EX-CommandStation

WiFi Connection

Propeller Beanie Engineer Hat

This page describes all the supported WiFi options of the EX‑CommandStation. If you identify as an a Conductor and have installed only the recommended hardware we suggest that you look at the guide on the Adding WiFi page.


The purpose of this WiFi solution is for connecting up to 5 WiFi Throttles DIRECTLY to the EX‑CommandStation, eliminating the need for a computer and another software controller. However, WiFi is optional. If you wish to simply use your computer connected via a USB cable to to the Command Station using something like JMRI, you can skip ahead to the next page.

There are many ways to add WiFi to your Command Station. We will cover four supported methods here.

You should be able to apply what you learn here to using other boards, but you can ask us for help using any of the contact links on our Support Page if you have a question.

Note that you can click on any of the images to make them larger.

For a video to help you, click below.

Why Use WiFi?

BEFORE you purchase a Wifi card, please consider whether you actually need it:

With the base Command Station (CS) consisting of just an Arduino Mega and an Arduino Motor Driver (no WiFi board), you must use a USB cable to connect to a computer to run JMRI or our EX‑WebThrottle, or to connect to another controller. The controller (aka Throttle) is what sends commands to the Command Station to run your trains and control your accessories.

If you intend to run trains from a PC or Raspberry Pi, either by entering <DCC++> commands, by using EX‑WebThrottle, JMRI, Rocrail, or similar, then YOU DO NOT NEED WiFi ON THE Command Station. Save yourself some money, and a lot of hassle, by buying a longer USB cable (or a Wireless USB bridge (HC-12) if you prefer). Using Wifi (OR Ethernet) to talk between JMRI and CommandStation is complex, slow and functionally limited and is therefore NOT SUPPORTED. However, you can STILL use a wireless throttle with a JMRI setup. The computer or Pi you use to run your train software will already have WiFi capability, and you can connect through THAT instead of directly to the Command Station, while the Command Station gets its commands through the USB connection.

If you wish to disconnect your PC/Pi and run trains from your phone or tablet using ONLY Engine Driver (or other wiThrottle Protocol devices) connected directly to the EX‑CommandStation, then you will need Wifi, and will have to budget some setup and learning time.

Compatible Boards

Most boards based on the ESP8266 should work with EX‑CommandStation. However, with all the variations and software versions out there, we’ve compiled this list of known tested, working hardware. We will add more over time.

Fore more boards you may be able to use, see the WiFi Boards Section

What you will need (for WiFi)

Note

While it may be possible to run WiFi on an Uno, Nano or Pro Mini, it is currently not supported. The Uno simply does not have enough memory to run networking in addition to all the other Command Station features (network code takes about 10kB of progmem and about 2kB of RAM). Also, there is only one hardware serial port. There would be a conflict with the USB port used for logging and connection to software like JMRI being shared.

Either:

  • A EX‑CommandStation - Command Station (CS) made from a Mega and an Arduino Motor Shield

  • One of the above WiFi boards

  • Two (2) Male to Female Jumpers (plus 3 more if you are using an ESP-01 or 01s)

Or:

  • A EX‑CommandStation - Command Station (CS) made from a Mega+WiFi Combo Board

Supported Boards

Install the Software

If you already have the Command Station software running and are just adding WiFi, there is nothing further you need to do if you want to use the EX‑CommandStation as an Access Point (AP) and connect a wiThrottle Protocol compatible CAB (Engine Driver). The next time you power up the Command Station, it will automatically find your WiFi board and which port it is connected to. See the detailed instructions here: WiFi Configuration

Note

LOGIN PASSWORD - If you use Access Point Mode, you must connect your throttle to the DCCEX network, not your home network. The Access Point will be called DCCEX_abcdef and the password will be PASS_abcdef, where “abcdef” is the last 6 characters of the ESP MAC address. Just look at the list of available networks on your phone and you can see this information. It is also shown in the boot log if you connect your Command Station to a computer running a serial monitor. Please click on the “WiFi Configuration” link above for more detailed instruction.

If you are setting up your Command Station for the first time, or are making changes to the basic setup, navigate to Command Station Downloads to load firmware onto the Command Station.

Note

You may run into an ESP-01s board that has the wrong firmware on it. This is easy to test by connecting it and looking at the startup log for the CS in the serial monitor. If the board does not respond to AT commands, you will need to install new firmware on the ESP board. This is called “flashing”. You can find how to do this, as well as some other interesting things in the Geoff Bunza article on creating a signal only command station. .Skip to the “The ESP-01S - The Wifi Connection” section