Train Set Built In A Suitcase Does More Than You’d Think


[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.

15 thoughts on “Train Set Built In A Suitcase Does More Than You’d Think

    1. yea i got an n-scale (at least thats what it says on the box) sitting on my coffee table. id say the engine is a good 3 inches long. so that case would need to be really big, or the train is something like a z scale (mine certainly wouldn’t fit in a phonograph box).

      1. I thought the same at first, that it must have been Z, but it defiantly is N scale looking at the width of the track and the size of the caboose. But he’s certainly using the smallest radius curves you can get, which googling is 11.25 inches, so it seems reasonable to fit in a older probably oversized turntable. Not going to have much luck running a locomotive bigger than what i presume is 0-4-0 on that curve however. Now I know what to build for my cubicle.

        1. Actually, if using commercially available pre-formed track, you’ll be stuck with around 11.25 inches. For my N-Scale logging railroad, I’m running approximate 8.5″ radius curves which for “off the shelf” equipment is rather tight, but doable if your track is PERFECT. 9 inches is the absolute minimum unless you want to modify all your stuff….

          Now mind you, my rolling stock is short log cars, and a few small steam locomotives.

  1. That recall me with nostalgia some quite incredible mini model train layout done for a annual competition, launched by narrow gauge model train magazine if I remember well. It was called 1 meter square challenge, or something like that (that’s around 9 square feet). That was more than 10 years ago, without arduino then, but the level of skills of some participant was breathtaking.
    I tried a few google searches but my bad memory does not help. I will give some links later if I find something.

  2. For you folks interested in tiny model railroads, check this link out:

    It’s a great little site that’s dedicated to “mini” model layouts. Some are just “Pizza” shaped like the one above, but others are puzzles, or switch yards, etc. There’s some wild stuff!

  3. This some kind of inside thing? I’m not getting the thing where the tin can blocks the road… Seems like an unfinished project somehow could’ve done a lot more with the available electronics.

    What about a mechanical bridge that would elevate the train to go to the next level ? (make a road above the one that’s there right now creating a double track).

  4. If you watch the related videos there are some other good examples of suitcase layouts. I have a track that sits on a small coffee table but used Z-scale as it is 1/2 the size of the N-scale shown in this video.

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