Why the Multi-Throttle Control Term Rather Than the Section Control Term?
I suggest the new term because the Section Control term represents decades-old technology that has section boundary speed-up problems and involves model railroad hobbyists eager for a more "flexible" control system but frantic to avoid the costs of a dozen or two throttles. But the new term, Multi-Throttle Control, represents 1990s or 21st century technology throttles and locos with no section boundary speed-up problems, and a system whose users will be hobbyists who are happy to buy the needed throttles (and glad they're not footing the bill for the more expensive DCC systems), and who have decided that this uniquely user-friendly control system gives them the type of operational experience they want, regardless of any conventional wisdom that suggests that they'd be happier doing things differently.
But I think the key here is the fact that in the good old days most users of section control (I used to be one of them) were trying so hard to avoid spending more money on throttles that they scrimped on throttles. As a result, they didn't have enough of them so that they could comfortably walk around a walk-around layout and always have a throttle at their fingertips for train control. (Part of the definition of Multi-Throttle Control is that you definitely DO have adequate throttle quantities, and in that sense, the two terms—section control and Multi-Throttle control—are therefore not equivalent.) So they looked for a new method. In a way, the introduction of all those toggles to switch—the advent of the cab-control era—was their way of avoiding getting all the throttles that it would have taken to really get their operations the way they wanted them.
Don't get me wrong. I acknowledge both the need and desire for cab-control, plug-in tethered throttles, DCC (especially the wireless variety), and the hybrid control methods represented by some of the systems already mentioned by name, above. Who could fail to realize why so many layouts at model train shows use Aristo-Craft, for instance? But I feel it's time to also acknowledge that there are good reasons for the use of Multi-Throttle Control. Go back and re-examine the list of requirements I gave above for my and my spouse's dream layout. Are these criteria really all that unusual? Are we alone or is it more likely that thousands of others have similar dream-layout requirements? Having talked to hundreds of hobbyists over the decades, I think I know the answer to this question, and I believe that many model railroaders do too.
DCC and Cab-control Compared to Multi-Throttle Operations
I acknowledge that cab-control is a bit cheaper and more flexible than other systems, and sometimes I don't mind flipping all those toggles constantly. But other times, when I want a more pure train running experience, I want to "run the trains, not the toggles," as the expression goes. And turning on all the blocks on a cab-control system so as to minimize toggling won't fill the bill if I must walk around plugging and unplugging throttles on a walk-around system, nor will getting an expensive wireless device for each of the 43 blocks/sections on my Squirrel Valley Railroad—an option presented by some of the newer hybrid systems on the market (which I'd have thought about more seriously if I had under ten blocks). So it would seem that to fill my dream layout requirements, the only two serious candidates at present are wireless DCC and Multi-Throttle Control. I'll put cab-control in the list on the next web page only for completeness, not because it's a serious candidate for my dream layout.