I like putting the horse before the cart. My layout is far from being 100% functional, let alone done. However, I like to play with my PC Control software.
I was wondering how I would present my layout switchboard on my computer.

Many questions

Designing a switchboard is kind of fun, it reminds me of the old days of playing train simulators. Did you know by the way, that the classic Transport Tycoon Deluxe now lives on as an open source project?

Anyway, although there are no rules (unless you want to recreate actual train companies switchboards), it’s not that easy. The layout switchboard need to be easy to understand in a few seconds, say for someone who doesn’t know your layout.
But that’s not all, there are many questions:

  • Should I use colors?
  • Should all track sections be the same size, or represent the actual lengths on the layout?
  • Should the blocks be all horizontal (for easier viewing), or do I allow vertical blocks?
  • Should I really represent 100% of my tracks, or can I allow “jumps” (shortcuts between sections not visually connected by tracks).

I am using Train Controller Gold v8.0 from Freiwald Software, but those questions are valid for most PC control options.

A never ending story

I wasn’t satisfied with my current switchboard, it looked like this (click to enlarge):

Switchboard for my layout (initial version)

Switchboard for my layout with TrainController Gold, (software copyright Freiwald Software)

My first issue was with the vertical blocks (not really user friendly I find). The other one was with the “mountain” section of  my 4th module (described here and here). I really didn’t like the zig-zags; although they did represent my tracks “as is”, it didn’t seem easy to use on the long run.

So I changed those two items. Specifically for my “mountain” section, I separated the track plan and moved it to the top of my layout switchboard, as a separate visual representation. That looks much better now I find:

Switchboard for my layout

Switchboard for my layout with TrainController Gold, (software copyright Freiwald Software)

This design will surely change in the future. But for now, I have had my fun. Now off to run trains a bit…

If you also use a PC to control your layout, don’t hesitate to point to pictures of your own switchboards. Inspiration often comes by sharing!