Saw the future today. Wow!
Was over at my buddy Steve’s house today, doing a little work on the traveling layout and then getting another test run in on the SP&K. It’s a cool two-deck layout with a lower staging area, a twin helix (up and down) and then and over and back run – basically a great big dogbone (with a section of single track). But the thing is, he’s automated it.
We’d run an early practice session a while back (HERE) and found a number of problems with how things worked, all which Steve addressed. For example, instead of throwing turnouts manually, the computer does it for you now. You just determine what this train is supposed to do and the computer sets everything.
The first run was with me (a human) and an automated train in front and behind me. Now, there were no signals, so Steve had to tell me when to stop (and troubles arose the time he did not). Still, it was cool to run through a junction with two other trains holding until I was clear.
Then he fired off the Grande Finale – he activated all seven trains in staging. One by one, they sorted themselves out through the lower network and ascended the helix. Topside, the RDCs were running in orderly fashion, meeting at Stuyvesant Central. Passenger trains stopped in the stations. Freights rolled past (overtaking them when possible). Turnouts quietly threw. In the end, all seven trains ran the entire layout (including the single-track gauntlet) without a single mishap. There is no way a human could have gotten all of them through that network that quickly.
It’s going to be interesting going forward, figuring out an ops schema that will fit this. It’s a totally different form of operations than I’m used to, very “European”, very practical and German. And very futuristic.