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So rail junctions are a nice simple way to pick between two destinations for incoming minecarts, however the challenge is making an easy way for the player to pick which direction they want to take as they approach the junction.

The simplest method is a button that they have to press while approaching the junction in the minecart:

Rail junction

Pressing the button causes the rider to switch onto the outbound track. Not pressing the button means they continue on the loop to the next junction. The problem here however is that the button is very hard to hit correctly while riding the rail at full speed.

What is an easier way for a player riding on a minecart to activate a junction so that they can take the alternate pathway? To be clear, the player should still have the option NOT to activate the junction and take the default path as well (as seen in the image above).

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Instead of a button you can use a trapped chest that the player needs to open; for this is much easier to hit. Another upside is that the chest closes automatically when the player gets out of range.

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Ugly and unintuitive, but very effective. – Resorath Dec 8 '13 at 1:43

One option which I have used before can work rather effectively but can get complicated very quickly.

Basically you have downhill (pointing downhill toward your junction) powered rails close to the junction on all of the 3 ways. (powered off). I'll call this powered off rail the "direction pick rail".

When the minecart hits one of these direction pick rails, it stops it (since the rail is by default powered off) in front of 2 buttons. One button flips the junction rail one direction, while the other flips the junction rail the other direction, and both power the direction pick rail that your minecart is sitting on.

Directly in front of your special direction pick rail (after you have clicked the direction pick button), is a detector rail which (when crossed) powers all the direction pick rails for a time long enough for your minecart to continue thru the junction and over the other direction pick rails without unnecessarily stopping your minecart.

Hopefully my directions are not too confusing; and while this is not the smoothest system, it does work. If anyone has a better answer I would really appreciate it for my own minecrafting.

Where the Minecart Stops

enter image description here

As you can see in the bottom picture, Minecart stops on the downhill powered track where the driver clicks the button to where he wants to go. The button both flips the junction track, and powers the powered off track the Minecart is sitting on. The minecart continues thru the junction and in the chosen direction, running over the detector rail which powers on the powered off rail that your minecart is about to cross over so you don't get stopped again past the junction.

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Screen shot would help. – John Dec 6 '13 at 13:35
When I get done with work I'll post a screenie. – Linuxmint Dec 6 '13 at 16:51
Update: Posted 2 screenshots. – Linuxmint Dec 6 '13 at 20:24
The other answer is simpler and easier, but this is definitely more elegant. – Fambida Dec 8 '13 at 2:01

The other answers are wonderful, but I have another option you may find useful. Stop the cart as in Linuxmint's answer, but use a repeater delay to automatically start it again after a short time if the user doesn't select an option. This allows cart riders who just want to stay on the default path to go AFK during the ride, yet still gives riders who want the alternate path plenty of time to push the button.

Here is a screenshot that shows what I mean. If the user does nothing, they will continue to the right. However, if they press the button, they will take the alternate route. enter image description here

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