I’ve Been Printing On The Dragon Railroad…

We know many people who put much effort into building model train setups. But [Rambros] has an entire set 3D printed, and the files are open source, so you can print your own or modify it to suit you. When we first read “complete open source ecosystem,” we thought it might have been a bit of hyperbole, but it isn’t. The S-scale set includes two locomotives, a tanker, a box car, a hopper car, and a gondola car. There are different sections of track, customizable with Fusion 360. The “Dragon Railway” takes a few mechanical parts and electronics, of course. You can see one of several videos about the system below.

You can control the whole system using Bluetooth and a smartphone. The electronics are pretty simple, consisting of an ESP32 board, some motor drivers, N20 motors, and a few miscellaneous parts. We expect it would be compatible with other off-the-shelf S scale tracks and cars, but we don’t know that for sure.

Although you’ll need Fusion 360 to customize, there are plenty of ready-made STL files if you want to get started quickly. Some of the track items, like the crossing and turnout are not customizable, anyway. One particularly¬† impressive item is a printed auto-coupler; while a small item, getting that to work reliably with printed parts seems like it may be the most difficult part of the whole thing.

Maybe an OLED display would be the next thing? We’ve seen other printed trains, but this seems like a real labor of love.

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A model train car carrying a camera

2022 FPV Contest: Get The Train Driver’s View In Your N-Scale Railway

Model railroaders typically observe their project from high above. It would be neat to see what the world looks like to the residents of your little town, but getting down to their point of view is difficult, especially if you’re working in one of the smaller scales. For those working in the N scale, there’s now an easy way of observing your project as the train driver would see it: [Vassily98] managed to squeeze a wireless camera into an N-scale railcar.

The main challenge here was the extremely limited space available: the track in N-scale layouts is 9 mm wide, meaning that the whole system had to fit in just 23 x 20 mm2, the frontal area of a typical train car. One of the few cameras that fit within that profile was the RunCam Nano 4, which [Vassily98] connected to an ultra-tiny Team BlackSheep 5.8 GHz video transmitter.

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A Concealed Model Railway Rises To The Occasion

Occasional pieces of furniture serve little purpose other than to fill a space and maybe display a prized ornament or two. Who hasn’t got a relative with one two many small tables or display stands overfilling the available space!

If you visit [Peter Waldraff]’s house though, those pieces of furniture may not be what they seem. His display pedestal for example hides an N gauge railway layout that rises from the depths on a system of pulleys, with the action triggered by moving the vase displayed on its top. The vase conceals a magnet, which operates a reed switch that in turn controls the winch motor.

The layout is a loosely Batman themed train chase, with concentric spirals of track forming a continuous loop on which two trains run. There’s an ingenious arrangement with a reed switch and a piece of dead track to ensure that the chasing train is always held to ensure a gap between them. The landscaping is of a set of cliffs with a model of Wayne manor at the top, and there’s even a LED-lit Batmobile. One of the locomotives is recognisably based on a character from the Thomas the Tank Engine books.

All in all we like the ingenuity of this layout, but if you like it too then we’ve got a treat for you. Sharp-eyed readers will remember that this isn’t the first such project from Peter.

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linear motor pcb model railroad track

PCB Linear Motors For Model Trains

Modeling a railroad is hard. Railroads are large, linear pieces of civil engineering. So many modelers are drawn to the smallest scale they can use. Recently a new scale, named T, at 1:450 has been pushing this barrier. But fitting a reliable mechanical drive mechanism and MCU board in a package this size is a challenge. In practice, even more of a problem is getting reliable electrical contact through a metal wheel on metal track (about the worst possible design for a contact).T scale electric locomotive held on a human finger

T always seemed to us a long way out on the bleeding edge. But all that may have changed. In a recent Hackaday.io writeup, author [Martin] describes a PCB technology based linear motor system to externally drive T scale locomotives.

The system uses 4mm planar coils. The underside of the PCB has another coil, so the effective pitch is 2mm. With microstepping, a step of 0.25mm is possible, and trains run smoothly. Current is 3-400mA. Continue reading “PCB Linear Motors For Model Trains”

This End Table Conceals A Close Encounter

If you’re of a Certain Age, perhaps you had a train set as a child. An oval of track, a loco, and some rolling stock; it matters not whether it was Thomas the Tank Engine or a large express train — they were at the time a pretty cool toy. Move forward a few decades, and model railways have become either super-expensive room-filler layouts, or have sunk low as novelty Christmas ornaments, so that the basic loop of track is in dire need of rescue. Perhaps [Peter Waldraff] can help, with a beautifully-constructed N gauge circular layout concealed in an end table. Even better, when you examine it closely, it becomes apparent that this is no ordinary train set, it’s a scene from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

This is a project of two equally well-made parts, the piece of furniture and the train. The former is entirely scratch-built, with a cylindrical outside made from carefully cut rings of plywood and a sliding riser mechanism in the centre with a concrete counterweight. Slide the cylinder upwards, and the layout is revealed — a scratch-built hill in the centre of the ring of track and the lit-up underside of the UFO above it. As the train goes round the track, it even triggers a set of crossing lights and sounds for extra realism. The full story can be seen in the video below the break, and is well worth a watch.

We’ve covered more than one concealed model railway layout in the past, and it comes as no surprise when browsing to find that [Peter]’s work has featured here before.

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N-scale model railroad hidden in wall art

Hidden Model Railroading Taken To The Nth Scale

Most of us would be pretty happy with ourselves if we made one of those neat “epoxy river” types of art for our home. Not so with prolific maker [Peter Waldraff]. [Peter] is a skilled craftsman with a penchant for hiding model railroads in everyday furniture and fixtures. To this end, he’s created what he calls the Hidden Epoxy Railroad, which you can see in the video below the break.

The project starts with basic woodworking to build the frame, hinges, and the hinged epoxy river with its colored epoxy pour. Instead of stopping there, [Pete] continued by building a full N scale model railroad into the piece. The frame doubles as a backdrop complete with a beautifully painted scene with what we’re guessing is an N scale hot air balloon, too.

Of course, the skeptics among us might doubt whether the model railroad is fully hidden when closed. But one detail that Pete shared with us is that his wife never knew about the train portion of the build until their daughter pointed it out. She thought it was merely a piece of art for the dining room. Truly a great hack!

The entire build is documented on [Pete]’s YouTube channel, with its own 15 part build series. It’s definitely worth checking out. We’ve covered one of [Pete]’s hidden railroad builds before, so make sure you check that out, too!

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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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