We are often asked about the differences between TrainController™ and other computer programs for model railroad control. All programs support control of turnouts and signals with track diagrams displayed on the computer screen as well as driving of locomotives and trains with on-screen throttles.

But what makes the difference?

In the past the look of the track diagram on the computer screen was supposed to be an important distinguishing feature. But in the meantime TrainController™ provides millions of possibilities to adjust the layout of the track diagram to the personal taste or even to model the look of other programs, if desired.

As the most important distinguishing feature the operational principle and the perfectly smooth transition between automatic and manual operation remains. Another aspect is the high quality compared to some competitive programs, i.e. the fact, that TrainController™ is almost faultless. The high efficiency and convenience of data input can be checked against other programs with tests like our route test.

The different operational principles of the particular programs are outlined in the following:

Programs with locomotive related logic:

With this kind of control automatic processes are specified individually for each particular locomotive. Typically, these processes are based on step-by-step instructions or procedures, that are to be programmed in a specific command language. Or they are based on a fix schedule system, where instructions bound to specific locomotives and trains are entered into the program. The numbers of locomotives and trains that shall execute certain orders are already specified when the automatic operation is laid down. As a consequence the operation tends to be inflexible, because the same locomotive continuously repeats the same procedures.

Even worse, the specification of processes requires the knowledge of a specific programming or command language and therefore certain skills of computer experts are necessary. Whenever a new locomotive is taken into operation the work of programming for this new locomotive begins again.

Such schematized processes are often just desired on exhibition layouts. Here fail-safe operation without surprises is important. On private layouts where varied operation is desired the repetition of identical procedures does not satisfy.

Programs with logic tied to the locality:

With this kind of control automatic processes are triggered by feedback sensors, independently from train numbers. Instructions associated with a certain feedback sensor are executed by the train that is currently located at this sensor. This type of control allows only for inflexible, schematized processes, too, because all trains perform the same operations at the same locations of the layout.

Sometimes this is desired and for this reason TrainController™ provides this type of control as an additional option, too. But these so called auxiliary automatic mechanisms should only be used for the quick setup of very simple processes (such as a simple automatic commuter train, that is running continuously back and force between two fix stations).

Intelligent, varied operation is not possible with this type of control.

Programs with pre-defined, layout-related logic:

This category contains programs that allow intelligent and varied operation of the layout to a certain degree. Standardized processes are implemented in the program and are adapted to the layout by specification of the track layout, train lines and the specific attributes of locomotives and trains.

In some programs the pre-defined processes are very limited with regard to the flexibility they provide. For this reason these programs are limited to the control of small layouts with somewhat typical track structure.

The flexibility of other programs is not as limited. But this can only be achieved with a large number of dialog boxes with a mass of program options. These options are needed to adapt the program to specific needs of the layout. Especially for the novice user it is often impossible to gain an overview and to estimate the consequences of a specific setting with regard to the operation.

Regardless how much options such program provides: as a matter of principle only those processes can be performed that have been foreseen by the manufacturer in advance. If a specific scenario is not covered then the user can only hope, that this variant is taken in account in a future version of the program.

Programs with adaptable, layout-related logic:

TrainController™ is distinguished by this solution. TrainController™ is also adapted to the layout by specification of the track layout, train lines and the specific attributes of locomotives and trains. The design and logic of the model railroad layout is entered into the software rather than inflexible step-by-step instructions. Based on the knowledge of the layout TrainController™ is able to perform the various processes itself and to react accordingly to the current operating situation. No change or extension of the specified logic is necessary, when a new locomotive or train is added to the layout. The range of scenarios is not limited by the range of pre-defined processes.

Common to most programs is the aspect, that the track diagram and the properties of engines and trains must be entered first into the software. With most other programs the actual work begins, after this is done. The possible paths or other actions to be performed by running trains must be entered in detail with step-by-step instructions, procedures, extensive lists and tables etc. Each single turnout operation, for example, to be thrown in the path of a running train, must be specified explicitely in advance - in old fashioned programs by specification of the turnout's digital address, in more advanced programs by selecting the turnout's symbol or by recording the turnout operation. But always explicitely. TrainController™ is different: just enter your track diagram, specify the properties of your trains and fun can begin. Just drag the symbol of a train from its certain position on the computer screen to its desired destination position, and the train will start running there - under full control of the software. All turnouts are operated automatically without the need to specify this explictely in advance. 

Additionally, TrainController™ provides an extensible box of building blocks. Each module provides individual and manageable functionality that is easy to understand. You put these modules together to adapt the logic of your layout and the operation to your specific needs. TrainController™ is no electronical prefabrication with limited capabilities. On the contrary, it supports adaptation to almost all model railroad layouts and a virtually unlimited number of operating scenarios; like a well thought industrial track system, that allows for an unlimited number of track plans. Adaptation to very specific needs does not require, that this specific case has been already foreseen in TrainController™. In a flexible track system the track plan of a certain station is also not pre-defined; it is possible, though, to model almost any station. Does your hidden yard contain 49 tracks and 5 entries and exits? Is your hidden yard operated in one or both directions? Are certain tracks sometimes occupied by one long train and sometimes by several short trains that move up one after each other? With TrainController™ nothing of these is a problem. Analogously to an industrial track system you only use those modules that are needed to control your layout. You control the complexity of your operation yourself and have the overview.

For these reasons we also do not maintain a feature list of the available functions. Thanks to the modular and extensible principle the possibilities are virtually not limited.  You might find some lists published by our users. To study such lists might be useful for you, too, but they only reflect the degree of coverage of personal needs.

Do not be fooled during evaluation of different programs by a good looking track plan or a thick manual. The size of the manual just mirrors the amount of options, you have to learn and to know in order to run your trains in an indivual manner. Sooner or later you will want to achieve individual operation and then the wheat will be separated from the chaff. Here TrainController™ brings all its  flexibility to bear. Very often other programs have to pass here or break down in annoying crashes. Unfortunately many users decided for TrainController™ after they made such bad experiences with other programs or after a bad buy. BTW: it is almost not necessary to stress, that with TrainController™ you can try for the real thing befory you buy.

A further hint: like a book about track planning that helps you to create individual track plans by using standardized track systems, the Users Guide of TrainController™ provides hints and examples about operation of  hidden yards, blocking, passing, or depots, as well as random and time table based operation and much more. Prior reading is highly recommended!

And last, but not least the principle of well tested and therefore faultless modules grants a permanently high and very stable quality of the program. Up to now new versions of TrainController™ have been robust within shortest time to allow for long-lasting, fail-safe operation of the model railroad layout.

Summary of the most important benefits:

For this reason we can promise you right now:

With TrainController™ safely to the destination!