I'm glad you didn't give up on it I doubt you will willingly go back to wood.
When you say draft inducer do you mean a device that is installed in your chimney, or a blower that pushes air into the firebox?
I think its probably best to continue to go down in the basement to do any adjustments but, that's just me.
If I wanted to set up that type of furnace with a remote air damper I would cut a hole in the side of the ashpit and install air intake and damper and possibly a bimetallic thermostat like what the hitzer stoves an wondercoal stoves have and then run a chain up to a thing like this http://www.ebay.com/itm/ANTIQUE-CAST-IR ... 417c7b4f2f
. It doesn't have to be fancy unless you have a Mrs. that demands it. You could make something out of wood or metal that would work if you have some basic tools