Engineer Unleashes The Secret To Creating Massively Realistic Model Railroad Layouts!
Have you ever wanted to automate certain parts of your model rail layout but just didn't even know where to start?
I know I have but it wasn't till my friend told me about something he saw in Model Railroader magazine that I was able to bring my layout to life!
Model rail is my little slice of heaven, its my spot where I go whenever I need to unwind for a bit.
The clickity clack of the track, the smell of the smoke billowing from the locomotive, the fine detail I poured into all my buildings, but I've always felt that something was missing.
I always wanted to be able to detect where my train was and then based on its location, automatically trigger a turnouts, sound & lighting effects.
That kind of interaction would really allow me to build my own little world, to breath life into it.
Well, last week my buddy Aaron brought over a copy of Model Railroader magazine and showed me something called the Dr.Duino Explorer Model Railroad edition.
It was actually reviewed by Model Railroader themselves which was impressive.
I have to say I was absolutely blown away, I immediately saw how this could allow me to build the world I wanted!
It's a really unique Arduino powered kit which not only shows you how to build the exact layout you see above, it also TEACHES YOU how to apply Arduino to your own layout.
If you’re not familiar Arduino is an Italian based company that created an easy-to-use miniature motherboard.
They come in lots of different flavors but this kit comes with an Arduino Nano, but can also be used with an Arduino Uno clone like you see below.
PLUS no coding required unless you wanted to make it do something more specific! More on this in a bit.
Dr.Duino Brings The Power Of Arduino To Model Railroad!
It's taught in 5 different modules which is meant to teach you how to incorporate servo controlled turn outs, music & sound effects, block sensors and lighting effects into your model rail.
Let's break it down!
Without question, I'm always trying to figure out how I can locate where my train is on particular section of track.
Well, turns out there's a special sensor which is perfect for this.
It's called a blocking sensor, as soon as the train crosses its path it sends a signal to the Arduino which can then easily trigger some other action.
This kit actually has 2 of them, but you can add as many as you like.
Servo Controlled Turn Outs!
Parts of my layout have and older style turn out which I can't control electrically, so I need a way to control it mechanically.
Turns out (pardon the pun), this is really simple to do with a micro servo like you see here.
What I really love about these little micro servos is their size, they are small enough to hide throughout my layout without being intrusive.
Adding Sound Effects Is Easy!
From there, it shows you how to use this impossibly small MP3 player which allows you to add either small clips of sound or full blown hours worth of music and effects.
Don't let the size fool you though, it can be very loud.
It can actually drive up to a 3 Watt speaker all by itself.
Something which I thought was a nice touch was that it comes with 5 free sound clips which work right out of the box and are a perfect fit for my layout.
You do need your own SD card, but those are so cheap nowadays.
Here are the sounds:
All Aboard -The familiar sound of the conductor announcing it's time to board!
Just Train Tracks - The soothing clickity clack sound of a train track!
Just Whistle - an old time whistle from the golden era of locomotives.
Track and Whistle - Combines the clickity clack and whistle sounds into one sound effect.
Railroad Crossing Signal - The classic sound of a train about to cross over a highway complete with crisp bells.
Lighting Control With Talking LEDS?
Perhaps one of the coolest parts to this kit are these tiny LED's which are capable of making 16 million colors.
I thought an interesting touch would be to individually control the color of each window as the train exits the depot.
They add that extra touch of realism to my layout which I needed!
They are tiny enough to place where ever I need them and the best part is that they don't require tons of wires to control them either.
From just 3 wires, you're able to control an infinite number of these little guys.
Usually to add this type of lighting control, you would need hundreds of wires, but not with these!
This is what they look like, they are about .2 inches in diameter and 10 come in the kit.
BUT how is this all happening?
Currently if you wanted to do something like this, you're stuck with overly complex DCC hardware or worse, individual modules which don't talk to one another.
A model rail layout which isn't realistic in timing, lacks the control you desire, and not easy to work with or expand upon!
That's why when I saw the review for this new Arduino Kit in Model Roader Magazine, I knew I just had to have it!
Model Railroad Edition
As Featured In
*Shown here with BME280 sensor (not included).
** Soldering required (approximately 2-3 hours depending on experience.
*** Arduino Nano clone Included, Uno is not.
It's an Arduino Uno and nano compatible kit specifically tailored for model railroad lovers!
It comes as a kit which you get to assemble via excellent, step by step online manual.
I've never seen such detailed instructions before, it was a real pleasure building it.
I felt really accomplished after completing it too!
Oh and did I mention it works with whatever SCALE you have!
I think my favorite part of this entire kit is that you don't need to know how to code, UNLESS YOU WANT TO!
All of the code needed to control everything you read in this article is included.
If you want just the servo code, you have access to it, if you want just the music or lighting control, you have that too!
That's just the beginning, remember that layout you first saw at the beginning of this article? Well, all of the code is included to control that entire setup.
You can either take the code as is and just wire in everything to your existing setup, or build that exact setup and have a working model rail out of the box!
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