Tuesday, March 10, 2009

To use a computer for controlling your railroad or not

Let's face it. I want to build and run my model railroad. I don't want to program a computer and debug all the little problems that pop up when you make things complicated. Over the last few weeks I spent several evenings trying out various free Linux programs for controlling a model railroad (srcpd/spdrs60, jmri, rocrail), and all of them leave something to be desired. Be it the UI (jmri), or communication with the Intellibox (srcpd, jmri, rocrail), or (in)stability of the program (rocrail, srcpd) , or complexity of figuring out how this is even supposed to work (jmri).

Especially since I don't want to do everything on a computer screen. There are parts of my layout where automated control makes sense, especially the hidden staging area. There are several parts (especially tunnels) where feedback sensors make sense, so I can display track occupancy somewhere.

However, I also want my kids to be able to just play with the railroad. Turn on the control station, pick a locomotive with a train and drive it. This is naturally easier if they don't have to fire up a computer and restricted themselves to the visible areas (and the connecting tunnels, of course), and not necessarily venture into the dungeons of staging.

Running trains digitally is a given for me. Even for the relatively short time I had with the few locomotives I converted so far, the experience of actually driving a train over a piece of track independently from everything else that's going on around it has been very positive.

However, doing this on the naked staging tracks and ramps that will be hidden later is not exactly satisfying. There's still quite a bit of work left to do in staging, though it's details. Most of the basic electrical and track work is done.

Now that I finally have most of the parts I need to start building Talheim station, I'm longing for making some progress there, build some scenery, and take a break on the topic of computer control, and ripping my hair out out.

1 comment:

Leo said...

Maybe Apple will come up with a software called iRail... :)