Fast Clocks and the ProtoThrottle

Have you noticed the –:– display on the main screen of the ProtoThrottle and were wondering what that was? Or, are you one of the lucky ones, and actually see a time displayed on the second line? Those characters on the display are for displaying a fast time from one of several fast clock sources. The ProtoThrottle simply acts as a repeater display for the time, from whatever source.

The ProtoThrottle has a single configuration variable for the time. This is in the COMM CFG menu, under TIME ADR. By default, you will see the word BASE displayed for this setting. This works in most cases and displays the time, if any, sent by the receiver to which the throttle is connected. If you press the UP button, you’ll see a series of hexadecimal numbers from 0x01 to 0xFE. These are MRBus addresses, and are used with the Iowa Scaled Engineering Wireless Fast Clocks – see below. Above 0xFE, the display will change to ALL. In this setting, the ProtoThrottle will display any time received, regardless of the source. While the ALL setting works fine in isolated situations with only a single time source (your own basement, for example), it would be a terrible choice in a public show setting where multiple ProtoThrottle receivers might be broadcasting time information. You will get erratic time information in that case.

The currently supported fast clock sources include the following…

NCE Command Station

If the NCE command station is configured to send fast time (see the NCE instructions for setting this up), the NCE receiver will automatically grab that time information and rebroadcast it for consumption by any ProtoThrottles within reception range. The best TIME ADR setting in this case is BASE. By the way, with an NCE ProtoThrottle receiver attached to the command station, you can also display the time on fascia mounted displays such as these.

ISE Wireless Fast Clock

The ISE Wireless Fast Clock Master is a full featured fast clock with ratios from 1.0:1 to 99.9:1 in 0.1 increments, 12 or 24 hour time display formats, three configurable start/reset times, “Hold” mode for when you need a “time out” in the middle of the operating session, and a real time clock and calendar with battery backup.  When using this system, either set TIME ADR on the ProtoThrottle to the MRBus address of the fast clock master (see the fast clock user manual for details), or to the ALL setting if no other time sources are in the immediate area. To use the ALL setting with an ISE fast clock and an NCE command station, you can disable the rebroadcast of the NCE fast time by setting the FT DIP switch on the ProtoThrottle receiver to OFF.

JMRI Fast Time

A recent addition is support for JMRI fast time. This requires a JMRI server, an ESU-BRIDGE receiver, and (most likely) a firmware upgrade of the receiver. If the ESU-BRIDGE firmware supports JMRI fast time, you will see the following lines in the protothrottle-config.txt file:

#useJMRIClock = 1
#webPort = 12080
#timeZoneOffset = -4

Uncomment those lines by removing the ‘#’ sign. Set timeZoneOffset to the appropriate value for your time zone – this is the offset in hours from UTC time.  The best TIME ADR setting is BASE in this case.

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