Like many aspects of Modelling, we are spoiled for choice- from private custom written Software Applications to complex systems with large development teams.
The beauty lies therein that everyone can choose his/her own solution – there is no right or wrong !
We all have different expectations and may seek varying desired levels of complexity and functionality.
Your choice will ultimately be influenced by Availability, Cost, Functionality, Options and Support or simply on someone’s Opinion 🙂
Which Software should I choose?
The Good news is that there are “Free” (either as “shareware” or even better as “Open Source”) applications and tools available as an alternative to commercial applications.
World-wide, the 2 most widely used and popular model railroad control software products are:
You however need to be realistic in terms of what to expect from your chosen software solution.
- Need Premium support and require to speak to support?
..In this case it is probably better for you to go with a commercial solution (not to say that open source cannot offer the same or even better levels of support in the form of community forums)
- Like to tinker or perhaps you want to/need to make changes to the code?
..Then one of the Open Source projects may be just what you are looking for!
You get the point, right?
- It is also important to note that some applications may be product specific, meaning that the software only works with a particular manufacturers equipment, or perhaps ties you into using a specific bus protocol.The point being, that You need to be aware of the “choices the software is making on your behalf“
- Be careful that you don’t end up purchasing a DCC system purely based on the software you initially use. Without realizing it, you may “buy into” a DCC system as a result of trying your hand with some particular version of software!My recommendation is that if you do decide to invest in a software solution, do a bit of research, just to ensure, as a minimum, that you will ultimately be able to meet your own personal goals.
There are various types of DCC Applications available.
Some software applications only allow you to program decoders, while other software, allows for train control and automation (no matter the level of simplicity or complexity), which is what (I) this site is trying to promote, ultimately giving you a “nicer” layout to play with 🙂
Note: DCC Software is different from Layout Planning and Simulation Software.
Regardless of which Software application you use, you still need to connect your computer to your DCC layout before you can use any of these tools.
In short, Interfacing means connecting your layout to a computer via a Serial or USB port.
|Java Model Railroad Interface (JMRI)
||Supports all Major DCC systems
||The JMRI software is a suite of programs and is a single download. Don’t worry about about trying to get each part separately – they’re all bundled together. Also, you do not need to use each part of the suite to get a specific task done – that is you don’t need to setup the automation part if all you want is to quickly program your decoders.|
|Only works with Loconet (Digitrax)||MIcrosoft Windows based (.NET) command and control application strictly for the Loconet network. It has many advanced features such as: slot inspector, packet traffic inspector, LocoIO programmer, DCC decoder programmer, multiple throttle control, editable vector based switchboard display, supports tracks, turnouts, blocks, routes, sensors, signals, accessories, event binding and scripting, sequence recording, speech recognition control, remote control over TCP, and more|
|ROCRAIL||Supports multiple DCC systems||Rocrail is an Innovative Model Railroad Control System that runs on Linux, Mac OS X, Raspberry Pi and Windows. Written in C/C++, it is based on the wxWidgets class library, and is Open SourceSupports Multiple Controllers Marklin 6050 IntelliBox P50x SRCP DDL DDW erddcd HSI88 Dinamo OM32 Lenz Selectrix EDiTS Pro RCI Zimo LocoNet srcpd|
|A-TRACK||Requires NCE Corporation Power Cab or Power Pro Digital Command Control systems||Runs, under Windows and is connected to your system via an NCE USB Interface unitWith NCE Power Pro systems, A-TRACK gives you full access to the Command Station, and hence the ability to display all of the key parameters stored in its internal memory on the PC screen. This allows you to perform Command Station and Handheld Cab setup directly from the computer|
|TCC||Supports multiple DCC Systems||Tcc is a software package for assisting in the running of model railway layouts. It is software loaded onto a computer that drives interface hardware (such as RPC modules) that connect to model railway devices such as signals, turnouts and control panels.The computer used may be a PC running Windows, Linux or Solaris, a Sun sparc running Solaris, or an Apple Mac running OS X.|
|C/MRIhttp://www.jlcenterprises.net||Supports multiple DCC Systems||Bruce Chubb’s Computer/Model Railroad Interface system.|
|MRCCC||Only runs on MERG RPC hardware (RS232)||Windows software application created to provide a user interface and interlocking for the model railway that closely replicates real modern UK signalling practice. MRCCC is designed to be the signalbox – it does not attempt to control the trains or allocate controllers and traction power feeds. However, it is a flexible system and complex additional logic can be built up if required using any of the signalling states, which MRCCC knows about.|
|Railroad & Company®||Supports all major systems|
|KAM TRAIN TOOLS||Development halted due to legal and economic issues||Train Tools is collection of Model Railroading Products that are designed to use computers to enhance your experience in running your model railroad .KAMRR provides the differnt solutions needed to operate your model railroad. KAMRR Train Tools software provides the tools for you to operate your layout. Train Tools software includes Engine Commander Virtual smart phone Throttle and other application software.|
|Roco/Fleischmann Z21||Operation of layout with smartphone and tablet PC’s||COM or USB port, so no changes to your computer are necessary. And using the CTI system requires no changes to your model railroad equipment. We believe the CTI system represents the most flexible, the most user-friendly, and most affordable model railroad control system ever produced.|
|CTI ELECTRONICS||Proprietary system with custom hardware||CTI interfaces directly to your PC’s external COM or USB port, so no changes to your computer are necessary. And using the CTI system requires no changes to your model railroad equipment. We believe the CTI system represents the most flexible, the most user-friendly, and most affordable model railroad control system ever produced.|
|HORNBY RAILMASTER||Supports Hornby Hardware||RailMaster, from Hornby. It has a database of more 1,500 locos going back to the 1970s, allows full control of locos, signals, points, turntables and operating accessories from a computer.Optimized for touch screen operation using MS Windows. There is a simple programming language built in that allows the building of automated layouts. Build programlets and merge them into large programs for more sophistication.|
|ZUggDCC||Only Supports ExpressNet (Lenz)
||Easy to use DCC Control program to operate Lenz XpressNet DCC systems through the Lenz LI100, LI101F and LI-USB computer interface.ZugDCC is Shareware. You can download a limited version of the software to try it, and upon registering it, other features will be unlocked and available|
|MRC||Requires MRC hardware||MRC offers a proprietary computer interface for their Prodigy DCC products, along with software. The software is for Microsoft Windows only, and is the only software which works with their Prodigy Computer Interface. At this time there is no other software package that can interface with the MRC Prodigy DCC system.|
||easy to use solution to control your model railroad with your computer(s), especially if you want to automate only parts of your layout and keep control of the rest yourself
Windows, Linux, OS X
|Designed by the creators of Moore Street TMD to enable a complex end to end layout run realistically with several sound enabled locos operating at the same time with the switching of turnouts, routes and signals. It was soon realized that the only practical way to operate Moore Street TMD was with the investment of some train controller software for my lap top.|
|BIG BEAR DCC||Supports numerous DCC systems||Designed by the creators of Moore Street TMD to enable a complex end to end layout run realistically with several sound enabled locos operating at the same time with the switching of turnouts, routes and signals. It was soon realized that the only practical way to operate Moore Street TMD was with the investment of some train controller software for my lap top.|
Based on availability, support and Ease of Use, we recommend using the commercial software, Railroad & Company® from Friewald Software is hard to beat and we have found this software to be the most intuitive and easy-to-use model railroad control software on the market today.
While not perfect, RR&Co’s well thought out and highly intuitive graphical user interface means this software is very easy to learn and use, making it particularly attractive to users without computer programming experience.
RR&Co supports virtually every popular DCC system, including products from Arnold, EasyDCC, Lenz, Lionel, Marklin, North Coast, Ramfixx, Trix, Wangrow, Zimo, and others, again making this software a very attractive solution if you want to future-proof your investment.
If you cannot afford, or simply first want to try a DCC system, we recommend using JMRI® from the Java Model Railorad Interface project which is a collaborative, open-source effort to develop a suite of tools for model railroad computer control.
You can use the JMRI toolset as the starting point for developing your open model railroad control applications, or use their higher level applications suite directly.
You can build control panels, set up signaling, configure operations and control your layout using or go beyond the basics and use Logixto to automate your layout’s operation.
Page Credit: Stéfan Stoltz