(State of the art throttles – in their eras)
I spent the day yesterday at the TrainMasters TV studios with Matt Herman from ESU (the “Loksound” people). Matt and I shot a number of segments together for future episodes, including two that will focus on ESU’s CabControl – a new DCC system designed for the North American and Australian markets. (I wrote more about this system in an earlier post.)
In the photo above, Matt is holding ESU’s Mobile Control II throttle. This is essentially an Android-based tablet, enhanced with a throttle knob and some physical buttons. I use a pair of these with my ECoS 50200 system from ESU and they’re the nicest throttles I’ve ever encountered. They combine the flexibility of a software defined throttle with the tactile feel and convenience of hardware-based controls to access the most commonly used functions while running a train. What’s more, the feel of the throttle itself is quite high-quality – like a high-end smart phone. They’re just nice in the hand.
The CabControl system has many attractive features, which we will delve into on upcoming segments of “DCC Decoded” on TrainMasters TV. But here’s a sampling:
– Support for at least 32 mobile throttles. (The system can probably handle more, but as Matt said, “We gave up opening packages at 32.”)
– An incredibly intuitive user interface based on common smart phone gestures. Swiping left or right lets you switch locomotives from your stack. Swiping up or down lets you scroll between the function button screens for the active locomotive.
– Artwork for decoder-equipped locomotives and rolling stock. The user can choose from a selection of stock photos, or create and load their own. It’s a great way to confirm, at a glance, what locomotive is active on the throttle.
– Icons that may be mapped onto any function button. Need to know where the headlight is? You don’t need to remember it’s at F0 – just look for the lightbulb symbol.
– Custom menus for each decoder-equipped locomotive or car. If you have a model that doesn’t have a bell, you can hide the bell function button from the menu, keeping more of the function buttons that you do need on the first menu page.
– A motorized throttle knob that automatically resets itself to the last-set speed when switching between locomotives. This knob also has built-in reverse (by rotating counterclockwise past the zero speed point) for true one-handed operation.
– Four physical buttons that may be assigned to any function. I use these for the functions I access most frequently during an ops session, such as the whistle and bell.
– The ability to load other apps onto the throttles. For example, one could load a fast clock app, a car forwarding app, and so on. The throttles could even be loaded with Skype, and used for radio communication between crews and a dispatcher – who does not even have to be in the same country! (The throttles include a jack for headphones/mic.)
– Easy programming via the throttle, using menus written in plain language instead of CVs – and full compatibility with JMRI/DecoderPro, of course.
If it sounds like I’m a fan, it’s because I am. If you’re in the market for a DCC system – or looking to upgrade the one you already have – then CabControl should definitely be on your list.
I’m really happy with my ECoS 50200 from ESU, although it has a number of features that I will never use – for example, support for command control protocols from Marklin, Motorola and others in addition to the NMRA’s DCC standard. But the new CabControl system does everything that I need for my layout, so I would’ve gone with this one had it been available.
I know some friends are already looking at CabControl, and I’ll be happy to bring along my two Mobile Control II throttles to future operating sessions.