Inexpensive DCC Physical Wireless Throttle.....

Sumner Nov 4, 2021

  1. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Jimmy on DIY and Digital Railroad on YouTube put up a video ( HERE ) showing how to use an USB volume control to give you a physical throttle when using EngineDriver. This is a great upgrade when using a phone throttle in my opinion, thanks Jimmy. ( HERE ) is the link to his video. Watch it for sure for more info on using a USB volume control. With it you have a nice physical (knob) throttle to use with EngineDriver.

    You can source the USB volume control and any cables you need for $35 or less. The cable should be a OTG (on the go cable) between the phone and the volume control. It needs to match the phone's USB input/output. In his case that was a USB C cable. Since I'm using an older phone I used a Micro USB cable (splitter).... ( HERE if the link works). I'm not going to use the splitter function as I'll unplug the cable and use the charging cable I normally use so have a non-splitter OTG cable coming as I write this.

    Also the cable that came with the USB Volume control was way longer than what I needed so used the blue cable shown which came with an Arduino. I tried another short cable that I had and it didn't work. Try it out with the one that came with it first and then try a shorter one. If it doesn't work try a different one.

    I've also designed a 3D printed case/platform similar to the wood one shown here. It will look better but probably won't work better. While it was printing I went out and made the wood one shown here in about an hour. Many of you probably don't have a 3D printer so this is wood one is a viable option and the more I used it the less I thought the 3D printed one was needed. It is a long print at around 15 hours total for the three parts. I'll put the 3D print files up (a link to where they are) if they prove to be successful on my web site.

    In my opinion this is a great throttle solution. I was going to build another one that wouldn't of used a phone but EngineDriver is so much better than what I would have had with that throttle. For me the only negative to using a phone throttle is the lack of a 'physical' throttle. Now thanks to Jimmy that is no longer the case.

    So let's move on to the pictures showing what I did to make this quick throttle..

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    ….. continued on the next page.....

    (The info above is on my site ( HERE ).

    Sumner
     
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  2. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    ….. continued ....

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    Click ( HERE ) or on the image above to see the throttle in operation and more info about it.

    Again, thanks Jimmy, for the great idea and your video ( HERE ).I'll post the 3D printed one soon.

    (Info above on my site ( HERE ).

    Sumner
     
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  3. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    NOTE: If you can use an Android phone throttle (WiFi throttle) running EngineDriver on your layout or another one this will work for you.

    In my case I'm using DCC++EX and the throttle works with it since I'm also using JMRI's WiThrottle. Once I switch it over and use the Arduino Mega with built in WiFi I won't even need JMRI.

    Sumner
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2021
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  4. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    What? Not need JMRI? That's sacrilege!

    Like the knob though!

    How does the knob work when the throttle app is in switching mode (where mid-volume is stop)?

    Does the knob rotate past 360 degrees, or does it have a stop for zero/max volume?

    Nice work!
     
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  5. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    :) Won't be giving up on JMRI, but won't need it if I just want to fire up the command station only (not also the Pi) and run trains. JMRI will still be my goto for decoder installs. I also don't have anything that needs to use JMRI like some do. I'm a simple man with simple needs. I'll follow the train and throw turnouts as needed and maybe have a few Arduinos doing other tasks ;).

    I really have no idea as haven't tried that. Remember though that all the phone throttle controls still work all the time so you can go from the knob control to the phone throttle control and back any time you want to. Just use one or the other.

    It is an encoder instead of a pot so limitless turns in either direction. It has a nice clicking tactile feel that lets you know anytime you twist on it. It is very easy to go one speed step at a time with it, something I didn't find easy when using the throttle on the phone screen. Also no more trying to keep your finger in the right place on the screen to run the throttle up or down or change directions.

    With the knob you can keep a good visual on the engine at all times. A lot more control than I had before when I'd have to glance down at the phone to see where I should have my finger on the screen.

    Turn the knob one way for forward and increasing speed. The other way will bring you back to zero speed. Once there if you keep turning the knob in that direction it will reverse and start increasing speed in that direction. Since it is an encoder you are turning all of this doesn't happen in one 360 degree revolution. That and the large knob makes for very precise control of the loco.

    For about $40 total you need to try it out if you have an Android phone (no phone, pick up a used one dirt cheap). You don't need to have all of it handheld. If you watch Jimmy's video ....



    ..... you can see another option which would be fine for a lot of smaller layouts where you don't need to walk around.

    I feel this is a game changer for a handheld wireless throttle. I feel that now, especially with the 3D printed model shown next, that it is every bit as good as the over $200 wireless throttle I got to use on a club layout a couple years ago.

    Sumner
     
  6. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    I used Fusion 360 to design a housing/platform for the phone and USB Volume Control that could be 3D printed. It was fairly quick and easy to design but the print time for the 3 prints was about 15 hours total using the Ender 3 Pro set on standard print quality. While the printer was doing the first print I made the wooden platform for the phone and USB Volume Controller shown on the two preceding pages. I'm happy with those results and if I didn't have a printer the project would of stopped there.

    But I do have a printer (highly recommend getting one) so finished the 3 prints and put together the housing/platform shown on this page. Love the outcome. It is clean, looks good, easy to hold and works even better than I thought it would. I'm as happy with it as I was with the wireless DCC throttle that I used at one of the club layouts in Phoenix that I visited when I got back in the hobby a couple years ago.

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    I used the 1/4” long screws shown above to mount the top to the sides and 3/8” #4 screws to mount the bottom to the sides.

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    It is easy to get the circuit board for the USB Volume Control out of its case. Pull the knob off the pot shaft and remove the two side screws from the case and the nut on the pot shaft and the PCB is free to use in the 3D printed housing.

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    I ordered the short 6” USB cable to have less cable inside of the housing. The volume control was about $26, short cable $4 , OTG cable $5 and I also ordered a longer 6' Male/Female cable for $5 to go from a charger on a power strip to the OTG cable charging cable (top right USB male plug above).Here are links that hopefully will stay current for a while:

    USB Volume

    ControlShort

    CableOTG Cable

    6 foot Charging Cable

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    I worried that the tops of the screws might interfere with the use of the Velcro and thought I might have to switch to flathead screws but they didn't. The two pieces of Velcro at each spot raised the phone above the screws. I thought also about adding more Velcro in the middle but the four pieces shown do a really good job of securely attaching the phone to the platform.

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    When I got back into the hobby I got to run a wireless throttle at a club layout and knew right away that this is the way I wanted to go. The least expensive way to get into that was about $180 and that was for a throttle and a very limited DCC command station (basically the throttle). To add the items I would need for multiple throttles and a more powerful command station I would soon have over $400 invested.

    Now going with DCC++EX ( Web site here ) I've got a command station with a lot of flexibility and a dedicated train room computer running JMRI and DecoderPro and the wireless throttle show above with physical throttle control for just a little over $100. Now that I have a phone throttle with good physical tactile feedback I feel I have a throttle every bit as good as the one I used at the club layout.



    Click ( HERE ) or on the image above to see the throttle that was mounted on the wood platform in operation and more info about it. The throttle on this page operates in the same manner.

    Again, thanks Jimmy, for the great idea and your video ( HERE ).

    I'll post the 3D print files for the housing documented on this page on my thingiverse.com account soon.

    The above info on my web site ( HERE ).

    Sumner
     
  7. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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  8. jamescoleman1960

    jamescoleman1960 TrainBoard Member

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    I saw Jimmy`s video on this its a something in the future do for me right now thanks for the very nice write up !!!!!!!!!!!
     
  9. FlightRisk

    FlightRisk TrainBoard Member

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    I initially took apart a mouse to experiment because I wanted buttons. The mouse thumbwheel was throttle and the microswitches controlled horn, light, and bell. But I prefer a knob. Then I saw this, it's expensive, and I'm not sure if it can run without power. I would like to try this volume knob and see if the circuit used can let you solder buttons into it or not. Do you have pictures of the guts, @Sumner ?

    https://www.amazon.com/Multimedia-C...cphy=9009690&hvtargid=pla-1327511997551&psc=1
     
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  10. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Are you interested in the one I used or the one in the link?

    As far as I can tell the buttons might not be other functions other than saving three different settings for the volume control. Might be wrong. If the buttons are only saving the volume settings then don't see how they could be used with EngineDriver except for saving possibly 3 different speed settings for the current loco.

    I will say that for me at least having the knob now completely changes using EngineDriver. Much easier and more precise speed control and also the main benefit of not having to look at the phone every time you get your fingers off the correct screen location. I don't plan on making one of Dave's throttles now even though I have the parts. Engine driver is so much more versatile with the exception of the fact that you can be controlling more loco's at one time with Dave's throttle. Not sure you can do more than 2 with EngineDriver but need to look into that.

    I like the fact that with EngineDriver I can select a loco off the rooster I created in DecoderPro or by the number.

    I feel one drawback of DCC++/DCC++EX to this point has been the lack of an inexpensive throttle that has a knob speed/direction capability and now that has been taken care of. I'm sure the future will hold more options but for now I'd like to see the documentation mentioning this one for someone looking at moving to DCC++EX.

    Thanks again for all that you and the others have done and are continuing to do with DCC++EX.

    Sumner
     
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  11. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I keep meaning to take one of those USB volume controllers apart to harvest the electronics, and shrink it down using a smaller knob. I like the NCE style thumbwheel instead of the Digitrax knob (vertical mount vs horizontal mount encoder, and like the idea of making a 3D filament printed case that holds the phone, vertical encoder, and electronics into a throttle.
     
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  12. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    When I saw the pictures, before getting one, I was thinking along the same lines, especially a smaller knob. Now that I've used it I don't want a smaller knob. For me the larger knob slows the throttle done more and I like the feel of the encoder that has nice 'clicking' feel to it. I imagine that we all probably have a different feel that we like.

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    .... I looked at different layout options. Thought I'd like the knob at the bottom but some problems with it there since the phone cord plugs in there. Considered the side but didn't like that either. Of course these are 'my' preferences. I find it easy where it is to use as I'm using the knob throttle probably over 90% of the time and when I need to use the screen it is easy to move to it. I only have one sound loco now (decoders I need to wire in to two more). When I need to use the function buttons more I might change my mind.

    When I look at the throttle in the picture above it actually looks larger in my hand that it feels in real life. I considered getting the phone down into the case and could of easily designed it that way but wanted to make it more universal since I was putting the print files up so left it where the phone sits on the top. Did move the volume control board inside and put the knob at a slight angle. All of that could be changed easily.

    I had considered trying to replicate the circuit board but after looking at it I saw that was above my skill level. Might be an option for you and might save a few bucks but I'll have to pass.

    If one doesn't have a printer or access to one I'd still recommend making some version of the 'wood' one.....

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    as I think it is a big improvement in using EngineDriver.

    Sumner
     
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  13. sidney

    sidney TrainBoard Member

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    i get error 404 on the download page on thingyverse .....
     
  14. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Last edited: Nov 10, 2021
  15. sidney

    sidney TrainBoard Member

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    yes sir ive read all that and it does work when you down load them separately. THANK YOU.
     
  16. FlightRisk

    FlightRisk TrainBoard Member

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    The one you used. I was interested in what chip(s) it uses. I've been talking to the main developers of Engine Driver about some ideas for other devices to plugin via bluetooth or USB.

    I think you know that from day 1, I wanted a throttle with physical controls. It is time to pare down the list and offer options. The key to your throttle accessory is the 3D printed case. Up to now, all of the DCC++ and EX devices are boards. It will be nice if soon we can have kits or even fully assembled devices in a suite of products that handle Command Station, Throttle, Booster and Accessory Buss.
     
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  17. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Here is a picture of both sides and the board and the knob are all that is in the $28 case..
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    The image above and the next one is of the USB Volume Controls circuit board. It is the single component under the knob. I'd thought about finding a circuit that I could put together to do the same thing but after looking at it decided that $28 for the USB Volume Control was a better routed to take as it works out of the box. Also I only really needed physical control of the throttle and don't mind doing everything else using EngineDriver's screen which can be configured in a number of different ways. Think for your 'Conductor' level users that don't want to solder and mess with components this is a great way to go. $28 and a couple cables and their phone or a cheap dedicated one and they have a wireless hand throttle with a physical speed/direction knob.

    With the power of EngineDriver running on the phone they have a very functional hand throttle. I like the fact that once I have my DCC locos in my roster I can pull them up on the screen with either the engine number or by going to the roster. All the function controls are on the screen and one can switch between the knob and the phone throttle controls at will.

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    I think you had also mentioned if having the knob at the top might be a problem with resting your palm on the screen and hitting a function or other entry. I took a couple pictures showing that in use, for me at least, that hasn't been a problem.

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    I've found that holding the throttle as show above is unnatural for me and feels awkward.

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    In my case, at least, it feels more natural when the throttle is at an angle. With it like that it is easy to operate the the knob (throttle/direction control) and I can also see the screen. If I want to hit a function key, for say the lights or a sound function, I remove my hand from the knob and press whichever function key is appropriate.

    Also if someone doesn't have a printer or access to one it is easy to make a 'wood' version of the throttle....

    http://1fatgmc.com/RailRoad/DCC/page-3.html

    Here is the link to the 3D printed one and there is a link there to the print files that anyone can download ....

    http://1fatgmc.com/RailRoad/DCC/page-5.html

    Sumner
     
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  18. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Just curious... Did you experiment with the knob below the phone, rather than above? The off-hand operating the knob obscures the Engine Driver display if the knob is at top. And you can hold the whole setup lower down, so the knob is effectively over your palm.

    I guess all you need to do to try it is rotate the phone 180 degrees...

    Just a thought...
     
  19. Kuba

    Kuba TrainBoard Member

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    Such a simple volume controller can be done on a cheap Digispark or Trinket module. Works as a USB HID, on a ATtiny85 processor. Checked, tested :)
     
  20. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks, I had looked at that option when you posted before ....

    https://learn.adafruit.com/trinket-usb-volume-knob/overview

    Looks like a good alternative for someone that doesn't mind putting something together from parts and is welling to learn how to download the sketch into the Trinket.

    I wanted to let those that get turned off by that approach know there is a slightly more expensive path that is plug and play. This might reach a larger audience but there is nothing wrong with the 'Trinket' approach for the other crowd.

    In the end having a phone and the plug and play parts for about $35 more and ending up with a nice wireless throttle with a physical knob to turn for speed and direction is a great advancement for the hobby. Thanks again to Jimmy at DIY and Digital Railroad for coming up with the idea.

    Sumner
     
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