Model railroad automation software
The following information is based on my personal experience with model railroad automation software. I tried three different applications, JMRI, Rail Automation, and Railroad & Company. Both JMRI, and Rail Automation are free ware or donation supported. Railroad & Company has a 15 minute timeout for the demo version. Railroad & Company also has a 30 day limit for editing your layout in demo mode. I do not receive any discounts or compensation from any of these companies.
First you will need some way of connecting your layout to the computer there are several way to accomplish this I use a device called Loco Buffer II. This box has a USB connection on one to to connect to the computer and a Loconet connection on the other. This box will only work on your layout if you have a working Loconet active on the layout. Some DDC systems do not support Loconet.
I personally like JMRI for engine programing. I usually start by writing my name to the decoder. Next I set the loco id to match the cab number. I run some units in a consist or as a DPU. I use the speed tables in JMRI to speed match the loco to the other units. JMRI has a the ability to dispatch train and operate form a manifest. JMRI also has a panel designer. I have not tried these features yet.
Rail Automation has a bunch for features for designing your layout on the computer screen. You can configure turnouts, signals, blocks, routes, and much more. The biggest plus for this software is voice recognition for train control.
The attached screen shot is from the Rail Automation website.
I currently run Railroad & Company software they have three levels of their software. Bronze or the entry level, silver, and Gold. I have the gold version it has almost any feature you can think of using with your layout. The software is quite pricey, but they have several ways to upgrade both levels and versions. The switchboard can be setup to closely resemble a dispatchers display. This software works nicely with Digitrax transponding, and the Digitrax SE8C signal board.
I have attached some screen shots of the set uup for my layout. Two different views of the switchboard and one of the loco roster