President of the Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum, Ray Mueser uses computer control systems in regular operating sessions as well as during public shows. The computer is designed to give operators the ability to run sessions with a hands off approach where the trains chase each other around the layout without hitting one another.
The console can also be interrupted to speed a train up and run it into a siding to let another train pass. Operators are running their locomotives on DC, the computer is only computerized block routing. The number of locomotives that can be run in a session at a time using the computer is up to 30. They have about 120 blocks, which gets a little crowded on the layout.
The layout has half a mile of wire that is associated with the computer system. This large amount of wire is handled by a group of people who are very interested in the control system. The modelers call them the engineering group. There is roughly six feet of wire underneath the layout for each foot of track that is seen on top.
This year they only had about three operating sessions because sometimes their main line track is out of service when they have to put in bridges or repair track. They run hand throttles off the computer and usually have a dispatcher in the dispatcher’s office using two way radios to clear them from one section of the layout from one time to the next. There are even times when a piece of track out of service. To hear more about operations, watch the full video. For more tips on model railroad operations, or designing a control panel, visit the Model Railroad Academy archives.