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Projects

To MIT students, the Tech Model Railroad Club offers a unique experience. At one level we're a social club: we meet to see our friends and we go out to dinner every week. However, we also offer a chance to do some hacking with a purpose, to get involved with a real, messy (but small) engineering project that offers a change from abstract P-sets. Finally, you can contribute something that will be part of MIT for fifty years or more. That's what these projects are about.

TMRC is a choose-your-own-adventure sort of club. Our layout is so huge that there are always half a dozen projects going on somewhere. There's always benchwork, scenery, trackwork, cars and locomotives, software, electronics, electronics, and electronics to work on. It's our club rule that nobody has to do anything. There's no mandatory work of any kind. Some of our alumnus members haven't done anything useful in years! Instead, just find something you'd like to do and jump in. If you don't know how, our club members have experience of all kinds and everyone's willing to offer opinions or assistance. In the end, not only do you get to hang out with one of the most offbeat and inventive groups of people at MIT, but you can also point to something on the layout and proudly say, "I built that! (Why isn't it working?)"

The following table can give you some ideas. It shows the major projects going on at TMRC, and some others we'd like to get started. If you are interested in any of these projects, please e-mail us at: tmrc-web@mit.edu. Of course, the best way to find out what's going on at TMRC is to visit one of our regular Wednesday or Saturday evening meetings and talk to us. We're more than happy to show you around the layout and help you get started on a new project!

Current ProjectsDescription
Our latest tethered throttle design

Radio Cabs

We have a walk-around layout... so we need walk around cabs. Help us cut the cord and control our trains wirelessly!
Some of our mainline signals

Layout Signals

We need dozens of new signals in the layout: signal bridges, dwarf signals, signal towers, etc. Help build current designs, or make a new one of your own design.
Cleaning track the hard way

Track Cleaning Car

TMRC invented cruft, and we remain committed to producing plenty of it. Our rails get very dirty very quickly, and this can stop the trains from running. The solution? Regular track cleaning by a dedicated motorized car. Even better: what if the cleaning car ran over the layout automatically, like a rail-bound Roomba? There are all sorts of interesting possibilities with this project.
East Berkmannville as it stands today

Scenery: East Berkmannville

There are several TNP customers in the east end of Berkmannville that haven't even been planned yet. There's also a big chemical plant (see below) and a lot of track and ground cover that needs to be finished up. This is one of those areas where you can do pretty much whatever you like.
Standard Hydrocarbon and Petrochemical, still on the drawing board

Scenery: Chemical Plant

Wanted: a maze of tanks and pipes and a real switching puzzle.
The Whatahack River

Scenery: Bridges

The Whatahack River in Gifford City is spanned by not one but three working lift bridges! At least it is in our imaginations. Try your hand at a moving piece of railroad sculpture!
Killianport station platforms

Passenger Stations

From Killianport to Burns, help fill in the missing spots on our timetable!
Some cars in our staging yard Future railcars still in the boxes

Rolling Stock

Like to work on the trains themselves? We have dozens of new cars to put together and detail, and over two hundred older cars to play with.
The Benedict Arnold and commuter trains in Gifford City

Passenger Trains

The TNP's signature passenger trains, the Aaron Burr and the Benedict Arnold, are in need of inspection and repair. We also have high-speed rail, and lots of commuter equipment to build.
The MITCo trolley carbarn

Trolley Track

Gifford City has a trolley system under construction. The raised wire is nearly finished but we need the electronics to make it all work.

These are future projects, which we could put in the front-line if you are interested in them. These are usually longer-term than those above, but they can be great projects too!

Future ProjectsDescription
Some of our floodlights and fluorescents

Mood Lighting

Our club room has both fluorescent lights for daytime and incandescent spotlights for evening. Wanted: night lighting and electronics to tie it all into the system clock.
One of the lit buildings in Berkmannville

Building Lighting

One exciting part of having day and night operations is the sight of dozens of buildings lit up from inside. We have a few built around the layout, but we need more and we need to create the circuit boards to drive them all from our network.
An early attempt at optical identification

Car Identification

With over 200 freight cars and 50 locomotives, keeping track of where everything is can be quite a hassle. We need a system that allows the computer to find every train and car on the layout. Can it be done with RFID? Something else? Try to solve this challenging problem!
One of these days this helix will go somewhere

Upper Levels

Someday our main helix is going to go somewhere. The line from Berkmannville to Tuckerton is still on the drawing board, so come help us plan and design the newest part of the TNP!

John P has made some progress here recently.


Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT
MIT Room N52-118
265 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139

+1 617 253-3269
x3-3269 (on campus)
Email: tmrc-web@mit.edu
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