One of the advantages of standards, such as the NMRA’s DCC standard, is that multiple vendors’ products are interoperable. There are dozens of DCC vendors, and they all “play nice” with each other (mostly).
The purpose of this post is to show you that you can use the ProMiniAir Receiver and Transmitter for more than just controlling locomotives – you can use it for dead-rail (wireless) control of any DCC accessory (stationary) decoder for lights, turnouts, etc., simply by connecting a low-cost ProMiniAir Receiver/Amplifier to the DCC inputs of one or more DCC accessory decoders. Generally, DCC accessory decoders are inexpensive, e.g., the NCE Illuminator for lighting ($22.40 for a 3-pack) or the Digitrax DS52 for turnout control ($20.36 for control of 2 turnouts).
Then you can use one of several transmitter options (that you also use for dead-rail control of your locomotives), including 1) an Airwire transmitter, 2) a WiThrottle smartphone app connecting to a Stand-alone ProMiniAir Transmitter integrated with a WiFi-equipped EX-CommandStation, or 3) any DCC throttle connected to a ProMiniAir Transmitter. All three options are designed to easily set the accessory address and activate the device while simultaneously controlling the locomotive or locomotives.
For DCC accessory decoders, nothing extra is required since the DCC accessories get their power from the DCC output from the ProMiniAir Receiver. Battery power can be used in remote or inconvenient locations. You can also wirelessly configure the accessory decoders, such as the address. No proprietary accessory devices are necessary since dozens of vendors use DCC, a widely-adopted standard that fosters competition and innovation. There is no “vendor lock” wedded to one manufacturer’s “solution.” The videos show how to activate DCC accessory decoders using the ProMiniAir Receiver in conjunction with these Transmitter options.
In this example, three NCE Illuminator lighting accessory decoders for connecting LEDs for lighting effects are “daisy-chained” with a DCC connection to the output of an unmodified ProMiniAir Receiver/Amplifier using 14.8V battery power. Their addresses were set to 10 (white light), 20 (red light), and 30 (green light). At the end of the DCC daisy chain is a Digitrax DS52 set to address 30 so that it will activate a Tortoise slow-motion switch machine. So, the throttle selection of an accessory at address 30 will activate both the green light and the switch machine. No additional hardware is required.
The videos below show wireless control of the locomotive and the DCC accessories with 1) an Airwire transmitter, 2) a standard DCC throttle connected to a ProMiniAir transmitter, or 3) a WiThrottle smartphone app connecting to a low-cost stand-alone ProMiniAir Transmitter integrated with a WiFi-equipped EX-CommandStation.
Each accessory decoder has its method for setting up its DCC address, but this is usually as simple as 1) set the “programming jumper” on the accessory decoder if it has one, 2) turn on DCC power to the ProMiniAir receiver, 3) push a “configuration button” on the accessory decoder (if it uses one), 4) use your throttle to select an accessory, 5) enter the accessory’s address you want the accessory to use, 5) use your throttle to push the button that “throws” (activates) the device, 5) turn off DCC power to the device and disconnect an “activation pin” (if it uses one), and 5) reapply DCC power.
At this point, the DCC accessory “remembers” its address so that you can now use your throttle to select the accessory’s address and push the appropriate button to activate or de-activate the accessory.
Well-thought-out standards, such as the NMRA’s DCC standard, are good. I hope you can see that connecting an unmodified ProMiniAir Receiver/Amp to any DCC accessory decoder(s) from numerous vendors is effortless rather than using a limited, proprietary wireless solution for controlling accessories such as turnouts and lights while at the same time controlling your locomotives.
I thank one of my customers, Jeffrey Jackson, for the question that led me to investigate this topic!