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I am a former RC car racing addict,  who powers his current layout with four ZW's and will NEVER resort to running trains with swipes on a smart phone.

I am seriously considering converting at least my MTH engines with Proto 3.0 electronics for dead rail running.  Bells and whistles are important to me.  I am just beginning to study  the many options, but am I fooling myself that I can find more traditional controllers than my detested smart phone?  I am an octogenarian who has been stalled for years at the point of completing the wiring of a 24 foot square layout.  I refuse to use my "smart" phone for anything more than text messages, phone calls, and an occasion glance at the weather.

Am I being unrealistic?  Are there any "simple" ways to use Proto 3.0's ability to run DCC and use battery power only for powering the electronics and running the locomotives with their attendant sounds, smoke, etc.

I don't wish to bother this forum for details on how to do it--all i want are your realistic responses as to whether dead rail can exist with a dead smart phone!

Larry (modeling Cajon Pass in 1957 when phones were not so smart)

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Hi Larry, I have been running trains on battery power for the past 30 years. Recently the RailPro system has become the best choice in non-smart phone  r/c controls. Hand controller fits in your hand with a color touch screen for operations and sounds.

If you live in the Northeast we have the Northeast Large Scale Train Show on April 27 & 28 at the Big E Fairgrounds , West Springfield, MASS. I will be doing two clinics on using battery power for our trains.  Contact me for more info.  Don

Larry, I hate to say this, but if you have closed your mind to learning anything new, you’re doomed.

I had my doubts about the smart phone and tablet approach to running trains…until I tried it. It was fantastic! I’m not a fan of using a phone to run trains (screen is a bit too small for my taste) but the tablet (iPad) experience was genuinely enjoyable and a lot of fun.

Last edited by Rich Melvin

Thanks for your input.  I am not opposed to learning or I wouldn't be considering battery power.  I was an early adopter of sound even to selling the early QSI sound systems.  I do admit to detesting those Clinks and Clanks.  I do not however want to give up a half century of enjoying the tactile sensations of various toy train transformers (Lionel 1033's, ZW's, Cab Ones, DCS remotes) and a variety of power packs in my HO days.  What I remember about each of them is the sensation of twisting something or pushing something or pulling a lever and watching something happening in the distance.  Not a one of them required a slash in any direction.

I even enjoyed regular telephones with their dials and buttons.  However, my aging chubby little fingers require a stylus to operate a smart phone.  I refuse to spend my leisure hours trying to find my stylus or my money to buy more technology I do not appreciate.  I now know it is currently possible to go dead rail without using a smart phone.  I have amassed 4 ZW's, several 1033'3, two Cab Ones, and five MTH Remotes.  I will simply patronize those who still provide what I enjoy and purchase enough to get me through my "golden years."

Thanks again for your assistance.  I am returning to my cave to feed the hamsters powering my home generator.


I used Lionel’s app for my phone W/ a Lionchief steamer around a year or so ago , yeah its fun to “ tell” your trains what to do  but  Like you  , I’m am a former R/C aircraft fixed & rotary nut  I gues that’s why I own three complete original TMCC systems( and they all work great )  it’s hard to break old radio control habits.   😜

Other than that, “smartphones” are just phones . If developers don’t keep apps updated , then they are horrid .

Last edited by Rich Melvin

I never tried the air or water in my RC adventures, but I will never forget the feeling of elation and power I felt when I first drove an electric powered toy WITHOUT tracks or slots to determine its path.  I felt that same sense of overall ecstasy watching my buddy running a brass two-rail Mikado with a quick conversion over my three rail layout.   Crawling through turnouts without a care was great--I need more of that.

In the succeeding days I have also remembered the chore that charging batteries had  become (of course I was competing in three classes and charged to get the most I could in four minute each four minute run).   I do have some concerns about grades and train length on my layout, but that only means I need to play around with dead rail for a while longer.

I think I will overcome the history I have with batteries, but I do not think I can ever settle for swiping on a screen.


There is a DCC controller that mimics the appearance of the controls in a diesel locomotive cab - see and

I've seen one, but have never used it - looks like a neat idea.  They're a bit on the pricey side, but their existence proves that such a product can be developed.  Seems like the price could come down if they are produced and sold in greater volume.

Plus one on @Don Sweet's recommendation on RailPro.  It's a great system for Deadrail.  They just came out with a brand new controller called the HC-3 with some set and programmable buttons.

I thought I preferred a hand held controller vice a phone also.   In addition to RailPro and also run Blunami.  Blunami uses an IOS or Android device.

Because I like the operations of Blunami I was forced to use a device.  I had a dedicated iPad mini but when the Android app came out I started using my phone.

Things I learned and liked.

My phone is always in my pocket and My phone is always charged.  So I was never searching for my controller and did not have to worry about the charge status.

The android version of Blunami has this feature called the outdoor throttle.  It basically uses the entire right side of the screen as the throttle.  Tap for one speed step up or down and swipe for a programed amount of speed steps up or down (I like 5).  This feature allows you to keep your head out of your phone and on your train.

Both systems are easy to install in all brands of engines.  Just rip out the stock electronics.  I'm sure you can find a buyer here.  I've sold all of my PS1, PS2 and PS3 boards on OGR.

Here is the start of a video series I made on RailPro to see if you are interested.

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