Detecting model railway track occupancy with photodetectors and Arduino

As in real life railways, model railways also lend themselves to being controlled with computerised solutions for many aspects, including train control, signalling, and wayside effects. In his series of articles, Steven has described multiplexing photodetectors to in order to monitor track block status – in other words, detect if a train is in a certain section of the track. 

Although some of you may think this is overkill for a model railway, one of the goals in building one is to simulate the real thing as much as possible, and this includes the underlying operational systems as well. As you can see in the following image, once the detectors have been installed they are hard to notice:

However by following Steven’s detailed instructions, you can understand how his system works and see the results displayed on an LCD module. For those of you using Arduino systems and needing more than the Uno and compatible boards can offer, consider our EtherMega – with almost eight times the program space, sixteen analog inputs, fifty-four digital pins and onboard Ethernet for network connectivity:

 

This project is one of many that make use of Arduino and model railways, and if you are using the technology for this purpose – we’d love to hear about it! Let us know in the “Project Showcase” section of our active support forum. For more information on the project, visit Steve’s website here

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