The Dronization of Traction Modeling

Dension Wireless RC receiver and Wifi dongle. 
Currently, I am riding my H0 trains still "old school": analog, 2 rail operated, without overhead wire. As many, I am tempted to switch to DCC operation, with functional wire or not, but I am hesitating.

DCC doesn't like power interruptions, as they could be frequent with traction models.

And I felt that in the age of wireless phones, when you can do virtually anything with your Smartphone, there must be a way to go further. I am not so sure that DCC is still state of the art ...

My idea was to create a sort of "Traction Model Drone". An autonomous vehicle, radio controlled by your Smartphone, without any external power supply once the batteries charged. It could ran on 2 rail layouts, or with functional overhead, on DCC layouts or not, with clean tracks or not, anyway, you could even run it on plastic trackwork.

Folks, it may be possible, at least I will try out. Doing it in O scale would be possible in any case. But I want to do it in HO scale.

There are three request to achieve this :
1/ having enough battery power
2/ a Wireless Smartphone Remote Control system
3/ a small motor controller.

And two more requests: use only commercially available standard components, and use NWSL Stanton drives as motors

All conditions can be reached:

1/ Smartphone Lithium batteries are small, powerful and not expensive. But they have an output of only 4.2 Volts. But with a small "step up module" you can create an output of 12V DC.
2/ Dension WIRC is an Wifi based radio control for iPhone and Android. The receiver is small enough to be housed in an HO scale 61" Interurban car. The range of Dension WIRC may be limited to 50-100 meters, but for indoor H0 scale, this may be widely enough.  (http://wirc.dension.com)
3/ I found a small motor controller (Thor 4s: http://www.cti-modellbau.de/CTI-Fahrregler/-74-102-110-161.html)

All components could fit into one of my Cincinnati built Wooden Combines. And Dension WIRC give us the possibilité to install a micro camera in your model and to drive virtually in it. I will study this later ...

Failure or success, you will hear from me...


  1. Something, I've likewise been thinking about. I like the idea of remote control. Before your post, I had not considered using an iPhone; thinking more along the lines of radio controlled planes. Thanks for stimulating my thinking. I look forward to following along with your success.


  2. Fred VD3/21/2014

    I like the idea, but maybe without a step-up for 12volts, the motors used wouldn't have to run on 12v. If you just keep it at 4.2 volts, and use smaller motors just powerful enough to move the one interurban can, so you can run as many as your want with the same set-up inside. Maybe even the motors are small enough to put with a gear or 2 right onto each truck, making each truck powered by one motor, 2 total for the one car. (Like the HO Kato P42 concept with a motor on each truck.) And smart phone batteries can get pretty thin, tall, and not too wide to still fit flat on the floor inside the car. If you can fit 2 flat batteries inside, the more voltage and longer lasting your interurban car can be, with smaller motors. Then try to add a little plug on the bottom of the car for a quick plug in and unplug just like a cell phone too charge it up. It should work, and still possibly fit an interior with seats and all. Headlights may use too much electricity if you use the wrong kind of light, definitely go with LEDs, use small ones too with the lowest milliamp draw but still satisfactory for the headlight look. If someone is really creative and eventually does this, making a complete interurban layout, when they want to charge the cars, turn the track power on. The charging up would be through the rails or overhead, while stopped or maybe even moving. Just make sure its the right voltage and current in the rails to charge up the cars and also try not to overcharge the batteries in each. This is almost the same concept as a RC car or plane, but a RC train with many ways to have it work and all. Good luck with the whole project, hope my ideas may help.

  3. Thanks for the encouraging feedback. The reason for 12V is that I don't want to build my own drives and use NWSL, Tenshodo, Bachmann, Halling or other. The capacity of a Lithium battery may be enough for running several hours continuously. In any case, there is enough place for 2 or even 3 of such batteries.

  4. While not controllable from a smart phone, did you look into the stuff available from Deltang (http://www.deltang.co.uk/) in the UK? Its a battery operated, RC solution that's being used a lot in the On30 world. I'm sure that it could be adopted to HO. You would have to buy their RC controller, but the price is less and the receiver seems very small. Plus it appears to be able to control additional functions.

  5. Thanks for the link to Deltang, I will study their products. Dension WIRC is a smartphone RC controller, bidirectional with video return, with this features build in it is not too expensive.

  6. I chose the DCC option via two rail, it allows for tighter headways, lighting options and with JMRI decoder pro and the correct interface to the DCC system (I use NCE) you can use your smartphone (Withrottle-Iphone or Engine driver-android) as a wifi controller, there is also the option of still running on DC after a quick trip to the programming track to set a few CVs.

    This may save your sanity, instead of reinventing the wheel.

    Regards Glenn

  7. Reinventing the wheel is a major threat for each modeler. But as I am lazy and not a skilled craftsman, I hope I could avoid. The goal is to assemble only commercial available parts, within a given budget.

  8. Hi Volkmar,

    Very ingenious! You have created your own Borg, awesome!

    I especially like your requirement that everything be "off the shelf" which makes it available to everyone. I think I am going to have to build one of these. I can see lots of interesting applications for what you have done, even beyond the interurban. Also, it makes your cars totally transportable to other layouts at a show perhaps and it doesn't matter what they are or aren't running because your is free from any restrictions, including power. Good stuff.

    I too want to run my trolleys off of my smartphone or tablet but, went a little different way. I went DCC with the ESU EcoS 50200 command station and use the Android App "ECoS Controller" here is the link in case you are interested ... https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ecos.train . I was worried about the power drop issue like you mentioned but, the newer dcc decodeers have capacitors or "stay alive" circuits built in them that keep the car going for a few seconds to hopefully move through that bad section of connectivity and will pick up better current as it keeps moving. It works really well and may solve your concern there.

    Separately, ESU just came out with an Android based "Throttle" for those who don't want to use their smartphone and walk around with a dedicated throttle... http://www.esu.eu/en/products/digital-control/mobile-control-ii/ . I haven't tried the throttle, doubt I will. I like the idea of the app. People don't normally lose their phones but, always seem to lose either the tv, vcr, dvd, stereo or other remote (atleast we do in this house) and I look at throttles in that category. One more gadget to keep track of.

    Great job, can't wait to see more.


    Chris Di Paolo