Railway portal

For the railway layout there is always little space in the home. Therefore, my layout is assembled on a large shelf. But I want more tracks, trains... And one of the solutions for this is a hidden elevator with rails. The portal can be made vertical, horizontal and even a drum structure..

The URB unit has a ULN2003 chip on board, and you can directly connect a powerful stepper motor to it. It is only necessary to assemble such a design and write a sketch. The application already has buttons for controlling this device.

Since sensors and relays can be direct connected to the URB unit, an automated portal will be consist on several tracks and, accordingly, trains.

I can even write an algorithm in which one train will enter the portal, and another train will leave it.

Portal prototype

Wireless URB

This is not an idea, this is a working prototype. Even two working prototypes..

This is a continuation of the URB project, but with the use of units connected to the railway network not via a wired I2C bus, but using wireless modules NRF24. This is not Wi-Fi, which is associated with a lot of problems, and not Bluetooth. NRF24 is a very interesting development using the 2.4 GHz (as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) band, but with its own data transfer interface, which is very similar to SPI.

This method of data transfer allows you to build a duplex network, and you do not need software client-server technology or a permanent Internet connection (MQTT). NRF24 leaves the project at a minimum level of complexity compared to MQTT or the instance web-server solution.

I have 8 prototypes, and testing it now. More about this on URB Club. Only for members URB Club.

Working wireless units

My dream project

I understand that this is corny, but... On the real railway, the locomotive is driven by the driver. Watching inside the cabin, he controls the thrust, brakes and direction of the train, but he also sees the situation along the route: traffic signals, approaching the station or controlpoint, and so on..

So, if control over the train in model railways was solved a long time ago, including on uses the DDC, the second part is now solved mainly by the visual control of the player – he sees the position of the train and regulates it from the controller's.

There are successful solutions for the automation of train traffic, but they are all based on the same paradigm of external control. It`s a very complex implementation and a very complex hardware devices. For example – the option with the camera in the cabin is strange and funny, but it solves the main task. There is also a solution based on determining the position using a beacon and three (four) receivers like Faller Car System Satellite Controlled DCC Vehicles, similar to GPS. But it is monstrously complicated and very very expensive!

The task boils down to the fact that the "virtual" driver in the cab should know his position on the line, signals of traffic lights, the length of the cars behind (or before) him, and preferably, the real speed the train. Not the PWM level on the motor, but directly speed along the way.

And the takes decision to start and stop train the "virtual" driver from the cab. That is, we have four parameters:

  1. Locomotive position on the layout
  2. Traveling speed
  3. Direction of movement
  4. Train Composition:
     a. Number of wagons
     b. Their location relative to the locomotive (left or right)
     c. Their type (we determine by the length of the car the total length of the train)
     d. Opportunities of wagons (passenger`s cars: opening doors, lighting, etc.)
     e. The virtual "weight" of the cars: we add inertia to the game (it is possible to change the locomotive traction curve)
  5. Then, from the side of the layout, we must transmit only the state of the road signaling and allow the junctions to be transferred from the "cabin". That is, as in reality.
Based on these parameters, it is possible to create a dynamic online route for several trains and manage them from a conventional home Wi-Fi router without any DDC devices.

I physically solved only the first three points, then I need had to build a layout or test line, for which I now simply do not have the resources. Three years ago I made a prototype, and it works.

Wi-Fi train protorype


Wi-Fi train details


Wi-Fi railway project Railway Wi-Fi network


Railway Wi-Fi network


Railway Wi-Fi network

The position of each locomotive on the layout

Actually this is the most important idea. A lot cheap RFID tags are used at 125 MHz, the more often they are placed under the rails, the more precisely the position of the locomotive. Tags do not require power and simply placed under the rails.

On the locomotive (it is possible and on the cars) is a DC-DC converter, RFID-reader, motor-driver L9110 and ESP-12 Wi-Fi controller.

All this I did three years ago, and then I did the tests. It worked perfectly. An attempt to raise money for the implementation of this project with the help of the site has not yet been successful. If you have other ideas or criticism of my site, what can be improved-change-add-remove, write your opinion.