The Solar Express Model Railroad Solar Powered Outdoor Model Railroad
at the  South Florida Science Museum     West Palm Beach, Florida
Grand Opening - September 1st, 2007

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Solar Powered Outdoor Model Railroad at the South Florida Science Museum... West Palm Beach, Florida has designed, donated & installed a large size ("G" scale) outdoor model railroad at the South Florida Science Museum in West Palm Beach, Florida. The entire system is powered by solar panels that are hooked up to a charge controller, deep cycle batteries and a power inverter that converts 12 volts DC to 110 volts AC. That in turn supplies power to the train systems transformers. By pushing buttons at the exhibit, visitors are able to start and stop the elaborate solar powered train system and many animated items.  

  Because South Florida was basically founded via the railroad, we tried to keep the train layout as historically accurate as possible. There are two different trains running on the system. One is a 1950's passenger train and the other is a cattle/freight train. The layout also has many period buildings, electric signs, crossing lights and moving train signals. There's even a working scale size carousel... all operating from the solar system. The layout was designed so even if there is no sun over a long period of time, there would still be plenty of reserve power stored in the batteries to operate the train system for several weeks. 

Below are pictures from the Grand Opening held on  9/1/2007

Rick Newman

< The Solar Panels that power the entire exhibit

This is why we do what we do!

Here is the Blue Sky Inc. Charge Controller and our Switching Unit
mounted in a watertight plastic box to protect the electronic components.

Click Here to see the other things we have
done for the South Florida Science Museum.

Electrical components used in the "Solar Express"
ICP Solar Panels
 8Amp, 16.5Volt, 130Watt
model #SE-8000
ICP Solar Panels
Bluesky Charge Controller
12 Volt, 25 Amp
Model #Solar Boost 2000E 
Bluesky Charge Controller
Bluesky Temperature Sensor
Battery Temp Compensation
 Sensor for Charge Controller
Bluesky Temperature Sensor
West Marine Batteries
Deep Cycle Gel-Cell Batteries
12 Volt, 73AH, Group 24
West Marine Deep-Cycle Batteries
AIMS Power Inverter
12-120 Volt, 150 Watt
Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter
AIMS Power Inverter

We would like to thank the following for their donations, help & support.

RC Hobbies located in Fort Lauderdale
Model Trains, RC Boats, Airplanes, Helicopters, Trucks & More
S-M-A Communications ICP Solar Systems
Blue Sky Energy Systems

Aristo-Craft Trains

   Aristo-Craft Trains

Here's how a Solar System Works
A complete solar system consists of a solar panel, a battery and a
charge controller. If you need 110V AC, a power inverter is also required.
How a Solar System Works

    Solar panels produce direct current (DC) power when a solar panel is connected to a battery, this power is stored in the battery for later use. A charge controller connected between the solar panel and the battery monitors the battery and prevents the solar panel from overcharging the battery while assuring a complete charge.

An animated version of how solar power works

    A solar powered system requires an inverter when the DC power needs to be converted into alternating current (AC) power to operate appliances, electronics, etc.

    Solar Panels convert light into electricity at the atomic level. Some materials exhibit a property known as the photoelectric effect that causes them to absorb photons of light and release electrons. When these free electrons are captured, an electric current results that can be used as electricity.

    In 1839, French scientist Edmund Becquerel discovered that certain materials would give off a spark of electricity when struck with sunlight. This photoelectric effect was used in primitive solar cells made of selenium. In the 1950s, scientists at Bell Labs revisited the technology and, using silicon, produced solar cells that could convert four percent of the energy in sunlight directly to electricity. Within a few years, these photovoltaic (PV) cells were powering spaceships and satellites.  

    The most important components of a PV cell are two layers of semiconductor material generally composed of silicon crystals. On its own, crystallized silicon is not a very good conductor of electricity, but when impurities are intentionally added—a process called doping—the stage is set for creating an electric current. The bottom layer of the PV cell is usually doped with boron, which bonds with the silicon to facilitate a positive charge (P). The top layer is doped with phosphorus, which bonds with the silicon to facilitate a negative charge (N).  
  The surface between the resulting “p-type” and “n-type” semiconductors is called the P-N junction (see diagram above). Electron movement at this surface produces an electric field that only allows electrons to flow from the p-type layer to the n-type layer.  

     When sunlight enters the cell, its energy knocks electrons loose in both layers. Because of the opposite charges of the layers, the electrons want to flow from the n-type layer to the p-type layer, but the electric field at the P-N junction prevents this from happening. The presence of an external circuit, however, provides the necessary path for electrons in the n-type layer to travel to the p-type layer. Extremely thin wires running along the top of the n-type layer provide this external circuit, and the electrons flowing through this circuit provide the cell’s owner with a supply of electricity.

    Most PV systems consist of individual square cells averaging about four inches on a side. Alone, each cell generates very little power (less than two watts), so they are often grouped together as modules. Modules can then be grouped into larger panels encased in glass or plastic to provide protection from the weather, and these panels, in turn, are either used as separate units or grouped into even larger arrays.

The three basic types of solar cells made from silicon are
Single-Crystal, Polycrystalline, and Amorphous.

  • Single-crystal cells are made in long cylinders and sliced into round or hexagonal wafers. While this process is energy-intensive and wasteful of materials, it produces the highest-efficiency cellsas high as 25 percent in some laboratory tests. Because these high-efficiency cells are more expensive, they are sometimes used in combination with concentrators such as mirrors or lenses. Concentrating systems can boost efficiency to almost 30 percent. Single-crystal accounts for 29 percent of the global market for PV.

  • Polycrystalline cells are made of molten silicon cast into ingots or drawn into sheets, then sliced into squares. While production costs are lower, the efficiency of the cells is lower tooaround 15 percent. Because the cells are square, they can be packed more closely together. Polycrystalline cells make up 62 percent of the global PV market.

  • Amorphous silicon (a-Si) is a radically different approach. Silicon is essentially sprayed onto a glass or metal surface in thin films, making the whole module in one step. This approach is by far the least expensive, but it results in very low efficienciesonly about five percent.

The diagram below shows how a solar system generates
electricity that is uploaded into the local power company's grid.

For more info on Solar Power, check out these links

American Solar Energy Society (ASES)
Alternative Technology Association
Canadian Solar Industries Association
Energy Information Administration
The Energy Foundation
Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC)
How Photovoltaic Works-U.S. Dept. of Energy
International Solar Energy Society (ISES)
Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)
National Energy Education Development (NEED)
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
North Carolina Solar Center
Photovoltaics for Students, Educators, and Trainers 
Photovoltaic Systems Research & Development
Renewable Energy Opportunities on the Farm
Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP)
Renewable Power Association (RPA)
Solar Electric Power Association SEPA)
Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)
Solar Energy Society of Canada
Solar Glossary (from the U.S. Dept of Energy)
Solar Living Institute

For more info on Model Railroads, check out these links

Abbink Software: Software for computer control of NMRA DCC systems.
ACCU-LITES Lighting products for model railroads
Accurate Lighting Accurate Lighting features many model railroading products in HO, N and Large scale.
Aero -Car Technologies Fine quality lubrication products for model railroads, and other hobbies.
Alder Models Manufacturer and retailer of HO resin structures
Aristo-Craft Trains Large Scale (1:29 and 1:24) Model Trains
Atlas Model RR Company N Scale, HO Scale, and O Scale Model Trains and Supplies
Athearn N and HO Scale Model Trains
Athabasca Scale Models Ltd. Canadian and American prototype brass kits
Blackstone Valley Railway Custom wooden bridges.
Blair Line Manufacturer of signs, bridges, structures and scenic accessories in HO and N scale.
Bollinger Edgerly Scale Trains HO scale prototype craftsman kits and accessories.
Bowser Mfg. Co. Model Trains For Big Kids
Bragdon Enterprises Scenery supplies and kits
Cooper and Oshtemo Loco Works Specializing in HO freight and diesel locomotives
Cranberry Junctions  manufacturer of Sandy River Car Shops HOn2, HOn30, On2
CVP Products Control Systems
CHAMPION DECAL CO. HO and O Scale Model RR decals
The Coach Yard  manufacturers of brass HO scale passenger cars and Trains
Cranberry Junction HO N HOn2 On2 on line inventory & ordering manufacturer of Sandy River Car Shops
Custom Creatives Custom waterslide decals any size, any color(s), logo and graphic design for decals too!
DCC Tester- Test the packets on your rails
Digitrax: DCC Manufacturer
DPS Systems For model railroading we offer DPSRail - our premier model railroad design program, and Train Scheduler - for easy design of train schedules. manufacturer and retailer of precision hobby tools
E&C Shops Manufacturer of HO & N scale products
Fast Tracks Manufactures turnout and crossing assembly fixtures and accessories that helps model railroaders of all skill levels construct hand laid track work that looks great, works great, and is consistently accurate.
GarGraves Trackage Corp. Manufacturers of model railroad track, switches and accessories for O, S. G, STD and Multi Gauge Trains
Green Steam Products Manufacturers of Green Steam Products train detectors, DCC
Historic Model Steam Train Kits - A complete selection of historic HO gauge steam train passenger/baggage cars from America's Golden Steam Age of the 1930's-1940's. Comprehensive parts inventory
Intermountain Railway Company
Jelsma Graphics  America's railroad embroiderer and railroad art dealer
Jonat Merchandise Co.  Model Railroader Building interiors in full color 3D effects.
Juergen Freiwald- Software for DCC (Lenz and Wangrow)
JR Scale Models Produces the current designs of modeller John Rendall. Specializing in backwoods buildings for logging and mining, these all wood craftsman style kits
Kamloops Junction wood products and kits- design and produce craftsmen type kits for your Railroad
John E Richards Builder in Brass of Australian Model Steam Locomotives
Kam Industries Produces software for computer control of DCC systems
Kappler Mill & Lumber Company Specializing in precision scale wood products for the model railroader 
Kaslo Shops Cast resin manufacturer of Canadian Prototypes.
Kato USA Scale trains and accessories
K&L  Software Design Model Railroad Roster. Prototype operations software
Laser Images Works Custom model railroad kit production, Hobby Laser Engraving, and Laser Cutting, Personalized Gifts, Commercial Engraving, Kits, Prototypes, Models.
Lenz GmbH Manufacturer of DIGITAL plus, NMRA DCC Equipment. World's leader in decoder production and sophistication.
LGB Large Scale (1:22.5) Garden Model Trains
Logic Rail Technologies Signaling circuits & accessories, digital fast clock, electronic scrolling sign
Mainline Enterpeise  manufacturers of G-Gauge roadbed and accessories.
Marklin Model Trains Manufacturer of three rail and #1 Gauge Trains,
Model Rectifier Corporation Homepage for MRC
Mountain Modelcraft- Model railroad landscaping supplies.
Musket Minitures/Rustic Rails 1860's to early 1900's N and HO scale.  Metal people, animals, lots of wagons and detail castings. 
NGauging  Bridges Bridges We custom build model railroad bridges and trestles in Z, N and HO scales.  All products are built one at a time by hand using basswood.
Nye Lubricants, Inc
OPI Industries Trac-LiteTM, a relatively new track tester
Precision Products 3D Plastic Veneer sheets for the Scratchbuilders in G scale
ProTrak realtime railroad operations software
Oak Tree Systems LLC products for computer control of model railroads. Included are block sensing and other inputs, signal controls, turnout controls, track drivers, and handheld controllers. All products are DCC compatible.
QSIndustries - The MTH ProtoSound unit and many other products in model railroading.
Railway Design Associates- Sole Producers of their line of Fine-Scale Trackside Structures in N, and O gauge
Rebel Rails RailWear ™--Railroad Tees, Sweats, Caps, Mouse Pads, Bibs, Coffee Mugs, Tin Signs, Placemats and more
The R.F. Giardina, Co. Manufaturer of Parts, Supplies and Reproductions for American Flyer.
Rix Products Manufacture of model railroad kits.
Scotware The home of Railfan Express, the model railroader's inventory program.
Show Case  Miniatures line of n-scale and G scale products
The Signaling Solution  Manufacturer of DCC systems, train detection, signal control and layout control electronic modules.
Signal Computer Consultants- Train Dispatcher Rail Computer Game
Smokey Valley Railroad Products Manufacturer of HO cast brass stanchions and pre-bent brass wirefor handrail kits as well plastic kits for the GP 15 and S1S3S10Alco hood and other fine plastic detail parts.
South River Modelworks Craftsman structure kits in HO
Sunrise Enterprises -Manufacturer or Parts, Signals and Structures
Switch Yard Decals Custom decals and limited run prototype decals.
TAI Lubricants-TAI Lubricants- Superior Lubricating Kit for the Model Rail Roader
Train Set Electronics Model Railroad 20 seconds sound recording and lighting electronic module.
Trigtrax Manufacture Special O Gauge accessories - Catenary System -Bridges - Stations - Viaduct - Electronic Controls
Walther's Model Railroad reference
Watermark Enterprises We manufacture model kits which produce scale railroad bridges. All our kits feature precision, laser-cut parts.
Western Rail Products End of Train Flashers, Diesel Engine Strobes, Caboose Flashers and Magnetic Uncouplers
Wheels of Time Makers of N-scale rolling stock for the serious hobbyist.
Yesteryear Creations  Manufacturer of HO and N Scale Photo Etched Brass Kits including Windmills, sawdust burner, barbed wire fence, fire lookout tower, and weather vane
Zimo Elektronik- DCC Manufacturer
ZTC  design, manufacture and retail/wholesale worldwide NMRA compatible DCC multi-train control systems.

For Model Railroad Publications,
Videos & Info check out these links Hobby This magazine covers all kinds of technical hobbies. Like R/C-modelling (Cars, Airplanes and Boats), Model Railroading, Plastic Modelling and most other form of Scale Modelling, everything about "technical culture" including the real thing and its history.
Cedco Publishing publishing glorious train calendars and books
Continental Modeller -A British magazine covering the world of modeling scenes from around the globe in miniature. It is produced by PECO the world famous producer of track and other modeling equipment.
Crossing Classifieds Crossing Classifieds (Model Railroad classified advertising)
Green Frog Productions- producer of video and audio tapes for railfans, model railroaders, kids of all ages, and anyone who loves trains. We are also a dealer for railroad related computer software and atlases.
Mining Company Model Railroading is a guided website featuring weekly, useful, mined netlinks, a weekly feature, moderated chat and interviews, discussion group, site search and events. This site is for hobbyists by a hobbyist.
Model Railroading Magazine
Model Retailer Magazine A monthly trade magazine that covers the business of hobbies, from financial and shop management to industry trends and product releases
National Video Source/Train Videos
O- Gauge Railroading- featuring the fine art of O-Gauge model railroading
Virtual Crossing is a bimonthly, on-line model railroading newsletter. Each new issue will feature modeling tips, building and layout construction, hobby news, prototype photos, links to great train-related web sites, and much more.
Steam in the Garden Garden railroad magazine
Underground Railway Press - Publisher of plans for logging, main line, narrow gauge, short line and traction railroads in various scales

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