Operations, inventory and game programs are the bread and butter of model railroad software developers and we've seen a lot of all three over the last six years.
For about the last year a new program, Ship It!, has drawn a lot of interest if for no other reason alone than the amount of advertising the developer has been doing. I've gotten several requests from readers for more
information on the program, in particular wanting to know if it's really worth the $89.95 price tag. Let's take a close look at what it can do and I'll let you be the judge.
Ship It! is a
true blue Windows application with all the requisite drop-down menus, popup windows, data-entry templates, and automatic support for Windows default printers. The value of this is that if you're a Windows user (sorry
again Mac users) you should feel right at home as soon as Ship It! starts. Also, as I've pointed out many times over the last few years, having standardized data-entry templates with popup Windows to make your
selections from, speeds the process in the long run and reduces data-entry errors. This is very important when it comes to advanced programs like Ship It! that have to make a lot of comparisons among car types,
commodities, industries, trains, etc.--one small data-entry error can cause big problems.
Well, I've already gotten ahead of myself so let's go back for a general description of just what the
program does. Ship It! is designed to make operating your layout, particularly switching operations, as close to prototype as possible given the limitations of space, time, and reality. The big difference for Ship It!
is that unlike other operations programs no car movements are random. Everything follows a prototypical scheme based on shipper and consignee requests for cars and merchandise--more on that later. In addition, the
program supports off-line staging, routing of cars across divisions through interchange tracks, multiple movements of the same car during an operating session, scheduling of empties and frequency of shipments to
industries, and switch lists with train schedules and instructions for conductor and engineer. To make things even more prototypical, version 2.0 added the ability have trains reemerge from staging areas as either the
same or a different train number, local and through-train routing of cars, car routing for specific consignee industries, yard switch lists, assignment of specific shippers to consignees, and more reports (20) than I
have room or inclination to list. In other words it includes just about everything but the kitchen sink.