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Wednesday, 28 January 2009
MSTS 2 Derailed
Topic: Conductor

With all the doom and gloom, and all the economic woe taking place, the recession has finally caught up to software giant Microsoft. Recently, it came to my attention that their announced cutbacks will pretty much derail a big chunk of their game development studios, and specifically to us, MSTS 2.0.

For the time being all we have for commercial train simulators are MSTS 1.0, Trainz 2009, and Rail Simulator. Not a bad offering for our situation. MSTS 1.0 continues to have new routes and models created for it. Trainz 2004 ? 2009 continue to attract users, new content, and routes. And Rail Simulator is off to a good start, though it hasn?t exploded yet in third party development. Maybe this delay with MSTS 2.0 will bode well for Rail Simulator, giving them more time to further develop their product and content offerings.

From an American point of view, RS still is very lacking in American content. Compared to MSTS, RS is very sparse on what?s available. That?s ashamed because it really is a nice upgrade in capability that?s not too demanding on your system compared to MSTS. Trainz is still holding their own with a great product. I use TRS 2004 as my main simulator since route building is so easy in it.

I am planning on exploring RS soon with regards to route building. My first attempts ended in frustration since like MSTS RS seems to be more techie friendly than user friendly. On the outside they were moving in the right direction with their route builder working similarly to the Surveyor module in Trainz. However, the need to create route template files is confusing and until the process is learned and understood, stands as a major road block in route building for me.

I will master it, I?m confident of that, I just have to set enough time aside to properly learn how to create the templates and use DEM data with the game. Once I have that knowledge under my belt I?ll write some articles up for everyone on how to create routes with RS. Like MSTS, persistence will be the key to success!

For now, I am concentrating my efforts on using Trainz to build my Utah and Rocky Mountain railroad. At this point in time I?m working on the second major module for the layout. The current layout runs from Spokane to Moscow ID. The next module (currently under construction) will run from Moscow ID to Riggins ID. I?m currently working my way past Orofino ID. More to come on that project, so stay tuned.

For 2009, I?ve decided to create a new category on the blog for short stories and essays. I want to develop my writing skills in these two areas, and I figure writing about railroads might be a great way to do it. Since the blog is set up as a community blog, remember that you can create a Tripod account and log in to post your own articles and stories. I hope you?ll take advantage of that feature and help me to build this into a great place to learn and talk about trains!

Posted by woodbrdge at 7:04 PM PST
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Friday, 17 November 2006
A book review
Topic: Conductor

This is V-Scale 

by Brian Eckard

If you are a beginner to the world of virtual railroading, then I have an ebook for you! Author and publisher, Alfred Barten, has created a wonderfully informative ebook that will help the novice user to get started in this exciting new slant on the model railroading hobby.

The ebook features twenty-nine chapters, 210 pages, 188 illustrations plus free Trainz 2006 demo and more. It is divided into five parts: First Things First, A Closer Look at the Favorites, Operations, Easy Projects, and Resources. The book covers all the different types of simulations such as, dispatching, empire building, railway/transport modeling, cab-view driving, full 3D and model railroad. The book discusses all types of railroads including, Class 1, light rail, interurban, rapid transit and narrow gauge. And, Mr. Barten reviews BVE, Microsoft Train Simulator, Trainz, Locomotion and Transport Giant. He includes links to over 70 simulators and many more resources.

The ebook is published on CD and includes a free Trainz demo plus other extras and add-ons.  The Adobe PDF reader is required to view the book, and Windows 98 or higher is required to run the Trainz demo. The package retails for $12.95 and includes shipping and handling.

Initial thoughts

Al has managed to pack a lot of useful and interesting information into this fabulous ebook! It starts out with a brief overview of what's in store for you as you continue to read on. The book starts ini Part One explaining how to get started in V-Scale railroading. He explains in detail what V-Scale is and what is involved in getting started. There is a brief explanation of what is needed for hardware, and where to go for additional help.

In Part Two, the book takes an in depth look at the commercial train simulators that are available, It starts out by looking at the freeware BVE simulator. Then, it explores Microsoft's Train Simulator, Auran's Trainz, Locomotion, and Transport Giant. Next, he explores the empire building strategy games that are available. For each simulator, the book provides details such as its directory structure (for BVE), and basic keys used to drive the trains. For Microsoft's product, the book explains how to install add-ons, and where to go for resources on the Internet. For Auran's Trainz the book provides information on must have resources that will enhance using this fabulous simulator. .

Part Three moves into Operations. This subject, by far, is where I have the most fun. I simply enjoy the challenge of driving a train, or shunting cars around industries or a yard. In this section of the ebook, an in depth look at operations is made, and I believe it provides an accurate picture of what you can experience in virtual railroading. .

This chapter begins with an imaginary ski trip on the Boston and Maine Railroad. Our trip begins in Boston and heads up into the snowy mountains of New Hamphire. We're headed to Sugarloaf, NH home of the Sugarloaf Inn. This route is actually John D'Angelo's Boston to Portland Trainz route that is available for free download from Auran's Trainz Download Station to registered Trainz users.

In this section you'll find stories of rail operating fun for the BVE simulator, Trainz, and the Microsoft Train Simulator (MSTS). In this section Al shares his Timesaver articles, which were among my favorites, when we first published them in Woodbridge's Train Simulation Craftsman magazine back in 2002 / 2003.

Other topics include how to create and use waybills to simulate more realistic freight operations on your virtual railroad, building an interurban empire in Locomotion, and a look at traction and subways in the virtual world.

Easy Projects is the subject of part four. Here you will find articles that tell you how to build a switch list generator using Excel. How to paint and create scenery in Trainz, and it even shares how to make a movie once you've created your dream layout in your favorite train simulator.

Lastly, in Part Five: Resources, the ebook provides you with crib notes for all of the popular train simulators. Print these out and keep them next to your PC for your next train operating session! He provides a discussion of system requirements so that you can know what you need for your system so that you can enjoy your virtual railroading experience. And, finally Al includes a comprehensive listing of web sites that support virtual railroading. It is here that you will find Al's Train Simulation Web Finder. This listing divides the web sites into categories that make it fast and easy for you to locate web sites that cater to your favorite simulation, or V-Scale interest.

My Conclusions

I have spent a substantial amount of time reading this book and exploring the freebies that come with it. In my opinion, it is a well written book that will help any newcomer to this fascinating hobby to get started. It also will help the experienced and time seasoned virtual railroader to get more out of V-Scale, and it may even lead them to explore other avenues like strategy and empire building. For the model railroader, it might just open their eyes to the similarities our respective hobbies share and lead them to find a way to combine model railroading and virtual railroading together. In the future I can see a time where these two hobbies do combine and layouts will be designed that will use the simulator to handle the "time in between" the stations or selected scenes on the layout.

My advice to you is to purchase this book. This is a good investment that will provide you with hours of enjoyment, and will result in more meaningful operating sessions in your favorite train simulator.


Posted by woodbrdge at 10:36 PM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008 7:39 PM PST
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Friday, 20 October 2006
Topic: Conductor

Who needs a video? We have the REAL thing!

By Brian Eckard

What is virtual railroading? Is it a game? Or, is it a hobby? Is it simply another avenue to model railroads with? Why are people either firmly for it? Or, vehemently opposed to it? Our title for this article is actually a qoute from a father to his son at a train show. It accurately reflects the attitude of the old school of model railroading, and the conflict with the younger generation who has been raised with a gaming attitude. How does virtual railroading get past this apparent mountain that blocks its acceptance into the mainstream of the model railroading hobby?

At the core of the issue is a very sensitive area for most model railroaders. On the outside, non-model railroaders simply don't understand why it would be fun to model trains, let alone watch them navigate around a loop of track, or across a layout or table top. To the outsider model railroading is an excuse for old men to play with toy trains. And, that offends most modelers. Train simulation has come out of the flight simulation genre, and it is considered a game by most software developers. What is a game? It is another type of "toy" that both kids and adults alike can play.

So, the very thing that model railroaders have fought so strongly for--the recognition of their hobby as a legitmate method for simulating the operations of a railroad, is now being used by that group to point fingers at a threatening new version of this old hobby and call it a "toy!" That is simply absurd. Why? Because virtual railroading is just another valid method for simulating the operations of a railroad. And, in my opinion, it is better because in virtual railroading you can simulate the operations of an entire railroad recreated in the actual distances of the original--even using terrain data to recreate the actual environment that the real thing operates in. Try doing that in your basement!

Let's compare the two genres - The physical model and the virtual model

Besides sharing the same goal of realistically simulating the operations of a railroad, model railroading shares many common activities with virtual railroading. Let's look a few.


Creating layouts, regardless of whether it is constructing a framework that will hold a model layout, or designing and building a virtual 3D world on a PC entails creativity by the modeler. Both model railroading and virtual railroading share in this creative aspect of the hobby. The artistry required to make scenery look realistic is also required in the virtual world, and is found in creating textures, and mixing the textures to make realistic looking terrain. Both modeling genres require models that represent the real thing, and it simply doesn't matter whether the model is physical or virtual--both require an immense amount of creativity in order to make it a reality. So to brush off virtual railroading as not "the real thing" is simply not fair. Virtual railroading is probably closer to the real thing since you have a choice of watching the models navigate through a scene, or jumping inside and actually driving the model through the scene.

Scale modeling

Many painstaking hours are spent by modelers to make their creations as realistic as possible. There is nothing more satisfying then to admire the craftsmanship invested in a structure, or in a piece of rolling stock, or in a locomotive. Ironically, the same amount of skill is required in both model railroading and virtual railroading. Both genres work in scale in order for the models to look believable. Both require time to create something worthwhile. What difference does it make if I create my model on a workbench, or create it on a PC? Both require the same amount of effort.

Train operations

When push comes to shove, the main reason people model trains, regardless of whether it is a model or virtual model, the end result is the same. What is that end result? To simulate the operations of a railroad as realistically as possible. When I run trains in my simulator I get the same exhileration that I did as a boy running trains on my layout. And, with the computer helping in the operations, I can run a real schedule and deal with real traffic situations.

Those things can also be done on a model railroad. You can even have your PC help you run trains on the layout, or you can join a club so that there are other people involved in operating the railroad. Both genres require the same skills in running the trains, such as slow starts, allowing the proper distance to stop the train, trying to stop at a station with the cars lined up correctly with the platform, and it goes on and on.

So what is virtual railroading?

So what's the problem with the old school of model railroading? Maybe it is due to the fact that there is a lot of money invested in those models, and for the most part, the virtual models are distributed across the Internet for free. I can understand that argument in regards to the mainstream magazines since their very livelihood is based on attracting paying advertisers who are at stake trying to sell their model products. It seems unfair that the virtual railroader gets his models for free.

So, what is virtual railroading? I believe that it is simply another avenue to model trains with. It is the "scale" that I choose to model in so that I can have the type of layout I truly enjoy operating on--that is a point to point line that is set in the actual terrain of the area the real thing operates in. It is fun to run trains on a recreation of a real railroad and to imagine what it must have been like 60 years ago when railroading was in its hey day of diesel and steam. Isn't that the same dream most modelers have when they run their model layouts? --Brian


Posted by woodbrdge at 2:01 PM PDT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008 7:44 PM PST
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