Universal WiFi Throttle FAQ

The Universal WiFi Throttle is in final stages of development and initial production. Answers will be added as more information becomes available.
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What WiFi systems are your throttles compatible with?
The Universal WiFi Throttle is compatible with other existing WiFi systems on the market such as the Digitrax LNWI, MRC WiFi module, JMRI, and more. If you can control your layout with a cell phone (via the WiThrottle Protocol) our throttle will work on your layout too! We have not completed testing with Lenz, Roco, or MRC systems - please stay tuned for future updates.

Will this throttle work with my existing Digitrax Layout?
YES. Users can connect to their Digitrax layout directly with an LNWI module or by way of a PR4 USB interface connected to a computer running JMRI.

Will this throttle work with my existing NCE Layout?
YES. Users can connect to their NCE layout by way of the NCE USB Interface and associated Drivers connected to a computer running JMRI. Alternatively, WiFitrax offers the WFD-30, a plug-in module for your cab bus which creates a direct connection between the throttle and command station without the need for a computer.

How many throttles can be used simultaneously?
The maximum number of throttles is not limited by the throttle itself. The limit is based on the WiFi base station (router) being used. A low-cost consumer-grade WiFi router will typically support up to about 10 - 20 connected devices. Commercial grade WiFi routers will typically support up to about 50 - 100 connected WiFi devices. The specific number will be based on the specific model and manufacturer. Popular examples of WiFi interfaces in the modeling community are the Digitrax LNWI and the MRC WiFi Module. The Digitrax LNWI supports up to 4 connected throttles while MRC WiFi Module can connect up to 8 throttles. The maximum number of throttles per layout can be expanded by adding additional WiFi modules.

WiFi Base Station (Router) Maximum Number of Supported Throttles
Digitrax LNWI

4 (each)

MRC WiFi Module 8 (each)
Consumer-grade Router (JMRI WiThrottle Server) 10 - 20 (typical)
Commercial-grade Router (JMRI WiThrottle Server) 50 - 100 (typical)
TCS Command Station (LCC) 4
TCS Command Station with external router (LCC) 10 - 100 (limited by the chosen router)

In LCC mode, the TCS Command Station (coming soon) supports up 4 connected throttles without the use of an external WiFi router. With the addition of an external LCC-enabled WiFi router, the practical limit of the TCS Command Station is about 50 - 100 throttles, limited by the capabilities of the WiFi router itself.

How large is the throttle screen?
The screen on the Universal WiFi Throttle is considerably bigger than the displays on the Digitrax or NCE handhelds. Measuring 2 3/8" diagonally, the dynamic backlit display is large enough to show all of the information pertinent to the task you're performing - and more. 

How do I turn on and shut down the throttle?
Press any button on the keypad, followed by button 2 to power up the throttle. If left idle, the throttle will automatically shutdown on its own after a user-configurable timeout. The user may optionally force a shutdown by pressing the menu button and selecting option 9 (Power Off).

How are functions beyond 0-9 accessed?
You can quickly and easily view and activate all 28 functions from the throttle. Throttle buttons 0-9 correspond to their numbered functions. Simply press the shift key (up arrow) on the keypad once to activate functions 10-19, then again for functions 20-27. The arrow button adds a 10 or 20 to whatever button you're pressing. A "1" or "2" appears on the throttle screen beside each function so you can easily keep track of these higher functions. 

Example: To activate function 5, press button 5 on the throttle. To activate function 15, press the up arrow and then button 5 on the throttle. To activate function 25, press the up arrow again, then button 5. Quick and simple. 

What are these "user-configurable" buttons and how do I use them?
There are eight buttons on the TCS Universal WiFi Throttle that can be assigned functions by the user. These buttons are given functions by default, but unlike other buttons they can be re-programmed to activate a different function. The top four buttons (directly below the screen) even have descriptions on the screen that indicate what function assignment they have been given. You can access button configuration options via the menu.

How does the throttle recall list work?
The throttle remembers the last eight loco addresses that were entered by the user. Users can access the recall list by pressing the menu button and then option 1 (Recall List), then select a loco from the throttle's memory.

Can the throttle firmware be updated by the user?
Yes, the throttle firmware can be updated either by the user or by TCS. The update occurs over WiFi, and no special tools are required other than a standard PC running the TCS update software. The throttle firmware can also be updated using JMRI. From time to time, TCS may provide optional firmware updates in order to add new features.

How do I update the firmware?
The answer to that is more complex than we can answer in a FAQ. To answer that question, have a look at our Instructions page which guides you through the process.

What kind of batteries does the throttle use?

The throttle uses two AA size batteries and supports Alkaline and rechargeable NiMH and LiPo chemistries.

How long does a set of batteries last?
A common and much-maligned problem with other wireless throttles is battery life. Using rechargeable NiMH batteries, this throttle lasts about 14 hours under continuous use and constant full backlight brightness. This is the worst-case scenario, and most users will in fact experience even longer battery life during regular use. 

Why does the throttle not use a built-in rechargeable battery?
Several considerations went into the battery design of the throttle. TCS could have included a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with built-in charger, but lithium-ion batteries and chargers have a track record of sometimes being unsafe. While TCS does believe that it could have safely included a lithium-ion battery and charger in the design, the potential liability if something were to go wrong is too high for a small company like TCS.

Another consideration is charge time. The goal is to ensure that the throttle can be used continuously without the necessity to wait for a built-in battery to charge. Once the batteries become fully depleted, they can simply be removed and replaced in order to be back up and running instantly.

There are many quality, inexpensive, 3rd party rechargeable batteries and chargers in the market. TCS believes our customers are better served by using established mass market products rather than designing something similar in-house.

Why is there no separate on/off power switch?
The shutdown current of the throttle is very small (less than 10uA). After one full year in shutdown mode, less than 5% of the battery capacity is consumed by the shutdown current. This is in fact significantly less than the self-discharge current of NiMH batteries all by themselves. Given such a small shutdown current, there is no need to incur the additional cost and complexity of a mechanical switch. In addition, the lack of a switch reduces supply voltage noise and improves reliability and longevity.

It is optional but not necessary to remove the batteries if storing for extended periods of time.