Posts with «train» label

The Arduino Hits The Rails

Certain hobbies come in clusters. It isn’t uncommon to see, for example, ham radio operators that are private pilots. Programmers who are musicians. Electronics people who build model trains. This last seems like a great fit since you can do lots of interesting things with simple electronics and small-scale trains. [Jimmy] at the aptly-named DIY and Digital Railroad channel has several videos on integrating railroad setups with Arduino. These range from building a DCC system for about $45 (see below) to a crossing signal.

There are actually quite a few basic Arduino videos on the channel, although most of them are aimed at beginners. However, the DCC — Digital Command and Control — might be new to you if you are a train neophyte. DCC is a standard defined by the National Model Railroad Association.

Model trains pick up electrical power from the rails. DCC allows digital messages to also ride the rail. The signal shifts from positive to negative to indicate marks and spaces. By diode switching the electrical signal, the train or other equipment can get a constant supply of current. However, equipment monitoring the line ahead of the diodes can read the data and interpret it as commands.

To accommodate old equipment, you can stretch the high or low values to make the average voltage either positive (forward) or negative (reverse). This can heat up DC motors, though, so it may shorten the life of the legacy equipment.

The build uses an available Arduino library, so if you want to get into the protocol you’ll have to work through that code. We had to wonder if there were other places where passing power and data on the same lines might be useful. There are other ways to do that, of course, but this would be a reasonable place to start if you needed that capability.

If you want to use an mBed system instead of an Arduino, there’s a great tutorial for that. Either way, it is just the thing for your next coffee table.

LEDs Turn This Paper Map into a Tram Tracker

Public transit can be a wonderful thing. It can also be annoying if the trains are running behind schedule. These days, many public transit systems are connected to the Internet. This means you can check if your train will be on time at any moment using a computer or smart phone. [Christoph] wanted to take this concept one step further for the Devlol hackerspace is Linz, Austria, so he built himself an electronic tracking system (Google translate).

[Christoph] started with a printed paper map of the train system. This was placed inside what began as an ordinary picture frame. Then, [Christoph] strung together a series of BulletPixel2 LEDs in parallel. The BulletPixel2 LEDs are 8mm tri-color LEDs that also contain a small controller chip. This allows them to be controlled serially using just one wire. It’s similar to having an RGB LED strip, minus the actual strip. [Christoph] used 50 LEDs when all was said and done. The LEDs were mounted into the photo frame along the three main train lines; red, green, and blue. The color of the LED obviously corresponds to the color of the train line.

The train location data is pulled from the Internet using a Raspberry Pi. The information must be pulled constantly in order to keep the map accurate and up to date. The Raspberry Pi then communicates with an Arduino Uno, which is used to actually control the string of LEDs. The electronics can all be hidden behind the photo frame, out of site. The final product is a slick “radar” for the local train system.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Raspberry Pi

OLED Lego train station emerges from Adafruit and Arduino gear, minifigs to get home on time

Who knew Lego characters had to be somewhere in a hurry? Adafruit did, as it just whipped up a minifig-sized train schedule. The invention mates one of Adafruit's own 1-inch OLED boards with an Arduino Uno controlling the schedule behind the scenes. It looks to be a straightforward project for the DIY types, although the display is currently all show: the schedule doesn't (yet) pair up with the train tracks to automatically let your minifigs know if their trip to the pirate spaceship castle has been delayed by ghosts. You can check the source link for the full instructions. Duplo builders, alas, are kept out of the loop.

OLED Lego train station emerges from Adafruit and Arduino gear, minifigs to get home on time originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 26 Jun 2012 00:07:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Hacker builds allegedly pointless data network out of Lego train set

How can we appreciate bullet-quick SSDs and fiber networks without pausing -- at the year's end -- to appreciate where it all came from? We should think back to before the birth of modern computing, even before the telegraph, to a time when bits of data were forced to travel everywhere by train. A hacker named Maximilien has now recreated that locomotive golden era using Lego, Arduino and Linux, and what his system lacks in bandwidth it more than makes up for in historical relevance. A USB flash key is borne by miniature railway carriage from station to station, stopping at each one to unload or pickup information and thus creating its own barebones networking protocol. Click the source link to appreciate the full museum piece.

Hacker builds allegedly pointless data network out of Lego train set originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 27 Dec 2011 09:19:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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