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2005-09-23

Remote Train Controller on PDA PocketPC

This page documents my first remote controller - a PDA based PocketPC solution.
This capability has now been replaced with a browser based solution, allowing the layout to be controlled with a browser, such as on a smart phone.

Since I now have a PocketPC PDA  with WiFi connectivity to the wireless network in my home I decided it would be nice to be able to control the trains from my PDA. It turned out to be pretty easy and I am pleased with the results which I present here...

Overview

I added the ability for my main train control program to listen for connections over the network. When a Remote Train Controller client (such as the PDA) connects, the two computers can exchange information about the trains that are presently on the layout allowing two way communications between the two including the ability for the PDA to start routes, alter train speeds & direction, set functions for any loco with any train and control the power and halt status of the Intellibox

When the program starts, I can choose which computer I with to 'talk' to. and click the Connect button.


Once connection is established, the server computer sends the Power and Halt status of the IB. It also send these if ever they change.

Trains

I can then click on the Trains tab...

I can then pick any train that is currently on the layout. Tapping on the Halt or Power indicators toggle their status.

Once I pick a train the following information is continuously displayed  in real time:

  • current speed
  • current location
  • desired speed
  • speed limit
  • for each locomotive in the train, the status of every function present

So for example, the TEE train is currently at E Gleis 2, it is travelling at 29km/h and its desired speed is 50km/h. The speed limit of this train is 130Km/h. There is only one locomotive in the train and it is the BR01 097 and it has 4 functions, of which Smoke and Lights are currently on.


The 4 buttons do what their captions suggest, in that they change the current speed but leave the desired speed alone. Tapping anywhere on the speedometer bar will also set the speed to wherever you tapped! I find it a very comfortable interface to use.

If a train has multiple locomotives, the functions for each are shown in an outline...

Note that there is no need to know locomotive decoder addresses of function number assignments. They are all presented in friendly form. My layout control works with trains, rather than locomotives, the main program does all the work of tracking what locos are in each train, what their addresses are and what speed steps would be appropriate, etc.

Crane

I also have the ability to control the digital crane

The crane control is very similar to that of the main program . Clicking anywhere in the green panel sets the hook to go up/down and sets the jib to slew left or right at the same time. In this screen the crane is set to raise the hook (its above the horizontal line) and slew left (it to the left of the vertical line) relatively slowly. The further from the center the faster the movement.

Any input made to the crane from the main console or from the IB is also reflected on the PocketPC.

k83/k84

The keyboard tab allows me to activate any of the k83/84 outputs that the Intellibox supports. I pick any address and then click on either the red or green panel.

On activation, the main program will optionally announce "red" or "green" as it is switched providing auditory feedback as well.

Log

The last tab simply logs any exceptional events such as loosing connection etc. The checkbox allows me to watch the data coming in from the server for testing purposes. To save space the time stamp only shows the minutes and seconds.

This gives me the ability to be anywhere (even out in the woods) and have control of the layout. Although I have not tried it, I could control it from any WiFi hotspot on the planet.

The main train control software looks no different and still allows full control, including any train that is currently selected. It can optionally log commands that come in from a Remote Train Controller too..

Copyright

The screens and their layout shown here are copyright Dale Schultz 2005. Wim Ros, that means you may not copy the screen layout and pass it off as yours OK.