A little bit of history

This all started back last year when I signed up for this course and then everything was thrown into confusion in February when they (the famous “they”) told me that I was deferred until next year as they (them again) didn’t have enough tutors to go round. The next morning I was on the phone to the support person mentioning that, at 72, unlike those in their 30s, I didn’t have the time to waste,especially given all of the health issues that I seem to attract. It was suggested that I put in a “special circumstances” request and, amazingly, they changed their minds so here I am.

I was lucky enough to have a project all mapped out so I was delighted that I could give it a go. I have been a very long time model railroad fan – yes railroad. My Dad bought me an American outline Tri-ang train set when I was 10 – just a short 62 years ago. Since then I have had a constant desire to build a model railroad but it has been an on/off process – more off I have to say. This is a bit like my Open University experience which went well for a few years and was then off for 36 years before it came on again!

One of the issues with a US based railroad that has any amount of freight traffic is always how to route the freight cars without resorting to throwing a dice. It normally results in lots of cards being used to route each car. I am trying to get Railroad Model Craftsman magazine to give me permission to use an image from their latest magazine which shows cards spread all over the place in the effort to work out where some freight cars should go.

Well, I have a plan. This plan has been Okayed by my OU tutor and, hopefully, will result in a nice tablet based software program that does all of this for you. I know that there are programs out there but they are all PC screen (or Mac) based and most rely on paper output to recreate a “switch list”.  My routing system will use a tablet for its display so that you can carry it around with you. It will tell you the make up of the current train plus the destination of all of the cars plus any that have to be collected on route. It will also manage “through freights” and passenger trains whilst keeping to an overall timetable.

BTW, anything in “” will be explained at the end of each blog entry. There will also be links in the text to enable you to get further information. Also, the blog will be split into small sections, many written on the same day. The reason for this is so that I can reference the individual entries where required in my written assignments. Interestingly enough, the project is marked on the assignments and not the software. The point being that they do not constrain the tools that you use so long as they refer back to modules that you have studied in the past (for me, in the distant past!) and thus it is unlikely that the markers will have access to the same tools. However, as I am planning to externalise the web side of the software, then the marker should be able to see what I have achieved.

Anyway, I am getting close to the end of my introductions. In the next blog, I will head into the structure of the system before describing the individual parts. I have a web site for this project which will provide a permanent record of the main parts of the system and the progress through the assignments.


Switch List – a paper list that would be given to the Conductor on a freight train. This list tells him of the destination of each car in the train and also of the cars to be collected along the route.


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