Then I saw Trevor Marshall's excellent article in the August 2015 RMC, and decided to give it a try. I had everything I needed: NCE ProCab DCC system w/serial port, old MacBook laptop, a serial-to-USB adaptor wire, and - most importantly - JMRI, which would get everything to work together. I'd already been able to get DecoderPRO working, albeit very spottily. How hard could it be to achieve the promise of wireless phone throttles?
Well, pretty difficult, as it turned out. Before even trying to do the throttle thing, I needed to be sure I had a reliable set-up with JMRI. And I didn't. I just couldn't get everything to communicate reliably. So I set the whole project aside.
Now that I'm beginning to have regular operating sessions though, my insufficient number of throttles has become a little frustrating. Thankfully, a number of my regular operators have NCE as well and can bring their throttles, but I hate having to ask them to bring them, even though they're happy to do it. I considered getting "just one more" utility throttle, but at a street price of even $142 (for wireless, which is what I want), suddenly getting wiffy (wi-fi) throttles to work became a priority.
Enter my friends Lou and Kaylee. I'd mentioned my plight in passing to Lou at a local NMRA meeting back in the spring and he told me he'd set up wi-fi throttles for a number of folks and could do so for me too. Just in time, he and Kaylee showed up this past weekend to get me all set up. Fortunately, I had a spare wi-fi router (the other critical piece of hardware) and a different laptop to try.
Turns out, the MacBook just wouldn't work despite many attempts by experts L&K (of course, it didn't help that I'd long-ago forgotten the admin password, but that's another story). Fortunately, the other laptop in the house, an old PC, worked just fine and after downloading & installing the WiThrottle app it was only a short time later that we were running trains with our phones.
Since I didn't do the setup, I'm not going to try and explain it here. I will, however, point you to a couple of good resources if you want to try "wiffy" throttles yourself:
- First and foremost, Trevor's great intro/overview in RMC
- An NMRA clinic on wi-fi throttles
- The JMRI info on the topic
Even more than these resources though, I'll put another plug in to get plugged in to any local model railroaders you can find. In this age of Facebook, YouTube, and other social media, you no longer have to be a "lone wolf" modeler. And there are probably more model railroaders around you than you think. Long-time readers of this blog know that I'm blessed with a number of folks that have helped me along the way - and I've been able to reciprocate as well. That's just the cool nature of our hobby - folks are so willing to help you out.
So THANK YOU Lou and Kaylee for spending some time on the Valley Line - thanks to your help, our next operating session should have plenty of throttles to go around.