Christmas Train Controller

My kids have been bugging me for years to get a train set to put under the Christmas tree. They like the thrill of watching  train circle the base of the tree, and besides there’s a Christmas train set at Nanny and Pop’s house!

We found a cheap Christmas train set at our local variety store. After putting it together and giving it a run I discovered that the train runs on batteries (not surprise here) and has an on/off switch underneath the loco. One of the track sections has a lever which raises and lowers a cam which turns the train on or off.

The train also plays an audio track when it’s turned on. When the kids hear that sound they come running. They also now bug me to run the train. Time to hack the train set…

I want to be able to automatically turn the train on and off and I want to be able to schedule when the train is turned on and off.

To turn the train on and off I want to use an RC servo controlled by an Arduino to move the lever between the on and off positions. I drew a base plate to be laser cut from 6mm aluminium plate. The track section with the level is placed into the base plate and a RC servo motor mounted on the base plate so that it can actuate the lever.

The Arduino will control the RC servo with the standard Servo library. To keep accurate time I’ll need a real time clock which is not built into the Arduino. I used the DS1307 RTC  kit from adafruit. This will allow me to run the train for 1 minute on the half hour in the evenings.

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