Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Philips HUE illumination system with Rocrail (2/2)

Before you continue reading, it is assumed that you have your Philips HUE Bridge installed and working with some lights, and it has a fixed IP Address that you know. Also, the bridge must connected to the same local network (same router or Wi-Fi) than the computer running Rocrail. If not, you can check the previous post here.

The first thing you have to do in your track plan is to open the Rocrail Properties under the File menu and add a new command station of type "HUE":

In hostname field put the IP address of your HUE bridge, and leave the User ID blank for the moment. This is explained also in the wiki of Rocrail:

Next step is to create in the HUE bridge a user name to allow Rocrail to access to it and manage the lights, but for that Rocrail has implemented a special functionality. Go the the tab of decoder programming, write in the IID field the name of the newly created controller and press the PT button. This will get a new user from the HUE bridge and the User ID field of the image above will be automatically filled in. At the time of writing this post the instructions of Rocrail were not updated, so be careful if you try to follow the instructions from here.

There is also a very useful configuration screen for Philips HUE under the Programming menu. From there you can see the Bridge configuration and the lights linked with the address number that you will use for the weather configuration:

Next step is to create the light objects in rocrail, one for each physical light linked to the HUE Bridge. For each light you have to identify the interface (the name of the new controller you created) and the address that you checked in the screen corresponding to the image above. Define these output objects as type "lights". You can set in the "Value" field the desired intensity for this light:

And finally, you can setup the weather functionality. The complete description can be found on Rocrail wiki:

Basically, you have to select Weather under Tables menus and write the name of your recently created lights in the Outputs field (comma separated). I suggest you to use the "Colour table" and load one of the profiles already included in rocrail specially for HUE lights. Try to change some parameters to set the illumination you like, and test also the Theme tab where you can create storm effects if you have a white HUE lamp also linked to the bridge for lightning effects. I hope you enjoy it!!

Monday, December 28, 2020

Philips HUE illumination system with Rocrail (1/2)

Some time ago I published the following article explaining how to make an illumination system for the layout, compatible with the weather functionality of Rocrail:

But for those who don't want to use Arduino and make their own electronics, I'll show you how to use the Philips HUE system, much easier and professional, but a little bit more expensive. Anyway I'll show you also cheaper lamps to use than the original ones from Philips.

The first thing you will need is a Philips HUE bridge, this is what you will connect to your network (and to Rocrail) and manages all the lights you want to install:

HUE Bridge

You will need also some compatible RGB colour lights. There are kits including the bridge and some light bulbs, or a remote switch. Depending on the layout size, disposition, environment light or on the number of lights you want to install there are different options. Basically you have the following options:


GU10 lights: these are spot lights, so I do not recommend them or you will need to install a lot of them to cover all the layout with a light in an uniform way.


E27 lights: these bulbs make a more diffuse light, but they should be installed not close to the layout. This is a very good option, but on a long layout you will need many of them and they are not cheap.

Led Strip

Led Strips: this is a cheaper option as you can illuminate a long section in an uniform way. In my case, my layout is composed of modules, so it's narrow but long. I would need many bulbs to illuminate it in a homogeneous way, on the other hand the led strips must be placed quite close to the layout. But I have a shelf at 50cm from the top of the modules all along the layout, so I just had to stick three 5 meters long led strips under the shelf instead of installing a dozen of light bulbs.

ZIGBEE compatible led strip

Any other ZIGBEE compatible lights
: Philips HUE lights are awesome by the intensity of the light and the colours, but they are also expensive. So you can use any ZIGBEE compatible light. Just make sure it is specified they are compatible with Philips HUE (check the icon under the image) and support the ZIGBEE protocol. I bought these led strips for my layout in Aliexpress, search for the following description: "Zigbee-minicontrolador RGBCW, 1-5M DC12V 5050 RGB + CCT 90leds/m, Kit de luces de tira LED para ZIGBEE 3,0 HUB hu-e Echo Plus APP"

So you will have to test and find the best (and cheapest) combination of lights for your layout, in my case I used 3 led strips (5 meters long each one) and one E27 light for a corner that missed more light.

Before starting the Rocrail configuration and the weather functionality setup, make sure your light are working with the mobile Philips HUE application in your smartphone. Follow the Philips instructions to pair the lights with the HUE bridge, it's really simple as you only have to press the button on the led strip and the bridge, or introduce the serial number of the bulb in the application.

Another important thing is to assign a fixed IP address to the bridge. This can be done using the smartphone HUE application as explained here:

Once you have the lights working you have to setup Rocrail, but this will be explained in the following post.