In order to quickly convey an impression of the ease of use, simplicity and speed of
or for a first comparison with other control programs with regard to these criteria,
we have developed the following little test.
The Route Test
A route in TrainController™
is a combination of turnouts, crossings and other track symbols to a secure itinerary.
Routes are a basic function that are found in very similar form in virtually every software
for model railroad computer control.
Such common basic functions are therefore well suited to compare the operating philosophy of
various control programs to each other, as this is done by way of example in the following
Let's start the test with a small puzzle:
How many routes are hidden in the adjacent illustration of a typical station entrance?
Try to find out the answer yourself first and then open the list to verify your answer:
The exact answer is of course depending on how this station entrance is operated exactly
and can slightly vary from program to program.
The mentioned number is valid, however, for a typical representation of the track diagram of this
station in TrainController™
and can be assumed to be similar in other control programs.
The route test evaluates the procedure to enter routes into the program.
0 points are awarded,
when a program provides no function for routes.
25 points are awarded,
if a route is entered into a program by adding the digital addresses of all turnouts contained in
the route to a list.
This procedure is not only so uncomfortable, because you must enter each turnout in a route
individually, but also because a change in a digital turnout address enforces editing of all
This procedure is also very error prone, because due to the big number of records
an entry is easily forgotten or created with errors.
50 points are awarded,
if a route is entered into a program by adding the names or another text based identifier
of all contained turnouts to a list.
This procedure is also inconvenient and error-prone because you must cover each individual turnout
with correct position, and because of possible typos.
75 points are awarded,
if instead of typing in the names of the turnouts the existing symbols or names of the turnouts can be
choosen from a list or if references to existing objects are established in a similar way.
This method excludes at least the risk of typing errors.
The risk of wrong choices or wrong turnout positions still exists.
This method may still require several hours to enter all the routes in the figure above into
such program, to test these routes carefully and to correct all input errors.
100 points are awarded,
if you do not select the turnouts symbols from a list, but can click on the turnout including the
desired position in the track diagram on the computer screen.
125 points are awarded,
if a route can be created by clicking on its start and end in the track image and the program
automatically calculates the path of the route and all included turnouts in the right position.
Or if you can determine the route by dragging the mouse along the track in the track image.
Or if one or more routes are calculated by manually starting a separate process.
150 points are awarded,
if all routes in a switchboard are automatically calculated by the program without forcing the user to
start the calculation by hand.
175 points are awarded,
if changes of the track diagram do not only trigger the recalculation of all routes,
but also the automatic adjustment of all dependent itineraries and schedules, if this is useful on the basis of these changes.
The full score of 200 points is only awarded,
if the above-mentioned automatic calculations are performed in a split second and in real time during editing of the
track diagram, as it is the case with our
50 extra points (a total of 250 points) are earned by a program only
if it can calculate routes that lead from one switchboard to another,
as our TrainController™ Gold
can do this.
Just draw the switchboard for the above station entrance in
TrainController™ or another program and
specify all routes located in this small switchboard.
Note also how easily and quickly the track diagram can be created.
Is there for example a pencil tool for quick drawing of the diagram?
How safe is the correct specification and examination of turnout addresses?
Does the program allow to quickly and easily change the track diagram subsequently?
How easy is it to specify that a train coming from the station entrance automatically
searches a free platform track and automatically stops there?
Of course, our route test just covers one basic function of many - but it often provides a good first
impression of how the particular program works.
Why should a program require only a few steps for the specification of procedures for automatic operation,
if it requires days for the recording of routes?
But of course you can and should develop your own "benchmark" tests,
if you want to compare different programs with each other.
Possible examples are not only the drawing of the switchboard track diagram, routes, or
itineraries, but also the arrangement of commuter trains, signals,
stops in a block (especially with one detector per block), up to more complex maneuvers such as change of locomotives,
stop in the center of a platform, optimal use of hidden yards by taking into account the current and
changing length of trains or the inclusion of turntables in the automatic operation.
Don't forget also the actuality and completeness of the documentation, any input aids or other tools.
There are users who actually choose a program because of the price or a brief check list.
Just after running the route test, however, a number of users would already come to a different decision.
Did you know for example that the data of some
includes more than 1000 routes? The manual specification of such routes, which are calculated by
in a split second, would take several months, not to mention the potential damage that could result from faulty
routes. In-depth tests, such as our little route test do not only quickly uncover in such an extreme case,
how much time can be saved by the proper choice of the control program.
Time is money - even for the model railroad hobby.
Or does it not matter for you how much free time is left to continue your layout or to play with your trains?