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Operating Model Railroads with No Hands


Operating a model railroad involves a complicated series of coordinated maneuvers. Working out the sequence of moves is not easy, and so far computers have not been much help.

New software from TrainPlayer aims to fill this need. Version 3.0 of TrainPlayer offers “scripting,” a way of programming train movements so they can be captured, played back, and exchanged among users.

The actions required to run a train -- set speed, change direction -- are commands in the TrainPlayer script language. The user creates a sequence of commands and locations; as each line plays, it waits until the train reaches the specified location, then executes the command. The result is a sort of movie of the train in action.

Users can develop scripts by hand, or use the script recorder to capture commands while driving the train. Scripts can be rewound, played back, paused, restarted, edited, and saved. 3.0 products contain several scripted layouts ready to play.

Company founder Jim Dill says “As an operations novice, I’ve spent time trying to figure out how to run railroads, but I never got very far because there was no way to work out a procedure and write it down. Now I develop scripts, where I have to spell out all the details and really understand what it takes to do operations.”

Version 3.0 (currently for Windows only) has other new features. Graphics are redesigned to allow zooming in for extreme closeups. Cars have trucks for more realistic turns. Sounds can be connected to areas on the layout so a sound plays as the train passes. Trains look better in tunnels and underpasses.

Products for PC and Mac can be purchased online: TrainPlayer, for running trains on prepared layouts, with plans from “101 Track Plans for Model Railroaders,” by Linn Westcott ($29.95 with 12 layouts, $59.95 with all 101); TrackLayer, an enhanced version with tools for drawing track on diagrams or maps ($49.95 with 12 layouts, $79.95 with all 101); the TrainPlayer Screen Saver (Windows only, $19.95). Existing users can upgrade to 3.0 for $24.95. Free demos are available.

For more information, visit

Contact: Jim Dill, TrainPlayer, 4200 Arcadian Dr., Castro Valley, CA 94546, (707) 320-4246,


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