Automated window closing to quiet down trains


Ed Rogers lives very close to the railroad tracks. If you’ve ever been near tracks like these, you’ll know that they can be quite noisy, making an open window a bit of a pain in the butt. Ed got the idea to build a system to close his windows when trains pass by. This cuts down on the noise greatly, not to mention growing his geek cred by 10 bajillion.

His system of detecting trains is pretty cool too. He has a webcam facing the tracks, and some fancy software to determine when the train is in frame. I’m a bit curious if other things set off the sensor (like a bird flying close by the camera), since his hand can set it off. The windows do close pretty slowly, I wonder if he could somehow predict the trains passing and close the windows preemptively.

story found via Nerdstink


  1. Me September 13, 2011 5:03 pm 

    Yeah, you’d think he’d be able to get a schedule online these days. Or do it acoustically.

    it’s really cool, but it seems ineffective to close the window after the train is already going by.

  2. kak September 14, 2011 3:12 am 

    preemptive would be 2 cams pointed up and down the track a ways to give the motion detection a head start.

  3. kj September 14, 2011 3:50 am 

    i would suspect that the schedules that can be found online will only have passenger train information.

    also why choose a quiet actuator when the train is clearly louder? i personally would value speed of closure over quietness ensure i get more quiet time.

    and is there no way you can angle webcam(s) to allow earlier detection?

    otherwise it’s a great idea for a common problem.

  4. Fisher. September 14, 2011 4:56 pm 

    Speaking as a fellow Madison resident, I know for a fact that the freight trains that run through town (and across some of the busiest streets in the entire city) are not on any recurring schedule. For the first two years I lived here, there were two train crossings between my work and home. Commute time (one way) would vary between 20 minutes and 1 hour, depending on trains.

    I also lived next to the tracks. I feel his pain.

  5. chester September 14, 2011 5:37 pm 

    I think the solution is reasonable for a first version, but not really feasible for somewhere where I live. For starters, linear actuators are hideously expensive here, so perhaps scavenging a small windscreen wiper motor from the local junkyard and rigging a pulley and cable system behind the curtains can take care of that.

    As for detecting the trains, perhaps you can try something with a cheap laser-pointer bounced off a small mirror on the other side of the tracks onto a Light Dependant Resistor (LDR) next to it. You can even make the Arduino compensate for daylight if you want to.

    This should cut the PC out of the mix, saving you a boatload of money in electricity.

  6. MrTea September 15, 2011 11:13 am 

    hey nice project :-) thanks for sharing Mark !

    once i needed a motion detection on a project (to detect cars passing on a road) i just bought an Asus wireless router with usb2 ports for around 20usd (on taobao) then reflashed it with OpenWRT linux fware. Then installing the right additional linux packages i got Linux Motion detection app running on it. With a cheap luvc webcam connected on the usb port of the router.

    Turned out pretty stable and finally no need for any PC computer to leave running etc. Only the wifi router connected to the usb webcam standalone. Could even power the whole stuff using portable battery. Could also upload data through internet to a server if needed or store data on a usb flashdisk attached to the 2nd usb port of the wifi router. OpenWRT can even iface to a 3G Huawei USB modem if you wish to get some internet data link without having any wifi available around the router box…

  7. cdev9 October 9, 2011 12:38 am 

    He sounds as if hes struggling with some health issues similar to mine. That ultrafine carbon black from cars and trains is a known health problem. And its not just the asbestis in brake shoes.. diesel exhaust dust is very bad for people… It lowers IQ.

    It can also cause major allergies that could lead to COPD or asthsmaWhat he needs is something called a heat recovery ventilator with a high quality, cleanable, washable filter on the intake. Basicallybtwo fans and a heat exchanger beween them so he can get fresh air from outside in a balanced manner.. fan in fan out. You can save a lot of money on medical bills by making sure your air is fresh. Try to get it far away from the busy street, Manbe from a bac window that opens into a garden?

    Intake and exhaust have to be six feet apart… or it doesn’t work,

    They are very useful, I have one and I am building a second one.

    Then he can leave his window shut and still get a constant supply of air. He will want to take his air as far from the train tracks/busy street as possible and in dusty places it helps to get the intake as high above the ground as possible.

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