Crowdsourcing plastic model kits

laser

Flexiscale, the company that crowdsources and crowdfunds model kits, made a showing at the World Maker Faire. We’ve seen their work before, but this time we got to touch base with [Chris Thorpe] and get a handle on the future of user-requested model kits.

Right now there are over one hundred proposals for what Flexiscale should do next. They’re mostly narrow gauge railroad locomotives and rolling stock, but [Chris] tells me they’re looking to branch out into larger projects including American locomotives as well as planes, ships, and buildings. This is a really, really cool project, and if you’re into models at all, you should at least be aware of what Flexiscale is trying to do.

If you have an idea of what Flexiscale should do next, write up a proposal. I made one for the PRR GG1 electric locomotive, and if enough people support it, [Chris] will scan an engine and make a kit.

Train set built in a suitcase does more than you’d think

automated-suitcase-train-set

[Mario] can take his train set on the road with him because he build the thing inside of a suitcase. That in itself is pretty neat, but he pulled off more than just laying down a ring of track and surrounding it with realistic scenery. This train set is automated.

The suitcase itself looks a bit funny and that’s because it started as a portable phonograph. Removing the turntable and it’s requisite parts made plenty of room for the N-scale railroad (that’s really small stuff!). An Arduino with a motor shield drives the train around the loop. A reed sensor below a section of track provides feedback on where the locomotive is in the circuit. When it reaches that point the train stops and a bridge is lowered over the track for some invisible traffic to cross. There is even some audio flair which can be heard in the video after the break. It includes the whistle of the train and the ding of that bell mounted on the top half of the case.

[Read more...]

Small server for model trains

For reasons we can’t comprehend, model train layouts are  incredibly popular in Germany. [Gerhard] is one of those model train aficionados that has moved far beyond a layout with a transformer controlling the speed of the train; he sent in a tip for a very tiny Rocrail server he built to control the locomotives moving across his layout.

[Gerhard] uses Rocrail – a control system for train layouts large or small. Rocrail comes in both client and server configurations. The client is able to run on iDevices or Android. [Gerhard]‘s server runs on a very tiny Linux computer tucked away under the layout.

Instead of a Raspberry Pi ([Gehard] couldn’t get one in time for this build), he used a Carambola board. The Rocrail server is installed on this single board computer and connects to a CAN bus controller. It’s a step up from [Gehard]‘s previous CAN/Ethernet gateway built around OpenWRT, and makes the entire device much smaller.

[Gehard] doesn’t have a video of his layout in action, but after the break you can see how much the German people love their model trains at Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg.

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Semaphore signal replica perfect for the train buff in your life

semaphore-signal

[John Philip’s] brother has a sizable room set aside for his model railroad setup, and he was looking for something interesting to add to his brother’s collection. Rather than construct something for the railroad itself, he decided that an early 1900’s-style semaphore railroad signal would make a great novelty item for the room.

The project started with [John] scouring the Internet for colored signal lenses. Once he found a set that worked for him, he crunched some numbers to ensure that the rest of the semaphore box stayed true to original scale. Inside the signal’s case you will find a small regulator board for his light source, an Arduino, and a motor controller board to actuate the arm.

To ensure that the signal arm is always perfectly positioned, he installed a pair of reed switches on either side of the case, enabling the Arduino to auto-calibrate the signal’s position each time it is powered on. At first, this control scheme might strike you as a bit over the top, but we really like the fact that the signal can always configure itself to function perfectly, even if someone tinkers with/bumps into/moves the arm at any point.

Be sure to stick around to see a short video of the semaphore signal in action.

[Read more...]

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