Desktop Tram Layout

Massey Aug 22, 2020

  1. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

    Ok I said before I would make a thread about the build of my tram module I plan to have as a desktop decoration. I have posted a few of these pics on my small layout thread so if they look familiar they are, I just wanted to consolidate it all here. So sit back and enjoy and if anyone has comments or advise, pleas feel free.

    Here is the start with a Masterpiece Module

    Testing the automated circuit on my workbench

    Thinking I had everything worked out so I stuffed the electronics into a box. Boy was I wrong.

    A better view of the test rig

    This test rig also didn’t work and I ended up scrapping the works. I put everything away for a few weeks at this point so I’m going to end the first post here.
    Kurt Moose, MK and Joe Lovett like this.
  2. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

    Part 2.

    So after a couple of weeks of not touching the module I came back to try it again. This time things worked better.

    So I decided to use a dark stain on the wood. It turned out pretty good.

    So I decided to just use an Uno for the controller and things work perfectly with that unit. I’m not happy with the solutions needed to get it to work right, but I set it up so I can do software revisions. So here is the layout in the new box.


    Here it is installed inside the box and the box attached to the module, and the power supply.

    And here is the first couple of buildings. It didn’t take long to build these and I really liked the simplicity of the kits with pretty good details. They are from Outland Models.

    That’s all for now. I will post more a bit later.
    Kurt Moose, SLSF Freak and MK like this.
  3. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

    OK I wont be able to post any more pics until I get home tonight, but in the mean time I can explain my thoughts on this setup.

    I first got the idea of an automated tram when I build my very first layout in HO scale. I had a trolley from Bachmann that I automated with a Circuitron AR1. For those who don't know this AR1 doesn't reverse the phase on the tracks like the Digitrax device does, this one uses photo resistors to reverse a DC signal to make a DC device such as my trolley run back and forth. It only has 2 sensors, and you can adjust the stop time before it goes the other way. Speed is controlled by a DC throttle. It worked only when there was light in the room, and not too much. I couldn't use it when the sun came in strong through the bedroom window. I thought there had to be a better way to do this and a way with more than 2 stops.

    That question got me into some research. I found there were micro-controller devices that I could use and that the use of IR sensors would allow the system to work in all lighting conditions. I picked up a few Arduinos and some other shields and started learning how this could happen. I never implemented another trolley in my future HO scale layouts, though the idea never left me. I started modeling in N scale and found once again a need to automate a trolley or tram. The layout I had in mind would involve 4 or more stops, the tram would run out to the end stop and then reverse to the beginning making all the stops on the way back. I even wanted to possibly have multiple routes and multiple trams. I also wanted a "home" button that would cause the tram to return to the home location and a display that would tell me which direction the tram was heading and it's next stop. I started researching code for this and found this was well above my skills as a coder. I then started experimenting with just the basics like making a motor work, changing displays on a screen and the such. I'm no expert but I can manage. I can read the code, and adapt code that has already been written to suit my needs but designing code from scratch is not my area of expertise.

    This brings me to this layout. I no longer share a desk with someone else at work so now I can decorate it how I see fit. I want a train going around my desk! Well maybe that is a bit out of the question, but I can build a small portable diorama with an automated tram. So out came the Arduinos again and a sensor shield and a motor controller. I found code that would allow me to use the shields, integrated some motor functions to power the track into that and BAM!! SUCCESS... I wish...

    So I had many issues getting this system to work correctly. I don't know what happened but I have 5 dead generic Arduino Nano's now. After some help from the Arduino forums I was able to get the program to run on a Uno board, I am not happy with some of the solutions to the problems I had with it, I do have the option to fix them in the future by uploading new software to the Uno board. For now it's stable and runs. This is a stepping stone to the automation I really want with the multiple stops, a display stating location and direction, and the emergency button for stopping or home or both. That will come later...

    So now here I am with a small 19" x 19" city with a tram that goes round and round and only stops in 2 locations.
    BoxcabE50 likes this.
  4. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

    OK so sorry for not updating, I have not been online for much of anything lately. Good news is I have a new shop to work in now and I did make progress on the module. But before I get ahead of myself I need to post what I have done so far...

    Well I thought it was going to work... GRRRR... I guess my work computer wont let me upload pics here, even when they have been e-mailed. Oh well, I will try to get the updates when I get home.
    SLSF Freak likes this.
  5. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

    Ok sorry about the delays, I finally have some internet time at home!!

    so on to Part 3

    So with the automation worked out and the bits installed in the layout, it was time to move onto the buildings and track placement.

    here are the first 2 of the buildings from Outland models.


    I liked them so much I bought a few more.


    Working out the placements of everything


    I think I found how I want everything, so I glued down some cork EFA48E9D-F0BE-4E6D-9A3A-32ED65FED80F.jpeg

    Note the hole for the sensor, or power. More on that in the next post. So far everything os going smooth, and I keep testing along the way.
    Kurt Moose and MK like this.
  6. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

    Part 4.

    Ok so here we gat all caught up to how the layout looks right now! With the cork in place and the track’s position all figured out it was time to finish the wiring for the sensors. I decided to hide the sensors in the track bed instead of along the sides of the track. This imho looks better than having a giant bush hiding the sensor modules.


    Testing functionality, and everything works. The sensors are held in with hot glue. I simply filled the hole they now live in locking them in place.


    Double checking everything. Yup all good.

    And now the roads! I used drywall compound and basswood strips to raise the road to track level. The main buildings will be raised up again on some more cork, to even everything out.

    That’s it for part 4. Stay tuned for the next episode.
  7. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

    Here is a quick vid of the tram during testing.

    Kurt Moose and MK like this.
  8. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

    Part 5.

    ok I got the roads sanded, and a filler coat added to level out a few low areas. I will make another video here soon of the tram running with the tracks now buried in the road. I know the grooves are really wide but I found that the tram didn’t like them being too narrow. These Kato Centrams are really sensitive to their track.

    A4B6546E-3DD4-469E-BC6B-67D1AFFDFA6D.jpeg 07E679DA-1FF4-451D-8272-394FBD17282F.jpeg
  9. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

  10. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

    That is just BEAUTIFUL!

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