The McKinley Railway track design is very complicated. To further muddy the waters, half of the two double track mainlines are on the lower, hidden level, and thus cannot be seen by operators.
So having humans’ manually control trains on the mainlines was never a viable option, and it was long envisaged that a computer would be needed for this part of the McKinley operations.
To get a flavour of the complexities involved, just consider a northbound journey from London Kings Park to Birmingham.
The following turnouts to be Thrown are: Nos 401, 217, 203, 204, 408, 406 and 424
The following turnouts to be Closed are: Nos 205, 201, 202
In addition, around 25 signals would have to be set to green and then reset to red once the train has passed.
Even for an experienced operator who is used to Digitrax throttles and is familiar with the McKinley trackplan that would be a lot of buttons to press without ever getting one in the wrong order.
Boredom, if not total confusion, could easily set in if a similar set of actions was needed for each journey. And remember; there are many journeys with different routing options to deal with, and the example given between London and Birmingham is a relatively straightforward one.
This is where the beauty of Train Controller comes into play. All the information mentioned above is entered into the software and saved as a schedule. Whenever the layout controller wants to send a train on the example journey all he has to do is press two buttons which fires off the appropriate preset schedule.
The pre-prepared schedule for a train to run from London to Birmingham
When the London station manager has completed the tasks associated with the preparation of the train which will be used on this schedule he passes control of the train over to Train Controller. This allows the train to depart on its journey to Birmingham. All point and signal changes plus the management of five conflicting routes (which may contain other trains on other journeys at the same time), are executed in a safe and reliable manner. Job done!
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