Small Server For Model Trains

For reasons we can’t comprehend, model train layouts are  incredibly popular in Germany. [Gerhard] is one of those model train aficionados that has moved far beyond a layout with a transformer controlling the speed of the train; he sent in a tip for a very tiny Rocrail server he built to control the locomotives moving across his layout.

[Gerhard] uses Rocrail – a control system for train layouts large or small. Rocrail comes in both client and server configurations. The client is able to run on iDevices or Android. [Gerhard]’s server runs on a very tiny Linux computer tucked away under the layout.

Instead of a Raspberry Pi ([Gehard] couldn’t get one in time for this build), he used a Carambola board. The Rocrail server is installed on this single board computer and connects to a CAN bus controller. It’s a step up from [Gehard]’s previous CAN/Ethernet gateway built around OpenWRT, and makes the entire device much smaller.

[Gehard] doesn’t have a video of his layout in action, but after the break you can see how much the German people love their model trains at Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg.


13 thoughts on “Small Server For Model Trains

  1. Yeah, HaD. Lest we forget where we come from, the Model Train club at MIT taught many of the early programmers about switched networking and I dare say laid the way for modern routers. Read about them stealing the stoplight switches, etc some time. :(
    Think twice before disparaging model trains. A tip for other readers: an old P1 with a printer port can do much of the heavy lifting and switching. Glad to see that folks are developing and porting projects over as tech continues to change :)

      1. Likely because accurately modelling Conrail or Amtrak would drive their clubs into the red!

        Railroading in those decades was truly a thing of beauty!

        For the record, I’m quite happy that railroads continue to survive, and even thrive in some cases, today. I just think that at some point railroads lost their will to market and promote and their losses from not doing so are probably close to the losses incurred when trucking made such huge in-roads thanks to the Interstate Highway System.

        Railroading continues to be one of the most efficient methods of delivering goods around the country. As a railfan and a model railroader (and an electronics and computer geek), I can assure you that model railroading here in the USA is definitely NOT dead!

    1. Why you gotta break balls?…really? How can you even compare one hobby to another? The fact that anyone does anything constructive with their free time anymore is just purely cool!!

  2. “For reasons we can’t comprehend, model train layouts are incredibly popular in Germany.”

    Miniature precision mechanical devices, complex systematic layouts requiring detailed timing and signaling, and Germans,
    yeah, I can’t see a connection either… B^)

  3. “For reasons we can’t comprehend”… Who are you and where is my Hackaday?

    Most people in the world have the same attitude towards most of what’s going on on this site, and I thought that “Because We Can” would be more than good enough, right here out of all places.

    Thanks for the link and the video, and excuse us for keeping you from playing with your new iPhone.


  4. Sweet, now I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I was planning on using an OpenWrt to control my setup, but have put it off until my children are older. I run Z-scale and that stuff can fall off the tracks fast, with a small bump of the table. This dude just saved me hours of work. Hopefully the Rocrail can handle 30+ Engines.

  5. Model trains were first marketed in Germany in the late 1800s. Marklin, a dollhouse maker, wanted to diversify, and come up with something for boys that was infinitely expandable like dollhouses are. Model trains were what they came up with. So they created standards for several types of track, which other manufacturers adopted as well, and the idea took off from there. Over time, technology allowed smaller motors and that allowed for smaller trains, allowing hobbyists to fit more trains in a given space.

    They became popular in other countries too of course, but Germany was where it started.

  6. I guess I can see why people thought it was dissing, but I read it as “we can’t understand why trains are more popular in Germany than anywhere else.”

    Maybe people need to chill a bit and just love what they love and not worry about what other people think?

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