Is Railroad and Co. worth using? That’s a question that has come to the forefront of my mind in the last 24 hours. I’ve used JMRI decoderpro and Panelpro for some time, mainly because these are open source, well supported, constantly upgraded and best of all, free.

My computers also don’t (at least until very recently) use windows, I’m a mac and Linux person. JMRI supports all 3 platforms. All the other DCC control packages Ive seen seem to be windows based. I also use open source software extensively, and have begun to look quite critically at the functionality offered by many commercial packages, whether these be for music, image editing & cataloging,or office tasks. The only commercial package I have on my mac is MS office, not out of choice, but because I’m required to have it for business purposes. My linux machines have no commercial software whatsoever and can do just about any task I wish. This makes me critical of many bits of windows software where I’m asked to pay good money for relatively little. The Hornby software is a case in point, as it is incapable of doing just about anything I use JMRI for at the moment. Dont get me wrong, I’m happy to pay if the product were to offer rich functionality (and I consider it reasonable to donate to open source projects), but I’m not going to pay for what is essentially heavy marketing of some glitzy gimmicks.

Recently, for business reasons I needed to acquire a windows laptop. For the first time in years I have a windows machine that isn’t locked down by the corporate IT department and I can load my own software. Fortunately most of my favourite open source packages (Gimp, inkscape, VLC, etc) have now developed windows versions and are all loaded.

Ive started looking at some of the other railway packages around, and having dismissed most of them as expensive and low functionality, I’m now looking at Railroad and Co for my DCC needs, initially it looked expensive and difficult to get under the bonnet to see what it did without buying the product. Ive now downloaded some manuals and so far it looks interesting. There are stacks of questions in my mind right now. far too many to list here, and there doesn’t seem to be any good plain simple advice about in the web searches Ive made so far. It looks like I’m on my own in a journey of discovery.

The layout will soon get rewired with block detection, and I need to decide pretty quickly which software will link to it. I’ve already set up some stuff in JMRI Panelpro ready to use, so I’ve got a good idea what I want to do. I’m going to try to replicate this in Railroad & Co id the demo version will allow me to and then make a decision. To help others I’ll document progress in the blog.