Absolute Newby - very basic question - Is Arduino for me?

Good day.....

I am a model railway fanatic, about to design and build a new layout. For this large ( 4 X 3 metres in N Scale ) layout, I want to automate movements of trains. I'll be more specific in a moment. Anyway, I thought that I would need to get a lot of knowledge of electronics, of which I have none whatsoever. You know, pick up the absolute basics. In my internet searching, I chanced upon the Arduino. This is exactly what I believe I need, and will make the project so much easier for me, because I am a programmer for my living.

The sort of tasks that I would like carried out are typified by the following: ( all inputs come from reed switches mounted in the rails, triggered by a loco/carriage with a magnet passing over them. )

2 platforms, a single car-carrier carriage at the end of each. Program starts : a shunting engine comes down the one rail, hooks up one carriage, triggers reed switch. delays 10 seconds, reverses, triggers switch. Rail points change, loco goes forwards and couples one carriage to other carriage. triggers switch. Decouples itself ( electro-magnet in rails ), and reverses back the way it came, and out of sight triggers switch. 3 minute delay, and arrives back, pushing the entire train.......... etc, etc,....

My question is : Is the Arduino up to this sort of thing? Can it wait for a pulse on an input? I am aware that I would need relays to activate the actual train power, rail switches, decouplers, etc. Some of the above items need momentary pulses of power, others need the relay kept on for a certain amount of time.

And thanks in advance for any answers.


My initial reaction was yes, but that wasn't backed by anything other than Arduino can certainly react to sensor inputs of that type, and activating relays is also a snap. Adding some science to my enthusiasm, googling arduino model railway gives pages of projects and examples to get you on your way.

All the best! Geoff


I’m kicking myself. I suppose that because I had never heard of an Arduino before, that it must be mint-new, and no-one had ever thought of railway automating with it.
Thanks for the reality slap, and the link. Plenty for me to read there.

So, it’ll be done deal. I’m sure I’ll be on this forum in the weeks to come with plenty of specific questions…