I have been thinking for a long time of using a wireless control for my test layout which is rather vast and which I can reach the ends only by plugging my Lenz LH90 remote control into DIN sockets placed every 2.50 m about. This is not convenient, it requires additional wiring, and the poor DIN plug of the remote is strained: it happened that wires were broken inside.

So, I started to look for what might be appropriate, without questioning my whole system, based on a Lenz LZV100.

Result of my search

Several solutions stand out:

Let’s take a closer look.

Complete radio remote controls

Here we can find the most varied offers. Many commercial products exist, most coming from the United States, and, for this reason, not imported into Europe. The reason for this is that radio frequency regulation is not the same for us as for them. Just to make you envious, here are a few examples:

This is usable in Europe: R/C Throttle for LocoNet and XPressNet. As its name suggests, it’s a radio remote control perfectly adapted to my wishes, except that it is not available at the moment (last update of the website August 31, 2014) and that it’s expensive: almost €600 for base + remote control.

Do-It-Yourself Radio Remote Controls

Some solutions use Arduino modules (for example, DCC++ Throttle) or local circuit designs that still require hardware and technical expertise. For example, that of Paco Cañada, whose I successfully mounted and used the Xbus TCO, who offers on his site the plans of a radio remote control named XWL running on XpressNet bus. Small problem: components, transmitter and radio receiver in particular, are obsolete (the article dates from 10 years). This is not too annoying, because you can always find an equivalent, but you have to modify the printed circuit.

In fact, this remote control is unidirectional and cannot be used to program CVs for example; this is the ransom of its simplicity.

I started to make this XWL, but I did not succeed to make it work at the moment. This is not a problem of radio transmission, but of recognition of the base on the bus.

Note that an Irishman sells this remote for about £60, but without quoting his sources, which is why I will not give his address.

Remote controls using a cell phone

There are programmed solutions for using a cell phone as a remote control via Wi-Fi. However, it requires a compatible software such as JMRI, and of course a computer to manage the layout.

The Lenz XPA module

The XpressNet Phone Adapter is a wireless phone (not a cell phone) interface that connects to the XpressNet bus. Convenient? I’m not sure, because a touch-tone phone is still not ideal for our application, and the possibilities are quite limited compared to a complete remote control.

I have the impression that even Lenz does not believe in it, because it’s impossible to find a trace of this product on the German site. The only information available is on Lenz USA, and are starting to date.

A thought

I was there (and a little tired) of my research, when I thought: the link between the remote control LH90 and the command station works in RS485. Would there not be commercially available modules capable of transmitting an RS485 radio link? The advantage, if I find a solution not too expensive, is that I will then have all the functions of the control, both in transmission and in reception, including reading / writing of DCC addresses.

Block diagram