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  • Topic: Inexpensive but powerful wireless DCC

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    • February 20, 2020 2:14 PM EST

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      Inexpensive but powerful wireless DCC

      So, previously I made an inexpensive DCC system, which was also portable. The goals were not only cost and portability, but fully functional with well-worked out capability.

       

      (Many inexpensive systems have shortcomings in the programming or control department)

       

      So my first foray was based on the NCE PowerCab system, which is an inexpensive 2 amp, 12v system, with an inexpensive 5 amp booster (Tam Valley) added:

       

      The street price for the PowerCab is about $160, the booster, $50, and a 5 amp 20v supply about $18, so for under $230 you have a full featured DCC system 5 amps at G scale voltages.

       

      The next step was to add inexpensive wireless throttles, using a free app on a cell phone. I did this with an inexpensive laptop ($70) and a cheap wireless router ($30), so for another $100 I have basically unlimited wireless throttles:

       

      I put it in a small rolling case, the power supplies are under the laptop (case cost $11) This system is running JMRI, so you have the wireless "server" to connect to cell phones running the free apps for throttles, plus the JMRI control of trains, and the graphics programming interface, and the locomotive database.

       

      But in terms of compactness, there is a new option if you just want wireless support of cell phones, WiFiTrax is developing this small wireless server board:

       

      http://wifitrax.com/products/product-WFD-30-detail.html

       

      So just adding this to the system above, you can have a full 5 amp wireless DCC system in the size of a cigar box, in fact I will build one this way just for fun. The board has a list price of $110, should be available soon. (the picture is big, but the board is small)

       

      Another full featured option to DCC folks.

       

      Greg

       

       

       

      This post was edited by Greg Elmassian at February 21, 2020 12:09 PM EST
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    • February 20, 2020 4:40 PM EST
      • Port Orchard, Washington
         
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      Greg,

      That's a neat idea, but I think Martin Sant has got you beat on a portable DCC setup that works with the Protothrottle...

       

      I've seen a lot of home brew DCC systems pop up recently that use the popular Arduino chips.

    • February 20, 2020 5:52 PM EST

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      Not talking about the fancy looking throttle, that system is abysmal for programming, as I put in the post, many systems do not have the capability or the code reliability to do everything.

       

      There's a reason clubs use NCE, because all the service mode options are there, and also it has very well worked out software.

       

      Also, the title is inexpensive but powerful... the proto throttle is anything but inexpensive.

       

      This protothrottle lists at $482 plus you need a $100 wireless interface and you still do not have DCC, not a 5 amp system.

       

      So with power supplies and booster the protothtrottle system is at maybe  $650 vs the system above at about $330...., and Protothrottle system still doesn't have support for your cell phone throttles which are basically free.

       

      This system is more capability at half the cost, can run 4 cell phone throttles and several wired throttles at the same time.

       

      Greg

      This post was edited by Greg Elmassian at February 20, 2020 5:55 PM EST
      ____________________________________

      Be sure­ to visit ­my site, l­ots of tec­hnical tip­s and modi­fications,­ and you c­an search ­for topics­ and key w­ords.


      ­Click HERE for Greg­'s web sit­e
      PLEASE NOT­E: Please do NOT use private messaging, i­f you have­ a questio­n, feel fr­ee to emai­l me priva­tely, u­se regular­ email onl­y: greg@el­massian.co­m

    • February 20, 2020 6:02 PM EST
      • Bundaberg, Queensland Australia
         
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      Now that first setup is very interesting.

      I could use parts of it for a small scale layout I am building ( I know its not G but the concept is transferrable).

      I have;

      • Powercab with connector board.
      • Raspberry Pi that is looking for something to do and I can get JMRI for it (laptop substitute?)
      • An old router doing nothing
      I do not need a booster because I will be only running a max of 4 locos so 2A will be heaps.

      I was looking at a concept called DCC++ (where I can get JMRI for the Pi) and from the brief read I had I think they do something similar with phone controllers.

      JMRI control of trains plus graphics etc is mostly what has got me interested in this.

      As I am starting out it may be a good time to research this and keep an eye on this thread.

    • February 20, 2020 6:22 PM EST
      • Port Orchard, Washington
         
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      Greg,

      Yes, it certainly isn't the cheap option. Btw with Martin's widget, you "only" need the PT, his widget and a cheap DCC amp.

       

      What do you think about a Rpi running JMRI vs a laptop? That seems to be common in the smaller scales. 

       

      I was reading you comments more as a "portable" DCC system vs a cheap system.

    • February 20, 2020 6:26 PM EST

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      Right, you have a command station and sophisticated throttle for $160, super deal.

      Yes, Raspberry Pi would be a good choice, of course since I got an entire laptop with wifi, screen, keyboard, touchpad for $70, going to be hard to beat.

      The output of the standard PowerCab is 2 amps but only 12 volts, kind of low for G scale, but like I said, $50 for a 5 amp booster, and a 5 amp laptop supply at 20 volts is cheap.

      As soon as I can get the new board, will indeed have a picture of it in a cigar box.

       

      Greg

      ____________________________________

      Be sure­ to visit ­my site, l­ots of tec­hnical tip­s and modi­fications,­ and you c­an search ­for topics­ and key w­ords.


      ­Click HERE for Greg­'s web sit­e
      PLEASE NOT­E: Please do NOT use private messaging, i­f you have­ a questio­n, feel fr­ee to emai­l me priva­tely, u­se regular­ email onl­y: greg@el­massian.co­m

    • February 21, 2020 2:12 AM EST
      • Bundaberg, Queensland Australia
         
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      Greg Elmassian said:

      Right, you have a command station and sophisticated throttle for $160, super deal.

      Yes, Raspberry Pi would be a good choice, of course since I got an entire laptop with wifi, screen, keyboard, touchpad for $70, going to be hard to beat.

      The output of the standard PowerCab is 2 amps but only 12 volts, kind of low for G scale, but like I said, $50 for a 5 amp booster, and a 5 amp laptop supply at 20 volts is cheap.

      As soon as I can get the new board, will indeed have a picture of it in a cigar box.

       

      Greg

      Greg,

      Not sure if I clearly explained that I am planning on using it on HO layout, so the booster would not be necessary as the 2A 12V is more than enough for my locos.

      It is the JMRI component of the original setup that I am interested in.

      Is there anything on your site about it?

      This post was edited by GAP at February 21, 2020 2:13 AM EST
    • February 21, 2020 2:53 AM EST

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      the jmri component is pretty simple, in this case, there is a usb to nce cab bus interface

       

      is your question about the interfacing, or installation, or use/features of jmri?

       

      Greg

       

      ____________________________________

      Be sure­ to visit ­my site, l­ots of tec­hnical tip­s and modi­fications,­ and you c­an search ­for topics­ and key w­ords.


      ­Click HERE for Greg­'s web sit­e
      PLEASE NOT­E: Please do NOT use private messaging, i­f you have­ a questio­n, feel fr­ee to emai­l me priva­tely, u­se regular­ email onl­y: greg@el­massian.co­m

    • February 21, 2020 5:41 AM EST
      • Bundaberg, Queensland Australia
         
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      Greg Elmassian said:

      the jmri component is pretty simple, in this case, there is a usb to nce cab bus interface

       

      is your question about the interfacing, or installation, or use/features of jmri?

       

      Greg

       

      All of the above to different degrees, mostly interfacing, the installation I think I can find on the net, uses/features again on the net if all else fails  asking someone who knows. 

       

      Big learning curve but willing to learn.

       

    • February 21, 2020 11:46 AM EST

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      Actually pretty straightforward, there's a lot of users and it's pretty well supported.

       

      The interfacing part is well documented, and there is a list of what hardware is supported, and it is menu driven as you set it up:

      https://www.jmri.org/help/en/html/hardware/index.shtml

      most of the interfaces are usb or serial ports, some need little converter boxes, for example, my larger NCE system has a real RS-232 serial port on it, so hook that directly to the computer, or a USB to serial dongle. The NCE PowerCab system, being low cost, only has the NCE "cab bus", so NCE makes a USB <> Cab Bus "dongle" which looks like a COM port to your computer.

       

      The installation is pretty much straightforward download and install. A small linux host can be very inexpensive, although since I wanted something portable, having a screen, keyboard, mouse in the same package made a small Intel Atom-based laptop a better choice, since I also have my decoder programmers supported there for Zimo, Massoth, QSI, Phoenix, etc. So I have a portable programming station for virtually all the top brand decoders.

       

      The features are much more than I use, but here's the top ones:

       

      Menu-driven programming for many decoders - this has multiple screens for tons of decoders, and they are grouped by function, so you don't need the decoder manual, don't need to convert binary to decimal, and by just filling in the screen, you can program tons of CV's

       

      Hand in hand with the above is the Data Base, where you can keep information on your locos AND keep a complete set of the CV's as programmed. So, you can pull up the existing/stored settings, rewrite them one, a group, or the entire decoder. Saves you documenting separately what you set things to, makes it easy to copy settings to a new decoder (like if you have several of the same loco)

       

      Another feature is running cabs on the computer, you can select a loco, "push" the function buttons, run the loco from a small window on the screen, and you can have multiple cabs. Again, hand in hand with this is if your computer is connected to Wi-Fi, then you can run the "wi-fi server" which allows more cabs/throttles on virtually any Android or iPhone device, and the apps for the phones are free.

       

      There is also an entire section on automating trains, and displaying your layout schematic. I have not played with this, but it's very powerful.

       

      It's an unbelievably good bargain at FREE!

       

      Hope this whets your appetite!

       

      Greg

       

      This post was edited by Greg Elmassian at February 21, 2020 12:26 PM EST
      ____________________________________

      Be sure­ to visit ­my site, l­ots of tec­hnical tip­s and modi­fications,­ and you c­an search ­for topics­ and key w­ords.


      ­Click HERE for Greg­'s web sit­e
      PLEASE NOT­E: Please do NOT use private messaging, i­f you have­ a questio­n, feel fr­ee to emai­l me priva­tely, u­se regular­ email onl­y: greg@el­massian.co­m

    • February 21, 2020 3:56 PM EST
      • Bundaberg, Queensland Australia
         
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      Greg Elmassian said:

      Actually pretty straightforward, there's a lot of users and it's pretty well supported.

       

      The interfacing part is well documented, and there is a list of what hardware is supported, and it is menu driven as you set it up:

      https://www.jmri.org/help/en/html/hardware/index.shtml

      most of the interfaces are usb or serial ports, some need little converter boxes, for example, my larger NCE system has a real RS-232 serial port on it, so hook that directly to the computer, or a USB to serial dongle. The NCE PowerCab system, being low cost, only has the NCE "cab bus", so NCE makes a USB <> Cab Bus "dongle" which looks like a COM port to your computer.

       

      The installation is pretty much straightforward download and install. A small linux host can be very inexpensive, although since I wanted something portable, having a screen, keyboard, mouse in the same package made a small Intel Atom-based laptop a better choice, since I also have my decoder programmers supported there for Zimo, Massoth, QSI, Phoenix, etc. So I have a portable programming station for virtually all the top brand decoders.

       

      The features are much more than I use, but here's the top ones:

       

      Menu-driven programming for many decoders - this has multiple screens for tons of decoders, and they are grouped by function, so you don't need the decoder manual, don't need to convert binary to decimal, and by just filling in the screen, you can program tons of CV's

       

      Hand in hand with the above is the Data Base, where you can keep information on your locos AND keep a complete set of the CV's as programmed. So, you can pull up the existing/stored settings, rewrite them one, a group, or the entire decoder. Saves you documenting separately what you set things to, makes it easy to copy settings to a new decoder (like if you have several of the same loco)

       

      Another feature is running cabs on the computer, you can select a loco, "push" the function buttons, run the loco from a small window on the screen, and you can have multiple cabs. Again, hand in hand with this is if your computer is connected to Wi-Fi, then you can run the "wi-fi server" which allows more cabs/throttles on virtually any Android or iPhone device, and the apps for the phones are free.

       

      There is also an entire section on automating trains, and displaying your layout schematic. I have not played with this, but it's very powerful.

       

      It's an unbelievably good bargain at FREE!

       

      Hope this whets your appetite!

       

      Greg

       

      Thanks Greg that will give me something to look at.

       

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