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Arduino controlled, twin track, winter layout


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Hi, here is the layout I'm building. 
It has 2 independent layers, with two independent control panels (placed on the left and right hand side). 
The idea is that my two kids can play at the same time. 


Everything will be operated by an Arduino Mega board. 
Speed and direction of the trains will be controlled thanks to two LR293D IC connected to the Arduino.
I will do the coding according to the control panel I've designed. 


The two control panels have switches for lights and other things like red light or the cable car, but right now I'll go through to the main part that operate the trains. 

From left to right (as shown on the picture), there is 

  • a FULL TOP switch – the equivalent of a hand-brake
  • a HARD BRAKE button – to quickly decrease the speed 
  • a SOFT BRAKE button – to gently decrease the speed
  • a HOLD switch – when turned on, the train maintains the current speed, if not it will slowly decelerate (unless the "increase speed" is being pushed).
  • a INCREASE SPEED button – to accelerate 
  • a DIRECTION switch – to go forward or backward


I've made a little "back door" underneath the layout. The Arduino board and the other boards are fixed to this door. 
All the cables are labelled and converge there. I try to make it as clean & clear as I can, for maintenance, future improvements and especially troubleshooting while coding the Arduino. 


Also, the little door is convenient since the layout is stored vertically (I don't have a lot of room, nor a man's cave 😔). Anyway, I can easily work on the electronics and cabling, while the layout is upright against the wall. 


That's it for now. I'll post more details through the next steps. 

I'll happy to reply if you have questions. 


I do have a question for the community tough. I've used Minitrix flexible track nailed directly on the 5mm plywood.
I wonder if I should have put cork underneath the track. What's the purpose of it? reduce noise? easy track replacement?

On the other hand, some of my turns are tight, and the nails+plywood hold everything in place very well.


Bye for now












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Cork track bed are used for a few reasons: dampening the noise of running trains on hard and resonant surfaces; provide that slightly elevated ballast profile of real tracks when laying non-profiled tracks. I believe some also use it because it makes it easier to reposition or reuse track.

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Martijn Meerts

I do use the cork for sound dampening, but it hardly dampens anything at all 🙂


The problem is that once you nail or screw the track in place, much of the dampening of the cork is useless. Glueing track in place and ballasting it also kills much of the dampening. I mostly still add it because I'm just used to doing it.


For my H0 projects, I'm going to try using the Woodland scenics foam roadbed. Supposedly that stuff keeps it's dampening properties even after applying ballast.

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Haha. The great urban/layout legend of the cork roadbed 🙂

I always thought that it would be best to cover the whole layout base in cork and then add the cork bed if needed. Obviously, if you drive a screw through the cork, you will just transmit the vibrations from the tracks to the base, hence nullifying the dampening. Gluing would probably be better.


@carledwoodAh! It's literally controlled with an Arduino. I initinally thought we were talking about automation. How come you decide to make your own controllers? To expand on your skills?



Edited by disturbman
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Martijn Meerts

The problem with glueing, especially if you also glue on ballast, is that the usual PVA glue hardens the cork to the point where it looses most of it dampening properties 🙂


In the end though, the sound the wheels make on the track is usually the loudest, especially if you run multiple / longer trains. There's no way you can get rid of that noise. A 16-car shinkansen at some speed is really rather loud.

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