This page is under construction, so some data may be incomplete, and the organization may change. As always, please let me know about errors, but they will be in this page for some time.


This is a "DCC" system in that it can control DCC decoders. But, violating the DCC standard, there is no "cooperative intelligence" between locos/decoders and any other throttles, i.e. it does not have an overall central control (command station) that also has a database.

Trying to understand the product

First, the distribution model for Bluerail apparently adds to the confusion.

When I first investigated:

I kept winding up at this site: which is clearly pointed at installations. But I did find a link to  "BlueRailDCC by Tam Valley". I wanted the manufacturer's site.

"Cool" I said, I have used a lot of Tam Valley stuff and know Duncan, so I clicked that link... and went to a page that was more of a  "buy now" as opposed to information on BlueRail. So I said heck, I want to learn about it, not buy it now, so I went to the official Tam Valley site, after all it says "BlueRailDCC by Tam Valley"

OK, now I am on the Tam Valley site:NOTHING ABOUT BlueRailDCC on the home page... what the fudge? Surely it would be listed on the products. NOPE, nowhere... so if it is advertised as BlueRailDCC by Tam Valley why the heck is it not on the home page of Tam Valley? Now I'm REALLY determined to figure this out. There is NO search tab on the Tam Valley site, so using Google to search the Tam Valley site, I found this page: The story went on, but it made me crazy.

Recently, there is a new site:  OK!!! Thank You! Much better and less confusing.

(By the way, there is a related product from Tam Valley, which started the whole "deadrail" thing, of DCC over the air:, which basically took the DCC signal from the rails of any "real" DCC system, and puts over 900 MHz.)

How the system works:

The BlueRail unit has:

    • Bluetooth transceiver for communication with the phone app
    • motor driver circuitry
    • lighting outputs
    • DCC output to optionally drive a DCC decoder

A neat idea, but not really as cost effective as it seems if you are going to use a DCC decoder in the end, more later. The list price for the 5 amp unit is $160.

The app sends commands to the receiver/decoder, and because it is Bluetooth, while limited in range somewhat, the bidirectional communication is very helpful in giving feedback.

There are some nice features that are helpful on wireless, like behavior of the loco when you disconnect, and also an auto connect option, to connect to a loco automatically when in range.

There is a consisting function, which has more than average features, letting you specify lead, mid, rear locos, and facing forwards and reverse. There is also a speed matching button that allows speed matching locos at low, medium and high speeds.

The default video on the web site does say a few things that need a bit of correction:

    • controls all CVs and loco settings - actually not true, only certain cv's supported
    • talks about the external antenna for more range, but it is discontinued
    • only talks about the iphone app, not the android one.

OK, now that I've blown off steam, BlueRail has a nice graphical way to consist multiple locos. The screen will show up to 3 locos at a time, and if you have more, little arrows appear to allow you to scroll. Neat.

The real time speed matching is clever, you run the locos about a foot apart, and then you can tweak the individual speeds of the locos at low, mid and high speeds. There is also what appears to be the start speed (CV2) in consisting. The system does make this easier though, that is for sure. (note that speed matching unloaded locos will get them close, but locos can behave differently under load. In most cases this method works well enough).

Throttle app:

BlueRail has a small iPhone app, and just released in 2023, and finally, an Android version

Here's a video of the app. Notice that the app supports Blunami (BlueRail and a Tsunami decoder) and BlueRail:


You can run up to 3 trains and display 3 throttles on one screen, again, if you have more than three, small arrows will appear that will let you scroll left or right.

BUT, most systems have a "recall memory" to allow a large number of locos to be pulled up quickly... All the major DCC systems do this. I need to find out if there is any other "memory" for trains, but I doubt it, it appears that whatever is on your screen is also "live" / "connected"


There are several models, but I will only present the one suitable for G scale.

Kind of a cool idea, use the output drivers to either power a motor directly, or change them to be a DCC booster, to drive a DCC decoder.

Clearly, no sound from the basic board. Notice the now discontinued external antenna.

Cost vs what you get

So the basic decoder costs $160. Sort of expensive for just a motor decoder and 2 lights. For comparison, a top brand of DCC decoder has 8 function outputs, 4 servo outputs, superior BEMF motor control, 4 amps continuous, 10 amp peak AND SOUND for about $110. (clearly the DCC decoder does not have a BlueTooth radio transceiver)

I guess the value proposition here is the throttle is free by cell phone app. But you can get track power and a free app for less for the JMRI software (free) that works with many DCC systems.

Adding sound to the BlueRail is more expense, and there are 2 ways to go, a cheap sound system for $100 that is not synchronized to load or the loco, connected to the motor (ugh), or add a DCC sound decoder with many more features and load dependent sounds.

So, even the best quality 5 amp DCC decoders with sound cost about $240. Now without batteries, your BlueRail loco electronics are $360. Use a cheaper sound card and you are about $260.

The Convrtr from AirWire is $140, 20 bucks cheaper, but I guess that with the free throttle that BlueWire wins here

The issue is there are products like RailPro, where the entire decoder with sound is $170, about $200 cheaper per loco.

Where is the cost? When you think about it the unit with DCC sound, there are TWO 5 amp power output stages in both implementations, in the first booster in the receiver, and in the output stage of the DCC decoder.

So, funny, now I "get" RailPro, the level of features and control are pretty high (compared to simple remote control) and $200 less per loco with sound almost as good as the top line decoders.(I have been researching wireless proprietary systems)

Cost wise per loco, the BlueRail system makes the most sense using no sound or an inexpensive sound card.

More on consisting

BlueRail is not using the advanced consisting capability built into all modern decoders. This is clear since all decoders must have address 3. So all the automated stuff a modern decoder can do (customize which functions operate in which locos, lighting, other sounds, etc.) has to be done by the app itself.

That is not a game changer, if the app is expanded to give the same functionality, and the graphical support stays at the same level (very helpful and easy) then actually BlueRail can go beyond what is in the advanced consisting features in decoders.

What is important is the functionality available and the ease of use.

I know there is theoretically no limit to the number of locos in a consist, but it looks like you can only have 4 consists defined at one time. I don't consider this limiting for most users. In my case it would be limiting. I would need about 8, but I'm the exception. Consists of at least 4 locos have been accomplished.

The only manual seems to be the user guide: is also a youtube video

Reading and writing CVs

One thing that is pretty ambitious is that when you are reading and writing CVs, BlueRail helps you by telling you what the CV does, like JMRI.

What is too ambitious at the present, is you must tell Bluerail what the decoder is, and if the support is not complete, you cannot access that CV with the gui,

There's an additional niggle, that can cause problems, looks like writing the CV is done in OPs mode, not the NMRA service mode. Many decoders have restrictions on what CVs can be written in OPs mode. Reading CVs is indeed done in NMRA service mode with "direct read" (there are several modes to read and write CVs)

Back to BlueRail

OK, first thing I will consider is the LS decoder with a DCC sound board.

Right off the bat I see an issue: The BlueRail LS receiver/decoder/booster has an absolute max input voltage of 18 volts. I will be experimenting to see what the real limit is. There is an overvoltage LED.

This means with li-ion batteries, you are limited to 4 cells (5 cells could be 21 volts right off a full charge)

So after coming off the full charge, the nominal voltage of 4 cells is 14.4 volts, which is WAY too low for G scale locos except some of the steamers that will run a scale 25 miles per hour. This won't run diesels fast enough except perhaps a USAT.

The important thing to get here, is that the designers have worked hard to make the many functions of DCC simplified, but this means custom mappings in the firmware to support different decoders. It would be nice if there was a program to easily map this, perhaps piggy backing on the JMRI database, i.e. JMRI knows what functions are where, and could be used to feed a customizing program for the BlueRail.



so this is a bit scattered, and there is no single manual.

I'm making a list of links here to at least locate the data:


This is a link to the "user guide" but it is a page with several "articles"

The articles are actually a good step for overviews of different installations, especially for non-tech type individuals.

This is a very nice page explaining CV's:

This page reveals VERY important information about how BlueRail operates CVs, it writes CVs in POM mode, but when you want to read a CV, it switches to service mode. I'll need to observe how this works in practice. One issue would be that certain decoders will not allow every CV to be written in POM mode.

The u.fl connector for the external antenna (funny, u.fl is the industry standard connector name, not the name of an antenna design, which looked like a dipole) is not on my board. I also wonder what the J4 header is for.

but there is no single "manual" for the unit, which I do miss.


My hardware manual:


  • 5 amp board runs on 7-18 volts (there is a note on the web site that some would not work over 16 volts), there is a post by Steve Seidensticker that ther will support 24 volts now, posted April 3, 2022
  • current rating is 3 amp continuous, and "max" of 5 (so that must be a peak, but for how long?)
  • front/rear outputs are max 20 ma
  • red LED (overvoltage LED, blinks red constantly, blinks with each command), D3
  • green LED is "powered up" indication, next to power terminals, D6


Most are clearly marked on the board.

End of board:

  • Power - DCC or DC input (polarity does not matter)
  • DCCOut - to the optional DCC decoder (clearly polarity does not matter)

top connector on long edge (silk screen reads correctly)

  • R> - ground this pin to go to BASIC mode
  • 3.3 - 3.3 volt common for LED lights
  • Gnd - ground
  • LF - Light Front
  • LR - Light Rear
  • RX - ???
  • TX - ???

bottom connector on long edge (closest to 'bluerail DCC 5A

  • V12 - ???
  • Sen
  • DCC
  • DCC with bar over top
  • D1 - extra outpu
  • D2
  • Snl

My software manual:

DCC decoder needs to be short address 3


 in basic mode, there are CVs, and there are some PWM tuning modes, like PWM frequency

CV29 only has the direction bit working

there is a kick start, and it has a speed table.

CV20 controls allows using service mode to write CVs,

  • there is a reverse logic setting for the light outputs
  • there is a reverse logic setting for the function outputs
  • there is a "swap" for the forward/reverse on the lights in reference to the motor






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