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DCC++ Microblock trains

Retrofit Nanoblock (tiny lego) trains for computer control

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Nanoblock trains retrofitted with DCC decoders, running on Kato track controlled by DCC++ and JMRI. Or that's the idea anyway.

Train sets are great. But you know what else they are? Expensive. And, sometimes, a bit snooty.

For me a train set is no fun if it isn't automated, and I am not interested in realism or historical accuracy. And I don't want to drop thousands. But now we have open source! With an Arduino and some free software you can now cut a huge chunk of the cost of building one of these things out.

When I discovered the adorable Nanoblocks make trains that run on standard track I was intrigued. I thought it would be fun to have proper computer controlled model trains that can be customized as easily as tiny lego. And while not exactly cheap, they're a fraction of the cost of regular N gauge locos.

Having been inspired by the astonishing Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, I plan to retrofit some Nanoblock trains with DCC encoders and build a tiny cyber punk world for them to drive in.


The plan is to use:

  • Nanoblock trains
  • DCC++ running on Arduino Nano
  • JMRI to control the trains from a computer
  • Aftermarket DCC decoders wired into the Nanoblock locos
  • Kato Unitrack (job lot bought off ebay)

I doubt I'll ever get to the cyberpunk part. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

MPEG-4 Video - 7.90 MB - 04/10/2020 at 17:12

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  • Frist test of DCC++ and decoder wiring

    arcade perfect04/10/2020 at 18:40 0 comments

    Decoder is wired in and working. But casing no longer fits.

  • Old experiment

    arcade perfect04/10/2020 at 17:29 0 comments

    20170917_221637 from arcadeperfect on Vimeo.

    Early experiment using a small micro controller and a motor controller rather than DCC. It's just running a hard coded forward backward loop. The plan was to control via wifi.

    Kind of cool that the train could be truly programmable more like an independent robot than something controlled by a central brain as with DCC. It could have a pi zero and even a camera and some open-cv - the possibilities!

    But I couldn't cram it all into the body of the train since the nanoblocks necessarily protrude too far into the inside to keep the structure solid. I could glue just a thin shell. But on top of that it would be so much more work to get it running I just went for DCC. Maybe one day.

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arcade perfect wrote 04/21/2020 at 12:40 point

smart idea! Too late for these ones, but I'll look into that if I do any more.

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C. Scott Ananian wrote 04/20/2020 at 16:54 point

I just installed a Digitrax DZ126T decoder in a nanoblock NGEX-002 motor unit this past weekend.  The trick was to put it under the motor -- there are three square metal weights down there.  If you take out the top one, and dremel a bit of an opening, you can squeeze the DZ126T in there.  I trimmed off the heatshrink and any unnecessary wires and wrapped it in kapton tape instead to save a little more space.

I put some pictures up at https://twitter.com/cscottnet/status/1252282154094071810

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