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Using JMRI for Operations
Part 1 - Getting Started Brian Clark
  A bout 15 years ago, after What do you need? - a com-
I converted to DCC, I became aware of a free computer program called
Java Model Railroad Interface, common- ly known as JMRI. Initially I used this
for programming my DCC locomotives, Decoder Pro, but later used Panel Pro to control my layout.
At the time I was holding regular running sessions with a group of local NMRA members and in an attempt to improve the realism of these sessions
I decided to use the 4 way Car Card system to move freight cars purposefully. However it was clear that this system was not particularly prototypical no switchlists and cars followed a fixed path and I would have needed a large number of boxes if I had one for each industry.
It was at this stage that I became aware of the JMRI Operations, a car forwarding program based on real railroad practice. I have now used this for about 8 years and, given the increasing popularity of operations, thought that it might be useful to pass on how to go about using this free resource.
Firstly, what is Car Forwarding? It is
a way of moving freight cars with a purpose from industry to industry.
For instance, you might have a Fruit Packing Plant that ships it’s product
in iced reefers.You might also have an Icing Plant. So cars will move to the Icing Plant to be iced, then forwarded
to the Packing plant to be loaded and then forwarded to a warehouse, which may be in staging. However the Packing Plant will also need empty cartons/cans which will require delivery in boxcars. JMRI Operations handles all this through a database of Cars, Industries, Routes and Trains.Trains follow routes where
Title photo by Peter Bowen screenshot photos by Brian Clark
  they service industries, picking up and setting out cars. Along the way cars are loaded or unloaded depending on how the system has been set up. The system will produce switchlists as shown above for the train crew and also for any yards which you might have.
Following this article on Getting Started, future articles will input cars, then set the locations industries etc, then sort out the routes that the trains will follow and lastly we will organise the trains themselves.After that we will get those trains moving and completing their pick- ups and setouts. So, a few more articles will keep me busy!
I should point out that I use Digitrax for DCC and Windows 10 as an operating system so this article is written from those perspectives. It is possible to use JMRI with Windows XP, provided you can get Java installed.Versions of JMRI are available for Linux and Mac and the general principles are the same for these operating systems.
It is important at this stage to emphasise that you do not need to be a DCC user to use JMRI Operations, it will work equally successfully on a traditional DC layout.
puter and a printer and an internet connection for the download.You do not need
to connect the computer to your layout. I use a second
hand laptop dedicated to the railroad, purchased cheap-
ly from a local computer shop.The JMRI program may be downloaded free
from if you are a new
user it is best to stick to a production version, the current one is 4.18, which are released twice per year. Running the downloaded .exe file will install JMRI. It is best to accept the default locations for the installation, and it should also install JAVA if necessary. If this does not happen then visit to obtain the program. If you are already a JMRI user then you already have the Operations module, however I still recommend a separate “offline” profile to use Opera- tions unconnected to your layout.
Getting started.
If the program has successfully installed you should have icons on your desktop for Decoder Pro and Panel Pro. You will need to use the Panel Pro icon to open the program and this will then guide you through the initial set up process. This
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