Using XBee modules in model railroading


This page documents the use of XBee modules in Model Railroading Applications. We will start with some simple applications that utilize the XBee modules out of the box in transparent mode, and work our way up to more complicated projects, some of which may require reprogramming the XBee modules. This page is organized into sections as follows:

The XBee Hardware

The XBee Modules

XBee modules are IEEE 802.15.4 radio interface modules with a built in microprocessor. They are produced by Digi (they were formerly produced by a company called MaxStream). The modules come in several flavors XBee 802.15.4 modules (formerly Series 1 modules) and XBee ZB (Formerly Series 2.5 modules). Both modules implement the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for radio communication. The ZB modules also implement the Zigbee protocol. The 802.15.4 and ZB modules are not currently compatible.

Both the XBee 802.15.4 and the XBee ZB modules also come in a "PRO" version. The "PRO" version uses a higher power transmitter, and therefore has longer range.

For the projects on this page, I am utilizing XBee 802.15.4 modules operating in the 2.4GHz band.

Some useful components

It is not possible to perform many tasks with just XBee modules. Fortunately for our efforts, the XBee modules have become quite popular, so some tasks are easily accomplished with off the shelf components or easily constructed kits. What follows is a list of XBee related components which I am making generous use of for these projects. The links are to the Sparkfun Electronics page describing the products, though the items noted may also be available from other sources:

Unless otherwise noted, I am using an XBee Explorer USB to connect my computer to an XBee module.

Transparent Mode

Transparent Mode projects have been moved to Their own page.

API Mode

Transparent Mode projects are on the API Mode Projects page.

Useful links

General XBee References

Digi XBee 802.15.4 Product Page
Digi XBee ZB Product Page
The xbee-api source on google code.
The python-xbee source on google code.
Sparkfun Electronics
The XBee API library for Processing by Don Shiffman and Rob Faludi

XBee on Arduino References

The xbee-arduino source on google code.
The Arduino XBee Shield.

This page has been created and maintained with pico and vi. Please address corrections and comments to