RrrDuino for model railroads

So, what can an Arduino do for my railroad? (items below in green marked by an x might be demo’d in the September, 2015, LSR Division 3 clinic, we will also add pictures as we build the demos)

Since we can turn things on and off:


x - Turn LEDs on and off at specified or random times

x - Welding, cutting, torching

x - Cycle lights in a building, house or church

Street lights

Traffic lights

Grade crossing lights

Signals for the railroad

x - Flickering lamps, like an Arc Welder and Bathroom light on another pin.

Candles, campfires, fire in a building, or just a stove...

Police car lights, Fire Trucks, Ambulances...

Servos and steppers:

x -A grade crossing's gates

x -A wigwag

An animated scene, windmill, gate, logs, manufacturing plant

Change a turnout position

x - Moving an uncoupling magnet in and out of position

A belt driven saw mill

A helicopter, or just a windsock

An overhead crane

Like the kind in an inter-modal yard picking containers off cars, or loading them

A forklift lifting

A water tank lowering its spout

A car or engine washing station

Building doors opening or sliding

Controlling your turntable or transfer table

Moving blocks of ice at an ice house

The guy popping out of a tower!

A micro robot


x - A grade crossing with ding, ding, ding...

After the waterspout is down...water!

A coal loading facility

clickity clack wheel sounds, anywhere

All Aboard?

"64 wheels counted"


How 'bout an LCD or LEDs to show train departure time, or expected arrival

Or the weather

Relays or FETs (transistors):

x - Want to turn something big on and off? How 'bout the lights in the room?

A smoke generator

A lift bridge

A pump

A motor

Your whole DC or DCC system!

Your dishwasher, garage door, TV or electric car (just kidding)

Since we can sense things:


x - Train occupancy

x - WigWag

x - Grade crossing

Street lights at dusk

x - Counting Axles: "86 Axles, zero defects!"


x - Train speed, how fast were you going?


Yes, turn it on or off now


Time to turn the fan on

Boiler is hot, lets go!

Humidity, water, pressure, you name it, if it has an optical, digital or analog output, we can measure it!


If we speed up, the tires might scream

When we brake, we might want screeching tires


Oops, here comes that water

Or the crane is down, active that electromagnet to pick the metal up

(and for the somewhat advanced)


An accessory decoder, so your DCC throttle (or JMRI for that matter) could tell accessory #1042 to move a turnout, or turn something on, all over the DCC bus. (And another site)

(and for the even little more advance)

LCC or OpenLCB:

Moving a few Servos

Since we could talk to things (Infrared, BLE (Bluetooth), WiFi, Morse code):

We could send data, this train left

Next train should be arriving at...

Block occupancy, tell the next or opposing signal of such

Controlling the lights and speed of your Faller self driving car?

We might talk to our home automation system to turn the A/C on, or heat

We could email a friend

We could update a website, or post on Facebook

So, lets sort them by model railroad functions:

Train Detection

Grade crossing

Accessory decoder

Servo Turnout Control



The Nano - recommended to avoid the need for a programmer. The Nano has a USB connector on board and if you later decide to buy the cheaper, sorry, less expensive, Pro Mini, you can use the Nano to be your programmer. Some now uses a CH340 USB chip which might need a driver to be installed Windows.

Follow along on this page as we prepare for the Clinic and show some tricks!

Updates to TxCar!!!

Boot-loading your first ATMEGA328P-PU