Coffee Table Railroad Flips To Hide The Fun

The livingroom coffee table has long been a favorite realm of the model railroad. But what to do when you actually want to have coffee? [Peter Waldraff] has come up with a most eloquent answer to the problem by designing a coffee table model railroad capable of turning the world upside down.

This isn’t [Peter’s] first rodeo. In his demo video below he shows off a coffee table train he built 20 years ago using a rectangular layout under glass. This time the circular design means a spherical volume can rotate around two skateboard bearing pivot points, revealing the mountainous scene on one side and the boring old wood table on the other. But what happens to the N-scale train itself when gravity is reversed? There’s a brilliant solution to that!

The frame of the coffee table includes an outer loop for train storage. Before flipping the model upside-down, the train itself is sent to this siding for safe keeping. In an earlier build video we can glimpse the latching mechanism that uses a solenoid and is actuated by a magnet in the center of the table. A clever use of toggle bolts (sometimes known as butterfly anchors for securing things on drywall) has them transfer power to the outer ring of storage track when their spring-loaded arms come in contact with some screw heads on the other side of the gap. The source of the electricity is a rechargeable Makita power tool battery in a hidden chamber within the mountain.

Of course we’ve seen other hideaway coffee table trains like this lovely hand-carved version. But you have to admire how [Peter] managed to incorporate everything into a self contained unit here, without the needing to store a removable cover. If you are someone who wants to always show off your handy work, that’s where a perspex box coffee table design comes into play.

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Model Railroad Engine Gets A Tiny OLED Rollsign While Showing Off Tidy Protoboard Skills

When catching public transport, it’s very helpful if the bus or train in question has a large display indicating the route or destination. While many transit lines now rely on flipdot or LED displays, the classic rollsign still gets the job done. [diorama111] wanted to emulate this on a model railroad, and set about building a simulacrum at tiny scale.

Intended to suit an HO-scale model train, the build makes use of a tiny 0.6 inch NHD-0.6-6464G OLED display. It’s wired up with a boost converter for power and hooked up to a tiny circuit consisting of an ATMEGA328p and an infrared receiver. The microcontroller is responsible for receiving commands from the remote control, and displaying the appropriate image on the screen. The hidden beauty of this one is well shown in the video below as [diorama111] cleanly and meticulously assembles the circuit on protoboard with just an iron and tweezers.

What makes this project great is how neatly it’s integrated into the body of the train. Nestled inside the locomotive, it almost looks like a stock part of the model. While the nature of the OLED display does come across a touch anachronistic, implementing the vertical scroll really does add a lot to the final effect.

We love to see creative scale modelling projects, and we’ve seen some great work from [diorama111] in the past, too. Video after the break.

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3D Printed Train Set Aims For Speed

For most involved in the hobby, model trains involve buying track from off-the-shelf suppliers, and lots of delicate painting and finishing. Conversely, [Ivan] just wanted to make something fast and fun, busting out the 3D printer in due course.

While the title of “World’s fastest toy train” is somewhat dubious, the build has its value as an interesting way of doing things. The train is 3D printed, with pressed-in ball bearings and metal shafts for the bogies. Differing from usual practice, this train carries its power supply on board, in the form of a LiPo battery. It’s hooked up to a brushless motor and controlled by a standard RC car setup.

The track is an impressive structure, consisting of 3D printed rails and supports.  These are assembled and then screwed down to plywood baseplates, which are hot glued to the flat concrete floor of [Ivan]’s workshop. Strings were used to align everything as straight and true as possible. The track features a steep banking which helps with cornering. However, the straights remain banked in an effort to avoid the complex modelling of a transition. This leads to some derailments at higher speeds on the flat sections.

While it’s not yet perfect, [Ivan] has done a great job of demonstrating a quick and easy way to build a model railway out of almost entirely 3D printed components. We can’t wait to see improvements to the rails and railcars, and hope to see speeds increase significantly in future tests. 3D printing tends to bring some interesting results to bear on the model train world, such as this vertical hanging setup. Video after the break.

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Vertical Train Hauls Up The Wall

Trains are great for hauling massive amounts of cargo from point A to point B, and occasionally, point C on weekends. But they’re not really known for climbing hills well, and anything vertical is right out. Regardless, [Can Altineller] knows what he wants and set to work, creating the 3D Printed Wall Train.

The first step was to get the train to stick to a vertical surface. This was achieved with the use of neodymium magnets in the train, which are attracted to laser-cut steel plates beneath the plastic tracks. The train itself consists of a custom 3D printed locomotive, outfitted with a motor and step-down gears that drive all four wheels. Said wheels are of a conical shape, and covered with rubber to provide enough grip to overcome gravity. The project is a progression from [Cal]’s earlier four-motor build.

The final result is a charming wall display, with the four-wheel drive train merrily tugging its carriages around the circular course ad infinitum. It’s a fun build, and we’d love to see similar techniques applied to a bigger layout. If this whets your appetite for model railroading, consider building your own turntable, or implementing some fancy sensors. Video after the break.

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Coffee Tables, Computers, And Railways

If you were a British kid at any time from the 1950s to the 1980s, the chances are that your toy shop had a train set in it. Not just any train set, but a full model railway layout in a glass case roughly the size of a pool table, with a button that when pressed started a timer and set a little tank engine off on a circuit with a pair of coaches. Magical for a generation raised on black-and-white TV, but probably not something that would cut it with today’s youth. A modern take on the glass-case layout comes from [Jack Flynn], who has created a coffee table with an automated and computerised N-gauge railway layout inside it. And this is definitely a railway rather than a railroad, the main locomotive is a Brush Type 4, a British Rail Class 47 diesel.

The modelling is a work of art, with a slightly idealised British street scene in an oval of double track against a backdrop of a rocky hillside. In the hill is an unexpected surprise which you can see on the video we’ve  placed below the break, and beneath it lie the electronics. A Teensy handles the track switching and all the various LED lights around the board, a Sprog DCC controller takes care of the trains, and overseeing everything is a Raspberry Pi running some custom software in Python with a web interface for control. We probably wouldn’t be able to resist a bit of remote-control railway action if our coffee table had a layout like this one!

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A Turntable For Model Railroads

Way back when, before diesel-electric locomotives were a thing, trains weren’t really able to go backwards too well. Also it’s sometimes necessary to turn carriages around in a small space. For that, the railway turntable was invented. If you want to implement one on a model layout, this project from DIY & Digital Railworld is for you.

The project is at an early stage – thus far, laying out how to set up an Arduino Uno using a potentiometer to control the speed of a stepper motor, which rotates the turntable. The turntable itself is a 3D printed part sourced from Thingiverse, designed to suit the specific stepper motor used.

This has the easy part sorted – rotating a piece of track through 360 degrees to orient a train properly. However, there’s significant work ahead. Power needs to be hooked up to the rails, and a system for accurately aligning the turntable with outgoing tracks needs to be devised. This is particularly relevant for N-gauge setups, where tolerances are everything.

We’d love to know how you’d tackle the various issues to build a working model turntable in the comments. We’ve seen some serious model railroad builds before around these parts. Video after the break.

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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.

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