2018

Testing Peter Giling GCA50_AN for Arduino NANO


Hi All! In this post I'm not showing more digitalizations, basically because I run out of decoders.... but I have a more interesting issue: the new board from Peter Giling GCA50_AN

And what is this board used for? Basically it is a Loconet interface for Arduino NANO. Probably you saw in older posts the board GCA185. You can check as an example how to build a 8 servo module with frog polarization and turnout feedback using that Loconet interface and Arduino UNO:

It's basically the same board but instead of being an standard Arduino UNO shield shaped board, it is a base board for Arduino NANO giving you the same functionalities:

- Power source to arduino via Loconet
- Sub DB9 and RJ12 connections to Loconet
- J5 and J6 connectors for standard Giling driver boards connection

It can be used as substitution of the old GCA50 board, but having Arduino connected to your Loconet bus and being able to receive and send any Loconet command, you can build any type of device: throttles, sound modules, illumination, turnout control, automation, signaling...

Club N Caldes has all the system based in two of the most famous standards (DCC and Loconet), but everything implemented in Open Source and Open Hardware platforms like Arduino.

This board has also an extra feature: it fits in a Littfinsky LDT-1 box like GCA51:

Here you can see how I tested the board connected to two of the most used boards form Peter Giling: GCA93 ( 8 port current detector) and GCA77 (Interface for turnout coils and illumination):

Make sure the jumper is properly set, depending on how you connect the board to loconet (using the DB9 connectors or RJ12):


First of all you will need to upload the desired firmware to the Arduino NANO board. In this case, the example is with the SVLocoIO firmware which is the firmware we created in Club N Caldes as the standard module for illumination control and sensor feedback. You can download it freely from the public GitHub of Club N Caldes:

After you downloaded it, open the sketch (sketch is the name used in "Arduino" terminology for the programs or firmwares) from the Arduino environment:

Make sure the line of code below is commented or directly deleted to use the software with GCA50_AN or GCA185 boards:

If your module was not connected yet to the computer, it's time to do it now using the USB cable. It doesn't matter if your module is also connected to the Loconet network or not, and you don't need to unplug the Arduino from the base board or disconnect anything, everything is safe.

Check in your Arduino environment that Arduino NANO board is selected and the right USB Serial port appears and it is checked:

Now you can select the Upload function from the Sketch menu or click the second button with the right arrow symbol from the tool strip menu. If everything goes ok, it will show the message "Done uploading" in the bottom strip, ignore the rest of messages:

I assume now that your GCA50_AN board is properly connected to your Loconet network and Rocrail is also running and connected to your layout. To set up the module functions, select the GCA50 configuration option from the "Programming" menu:

Clicking the Query button from the Addresses tab it should appear the module 081/001, this is the standard address for any new module (that you should change immediately to avoid conflicts with a new connected board):

In the Easy Setup tab you can read the current configuration clicking the button Get All, and change any configuration and save it again to the board with the Set All button. The configuration you see in the following screen is the right one needed for the GCA77 and GCA93 driver boards as connected in the previous photos: 

Using the test button of the last port, you can see the board responds illuminating the test led I connected:

Thank Peter Giling for your work, and congratulations for another excellent board which allows all railroad modellers who believe in Open Source Communities and like DIY to implement standard and professional digital buses in their layouts. Same greetings for Rocrail people and MRRwA for the Loconet libraries for Arduino and everybody supporting these groups.

Like always, you can order this and any other board directly to Peter Giling sending and email. All information and prices are in the following link:

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Kato 3043 EF64-0

The Class EF64 (EF64形) is a 6-axle (Bo-Bo-Bo wheel arrangement) DC electric locomotive type operated on passenger and freight services in Japan since 1964. This is an old model from Kato, easy to convert to DCC as there is room enough for any thin decoder without the need of sanding or cutting the housing:

First of all isolate the motor plates and strips using Kapton tape:

Cut the positive leads of led that will be soldered to the function wires of the decoder:

Fix the decoder in place with double sided tape and route the wires to solder, in the photo you can check the exact position of each one:


Kato 2027 C50 50th Anniversary DCC conversion

I was afraid of converting this beautiful locomotive to DCC, but I don't want to have my trains static in a display cabinet. This is the most detailed Kato locomotive I've ever seen, an special edition of the 50th anniversary that comes with a nice box, booklet and DVD:

To open the locomotive, everything is clipped. You don't need to unscrew anything, but for better understanding on how to open it check the following web page that has nice self explaining pictures. Doesn't matter if you don't understand Japanese:

Isolating the motor is as easy as cutting or desoldering the wires:

And you have plenty of space inside the tender, you can use almost any small N scale decoder and there is a hole to pass the wires to the main body:

Trim the motor wires to the right size and solder them to the motor wires:

Do not forget to isolate it with Kapton tape or heat shrink:

Current wires can be soldered to the little cooper plate as seen in the following photo. You will have to scratch this plate with any sharpened tool to allow tin to stick on:

And there is almost nothing more to do!!! Just one more note (I don't have photos of this step, sorry!) but I had to trim a little bit the shell to be able to close it as there is not enough space for the motor wires:

Sunday, November 11, 2018

KATO 10-403 SL Banetsu Monogatari 場熱物語

Following my previous post, I want to install interior lighting to the Banetsu Monogatari cars that will run with the C57-180. The cab and end cars also have rear lights (only the red light), so I will install a decoder too.

I tried Kato interior lighting kits, but they do not fit in this car. I guess only old models can be used, therefore I'll use led strips of warm white color with a 2.2kOhm resistor added to simulate an old light:

The strip is soldered directly to the current plates of the car:

Then stick the strip under the roof in the right position to close it as a clamp, keeping the wires as short as possible. I used black wires because in this way is really difficult to see them through the windows:

You can use the same procedure for all cars, including cab and end cars:

In order to save decoders, I disconnected red light from the front car and I will install a decoder only in the final car. To open it, better lift the rear part of the shell and pull from it to the front:

From the same light board I take the current for the decoder. The only modification needed is to cut and remove the diode. In this way one of the leads will be automatically isolated from the rail current, and there is were I'll solder the function wire:

Here the board with decoder already in place:

And work finished! I like the ambient of the light of these led strips, and it's so cheap that you can illuminate dozens of them with a few euros of investment. After some years I decided to do not install decoders for interior lighting. I realized I never turn the lights off, and it's a lot of money that you can use for more profitable things.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

KATO 2013 C57-180

In this and the following post to come I will show you how to convert to DCC the complete SL Banetsu Monogatari train. It is composed by the steam locomotive C57-180 (KATO 2013) and the set of 6 cars KATO 10-403.

I think this is one of the easiest steam locomotives to convert as it has plenty of space in the tender, and everything seems designed to be able to install a decoder. There is even a hole to pass the wires from tender to the main body and space under the lead ballast. You can see here how to disassemble it:

The space in the ballast is perfect for a ZIMO MX616, but even bigger decoders fit in it:

Here you can see how to open the main body. Check carefully that you are unscrewing the right screws. They are in the extremes and between the frame and wheels. DO NOT unscrew the visible ones under the carriage because those screws are holding the gears part and you don't want to mount it again....

Starting to solder the decoder: you can clip off the cooper strips and solder current wires as in the image above:

There is a hole to pass the wires and rerouting them as in the photo you will be able to close it without problems. I left the white wire as I planned to pass it to the front of the locomotive to drive the light, but you will see later on I removed it. I tend to be too much enthusiastic....

To connect wires to the motor trim them to the right length. Cut the tabs of the motor and solder there the motor wires. And the most important and difficult part, isolate the motor COMPLETELY using KAPTON tape. I insist in this last sentence as I had many problems causing short circuits. But this has been a good demonstration that ZIMO decoders are more resistant than other brands. D&H or Digitrax had blown up for sure.

Check the following photo because until I isolated all metallic parts of the motor it didn't work. It's not only the motor wires and contacts:

Then install number plates, details, and SL Banetsu Monogatari sign in the front, and the job is finished. I'll try to make a video in the following post.