Creating moving, wirelessly-controlled train LED displays with Arduino

Arduino TeamOctober 3rd, 2017

In order to make his model trains stand out, David G. Bodnar has been working on the best way to integrate 8×8 displays into the cars.

Through the process he’s come up with several great techniques, including a red filter to help them “pop,” as well as wiring things in such a way that sets of LEDs can be used on either side to show the same message.

An Arduino Pro Mini and Nano are used for control, while a Bluetooth module with an Android terminal program enables him to change the text remotely.

I have used LED matrix displays for a number of different projects over the last few years.  These 8×8 LED units have a controller that allows an Arduino to talk to them sending text or graphic information that can be displayed.  These small units can be daisy-chained together to create a long, scrolling display.

While the displays are visually appealing and easy to use they might not get the amount of attention that one would hope they would generate at a train show or other public train display. With this in mind I decided to build an on-board train display using three 8×32 LED boards. Each board is mounted on a car with the three connected together to crate one long scrolling message board. To make things even more interesting and compelling to visitors the display’s message can be changed remotely with a cell phone or computer.

Whether you’re interested in enhancing model trains, or simply want to hear more about integrating LED matrix displays into your next project, you can find more details on Instructables and on his website here.

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