WiFi Throttles & USB

Fitting a USB charger to your layout?
PLUS   WiFi THROTTLES – using old iPhones!

  • they are  handy for charging a lot of “devices” these days – phones; tablets; pads; cameras etc.
  • or in my case it has a specific purpose – to charge my WiFi throttles.

I have become a convert to using mobile phones as throttles. I first tried Android phones but lately I have become convinced that old iPhone 4s models are the go!

This post is supposed to be about USB chargers so here we go:… wait a moment!
The setup below is out of date now!
A bit disappointing I suppose. But on the right is a little 2 port USB outlet powered by the 12V DC bus which runs around my layout. It is a something I picked up from a marine supplier.

It now looks like this:
and the charger is a more powerful model by Jackson and purchased from Jaycar Electronics. It still only just does the job, rated at a total 3.1Amps. If you can find a higher output unit, go for it.

On the shelf there are still 3 very old iPhone 4S mobile phones and my old Android phone which has … “carked it!”

The iPhones are ancient in the modern world of devices and each phone above  was donated by friends and family who had them stuck away in drawers and cupboards. They have the old 30 pin connector and nothing uses them these days. I did my research first and discovered that I could buy the USB to 30 pin cable for peanuts on the web. Get this:
On eBay of course and the cost? ……. $5 for 5 complete cables including postage!!
If you don’t believe me look at the eBay site. Back to the phones.

You need to get them to Erase All Content and Settings. This can done by:

iPhone:

  1. Going to Settings and tap General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.
  2. Then remove the SIM card as it has no use in a Throttle.
  3. Or best of all – look at the explanation on this site.

Android:    Look at the explanation on this site.

THROTTLES: you need to load an app into the phones:

Wi Throttle Lite on the iPhone
or
Engine Driver on the Android

(this will still be possible via WiFi using your App Store or Play Store.

This is what they look like used to look like when running on the device:

The people who kindly develop
Wi Throttle for iDevices have made a couple of significant improvements.

iPhone 4SWi Throttle Lite – this is what the “Address” screen looks like.

It is showing the Roster obtained from JMRI Decoder Pro which must be running in the layout room. The phone connects to this by WiFi and displays several screens. This the one shown as “Address” (lower middle).

I have scrolled down the list and selected 4201 then “Set” that selection. Next I will select Throttle circled in RED.

 

 

You can now select from 4 sub menus:

  • Recent selections
  • Keypad entry if you know the engine number
  • Roster of entries for selection
  • A list of Consists (ie previously coupled together locos)

It now looks like this – this one being the “Recent” list.

And this one – the Roster list.

 

 

The next Throttle screen looks like this:

This is the major improvement: in this version, to see multiple control (Function) buttons, you had to swipe sideways which was a little awkward.
NOW, the function buttons now scroll UP and DOWN which seems more intuitive

The selected loco is shown with a green background.

The throttle is a slider on the right.

Direction can be predicted by the arrow pointer at “Idle”

The BEST BENEFIT – you don’t have to remember F numbers and what they do!
The Functions are in text on the buttons (albeit abbreviated) and you can put them where you like.

 

The next screen is now revealed by a swipe UP and shows more Functions. As below.

 

 

This is the second page of Functions.

You can have more if you like, on another screen!

To be quite honest, I now rarely use the command station throttles on my NCE system.

 

 

Android Option called Engine Driver.

Once WiFi has been established, this is the next screen.

When you press “Select” a Roster list appears and you select the loco.

 

As below:

 

 

 

 

 

This screen lists the locos in the roster obtained by WiFi from JMRI.

 

Touch the loco to select it.

 

Previous locos are retained in a “Recent” list for convenience.

 

 

 

 

 

The loco is now selected and the window shows the loco number, directions with the current selection in green.

This throttle is a horizontal slider.

Both throttles have a few options in preferences.

Speed steps shown at top right.

The Plain language buttons are a feature and there is room for plenty of them .

 

 

I have only lightly covered the interface between JMRI and Wi throttles. Perhaps another blog post??  (if there is any interest)

Regards – Rick

Lima 42 Remotor + DCC

The old Lima 42 class diesel has been around my layouts for decades and I am not too proud to run it mixed in with all my more recent and highly detailed models. It ran well on DC and even better on DCC with a LokSound V4.0 decoder coupled with a replacement pancake motor and pickup on all wheels.

The motor shown in the top 2 photos was purchased on eBay as a specific replacement for the 42 class and other similar models. It satisfies the requirement of isolating the motor from the frame for DCC and runs well.

I always try to achieve pickup on all wheels or as many as possible. In this case it was easy. I added two small pieces of PCB to form solder pads. They are clearly visible attached to the two sideframe brackets with epoxy and carrying the RED flexible feed wire and the phosphor bronze pickup wires.

Note the holes shown in the bottom of the chassis to the top left. These are for the speaker shown in later photos.

A thicker piece of copper wire connects the 2 pads and one carries the p/bronze wires for 2 wheels and the other for 1. The photos show the setup.

The photos above and below show the decoder attached to the roof of the body shell with Blu Tack and small piece of strip board (Veroboad) used to carry the series resistors (1k – 1000Ω) for the front and for the rear headlights. Notice the “interrupts” cut into the tracks under the resistor. These were made with the tip of  a small drill. This isolates both ends of the strip. Normally the resistors would be mounted on the other side of the board but this method works  just as well

In the photo above I have removed most of the interior glazing except the sections for the front and rear windows. The portholes are glazed with Butyrate 15 thou strips held in place with tiny spots of Canopy Glue. [K & S Clear Plastic Sheet #1308]

In this model I used a 5mm (front) and 3mm (rear) yellow glow LEDs with ends of the LED filed flat and then polished. To avoid light appearing from other than the headlights, I carefully painted all but the front of the LED flat black.

I couldn’t find an appropriate and cheap socket to accept the 8pin decoder plug on the LokSound V4 so I made my own from a machined pin DIL (Dual In Line) IC (Integrated Circuit) 8 pin socket (eg Jaycar part# PI-6452 or on eBay).

The first step is to carefully cut the socket into 2 parts…

… as shown here.

Clean up the cut edges – the ones below need to be filed, but it’s not important as the correct spacing is achieved by gluing the IC socket back together on the smooth faces…

… as shown below with the prepared pair stuck in a blob of Blu Tack. Rough the surfaces a little and bond together with a spot of epoxy.

For this installation it suited me to bond the lead weight into the chassis with silastic and epoxy the prepared socket to the top of that. I have an old plug cut from another hard wired LokSound decoder that I can use as a guide to indicate which coloured wires need to be soldered to the rear of the new socket.
Note that installing the socket this way means that the off-centre plug can only go in one way around (good).

The mounting position of the speaker is shown above requiring some holes to be drilled in the bottom of the chassis. The speaker (which is not my preferred sugar cube type but was one of a number of spares I had in the workshop) is mounted just clear of the surface to allow sound to escape into the body shell. The speaker fits within the its housing but importantly, needs to be very carefully sealed into the housing. I use Canopy Glue on a toothpick to carefully seal every gap around the edge of the speaker, keeping it clear of the speaker cone. Also seal the spaces where the wires exit the housing – silastic may be better here.

This was the 25mm (1″) 4Ω  1.5Watt speaker and enclosure used for this project.

Here is a short video:

“Charles” Gets a Decoder

A project with a difference – PART 2.
A friend has a Fleischmann™ type 4028 0-6-0 Steam Locomotive which he would like to use as a “proving” loco for his under-construction Wolgan Valley layout. It’s a sort of a recycling exercise. This is the next exciting episode – Charles gets a decoder!

The decoder is a LokSound V4.0 running the ESU sound file: 54413-LSV4.0-Dampf-BR80-R5      It sounds like this:

Very Germanic!! But it will be OK for the purpose, assuming that the NSWGR may not have bothered changing the whistle.

This is where the LokSound decoder will reside. For a tank engine, the Fleischmann 0-6-0 has plenty of room. After a little testing, it was least obtrusive in the cab roof and is held in place with Blu Tack.

There are other things to do with DCC sound installs one of which is the Speaker and more details will follow. This is one is my favourite Sugar Cube speakers in my favourite mounting area – the smokebox. That way the sound comes from the right part of the loco! [post coming on fitting a sugar cube into the smokebox of a brass 30T class loco]

The motor, especially in this ringfield type requires special attention to make sure that it is isolated from the frame.
There is excellent technical advice on this in an article I obtained on the “All Aboard” Mittagong website – except it doesn’t seem to be there any more. The original PDF file I downloaded from “All Aboard” is however available HERE.

The replacement Isolated Motor Shield is shown below fitted to the mechanism. It is sold as Fleischmann replacement part # 50 4730 and is available from All Aboard as a spare part (not shown on the web site).

Here you can see the wiring from the decoder to the motor – Orange and Grey to the motor and Red and Black to the track pickups (loco frame and wheels). Some other wiring is visible and is described below.

The decoder has a number of unused function wires and they are held captive by the (yellow) kapton tape. Two extra simple PCBs are also visible. Simple PCBs are described in THIS POST.
The one on the LEFT has 4 strips – 2 carry the brown wires to the speaker (in the smokebox) and 2 carry the wires to the front headlight.  The bottom strip can be seen to have a connection via a resistor to the WHITE function wire (headlight).

The value of the resistor is 3k3 (3,300Ω) indicated more clearly on the board to the RIGHT where the colour code is ORANGE, ORANGE, BLACK, BROWN, BROWN which is 3 3 0 (1 nought) and (1 percent tolerance) ie 3300 Ohms ± 1%  This value is higher than most people use but it provides a more prototypical yellow glow in the Warm White LED.

Image© courtesy eBay

Incidentally the LED is a tiny pre-wired device where the LED size is 1mm x 0.5mm and is available in Warm White, Bright White, Red and Green & available on eBay for ridiculous prices.

Sold as: Pre-soldered micro Litz wired leads Warm White SMD LED 0402

They will fit into the smallest headlights on a loco but must be handled with care.

The pcb to the RIGHT is shown in detail below and feeds the rear headlight and the 3k3 resistor is on one strip which has been interrupted under the resistor making 2 isolated pads.

The common wire is BLUE and feeds to both small PCBs. The YELLOW wire is the function output to the rear headlight.

The speaker used is a Sugar Cube which measures 12mm x 14mm x 5.4mm thick (bare). This is one being prepared in an enclosure.The following speaker is ready to go in:More about speakers in a separate Post.
And to save you scrolling back up – the photo below is repeated and shows the sugar cube sitting in the Smokebox and under the chimney which has been drilled out so that the sound is coming from the front of the loco both top and bottom. I will go to any length to try to get the speaker OUT of the tender and into a more realistic place. You can detect the difference in a passing HO loco.

If the speaker enclosure is mounted on the chassis it is inconvenient to wire as a plug and socket arrangement would be needed. Instead, I have located the enclosure to the inside of the body shell by the simple of expedient of a blob of Blu Tack in the top of the body which “grabs” the speaker when you assemble the two parts.  [Yes, I know … there should be a plug connecting the decoder and the motor/pickups but I got lazy]

Here is another loco with homemade plugs and sockets so that the body mounted  speaker can be separated from the chassis:The 2 brown speaker wires from the decoder are connected to the speaker via a 2 pin plug. The body and chassis can then be separated. This loco is a 73 class shunter.

The next episode will cover painting into NSWGR “colours” but in the meantime, here is a preview of “Charles” making some noise! Deutschland Über alles!

DCC

The basics of DCC at “Brolgan Road”.

The backbone is a commonly used NCE system comprising a 5 Amp power supply to the left and the Power Pro DCC Command Station to the right.
The primary controllers are both wireless and consist of a Procab on the left and Cab-06 on the right.

The wireless antenna is mounted high on the wall and coverage is excellent in the small layout room.

Ground zero is near the main station Brolgan Road. A laptop slides out from beneath the layout when required. Left to right on the fascia: Brolgan Road Panel; the only NCE cab bus outlet (no others required with radio); a switch to isolate Brolgan Road DCC sub bus and the Procab. The shelf underneath houses L to R: a 12V power supply for the Canbus/ servos/ ancillaries; a grey box controlling power to the layout via DCC or DC (rarely used – just for testing); two track sections used as “Programming Tracks” – one for JMRI and the other for the Lok-programmer (shown below).

JMRI DecoderPro provides another throttle but more importantly, a means of programming the decoders in locos in a simple way and while operating on the main (line).

JMRI  stands for “Java Model Railroad Interface” – it is an open source program for model railway (railroad) hobbyists. It includes DecoderPro, Panel Pro and a Throttle. The computer above runs on the house WiFi and in my case I have a WiFi extender in the layout room as the signal from the router (modem) in the house is patchy.

Other throttles which can be used include:

  • smart phones,
  • tablets
  • iDevices

… using either “Engine Driver” app on Android or WiThrottle on Mac. Phones need to connect to the WiFi network in the layout room.


The DCC signal is fed to the rails and provides power to the loco; control of the loco(s) and other devices; and sound – if the decoder is so equipped. On the photo above the DCC main bus is “A”. There are some excellent websites explaining DCC operation and wiring and one of the best is by Marcus Amman at Main North.

The other Bus pairs shown above are:
B – 12 volts to power servos and other equipment.
C – DCC sub-Bus (because even though you can run ALL of your layout on the main DCC bus, it is bad practice when it comes to fault finding short circuits or other problems. Much better to isolate areas so that the fault can be found and operations can continue on the rest of the layout.
D – my CANBUS which is a control system which manages everything on my layout. See the post on MERG.

On the drawing board is a lot more material on DCC for future posts… Rick

Modifying Peco Points for DCC

A Peco Electrofrog point modified for DCC is shown below. I have added the microswitch to the right which changes the polarity of the frog as the point changes. The microswitches were about 50c – $1 on eBay and are activated by the push rod controlled either by:
mechanical point levers
or by servos.
On this page “Point” = “Turnout”  / “Switch”       “Sleeper” = “Tie”The microswitches need to be small – these are 20mm x 10mm x 6mm thick (body size)

These were the microswitches I used but …
… the longer arms on these may have been better (can be trimmed)

The first step is to attach the microswitch in exactly the right spot as shown below.

The critical bits are:

  • I always fit the microswitch such that the electrical switch contacts are towards the “Right” rail which is always a RED wire on my layout. The centre connection  on the switch goes to the Right rail – clarified further down in the YELLOW BOX
  • the hole in the throw bar must be able to operate the lever on the microswitch (and NOT miss it!)
  • the switch needs to be positioned so that the throw bar will operate the switch (hear it “click”) when the points are thrown.
  • the switch is attached using contact cement (in my case Quick Grip). First work out which surfaces of the point and the microswitch will fit together – they need to be scraped or filed smooth for a good bond. I scrape the underside of the point with a blade and file the bottom side of the microswitch to level it (actually, I hold the microswitch and rub it back and forth on a file).

make sure you don’t get glue into the moving parts and hold it with a clamp as in the photo below.

There won’t be any wires on your switch at this stage.

The two bridging wires here need to be prised out. Check the instructions with new points or on their website.

The easiest way to lever the two short wires is with a small screwdriver.

Then put a small amount of flux on the 4 rails shown. Use something like Carr’s Red Label or DCC Concepts Flux – a non-corrosive type.

The 4 rails have had a spot of solder to “tin” the rails and on the left a piece of tinned copper wire has been soldered in place. You can buy that from electronics suppliers like Jaycar.

The rails on the left are bridged and trimmed; the wires in the middle removed; and attention moves to the frog connection on the right.

The wire provided needs to be extended to reach back to the microswitch. Use similar size tinned copper wire. Here the extra wire has been twisted around the original and will be soldered together first then run down the length of the point.

This diagram explains what is happening electrically. In my method, the switch becomes part of the point to feed the correct polarity from the Common connector on the microswitch to the frog – as shown above by the GREEN connection 3.
On my layout, an additional (Light Blue) wire from the Common connection on the microswitch is taken below the layout to be used to indicate which route is set on the panel. This means my panel LEDS show which track has power.

The extra tinned copper wire has been soldered to the point wire and is run in the least conspicuous path. I gently melt the wire into the underside of the sleeper with the soldering iron to hold it in place.

The wire from the frog terminates at the Common connection on the switch – may be labelled       “C” or “1”

The wire from the frog terminates at the Common connection on the switch – may be labelled           “C” or “1”

This rail area indicated has been tinned ready for connection …

…and this one ready for the other side.

As the run is only a few mm, bare tinned copper wire is fine.

Another view.

These wires run through the foam benchwork and connect to DCC (red & green) and the 3rd light blue wire provides a common connection (from the frog) to allow an indicator to show which way the points are set.

The LH connection is the common pole in the SPDT switch (SPDT= Single Pole Double Throw)
The middle contact connects to the red (Right rail DCC wire) and the RH contact connects to the green  Left rail .

This template locates the cut-out needed to accept the microswitch under the point.
The red lines are used to align it to the rails as the switch is off centre. In this case the point was being operated by Wire-In-Tube via the trench shown.

Having marked out the position of the recess for the microswitch, cut the underlay and foam with a sharp knife.

Routing the hole to a depth of 10-12mm with a Dremel (and vacuum cleaner).

Dremel Cutter
Ready for a test fit.

The final steps which can be done after the point is installed:

  • remove the over-centre spring IF you are using servos to control the point – this can be done from the top.
    My points are operated using servo control technology designed by the MERG UK group and built by the user. The points operate at a slow speed and can be set up using a computer interface to smoothly touch the stock rail. See MERG site.
  • leave the spring in place if you are manually switching the point.
  • notice that the sleepers near the mechanism have been thinned down from their over-scale size.
  • if servos are used, the throw bar ends can be cut off.
  • weathering will improve the realism of the installed point.