A computer controlled model train set

Several years ago, actually many years ago, I took a university subject in which we had to write code to control a simple computer controlled train set. If you've never seen such a beast, let me assure you that it's one of the most fun projects that you could imagine working on in a university electrical engineering environment. This was the genesis of a computer controlled layout of my own.

Many years went by and eventually, I found enough time to design and build one of my own. I was in the process of writing it up as a series of articles when Isabel, my fourth child, was born. Since then, life has been a little too hectic and space has been just that little bit too cramped for me to pull out the layout. It sits patiently up against a wall, waiting for the kids to grow a little older and for us to find a larger home. One day, one day.

When I first placed these articles onto the Internet, I still considered them a draft. They had been sitting on my hard drive for so long, I realised that they'd never be read by anybody but myself if I didn't publish them. So I put them up on a web page and had my site indexed by the search engines. Since then, I've been seeing many hits each day.

Now that the pages have been up for about two years, I've received many emails from hobbyists and students all over the world. Curiously, most hobbyists seem to be from the United States, where I once lived for a period. Almost all of the students that have been in touch have been from India, a place I've not yet had the pleasure to visit.

In all of today's world, India is the country which relies most upon the railroad. It is probably little wonder that their student engineers are so interested in such a project! How sad that the students from elsewhere in the world don't seem so enthusiastic about such a project; there's so much more to be learned than basic railroad engineering!

I can attest that I gained experience across a broad range of disiplines during the design, construction and debugging of this train set and I trust that there will continue to be curious students and hobbyists who might also find them interesting and informative. I hope that some of you will be inspired to use your computers for something non traditional, as I once was. As my train set had its genesis as my own student project, I admit that I like to make time to answer quesions and offer help to the next generation of engineers and hobbyists. Drop me an email and let me know if I can help you start your own computer controlled model train.

There are two copies of each article - an HTMLised version that's easy to browse and there's pdf versions that are easy to print. Some of the html pages are formatted incorrectly because the HTML was generated from a buggy word processor I was using. The pdf versions look fine.

my train set

First article: Introduction and the basics of a computer controlled train set
Second article: Train detection and DC motors
Third article: Part A of the train controller circuit
Fourth article: Part B of the train controller circuit
Fifth article: Constructing the train controller
Sixth article: Testing the train controller
Seventh article: The control software
Eighth article: Compiling and using the control software
Ninth article: How the software works
diagrams.pdf: You might find these diagrams easier to read than the graphical versions buried in the html versions.

Here are the pdf version of the articles. Because of transfer volume restrictions imposed by geocities, please be considerate of others before you download these files. If more than two of you try to download all of these PDFs in an hour, my site gets temporarily shut down so if you don't really need them, please think before you grab them.


Finally, here is a tar ball of the linux source code.


steam train on mountain steam train at the station
The Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad situated in Pocahontas county, West Virginia.
Of the many operating steam railroads my family has ridden, this was the most fun. Actually, they were all fun.
Click on the boxed images for a larger view (approx 50k bytes each).

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