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Sprog 3 - Use as Command Station

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  • Member since
    August, 2016
  • 47 posts
Sprog 3 - Use as Command Station
Posted by swisstrain on Thursday, May 09, 2019 2:47 PM

I am thinking about purchasing a Sprog 3 to use it besides for programming with JMRI also as my command station, and use my cellphone as wireless throttle.  The 2.5A power that the Sprog 3 offers is plenty to run a couple of engines on my small layout.

If I understand correctly, in that case, my computer needs to be connected to the Spog 3 via USB cable at all times while I am running trains.  Is that assumption correct?

If so, I really don't want to have to find a place to set my laptop right next to my layout (If I would have that space, I would rather cram in another siding on my layout Big Smile).  Is there any way to replace that USB connection with some type of wireless connection, and have the laptop sit on a desk somewhere else in the room?

Any input, experience or setup ideas are welcome.

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 26,220 posts
Posted by rrinker on Thursday, May 09, 2019 5:13 PM

 Yes, it must be connected to a computer, because that's the only way you can have a throttle - either a JMRI throttle or throttle via the WiThrottle server.

You don;t need a full blown computer though, the Raspberry Pi is plenty powereful enough. SPROG is selling a complete setup, ready to go - just connect the parts together, hook it to the track, and turn it on. All software is already installed and configured. You might be able to buy a Pi and the software separately if you already have the SPROG. The whole thing is the size of the SPROG plus maybe twice as thick. Tiny. And you don't need an external wifi router to enable wifi throttles, either.

                              --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    August, 2016
  • 47 posts
Posted by swisstrain on Friday, May 10, 2019 8:24 AM

Thanks for that advice, Randy.  I did hear about the Raspberry Pi, but was a bit intimidated.

I previously missed that Sprog is selling a complete preconfigured set with Pi and Sprog 3 and really like the idea of a completely isolated wifi just for the layout.  That might be the way to go.

The only thing that still makes me hesitate a little is using "soft" buttons and sliders on my cell, rather than "hard" knobs to turn on a throttle.  On the other hand, having buttons telling me "Bell", "Horn" rather than F1 or F2 sounds real tempting ...

Does anyone pro's and con's or experiences with that or is it just simply a matter of preference?

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 26,220 posts
Posted by rrinker on Friday, May 10, 2019 11:45 AM

 I am not a fan, I prefer knobs on my throttle, not touch screen sliders.

However, you can use both the new ESU cab (which runs Android and you cna install Engine Driver on it to connect to JMRI) and TCS is soon releasing their WiFi throttles which have wheels like the NCE cabs - in fact it looks like a reduced size NCE cab. So there is at least one current and one coming soon commercial option. And on the other magazine's site, Geoff Bunza has instructions for a DIY WiFi throttle that has a real knob and buttons - for about $20 in parts cost.

 I know others will say just use the volume buttons on the phone for the speed control, yes, you can do that. But you still have to look at the phone for direction or to tap the function buttons. 

                               --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    August, 2016
  • 47 posts
Posted by swisstrain on Monday, May 13, 2019 12:05 PM

Thanks for that additional information, Randy.  I looked up the ESU and TCS throttles, and they look very nice, extremely functional and ergonomic, albeit somewhat pricey... I might start with using Engine Driver on my phone and see if I get used to it, but I see the point of wanting to be sure to keep an eye on the trains while driving.  It's good to know that the volume buttons can be used for speed control.

I also saw the article on building my own throttle in the "other" magazine, but not sure if my electronics skills are ready for prime time.

I just ordered a complete Sprog system, let's see where it takes me.  Worst case I just use it for programming decoders.

Thanks Randy, you helped me a great deal.

  • Member since
    May, 2019
  • 27 posts
Posted by Mmbushnell on Monday, May 13, 2019 5:17 PM

Swiss, you don't need to have your laptop right on your layout, if you use Decoder Pro with a SPROG 3.  Configure Decoder Pro to use the SPROG, which will give you access to an internal WiTthrottle (under the "ACTIONS" tab).  This will let you use ENGINE DRIVER on your smart phone.  I use ENGINE DRIVER together with DECODER PRO/SPROG on my home programming track, without any problem.  Admittedly, it's not a very involved setup.  One benefit of ENGINE DRIVER is that it will show buttons for the many extended sound functions available on Broadway Limited locos, vice the conventional F0 - F10 or F12 on most throttles.  

With a Raspberry Pi, I understand that the laptop may even become superfluous.  We've recently installed a Raspberry Pi with a SPROG 2 on our club layout.  I've used it briefly, without any problems.  There has been some discussion about there being an upper limit to the number of remote throttles that this lashup can accommodate simultaneously, but I don't know for sure.  

I hope this helps. 

//  Michael

  • Member since
    August, 2016
  • 47 posts
Posted by swisstrain on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 12:29 PM

Thanks for those additional comments, Michael.

I meanwhile ordered a Raspberry Pi / Sprog 3 complete system, and I look forward to that arriving and checking it out.  I particularly like the fact that it creates it's own Wifi specifically for the layout. I won't run into the upper limit of throttles on my 9'x5' L shape layout, so that is no concern.

While I like some of the aspects of Engine Driver with named buttons and adjustable layout of the throttle, I am not yet certain if I will be comfortable controlling engine speed with a slider on my cell phone.  Will find out quickly once my system arrives ...  There is always the ESU throttle or the soon to be released TCS throttle (which looks very promising) as an alternative to the cell phone.  Those do not come cheap though.

Again, thanks for the input

Urs

  • Member since
    August, 2016
  • 47 posts
Posted by swisstrain on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 3:32 PM

Got my Raspberry Pi /Sprog 3 system yesterday, and after a couple of hours of hooking it up and loading my roster on the pi, I ran trains.  Anyone looking for a low cost system for a small layout that is extremely small (4x3x2inches integrated in a nice little housing), includes a 3Amp command station, allows wireless control, and at the same time offers a solution for decoder programming look no further!  And basic computer skills will do, no need to understand any electronics.

Using my phone with Engine Driver loaded to control trains takes a little getting used to, but it works much better than imagined, even though you do need to look at the throttle when changing speed instead of looking at the engine. What I love is the fact that I don't have to remember F1, F2 , etc., I tap a button that says Bell, Whistle, Mute, Headlight, etc. and shows me the functions that are available for a particular decoder (admittedly, I needed to set up a roster in JMRI for that, but I had done that at an earlier point in time).

I may still get the TCS Wireless Throttle once it comes out, but so far, the experience is great.

Look for my Digitrax Zephyr DCS 50 on ebay that I will be selling shortly Big Smile

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