Sunday, December 11, 2011

CONTROL PANELS - Part 2

After drawing the control panel faces and printing them out, my wife was kind enough to laminate the printed drawing for me.  As a backer I used 1/8" plywood and with spray adhesive glued on the laminated panel drawing.  This will then be drilled for electronics and mounted to the control panel cases with screws.

Laminated print out and 1/8" plywood backer

Speaking of controls, we managed to get WiThrottle up and running so now anyone can use their I-Phone, touch, or pad to operate trains on our layout.  With throttles running $100 or so we are counting on WiThrottle to augment our deficiency in the throttle department.  I guess some of you are asking, what is WiThrottle?  WiThrottle is an app for an IPhone, IPad, or ITouch, that you can purchase from the Apple.  It was actually developed by Brett,  a member of our Friday night operating group.   How does it work?   The WiThrottle app used a local wireless network to connect with the computer running JMRI, which in turn, is connected to the DCC system you are using.   The advantage of WiThrottle is that since it interfaces with JMRI it is an universal throttle that will work with Digitrax as easy as NCE, of course so long as your DCC system is connected with a computer.  Because you are using a wifi network, the signal is much stronger than what your typical DCC wireless system is capable of so you don't have to worry about loss of signal,...etc..   What's the downside?  The only real issue becomes if your wireless network has security, you will need to give out your password to WiThrottle users, or, do what we did and create a separate network for your model railroad.  
An ITouch with the WiThrottle App, controlling to locomotive in the background.

HOW?  I'll detail exactly how we set all this up - it should be fairly universal although there might be some difference with how your specific DCC interfaces with JMRI.  In our case we pulled an old Dell desktop computer out of storage. It runs on Windows XP and was a pretty basic model when bought.  It lacks a wireless card so all network connections must be over wires.   We modified our benchwork to fit the bulky old monitor and computer into the edge of our layout.  It is located about 6 feet or so from the NCE control box and they connect using a serial cable.  These are hard to find, and expensive from radio shack, however, you can find them very cheap at All Electronics online.  I had to buy two to connect together and to reach the computer without stretching.   Back to the computer - I dumped the hard drive as they were totally virused up and just loaded the basics that I would need.  Then I downloaded the latest version of JMRI.  This is a free download.  Since there was no wireless card in the computer I just stretched a 50' cat5 cable from the computer, upstairs to my router and plugged it in - only to download JMRI.  You then follow the prompts to set up JMRI for your specific arrangement.  From then on when you load JMRI it should recognize your DCC system, NCE in our case and say so on the title screen.
The JMRI Screen showing one WiThrottle in use.

In our case we wanted to have a separate wireless network for only the model railroad that we could leave unprotected so it would be easy for guests to access.  This was as simple as purchasing a cheap older model wireless router - most routers are now N type, but I used an older G type as many of the N type needed a newer version of windows to set up.   I just plugged the router in and ran a Cat 5 line from the computer to one of the hardline ports on the back of the router.   So when someone turns on WiThrottle on their device, the network will come up as available.  There is a window you open in JMRI to turn on WiThrottle and it will list all the devices being used.   Fear not, if you have an Android phone there is an app available for your phone also.


1 comment:

railbuilder dhd said...

Jim
I would add a password to your wireless railroad network so it can't be accessed from anyone and thus using up your bandwidth. If you just add a password like the name of the steel mill is all you need. Pass that out to your guests and then you don't have freeloaders using your network. Also with one network pluged into your other hackers could easily get to you computers and thus data.

Dave