Train With Switch Tracks

I just started getting into 3D animation and I have found blender to be extremely powerful and slightly daunting at times. I am working towards creating a simple train example as part of my learning process. I have no problem creating the train and getting it to follow a curve. I am using a simple cube with an array modifier which I then attach to a path. So far so good. However I am now attempting to create a more complex track system. I would like to be able to have the back few cars follow a different path once it reaches a certain point. Is there a way to attach an object to a curve at a specific place in the timeline?

Thanks in advance!

Bonus question: Am I going about building the very simple train in the correct way by using an array modifier … or should I just great each car as a separate mesh and just parent them to each other.

Short of hand animating the cars…

Duplicate the first path, and then just modify it to follow the second track. Then just parent the last cars to the second path.

But the only problem with this type of animation is if you want to do anything more complicated it tends to get very complex very quickly.

Although I would seriously recommend investing the time into learning keyframe animation. It’ll definitly help you now and in the future.

The thought that comes to my mind is that you could have different paths for each segment of track, such that the train switches from one path to another. The length of the path segments probably would not exactly coincide with the track segments: probably a switch’s path would extend beyond both ends of the switch.

Obviously, for some distance beyond a switch (in one direction), the two paths would exactly coincide in 3D space, and maybe there’s an empty placed at precisely the right spot to trigger a “collision” to cause the object’s path and location to be correctly updated.

I think that the idea would work in-principle; it might take more-than-a-bit of hair pulling to get it to work seamlessly, but that’s a fairly routine occurrence in 3D-land…

The animation of the points would probably be keyframed, and I’m thinking in terms of using an animated lattice. That would let you achieve a smooth bend of the rail.

I would just duplicate the path, parent the back few cars to the new path, then change the direction of the second path at the point where you want them to split off. That way the train is together until the path’s separate. Make the back few cars start with a separate object with an array modifier. So you have 1 object that leads the first few cars, and a second object that leads the back few.