Switchlist – Working on an Operations Application

Switch List Application

I’ve been working on a new switch list operations application. The application only needs to provide basic information. I just need to know what cars are where, and where they are going next. And maybe car type and length.

I built the application with a WordPress plug-in called DB-Tookit. It interfaces with the mySQL database back end and helps build the front in forms and UI. It’s a fairly good program, but I’ve run in to a few limitations. For instance, I haven’t been able to select out multiple fields from a joined table. I know how to do it in SQL, but DB-Toolkit doesn’t have an interface to write your own queries. My main goal with DB-Toolkit is to have an effective database interface for the back end.

I’d like to have a nice web-based front end interface that will present the user with sortable track lists; with the capability to sort cars by drag and drop from track to track. I found a couple of JQuery drag & drop scripts to try this out. The most promising is Touch Punch, because it also supports touch gestures like on iPad/iPhone. http://furf.com/exp/touch-punch/ I Especially like the Sortable lists, or a combination of them. Another example: http://furf.com/exp/touch-punch/examples/sortable/handle-empty-lists.html.

Of course when a user updates the sortable track lists, I’d like to enter that data back to the database. Before I get deeper into this project, I need to decide if I really want to take the time to learn relearn PHP and Javascript to develop a decent app. I don’t want to get to far off course.

Other Programs

Before I started developing the switch list application I took a hard look at what existed. I spent a few days working with Easy Model Railroad Inventory but I don’t think it will suit my needs. I really like a program called SwitchList, but it is only available for Mac OS X 10.5, I have a PC. I’ve also tried building a program with OpenOffice Database & Spreadsheet, but I’d really like this to have a web interface.


Author: Greg Amer

3 thoughts on “Switchlist – Working on an Operations Application

  1. mySQL Workbench

    In my search for a suitable database client, I tried all the usual sources and stumbled upon mySQL Workbench. What better way to work with my mySQL database than a mySQL database client? It’s a pretty nice product, I’ve only gotten my toes wet, but it gives me direct access to my database. It also features database modeling tools. I like it! Perhaps this is ticket to designing my backend and DBToolkit can help design the front-end. We’ll see.


  2. You didn’t mention if you tried it, but a lot of the layouts in my area are now using JMRI’s operations program. A small learning curve, but operators who see it tend to quickly adopt it for their own layout. It can have a web based interface if that is required, by launching the “web server” feature of the program. I’m not 100% sure it will do everything you are looking to achieve, but it would be worth a try!

    1. Thanks Scott,

      I haven’t actually tried JMRI operations. I did take a look at it though and it seems very full featured. Where it fails for me is the same place Easy Model Railroad Inventory fails; it doesn’t store cars in a sequential order on a track. I need to be able to know which cars go to which spot. Thanks for the sugesstion, and thanks for looking.


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