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Great news, I can now drive LionChief Trains using the Cab-2 Remote!

See it in action here: https://youtu.be/4Ujb8xEGKEk

I just recently bought a Legacy Cab-2 Remote System. My project of the last several months has been cracking/decoding the LionChief controller. I have now successfully integrated almost every feature of LionChief/LC+ into the Cab-2 remote using the correct buttons on the touch screen to set off the correct actions.

 

Here is summary of other things related to this project done before the worldwide shutdown.(Temporarily could not access most of my train equipment).

1. A LionChief Gateway that interprets commands sent by the LC remote and adds things like new drive modes and accessory control. WORKS, train show mode (locked out speed, couplers ext.) here: https://youtu.be/Ie4wmCQ8vOg

1b. LC App version of the same. WORKS, Demo here: https://youtu.be/ZtITYrEDdwc

 2a. Lionchief remote control of TMCC/Legacy locomotives. Halfway done, demo: https://youtu.be/9tPro7mHm8A

2b. Legacy cab-2 control of LionChief trains. Demo here: https://youtu.be/4Ujb8xEGKEk

3a. An interior conversion board to add LC control to older Locos including postwar Pullmor motors. 

          Bluetooth control demo here: https://youtu.be/KA2-Qvt5x-4 

          Electro-Coupler working here: https://youtu.be/2E3mnqfNdRg

3b. A track power regulator that allows Bluetooth control of any conventional/transformer controlled loco. WORKS, Demo here: https://youtu.be/ZABna2tu9bE

4. An external sound board with a link to the LC remote or app via my LC Gateway project. Basically works as of 2-22-20 demo here: https://youtu.be/eIlx7CZphtk

5. Allow the synchronized running (CONSISTS) of multiple Bluetooth LC engines via Either the LC App or Remote. Works as of 2-8-20 demo here: youtu.be/mYDu9uKFSws

6. Build a Legacy cab-2 simulator for PC. I plan on using this as a development tool. https://youtu.be/guqH1td5vls

Probably more to come.

 

My end goal is either producing/selling a gateway product to link everything Lionel together with the remote of your choosing(Cab-2 or LC Bluetooth remote/phone), OR to get this to Lionel and work directly with them to improve the platform and it's integration. Many sleepless nights were spent working on this and it has been a long multi month learning experience. While fun, it would be awesome to have something to show for it. 

 

The thread of updates on the project is here: https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...ief-bluetooth-remote

Last edited by Ryaninspiron
Original Post

Thanks, I certainly do not know how many will be needing something like this, more like the people like myself,  who started off with LionChief locos for but later decided they would like to cross over into Legacy but don't want to run with a pile of remotes to run their original (LC) trains at the same time as their single new legacy loco.

LC 2.0 is a great thing going forwards, but why leave LC and LC+ locos isolated on their own island of (very) restricted controller options.

I personally love the thought of doing consists with LC locos.

Last edited by Ryaninspiron
@Norton posted:

Impressive. I think there are more than enough techno nerds here that will eat this stuff up. Love the innovation shown here. Keep up the good work.

 

Pete

Thanks, I know I'm certainly having a blast blending trains and code like this. The real question is what next? . I have a few more projects in mind already, but I wonder if people seeing this could spur on some new requests for other functions/integrations.

All I know is my next ideas are even crazier uses of these Lionel control systems. I can't wait to try these other ideas I have, just need to get back to using my 3D printer for whats next. (it involves driving these trains I assure you).

You are one busy beaver!  Nice stuff, very impressive work!

Thank you thank you, if I impressed you then I know I did well.

Lionel has sold a lot of LC and LC+ locomotives, so there should be some market.  I tend to doubt that you'll interest Lionel in collaboration unless something significant has changed there.  However, making your own product is much more realistic.

This is first point about the number of LC/LC+ locos out there is part of what drove me so hard to get this going. I think giving people flexibility in control system choice will only help people get a better return on their investments. I got to say it put a huge smile on my face to drive a LionChief loco with the Cab-2.

I consider you to be an authority in the matter of add'on products/ideas like this, I will have to send you an email to expand on this in a little while. I know I always saw you in the TMCC deep dive threads too. Your insight on this is a huge help.

@Landsteiner posted:

Terrific work Ryan.  If Lionel isn't interested, I'm sure there will be 100s, maybe 1000s of users who would be interested in purchasing the product from you directly.  Alternatively, some hobby store might be interested in marketing it for you for a cut of the product cost, the way 3rd Rail did for the ERR products.

Thanks, That is an awesome perspective. If any of that were to happen it would be amazing. I have built online stores for people in the past so that would not be the hard part either. ERR is certainly a good model for this sort of thing too. Glad you brought that up.

@BOB WALKER posted:

Very intriguing. What is the signal path from the CAB-2 controller to the loco mounted LC receiver?

Thanks, and I'm actually glad you asked. Grab a seat. It is electrically very simple. Just a max232 Serial converter plugged into the Legacy base with a wire running from the serial converter to a Bluetooth module (more on that below). As a packaged item I am calling it the LC Gateway. Signal then travels through the air to the train. Just like your phone or the real remote. The train just works as intended from there.

(Warning for anyone reading, the following is really nerdy)

That Bluetooth module is then running custom firmware that I wrote from scratch after spending MANY hours re-implementing the (undocumented) LC protocol from scratch. LOTS of binary math. The binary to decimal converter of the windows calculator has been my best friend. Lots of bitwise operations. Lots of ones and zeros, and so far: 1700 lines of code. All written from scratch to do just this much. I will still need to write some more code to discover and save new locomotives to some flash memory on my gateway board but that will be easy by comparison. That part will be easy by comparison.

Here is a bit about about my background:

I'm a software engineer by day. But I also had learned just enough electrical engineering when I was in college to get me literally rolling. A few months ago I designed a basic pullmor motor driver circuit to go with a custom LC receiver I also used to run a postwar loco over LC. ZC detector and all that jazz. I must say electrical engineering for model trains is a quite a lot of fun. A passion of mine is hardware/software integration (embedded circuits basically). Doing this with trains has been a blast. I imagine at least few others here truly understand that feeling too .

Anyway its a good thing I love low level logic, I built a computer processor from scratch using 7400 series chips in between college and high school many years ago, even made my own assembly language and opcode set at the time. All i know about CPUs at the time was that they had memory and a program counter. I took that and ran with it. It was only ever a hobby project and was also before I had any trains.

So in short that's the story behind how it all works, any questions?

Last edited by Ryaninspiron
@Casey_Jones posted:

Super job Ryan 

Awesome

my only wish (for now ) would be improving the LC App to allow for independent control of 2 or more locomotives,  but ....that might be a Lionel issue

Thank you for doing this 

Continued success!

 

Larry

Funny enough I had started to address that issue on my own knowing that most likely wont be easy/possible for a phone to directly control more than one at a time. I have my LC gateway already able to control one or both at once. as seen here: https://youtu.be/mYDu9uKFSws?t=94

My solution is to use the LC Gateway to send commands to one or more trains at once by using the on screen horn and announcement buttons as a mode changer. Maybe all you need is drive mode and engine selection and consist building modes for example. I could also just write an app of my own in theory that would have these consist building options right on screen. I could also use such a custom app as a settings/config screen for the gateway.(I will have to try doing that no matter what now).

Anyways... I will try to make my gateway solve all issues at once. I have a feeling I could make a really neat solution to this problem using just the gateway and even the official LC app. (I could repurposed the existing volume screen as an engine selector!) each of the four volume sliders could select a different engine to build a consist! You're question actually gave me a good idea. I think I will have to try this concept out even though I only have one LC loco and one diy Postwar LC conversion train with me to test it right now. Thanks for the good question though. Keep coming up with more wises and I will keep having fun making them real. I will bring any updates on that progress to my other long running topic on the LC gateway. I will try to keep mostly Legacy stuff in this topic.

Last edited by Ryaninspiron

Ryan, thank you Sir!

Basically you achieved 3 huge accomplishments 

1) You built the Gateway  and the gateway allows for the following to work

2)  You created a new control board to convert all conventional trains (Post War and newer can motor) to Bluetooth control  via an LC or LC+ or Legacy controller, (including electro couplers and you are working on sound) 

3) You basically just turned the Legacy controller (thanks to your Gateway) into a Universal Remote, that can control several LC, LC+, TMCC, and Legacy locos at the same time.  

Question:   If the LC & LC+ can now be controlled by the Legacy Controller with your Gateway, does that mean the Lionel LCS can now control those locos also?,  if so, then I guess no need to alter the LC App.

If so, I would love to find a way to bypass the Legacy base and just use Lionel LCS and your Gateway as the universal remote 

Thank you 

Larry

@Casey_Jones posted:

Question:   If the LC & LC+ can now be controlled by the Legacy Controller with your Gateway, does that mean the Lionel LCS can now control those locos also?,  if so, then I guess no need to alter the LC App.

If so, I would love to find a way to bypass the Legacy base and just use Lionel LCS and your Gateway as the universal remote 

Thank you 

Larry

First of all, thank you for that excellent post, I'm so glad to see you like the results of my labor 

Before I answer your questions I also just want to mention that I may have to figure out some sort of arrangement like the LCS partner program with Lionel before I can actually sell a postwar LC board. Also I would have a bit of a road ahead of me for the motor control electrical engineering portion. My board works but is pretty sensitive to electrical  spike damage right now. Software is my strong suit.

It might actually be easier for me to make a board that plugs into the same connector on the ERR driver boards as the Lionel TMCC module R2CL. Although I may also running to signal issues for the Bluetooth module reception in the metal shell of a steam loco. I could make the module with a wire long enough that you can stick it near the window in the cab of the shell or something though.

 

Now for the questions:

LCS absolutely should be able to control LC/LC+ locos since I am giving them a virtual TMCC engine ID number. I do not yet own any LCS equipment but as long as the commands are sent in the same format as the legacy base it should be fine. Good point though. My one legacy loco has IR so I should probably get the LCS IR receiver for it. Maybe make my self a module that lets me add IR transmitters to postwar and LC while I'm at it.

Now for your second question: I think it could work, if lets say you didn't have any legacy or tmcc locos, I may be able to allow LCS hardware to control LC locos. I guess you leave me no choice but to buy LCS stuff now. This should be tried at least once. It could really open a new market for Lionel's LCS gear. A new market to another one of their own product lines! I sure hope they embrace this. Fingers crossed.

@BOB WALKER posted:

Need clarification. Is it correct to assume that for gateway control of conventional locos with the CAB-2 controller, the loco must be retrofitted with a bluetooth control board?

Yes whether it's fully custom driver or an R2LC pin compatible module, a Bluetooth board of some description would be needed. If blessed(nice word for licensed) by Lionel it could be LC. Otherwise a from scratch LC Gateway proprietary signal. At that point though, might as well go ERR TMCC unless Bluetooth or LC remote is the goal. In which case I wouldn't blame you. I like LC too!

@BOB WALKER posted:

It appears that you are proposing two basic control modes. (1) Signal format conversion from TMCC/Legacy to LC. (2) Shift to wireless direct to loco signalling. Do I have this correct? 

Pretty much, different solutions for different problems.

TMCC/Legacy to LC for those who would like it.

Wireless direct control to control postwar. This would have the side bonus of also working with the TMCC Integration too.

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