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My Little Railroad Buddy


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I spent quite a bit of time during December constructing control panels. One physical and two virtual.

The first panel I made was a physical panel for Halland Yard.

The purpose of this panel is to make it possible for my 3 year old son to switch cars at Halland Yard. Now all I need is to come up with an inexpensive throttle for him and he's ready to go.

The panel is made by sticking a printed label to 1/8" plywood. The switches are SPDT and eight of them are wired to a Team Digital SRC8. The other four are not installed yet, and just represented on the schematic. The panel took about 12 hours to build.

The Second panel I made a virtual panel of my whole layout (to this point) using JMRI. Read my blog post JMRI First Thoughts.

It took about 8 hours to figure out how to run JMRI and build this panel. A virtual panel is definitely easier than wiring a physical panel and easier to change.

The Third panel I made was a virtual panel using Model Railroad Automation.

It took about 2 hours to figure out Model Railroad Automation and create this panel. Although it is easier to build panels than with JMRI, the operation is not as full featured.


Earlier this year I also made a virtual panel using RR&Co. TrainController (read more), which for me has been the best layout automation software I've tried, but at $350 for the version I need, I think I'll have to do without.


When I started this layout, I wanted to create one physical panel at a centralized location and wire it up with a CML electronics DTM30. But I realized the folly in this approach is that every time you need to change a switch, you have to run back to the panel.

My plans evolved to wanting to have several small physical panels distributed and a centralized physical dispatcher panel for mainline operations.

Now my plans are pointing to a more virtual solution. Using several small physical panels and a virtual master panel for the dispatcher. Or maybe having just virtual panels and access via my PDA.

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