The Scheme, The Team, The Dream

Operations Introduction

The McKinley Railway is primarily about how we operate trains, whether under human or computer control. From the trackplan you will see that the existing layout has three large stations and one freight-only location, with an additional 12-track central staging yard outside the main layout room.

red green



These locations are all connected by two independent double track main lines which weave their way around the layout through visible and hidden sections.





window world




The Red/Green Mainline 'weaves' it's way towards McKinley Road Station



At present we run a paper-based timetable which links these four centres. To facilitate this complex arrangement we rely on automated train movements which are controlled by a central computer.



 The Red/Green (2 closest), the Blue/Black (2 farthest) and the link line (2 middle)



Operators at each station have full control over what happens. They break up trains upon arrival and, in accordance with the timetable, prepare fresh ones for departure.


During a full evening operating session we require eleven people to run the railway:

  • Eight operators run the four stations/yards.
  • The Timetable Manager (a.k.a. The Fat Controller) co-ordinates the timetabled activities between the stations.
  • The Mainline Train Driver runs a computer program called TrainController; this software usually controls about eight trains simultaneously, taking/delivering trains to/from the stations according to the timetable.
  • Finally we have The Thunderbird Man (Alan) to rescue any train that has disobeyed The Fat Controller and done something stupid like stall or derail.

computer screens



The computer software is very good at running lots of trains at the same time. When programmed correctly trains proceed at appropriate speeds and stop at the signals if required. The system is very safe, and accidents are extremely rare, which allows visitors and station operators to watch trains rolling by … just like the real thing.

A combination of computer and human control gives us great flexibility in that we can run the layout with any number of people.


         A general view of the Train Controller software in action


By yourself you can simply watch the trains driven by computer around the layout (the owner’s favourite pastime!), or increase the number of open stations linked into the sequence as the operator count rises.



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