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LEGO Train Automation with RCX PBricks

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Uploaded on Aug 15, 2010

Hi All,

this movie is about my favorite toy: LEGO (and building across multiple themes). Classic bricks, technic bricks, PBricks of all kind -- basically all stuff that TLC has in the shelves -- freestyle!

This is my very first movie, so please forgive all shaky, stretchy, too loud, too quite, and too whatever sections.

Very briefly:

Each train shown is controlled by an LEGO RCX1.0 PBrick. It picks up power from the rails (9 -- 18 V AC or DC) through a modified LEGO 9V train motor. Should AC/DC power fail on some track stretches, the RCX falls automatically back to battery power. The RCX outputs power the 9V train motors. Each train has a unique ID. The PBricks communicate with a host control program via the IR link and a 2 byte message protocol (e.g., message 192 + message 15 means that the train with ID 192 should run at full power level, 192+98 = head light on etc.).

Since IR communication always need a line of sight, I have built half duplex IRRF-transceiver bricks, which run smoothly at 3 V, 10 mA max. (and thus can be powered from an active RCX input). A host control program running on a PC generates the 2 byte messages and sends them to the LEGO IR tower. The host IRRF transceiver converts the IR light to corresponding 433 MHz RF bursts. All trains have identical IRRF transceivers on board. The transceiver translates the RF bursts to IR light which are detected by the RCX. The RCX acknowledges any recognized messages to the host control program, so that a reasonable amount of protocol safety is established. My host control program is written in stone age VB6.

There is more information available, check the RailBricks website (a quite lengthy article in magazine issue 3 and an instruction in the building section "Diesel Locomotives" for a GP40_RCX).

More to come ...

Play well and have fun!

Thorsten

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