MSimmons from McKinney, Texas (North Dallas)
I'm excited to find this forum and community of like-minded tech enthusiasts! Years ago I was homeschooling my son through some STEM modules including a course on Arduino. He never really was interested in electronics or coding, but the Arduino bug bit me hard.
I'm also a model railroader, and in recent years, there has been an explosion in high tech within the hobby - Digital Command Control with sound decoders, Java Model Railroad Interface, many commercial electronic accessories, and Arduino-based applications for model railroad operations. So I am combining my hobby interests in model railroading with Arduino electronics. I currently have three Arduino projects underway on my workbench.
Not having any formal education in electronics, I have been self-taught by way of numerous tutorials that I have found online. In my quest for more Arduino knowledge, I stumbled upon dronebotworkshop. I am very impressed with and grateful for the tutorials found here. I have already incorporated into my projects some of the hardware/software gems from dronebot. But like so many of you in this forum, I run into problems with my projects that I don't have the expertise to solve.
I look forward to sharing experiences/knowledge here in this forum. And hopefully, with a little help from my new friends, I can get my stubborn Arduino projects to behave!
Welcome aboard from Plano, Tx! My father was heavy into model railroads! I have never really had the room to do a layout. I would be more than glad to help you out, just ask.
Welcome. Trains are freaking cool. So are electronics. The fact we can bring our hobbies together is an awesome thing.
Hope you get a lot out of this forum and we can all learn from one another.
IT Systems Administrator
"In the storms of your life may your heart soar like the eagle." ~ Unknown Author
I agree, bringing micro-controllers, programming, electronics, and model railroading together is an excellent collaboration. I have in mind a less conventional layout that would have lights, sounds, and movement using odd, incongruent objects. Space ships, dinosaurs, airplanes, robots and such. My CharlieCube project would fit right in. Hall sensors could be used to trigger events as the train moves through different areas of the layout. I was even thinking of covering the engine with a rubber mouse, or something like that. I have room for a 4 X 8 table. Room enough for a loop or a figure eight. Please post pictures of you layout 😉
ZoolanderMicro, where small ideas are a big deal
Plano! You're practically in my back yard. Have you and/or your dad ever been to the model train show that's at the Plano Center twice a year? My brother and I go every time. Sadly, the Fall show was cancelled due to Covid. The next show is supposed to be in February I think. We'll see if they don't cancel that one too. Anyway, Thanks for the welcome message. I'll be watching for you in the forums.
Thanks for the greeting. My brother and I are planning to build a model railroad layout in his upstairs loft room. The room has been prepared and the layout is drawn up in XTrkCAD, but no construction has begun. So I have no photos yet. I could post the track plan - after I figure out how to post PDF or JPG files. I don't see any tools in the forum window for uploading photos or any other files. Can you direct me?
@msimmons I have XTrkCAD, so can send me that. At the bottom of the reply window there is an "Attach Files".
Cool! My layout is the Granby, Milner Pass and Laramie Railroad - G,MP&L. It is a proto-freelance railroad, meaning that my modeled railroad is fictional, but it uses real places - Granby, Colorado; Milner Pass crossing the great divide; and Laramie, Wyoming. My railroad also interchanges with real railroads - the Denver & Rio Grande Western railroad in Granby and the Union Pacific railroad in Laramie. Included in this layout is the portion of the railroad that runs from the interchange with the Union Pacific yard in Laramie to Milner Pass. Interchanging with the Union Pacific gives us a plausible reason to run UP BigBoys, Challengers and FEF-3 Northern steam locomotives!
The layout has two decks with Laramie on the lower deck and Milner Pass on the upper. There is a separate room that was actually attic space that we enclosed into an air conditioned closet that serves as a staging room. In this room are several stacked loops upon which entire trains can be parked until their turn to run across the layout. It is these staging loops where we are beginning construction of the layout. I am trying to design and build an Arduino-controlled elevator mechanism that will raise/lower the staging tracks to align with the entry/exit points onto the main layout.
Since you have XTrkCAD, you will be able to turn on/off the various layers to clearly see how the decks overlap. For those that don't know, XTrkCAD is free model railroad layout design software. I've attached the proprietary format file for XTrkCAD (labeled 'undefined' by the forum post), but for others reading this post, I have also attached PDF files of the upper and lower levels. Enjoy!
@msimmons Send me the XTrkCAD files. I am having trouble seeing the staging area that raises and lowers. Arduino is certainly capable raising and lowering. The mechanics of getting everything matched is more the issue.
It seems that the forum doesn't recognize the .xtc file format of XTrkCAD and wouldn't post the attachment. I've uploaded the file to my Google Drive and here is the link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RARY4CepUkM2mdShglVMEtCM26_5Tsd0/view?usp=sharing Maybe this will work for you to retrieve the XTrkCAD file? BTW, XTrkCAD Layer 2 shows the staging loops representing Ogden, Utah; Layer 4 is for the Cheyenne staging loops; and Layer 7 is for the Milner Pass loops. Each destination has 3 levels. On the 2D plan, the multiple levels of the staging yards are directly above one another, so you only see one double-track loop even when all three layers are turned on. You see a line across the the neck of the teardrop loops. The tracks to the right of this line are stationary, while the loops to the left of the line are the moveable elevator levels. I hope this helps you to visualize what I'm trying to build.
That's a nice layout! Are you using DCC or standard block?
We have a NCE brand DCC system to run the layout. We have one NCE radio throttle with the NCE radio base. We will also interface the NCE system with a computer and use JMRI and Engine Driver apps on our smartphones as additional throttles. We have a few locomotives already outfitted with sound decoders, and along the way we will be installing TCS WOWSound decoders in other locomotives.
I am getting ready to start a thread in the Motors and Control forum to see if I can resolve some issues with my staging yard elevator project. See you there?
I am in it, but I still don't see the staging area.