Summary: A Wi-Fi Throttle usually refers to a throttle app/program on a mobile device. These applications exist for iOS, Android, and Windows. Normally the device is a smart phone, but can also be a tablet.
There are a number of ways to have wireless throttles using Wi-Fi technology, some are software based for a smartphone, others are complete handheld throttles.
Full Featured Throttles
A few DCC manufacturers have begun offering a fully featured handheld throttle with Wi–Fi connectivity.
The Universal Wi–Fi Throttle from TCS is a fully featured handheld throttle. For more details, see their web page.
Wireless Throttle Apps for Mobile Devices
- Engine Driver
DCC Interface Options
The Wi-Fi device which bridges between the wireless devices and the wired network is called a Station. It can be a free-standing device or built into a computer.
To match the throttle app running on the mobile device, there are various ways to interface to a command station:
- Computer-based: A computer running an application such as JMRI and a Throttle Network/Computer Interface. The computer must be on the same network as your home Wi–Fi, or function as a Wi–Fi station. JMRI has a menu item called Start WiThrottle Server to allow a connection. There may be additional configuration required to use this method.
- Ethernet Bridge: A device such as the Lenz 23151 that bridges between your home network and your DCC system. No additional computer is required. The bridge must be plugged into your home network's Wireless Router (or at least on the same network). Some DCC command stations such as the ESU ECoS 50200 have an Ethernet network bridge built in.
- Wi–Fi interface: A DCC system which has Wi–Fi capability included. No computer or cabling to your router is required. The Roco Z21 is an example of such a system.
Wi–Fi Throttles and JMRI
The easiest way to use a Wi–Fi Device, such as a smartphone or tablet, is JMRI. For more information on the Java Model Railroad Interface, visit the JMRI page or their website at Sourceforge. JMRI is free software, so this is a low-cost way to enjoy a wireless throttle.
You can download software for your smartphone from the internet. Some have a basic version with the basic features at no cost, or you may have to purchase it. A full version with all manner of features will cost you, but at a substantial savings over buying a wireless throttle for your DCC system.
Software is available for both Apple's iOS and Google's Android powered devices. Google will help you get to the respective online stores where the software can be downloaded.
Putting It All Together
You will need the following:
- Layout with a compatible DCC system
- A computer to run the JMRI suite
- A network connection for the computer
- An interface between the layout's DCC system and the computer
- A wireless router (a station) on the network your computer is on.
- A mobile device which can connect to your wireless router.
Getting it Going
Once you have installed JMRI and got it working, select the WiThrottle option under Tools/Throttles
Start the software on the device. At some point it should connect, you may have to do it manually the first time. There should be an option to discover networks, select yours and it should connect.
The window JMRI opens should display all connected devices as they establish a connection with the WiThrottle server.
Command Stations Featuring Wi–Fi Connections
The following command stations incorporate a WIFI station:
Digikeijs DR5000 - DCC Multi-bus central
DIGICENTRAL Command Station
The first command station with all imaginable connectors combined in one device. Clear LED displays and integrated USB, LAN and Wi–Fi
From their webpage: DR5000 Multi-bus central features:
- Communication with computer/control program;
- Protocol L.NET or XpressNet V3;
- Virtual COM-port, speed 9600, 19200, 38400, 56800 of 115200 Baud.
- Firmware updates
- L.NET T (LocoNet)
- Interface for L.NET devices (Controllers, Throttles, Feedback modules etc.)
- L-NET B
- Interface for L.NET devices: Controllers, Feedback modules etc. Max 12v/1000mA power;
- Interface for L.NET devices including boosters (rail-sync). Max 12v/600mA power;
- Interface for XpressNet devices: MultiMaus, LH100 etc. Max 12v/1000mA power;
- Interface for R-BUS feedback modules.
- 8 Interface for ROCO Boosters, e.g., the MultiMaus boosters 10764 LAN as a booster together with the DR5000
- Interface for Lenz-RS-Bus feedback modules.
- Interface for s88N feedback modules. Max 16 x 16 input modules (256 inputs);
- Interface for DR502xEXT modules (bi-directional).
- DCC rail-output. Max 19V/3.2Amp. Lower voltages by other power supply. Min 14V.
- DCC programming output. Max 19V/800mA.
- Automatically switches from Track-Out to Program mode so the programming rail can also be used.
- - 100baseT Ethernet. Can be connected to a local network via DHCP.
- Wireless network via internal antenna.
- Both networks can be accessed via UDP / IP and TCP / IP;
- Protocols: Lenz XpressNet and/or L.NET-TCP/IP;
- Wi–Fi/LAN settings can be changed via a web-interface;
- The Wi–Fi / LAN module can serve as an AP (access point) as well as a router between the DR5000 and Wi–Fi home network (LAN).
- Disable Rail output.
- Enable Rail output
- IR receiver compatible with Uhlenbrock IRIS and Piko DigiFern (or other RC5/36Khz remote controls).
- 4 channels, per channel directly to be controlled/switched, 1 lok and 4 switches.
Further control possible through X-BUS and/or L.NET (manual)controls, the DR502xEXT modules or via the USB/LAN/Wi–Fi interfaces.
Also see RocRail Wiki for more info.
From the Manual:
- With the Z21 Digital System, model railway control is as easy and exciting as never before: locomotives, switches and digital components of Roco and Fleischmann can be controlled easily and conveniently from your smartphone or tablet PC – ensuring maximum driving fun from the rst moment! The Z21 Digital System is made up of three modules:
- The Z21 Digital Centre is a high-performing state-of-the-art multi-protocol centre. It integrates perfectly into your model layout and allows controlling locomotives and digital components easily and conveniently by smartphone, tablet PC or multiMAUS.
- The Z21 mobile app is a universal control software for Android and iOS-based smartphones and tablet PCs. With this app, you can control all locomotives with DCC or Motorola decoders and program loco libraries, entire locomotives, loco functions and digital components.
- The Z21 driver stands are apps with detailed reproductions of actual locomotive driver stands. Become a virtual loco driver – and run your favourite locomotive with your tablet PC from an exact virtual driver stand.
The system includes a WLAN Router.
- X-Bus, predecessor to XpressNet
- CAN Bus
- LAN (Ethernet), the included WLAN connects here.
It also has connections for a "Sniffer Bus", programming track and your main track bus.
Supported by an app for Apple iOS and Android devices. See the website for more details.
A bridge is a device that bridges between two protocols. In this case, it will allow a third-party throttle app to connect to a throttle network. It translates the throttle's commands into those compatible with the throttle network it is connected to. While many Wi–Fi based bridges work with the WiThrottle protocol, they are specific to the usually proprietary throttle network they are connected to.
These devices function as both a Wi–Fi Station and a throttle network interface. This is not the same as a wireless bridge, which is used to extend a wired or wireless network.
The LNWI supports 4 throttles, LocoNet supports up to 8 LNWIs, for 32 throttles in total.
It is compatible with WiThrottle and Engine Driver apps via the Hoffman WiThrottle Protocol.
It is directly connected to LocoNet, with Plug and Play installation. If offers a number of configuration and security options. For more details see the Digitrax LNWI page. It cannot be used with a LAN (Local Area Network), the only network it will connect to is LocoNet.
- Digitrax has added support for the TCS Wireless Throttles. A firmware update is available to update the LNWI to support these throttles.
Third Party Options
NCE CAB Bus Wi-Fi Interface allows you to use WiThrottle and Engine Driver apps with the NCE Cab Bus. The device functions as a WiThrottle server using the Hoffman WiThrottle protocol. It translates the WiThrottle commands to the NCE Cab Bus protocol. Supports up to 4 throttles. Cab Bus Compatible, works with any NCE Command Station such as the Power Pro, Smart Booster and Power Cab. Installation of JMRI is not required.
Two RJ–12 sockets provided to connect to the Cab Bus
- NCE PCP/UTP Cab Bus Wi-Fi Interface
Replaces the circuit board in your NCE Power Cab Panel or Universal Throttle Panel to provide Wi-Fi Control using popular apps such as WiThrottle, Engine Driver, or the TCS UWT-100 Universal Wi-Fi Throttle. Works with NCE Power Pro, Smart Booster and Power Cab. The WFD-31 does not allow CV Programming.
The difference between the two WiFiTrax interfaces is that this product includes a wired throttle interface to the Cab Bus. It also has two additional RJ–12 sockets, one for connection the the Cab Bus, one for the Power Cab, and others can be used for throttles.
- Direct Wi–Fi supports 4 Cabs/Throttles
- Home Net allows connection to a Wi–Fi router, supports up to 7 throttles
- Loco Roster stores up to 16 locomotives with named functions specific to each locomotive
- Accessory List stores up to 16 named accessory decoders, which can be accessed by name or address
- Most of these products will work with iOS devices such as the iPhone/iPod Touch, or an iPad, with the exception of Engine Driver (Android).