Loco.Engineering | Why did we decide to create a new automation platform for railway modeling and LEGO® trains?

Kolejkowo model railway layout in Gliwice, Poland
Kolejkowo model railway layout in Gliwice, Poland

A few years ago we visited a model railroad layout Kolejkowo in Gliwice, Poland. It’s a well-built detailed layout but with a very limited amount of interactions and automation. Automation in railway modeling is still complex - yes we have DCC, MFX, and other stuff to make our layouts more interactive and give some life to them but it’s still expensive and required a lot of time and knowledge. Check the video channel by Wunderland in Hamburg and look at how much time and effort they spend to create amazing interactions on their layouts. Even when we try to connect just a few signals, barriers, switches, and station displays or when we try to automate 2+ trains we are faced with three main problems: high costs, many wires, and complexity. By developing a new open platform Loco.Engineering we want to solve those problems and give more realism and life to railway and Lego layouts.

Loco.Engineering is the open platform for layout automation. “Open” means here that everyone will be able to use API and open protocol (we call it WCC - Wireless Command Control, check this post for more information) to create apps and hardware (for example, remotes to control switches, signals, and trains). The platform is based on two modern technologies:

  • NFC helps to create different interactions between trains and layout elements. Railways in Europe use a very similar idea for train automation - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurobalise
  • Mesh networking to control and automate tens of thousands of accessories and trains on one layout without command stations, boosters, and additional wires.

To work with loco.engineering modules you don’t need any additional devices and tools - you can do everything from your mobile phones, tablets, and laptops of course. If you’re confused with words like “NFC” and “Mesh networking” don’t worry, you shouldn’t understand how those technologies work. We’ll make installation and adding layout interactions as simple as possible so you should just think about what interactions you want to add at first and what could be added later.

We plan to go into production in November 2022. All electronics will be produced in Poland and of course, we’ll ship worldwide. If you want to be notified when WCC modules are available, subscribe to our newsletter on the home webpage https://loco.engineering. We’ll post updates and describe what we do in each new version, why we do it, and give you some useful links and information about layout electronics and automation.

It would be great to get feedback and ideas about the project from you - drop us a line at hey@loco.engineering when you have free time.