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Our “Under Construction” layout has reached the point where we are considering how to control lighting, sound, etc. The layout is @ 38 x 22 so there are a lot of structures, lights, and other stuff. The roundhouse alone has seven bays, all of which can be separately controlled off/on/dim, overall 100 LEDs.

Other structures have lights for day, night, and day/night. Add in street lights, flood, spot, yard, special effects such as thunder/lightning, and then 3-4 sound modules and we need an electrical engineer OR a 14 year old that knows how to program arduinos.

We want to control the layout with an I-pad, not a sit-down control panel.

The layout uses DCS and thanks to Stan, GRJ, and others, so far so good BUT, we need something that is practical and in use that we can adopt rather than continue to try and figure it out ourselves.

I guess that we are beyond just considering how to do lighting, etc since we have a lot of stuff working and controlled by AIUs and separate relays where needed. But this is quickly getting out of control and if there is a better way, we better ask for help now.

I sold insurance and owned boats until retirement which is to say that we are somewhat out of our element. We are not electrical people.

Would some of you please give us some ideas? Thanks so much for the help. What is out there that can control all this? Is there something better or should we just keep on going?

Paula just said, “We need something that is easy and not complicated” and then started mumbling about impossible to figure out computer stuff.

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I'd say start looking into what JMRI offers. I'm running a conventional 3-rail operation, but the layout is run through JMRI/CMRI. A lot of what you're trying to do with lights and sounds is what I'm starting to implement with some simple home-made circuits hooked to CMRI. No big Arduino programming needed (yet!). I use the built-in fast clock in JMRI and some logix forms to do all my lighting timing and simulate day / night scenarios. Sound effects with a simple DF player board could be easily connected to CMRI and controlled with JMRI panel-pro too.  I know JMRI can be controlled thru a mobile device, but I don't know the extents of that yet. Haven't gotten that far into it.

@Bill Webb posted:

Paula just said, “We need something that is easy and not complicated” and then started mumbling about impossible to figure out computer stuff.

Computer stuff is easy to figure out once you understand that it's made up of a set of simple building blocks, each doing their individual jobs.

What makes your situation hard is that your configuration has been generated, not from simple building blocks, but from a kluge of many different existing things, none of which get along with each other particularly well.  The goal on the other hand is to get organized, and to standardize.  CJ's suggestions are example of doing so.

If you redesign, which you are probably hoping not to have to do, with simplified building blocks in mind, the computer part will become easy.

I would start by simplifying the mechanism (driver) for turning them on and off, and dimming them if desired.  And then, using the exact same driver for each and every lamp, making it simple for you to understand, easily in every case, how every lamp is activated.

Create (using Arduinos possibly), or purchase (additional AIU's perhaps), these simple controlling building blocks first, then tie them together to be driven by a computer (Ipad), or dedicated controller (diorama or stage lighting controller), or JMRI/CMRI.

I haven't given you a specific answer -- because I can't.  In my opinion no one currently makes what you want, especially the ease-of-configuring/programming part, but there is certainly a market for them.

The beauty of our hobby is that we don't let things like this stop us.  If it doesn't exist we make it ourselves.


Last edited by Mellow Hudson Mike

Don't write off Arduino just because it's got a learning curve. I know people use it for lighting control and I know the command to turn a light on and off isn't too bad. I just started looking into Arduino myself.

Beyond those types of control systems, I guess mini-toggles on a board are the option. That's what I used to have. It can get tedious if you have tons of lights but it's simple enough.

Add Lionel's LCS system. With an I-Pad, you can control switches, accessories, and lights. You just need ASC2s (or SC2s), the Wi-fi module, and the cabling. BPC2s will turn the tracks around your turntable on and off, as well as any other track blocks. LCS will work on a DCS layout, but you won't be able to run the trains unless you get Legacy and some Lionel locos. Plus, LCS is simple to wire and operate.

Thanks everyone for your replies.

C J  we will check out JMRI as it might apply to our needs. It sounds interesting.

Mike from what we have been able to find, nobody has a system that will do what we want simply. Al Zamorski started developing a system but stopped the project due to a lack of interest. Obviously there are some intricate systems out there (just attend a concert) but we have not found anything that is simple and budget friendly.

We built most of the structures, opted not to try and control each LED but to group them for daylight, night, and day and night use in each building. so we have some ability to control things.

Richie mentioned Scaled Automation and we have watched their website since they became a sponsor. There are too many “Under development” items for us to take a chance at the price level.

Dylan we have Legacy but Legacy can’t handle MTH. We are using DCS to handle the turnouts, track power, accessories, lighting, etc with an I-pad so it does a reasonable job.

Billy we haven’t written off the arduino idea but it will be difficult to find time for it now. The layout has a heck of a long way to go. Still, we are talking about a beach week soon. I might get a project to build and learn while we are there.

If anyone runs into something else that might work, please let us know. Thanks again everyone.


Thanks Mike. I agree.

Joe, I tried to get in touch with Dave and had very poor results which appears to be the case for a lot of people over many years. The video looks great but web-site is a no-go and history we can see is not favorable.

Hope that they are doing okay as they appear to have a lot of talent but Virginia to San Diego is a no go.

Thanks for your help. We will keep looking.

We were mentioned in the posts above. I understand the comment about our web site having "Under Construction" in too many places. Developing new products is not easy and takes way more time than you would think. We are working on the final features of the first phase and expect to announce release of the Layout Controller and the Locomotive Controller very soon now.

We have not addressed general layout lighting. The Layout Controller is focused on signals, but does have 36 outputs (for LEDS) in a single controller. If there is demand for it we will develop a dedicated general layout lighting controller.

All feedback and comments are appreciated.

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