Lets visit the completed railway well into the future....
Coming into the door, the place looks normal enough and you are greeted and ushered to the living room. Immediately you notice the CTC panel on a desk. Looks good - a VR based panel, with a black with white lettering.
The operator has a TV monitor in one corner, a clock and a telephone on the desk, along with some written forms and instructions. The monitor is showing what looks like a staging yard throat. At the moment a XPT is departing the staging, past the camera. "Shushh, he's on the line to a station operator" whispers our host. The operator is clearly busy. The panel has only a few lines lit up with red - must be train on the system.
My host then takes me to another room - WOW! "A part recreation of a VR "G" class loco," my host explains. Another Operator is in the chair driving a train. "What computer simulation is this" I ask. "Not a simulation that is a picture from a loco below", replies the host. Looking at the picture a bit closer it is apparent ( one can never make scenery totally mimic miniature) - I could see the huge giant operators in the background when the loco rounded a corner. I noticed the Driver was operating the controls. The driver looks up and introduces himself. "Great concept this, I'm just rolling into a passing loop to meet a pass. See the signals, I'd better stop now."
My host then ushered me back past the CTC operator and down some stairs. The railway room was not busy, I noticed only two other people down here. The layout is double level and the layout is lighted well, with no lights in the walkways making the scenery stand out.
Lots of signals in use, all fully operation I guessed. On the facias I noticed the mainline painted on with extra lights."Those are repeater signals for operators, one can not drive a train from behind and see all the signals - so they let you know what is happening. And believe me you have to obay the signals or you may cause a accident !" I knew the layout had DCC - you could see the many throttle plugs around the layout.
"You only have two people down here at the moment and two upstairs, yet it all seems rather busy", I stated. My host then showed me one of the reasons for this - a computer system. "This computer handles the control of most of the railway -I have three, one for the CTC panel, one for the loco simulators and a third one, this one directly interfacing with the railway. At the moment two stations are being run by the other two operators. They handle the shunting in their yards. The driver in the ‘cab' is running trains for them on the mainline. The CTC operator works with him and the station staff. To keep things busy at the moment the computer is actually taking trains form one operator and driving them in and out of the staging yard.
"I see a third train in use on the mainline - who is driving that one ?". My host pointed to the computer. "Actually that is a friend in Queensland - the computer has a Internet connection and he is operating that train using another camera equipped locomotive." We went into a adjoining room, with a train rolling past on the lower level. "See this station here ? It only get used when there is shunting, or we have enough people. We use different timetables depending on who turns up. Sometime we are all down here just running trains and using human interlocking not to have a cornfield meet. At the moment my friends are using the railway their way."
All very interesting and I start to wander around as my host heads upstairs for a while...........
Conclusion: No one bit of benchwork had been built, not one point made, not one electronic circuit built. But this dream is possible ,today ! Realistically it will be many years, knowing me. It shall be interesting how much of this comes to pass.
Lets take a ride on the completed railway......
It is early tuesday morning as our battered flat tray truck pulls into "A" station. This country branch is still going strong, with the local oil merchant still the main customer, and the passenger traffic is still there. As a bonus there is a local preservation society based here and help run the branch.
Today is typical. We board a "DERM" in the bay platform, the main platform has the society's vintage train stored there. Our train leaves "A". We roll immediatly into a valley that soon leads to a tunnel. on the other side we come though a grain silo "B" and round a few curves before we see the mainline below as both our DERM and the mainline head into "C".
"C" is the main station in this region, yet located just on the ourskirts of town. Those grain silo dominate the skyline. "C" has a major loco facility and is is a changeover point for many a crew. We watch our DERm head back down the branch as our passenger train glides into the station - a sleek XPT. We climb aboard and soon we are heading back into the country, through plain fields and occasional hills.
We pass thorugh a small town "D" - nonstop. It has a silo,only a few train stop here each day. The line now follows some difficult terrain and as it climbs the range has to cross a few large bridges. We pass an loop with a NR led freight waiting for our passing.
A few hours later we arrive at "F". As the XPT is heading down the triangle it pulls into the station, lets us off then reverses it's direction. I know driver hate passenmgers wish to get off or on at this station, normaly they can just pass across the triangle.
We can see some industrial trackage near the traingle while waiting for a train. This staion is extensibvly used between "C" and here at "F". We could have waited for a normal serveice but a trip on the XPT was a bonus.
A N hauled pass duly arrives after we had lunch down at the 'local. We board and are soon off. We pass the simple junction as we head along the mainline. The next station "G" is a stop and we meet a grain train entering the yards from the opposite direction
Leaving "G" behind we arrive at "H" - another junction with a triangle. On it's approach we note a modern intermodal yard , empty at the moment. We get off again - lucky we enjoying train travel as this has been our third interchange.
A local tells us the IP had to divert this way last week via "I" - usually it passes the way we have come. Apparently as "H" was a major stop the train pulled into "H", the locos reversed ends and the IP set off down the other leg. the local told us freights use that leg of the triangle, all passengers use the station.
Our next train is already waiting - a small loco hauled pass consisting of some NSW FO cars and a 48 class on the front. This side of the platform also has a run around as they treat this section of the line as a branch. Train rarely go past "I" , except for emergencies or the odd freight.
Again it is countryside, quite yellowish from lack of water. We see the mainline in the distance as it travels up a valley side through a passing loop and out of sight. We pass through a passing loop with nothing of note to see. Then we arrive at our ultimate destination - station "i" - not a large station but it is an interchange with the narrow gauge, and another wheat silo !
As we wait for our bus, a NR led train roars through from "F". Three NR's and a "C" pull a long Freight through the station. The stationmaster told us it was a diversion - normally the train took the mainline, but three hours ago a train derailed at "G", so all traffic would be comming this way. He wasn't likeing it - it was normally a early night, but tonight there would be many a train through here.
As the Bus sped away, we remained at the station for a night's trainspotting !