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Noel

Lesson learned - touchscreen v physical cab for throttle

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Spend the last few days tearing the hair out of my head in immense frustration with a new Z21 system. There is nothing wrong with the Z21, it actually seems a very good system just totally unsuitable for my needs on a new shunting layout. Totally my own mistake for choosing the wrong system. Easy peasey to hook it all up and get it working, but the first main problem was attempting to drive trains using a touch screen phone cab user interface for shunting and uncoupling stock using kadee uncoupling magnets which require a degree of precision that touch screen throttle just does not give compared to the tactile feedback of a physical cab with either throttle buttons or knobs.

Normally I can hold a physical cab in one hand without having to look at it, but using a smartphone a) needed more eyes on the display distracting me from watching what the train was doing, and b) my fingers found it difficult to routinely and reliably control throttle one speed step at a time. When shunting I like to stare at the train, just think what I want it to do and let my hands make it happen via the tactile feedback from a cab in hand but out of eye line. I repeat my gripe was with the 'Z21 Mobile' apps touch screen user interface for precise throttle control, not the Z21 hardware which seems a good DCC controller and a flexible system.

Luckily I managed to buy an inexpensive Multimaus cab on eBay which saved the day as soon as I plugged it in to the Z21's X-Bus port. Not very intuitive cab (ie you have to read the manual to get started with the basics), but with the physical buttons and throttle knob at least I was able to shunt precisely enough to reliably uncouple kadees, which I could not do reliably with the daft phone throttle app. Relief that I was not going to have to put the heap on eBay tomorrow and replace with a system that has physical cab controls for throttle. Two big advantages of the 'Z21 mobile' app are a) its an inexpensive wireless cab that will work on most smartphones and tablets and b) you can custom label each function with mnemonic description and symbol which is great for sound locos instead of remembering function numbers. Another advantage on a club layout would be members using their own phones as cabs and same for visitors to a home layout. Most the guys in WMRC love the Z21 system. Anyway the sledge hammer did not come out late last night and Multimaus saved the day for my shunting layout (under construction). At least now I can drive the locos.  Lesson learned for a shunting layout one really needs some form of physical throttle control that gives tactile feedback to the operator allowing eyes only on loco and single handed use. The Multimaus does this albeit not as quite well as an NCE PowerCab but well enough. Had been tempted to try the Piko Smart control or another NCE. If not shunting using kadee magnets I'm sure many folk would love the Z21 system and its touch screen cab apps, especially for sound locos with personalised function buttons.

One weird little funny us the Z21 cannot easily drive locos in the address range 120-127 which is why I could not get it to drive any of my 121 locos. Found a convoluted technical solution to it anyway and managed to get the 121s moving and shunting with their correct addresses.

Edited by Noel
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2 hours ago, Noel said:

 frustration with a new Z21 system.

 

Hi, after my Select packed in within short time of getting it, , i spent along time , researching what next, and ended up with Z21, since I wasnt used to any other controler, i love it, esp with MM engines on slow, but i not yet doing kadee couplers, i learnt fast to have very clean screen on mobile, I also got new multimas, but since it arrived with damaged screen it took 12 months to get replaced, and still in box as i doing major works trying to get layout working, so no controlling since before December.

There are at least two downloadable apps for Z21, and I use both, as we have 4 cabs, 3 phones 1 laptop, the older app has pic of red train on icon, the new app just black, its better on laptop, not so good on mobile. far less responsive on older androids

also the Z21 is reported not so good as accessory driver, or at least its not a nmra compliant accessory software as it requires plus4 to cv address, so youtubers are using dr5000 with it, to bridge the problem and avoide shorts on expensive z21,  as i havent laid any accessory's yet i dont know, 

nor its also not ideal for hornby as loco address are +4, ( hornby address cv 7 = cv11 on Z21) which sorta explained how every time we got a short, the hornby steam loco from santa, would take off at high speed, on re-addressing it , it sorta solved the issue, partially,

noel, someday , with Z21 you will be able to log onto my layout and drive my trains with Z21 all from your place where ever you are,

With the Z21 and a camera train in any country such as USA , i  should be able to join USA club and drive a train on their layout - all the way  from Ireland, 

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Z21 could not communicate with locos in address range 100-127??? Due some bizarre confusion between what constitutes a long or a short address.

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Noel,

I've been contemplating going DCC for quite some time, introducing it as soon as layout construction eventually begins, Apart from the cost of enough decoders to run even a token selection of my Irish loco fleet (NOTE: I DON'T plan to equip my entire stud, only enough to fulfil the requirement for a railcar depot and adjoining P.W. yard (based on Adelaide NIR), I have spent a few years observing layouts at exhibitions and following industry advances and keeping a keen eye on system prices.

I have finally come to the conclusion that a wireless system with throttle knob would be ideal. You are correct to raise the problem of having to keep looking at the sreen when using mobile phone via operating apps. This coupled with the relatively short, few hours battery life of smart phones (I don't have one, I'm still on a "dumb phone" where one charge lasts 4 -- 5 days!) has meant I hadn't found the ideal system.That is until a few weeks ago. I watch a lot of USA model railroading channels on You Tube and by chance came across "What's Neat This Week" by Ken Patterson (it was one of the Oct or Nov 2017 episodes). On it there was Matt Herman, ESU USA's general manager introducing the new ESU CabControl system - yes, the same firm famous for it's sound decoders. It's an android based, touch screen hand controller with an integral throttle knob which comes with power pack and wireless LAN control box. The ESU USA website is:www. lokSound.com and includes full demonstration videos with Matt himself explaing the system. Fantastic I thought. Until I discovered the downside, it's only available from ESU in the North American and Australian markets! ESU are still in the planning stage of introducing a European market version which seems incredible as it has been available in the USA for nearly 18 months now. However it isn't all despair.......

ESU just happen to produce DCC contollers for PIKO, the German model railway manufacturer, obviously with PIKO branding. PIKO have a control system called "PIKO SMART" which is a wireless, handheld with throttle knob system. By now you should be ahead of me. The PIKO controller is 99.99% identical to ESU CabControl. Added to which it is available from UK based retailers, such as Gaugemaster and Coastal DCC among others. All it would seem to need is a two pin adapter mains plug to set it up. You could if so desired just by the throttle units to use as an add on to an existing system. But at a cost of roughly £375 per throttle you can buy the whole kit with power supply and wireless for £425.

I'm sold on it and intend splashing out on one just as soon as my finances get over buying all of those new IRM A class goodies.

Bill.

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Posted (edited)
43 minutes ago, Ulsterbus Bill said:

Noel,

I've been contemplating going DCC for quite some time, introducing it as soon as layout construction eventually begins, Apart from the cost of enough decoders to run even a token selection of my Irish loco fleet (NOTE: I DON'T plan to equip my entire stud, only enough to fulfil the requirement for a railcar depot and adjoining P.W. yard (based on Adelaide NIR), I have spent a few years observing layouts at exhibitions and following industry advances and keeping a keen eye on system prices.

I have finally come to the conclusion that a wireless system with throttle knob would be ideal. You are correct to raise the problem of having to keep looking at the sreen when using mobile phone via operating apps. This coupled with the relatively short, few hours battery life of smart phones (I don't have one, I'm still on a "dumb phone" where one charge lasts 4 -- 5 days!) has meant I hadn't found the ideal system.That is until a few weeks ago. I watch a lot of USA model railroading channels on You Tube and by chance came across "What's Neat This Week" by Ken Patterson (it was one of the Oct or Nov 2017 episodes). On it there was Matt Herman, ESU USA's general manager introducing the new ESU CabControl system - yes, the same firm famous for it's sound decoders. It's an android based, touch screen hand controller with an integral throttle knob which comes with power pack and wireless LAN control box. The ESU USA website is:www. lokSound.com and includes full demonstration videos with Matt himself explaing the system. Fantastic I thought. Until I discovered the downside, it's only available from ESU in the North American and Australian markets! ESU are still in the planning stage of introducing a European market version which seems incredible as it has been available in the USA for nearly 18 months now. However it isn't all despair.......

ESU just happen to produce DCC contollers for PIKO, the German model railway manufacturer, obviously with PIKO branding. PIKO have a control system called "PIKO SMART" which is a wireless, handheld with throttle knob system. By now you should be ahead of me. The PIKO controller is 99.99% identical to ESU CabControl. Added to which it is available from UK based retailers, such as Gaugemaster and Coastal DCC among others. All it would seem to need is a two pin adapter mains plug to set it up. You could if so desired just by the throttle units to use as an add on to an existing system. But at a cost of roughly £375 per throttle you can buy the whole kit with power supply and wireless for £425.

I'm sold on it and intend splashing out on one just as soon as my finances get over buying all of those new IRM A class goodies.

Bill.

Hi Bill

Thanks for the info. Yes Piko SmartControl looks an attractive option for a top end quality DCC system with the advantage of customised function buttons for sound on touch screen use, but a physical rotary knob for throttle control. Win/Win. It is in effect the same Cab as the ESU Mobile Control II which costs about €350 per cab but being wireless only one should suffice most layouts. The Piko SmartControl is retailing at €352 from German online retail sites or about £301 pre-tarrifs. The UK retail prices are not attractive always seem inflated above eurozone pricing. I switched to using various German model retailers a few years ago and found their pricing better and service exceptional. In the UK Hatton's are one of the few retailers who tend to have competitive pricing for any product ranges they carry.

https://www.modellbahnshop-lippe.com/produkt/PIKO/15-7-0-235376-003003-0-0-0-0-0-0-grp-gb-p-0/ein_produkt.html

 

 

Edited by Noel

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Posted (edited)

there are heaps of cheap secondhand android phones with good batteries available,  get two, have one plugged in n turned off for fast charge, use the other.

there is lots of DCC control systems , each will suit different users requirements ,  my techie son tells me the technology is 20 years old,

watch out for amps 3 v 5  v 8amp, it seems in many cases the boosters need to be same amps as controller, some controllers have built in booster, others dont

i reckon that in a few years all new locos will be battery operated, so for newbees voltage may not be an issue. nor wiring, even household electrical items such as wall switches and lights etc have chips in them these days.  they use tech similar to DCC signal .

ifs its any consolation, i am stuck on track occupancy , having wired the main layout bus in power blocks , then to find for the occupancy blocks the bus - power blocks need to be broken down into many sub blocks, which are different to the usual circuit blocks for preventing turnout shorting,  so this newbes advice for any uninvested newbe is do not wire the entire layout on every track, just get the power flowing to each main block and then when everything is right about the track,drive trains and see where you will need the detectors and occupancy blocks ,,

then start adding track occupancy blocks, in-advance of buying them, as there is so much to consider and so much choice, in some systems its gaps on one rail for others two rails are gapped, in other sysems the detectors aint track dependent although they send dcc signals to controllers to control lights, track sections, turnout and signals and more, 

as my layout grew i started gapping every turnout on all rails, using 6 insulated joiners, 8 for cross overs, why, cos it a pain lifting everything again and since track 'occult-paction' is expensive you may only do a wee bit at a time, so the price of a few rail joiners dosent hurt, and you can paint the insulated joiners to hide them if they upset you, or melt them to have one one rail re-gapped by soldering the tracks at that point, surprisingly the hornby black rail joiners are very strong and work best for me. the only hornby product i recommend ;) not that a recommendation from this  newbe is worth ballast.

ah Ballast, i now use washed dried play sand under all my tracks not underlay, as all my wires are above board, unlike my self', this allows the wires flexibility,

Long live DCC until battery operated locos rule on un-wired tracks with blue tooth enabled infra red detectors..

 

sorry Noel, i copied this and moved it to my DCC thread, probably outta place here

 

 

Edited by WaYSidE

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Noel,

Great minds obviously think alike.

Literally minutes after my reply I checked out the very German retailer you linked! Indeed, at current euro/sterling conversion rates paying £301 pre-Brexit (plus delivery costs) stll amounts to a worthwhile saving. Better check my finances before 12th April then.

Bill.

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On 3/21/2019 at 5:31 PM, Noel said:

noel said,

Spend the last few days tearing the hair out of my head in immense frustration..Easy peasey to hook it all up and get it working,

One weird little funny us the Z21 cannot easily drive locos in the address range 120-127 which is why I could not get it to drive any of my 121 locos. Found a convoluted technical solution to it anyway and managed to get the 121s moving and shunting with their correct addresses.

Noel i only address a loco or five  as i test track and layout, wont be doing any of the good models so i not up there yet, but i re-address a working loco on 123 nd 124, worked fine

suggestions, just reboot the Z21,  with those address deleted and re-prog , or download the newer app, 

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1 hour ago, WaYSidE said:

Noel i only address a loco or five  as i test track and layout, wont be doing any of the good models so i not up there yet, but i re-address a working loco on 123 nd 124, worked fine

suggestions, just reboot the Z21,  with those address deleted and re-prog , or download the newer app, 

I've identified the addressing problem. The Roco treats addresses in the range 100-127 as long addresses. My locos had their addresses assigned to decoders by another DCC system which assigned them correctly as short addresses (ie < 128 as per NMRA) so the Roco could not address the locos until the addresses had been re-assigned by the Roco system as long addresses. Once I reprogrammed the addresses on the Roco the locos became addressable and operable again. Just another DCC quirk (USA v European manufacturers different and incompatible specs and interpretation of NMRA specs). DCC is so 1970s technology, built upon 1970s electronics. It's due a refresh IMHO. Anyway thanks to the Multimaus cab the Z21 is now functioning and useable but I'll be avoiding the touch screen phone app for shunting operations. 

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