I'm looking for some ideas for putting custom-built electronics on a
model railroad. I've been playing around with microcontrollers, and
I'd love to apply one to my railroad module. Specifically, I'm working
on an NTrak module, so I can only work with a few feet of the layout.
Do you have any ideas for intersting ways to use electronics on a model
Things like working traffic lights come to mind, but they've already
been done, and you can buy the parts for $20 at a good show. I can't
think of anything more exciting, but I'm sure that somebody has some
Thanks for any input.
"KertDawg" wrote in
One thing that comes to mind is combining light and sound. There
are a number of sound modules available as well as various small
lights. How about scripting audio visual sequences in an area of
your layout? * a phone rings, then a light comes on in a house
* a dog barks and a porch light turns on
"KertDawg" wrote in
You could do some fun things. The phone ringing, for instance.
Picture a house with curtained windows so you can see light but not
images. A softly flickering light one front room and a murmur of
voices & music would give the impression of someone watching TV.
Then that phone rings. After a second, the TV sound mutes. After
another second, a light goes on in the other front room of the
house. After 10-15 seconds, the light goes out and the TV sound
Your imagination is the only limit.
KertDawg said the following on 7/29/2005 10:40 AM:
I am just starting to play with a sound chip I got from Jameco,
mfg part number ISD1110P. This is a 10 second sound chip
and is recordable. I plan to initiate it via trackside sensors.
Haven't decided what sounds yet but that will be resolved as the layout
progresses. They come in various sound lengths up to 60 seconds. One
idea was barking dogs as the train went by or maybe a coyote on a
mountain if the light is low.
Don't know your budget but Miller Engineering has some very nice
animated electronic displays. I don't recall if it's Miller or another
company but there used to be a complete drive-in theater available in HO
scale that used a TFT screen to show movies from a video source like
VHS, laserdisc or DVD. Costly though, around $300+ IIRC.
working rail block control lights are pretty cool - you can use an upward
facing reflective IR photosensor to sense the trains and run your logic in
the PIC (assuming you are using Microchip's controllers)
I just released a new structure lighting board that has a flickering
TV, 2 always on amber LEDs and one that blinks on and off. It would be
easy enough to incorporate something like that into the same board.
Just a matter of programming, so I might look at it.
Also a gas station kit that has one of my welder simulators, 2
"fluorescent" LEDs and a bathroom light that goes on and off. I'm not
sure what sounds could be incorporated. In older stations (before
self-service) there could be the "ding" as a car pulled up.
I'm also about to release a lightning/thunder module that synchronizes
ITT's thunder storm sound chip with 3 Bright White LEDs (or maybe 2
Whites and a yellow.) The LEDs will pop the first bolt, then a split
second later will come the sound. The sound chip has several smaller
strikes and rumbles which I'll simulate with less than full intensity
on the LEDs. Should be pretty cool.
Settling on the method of triggering the board (or any sound board)
took me some time and thought. Although it is possible to just trigger
it with a train passing by, I didn't think that was all that
realistic, so I designed a timer for it so the user can have it go off
at set intervals. It can also be triggered with a push button that
will override the timer.
Special Effects Lighting
Model Railroader's "Realistic Animation, Lighting & Sound" offers a
number of projects:
Here are some sites with animated items:
Iron Penguin Electronics:
Smoke 'n' Hole:
ITT (Sound Modules):
My 11'x3' N scale railroad has 222 lights and sound. It was a very
interesting project and offers an added dimension of reality. I believe
you'll find this to be a rewarding project. Good luck!
Bill's Railroad Empire
N Scale Model Railroad: