25th December 2010

I would just like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers and site visitors a very happy Christmas. Here's hoping Santa brings you lots of train simming goodies in his virtual sack. If you're looking for a last minute present or to treat yourself, then Steam currently have a 50% sale on all their Railworks add-on DLC. If like me, you thought some of the items were rather costly then now is the time to get over there and take a look at the stock. Even the just released Class 31 is in the sale (a few of us missed out on that one) so as I say well worth a browse while the merchandise is affordable.

RSC have also just announced some new plans for 2011. First up are two new routes - in the USA part of the North East Corridor from New York to Philadelphia and for the UK Woking to Portsmouth on the Southern Region. There's also news of improvements to the route building tools and, while not my particular bag, the introduction of a multiplayer/online gaming element. Further details here (Note links to Facebook).

19th December 2010

Start with some rather sad news - the operator of UK Trainz forums has announced that due to server and other issues the boards have ceased to operate with immediate effect. A great shame as it was a very mature and sensible place to discuss matters related to Trainz with particular emphasis on the UK. Trainz can still be discussed at N3V's (formerly Auran) own board or the Trainz sections at UKTS and - links on the right.

RSC have had a busy weekend pumping out DLC for Railworks 2, in the run up to Christmas. I purchased the Class 31 pack and Falmouth branch line.

The Class 31 is actually quite good in terms of the model, cab and sounds. Let down by the physics implementation - too quick off the mark, those of us who remember these machines recollect the ponderous and slow pull-aways, they were slower than a Class 26! Ditto the power cruise which holds 75 MPH comfortably on around 25% of power. Braking is also on the severe side, should take much longer to stop. In addition, the pack ships with only a handful of short scenarios so just aboutanyone who buys this is going to need to dive into the scenario editor, sooner rather than later. At £11.99 it's in the mid-price range, my overall rating would be 4/5.

The Falmouth Branch is a short (about 12 miles) GWR line in Cornwall, set in the 1950's. In addition to the route you also get a GWR 57xx pannier tank, a Hall class steam loco and some reskinned default Mark Ones (blood & custard and chocolate and cream but still no maroon). The route is okay but suffers in a few areas. The first is the increasingly identikit Railworks "look" particularly on rural lines passing through fields and pastoral landscape. There are a few new custom structures but these don't really offset the bland appearance. You could be driving the Port Road, Isle of Man railway or my Heartbeat Moor. Signalling is standard RW upper quadrant semaphore when of course it should be lower quadrant. This also somehow manages to showcase the worst of the ongoing signalling glitches in the programme - e.g. signals reverting to danger as you approach then having to Tab past at danger, signals clearing on adjacent lines when no trains are due, possibly even into a conflicting path with your train. One redeeming feature is a fair few scenarios included. The rolling stock and motive power is okay - but all the default Mark One's need an overhaul plus reskins and additional types, we shouldn't have to acquire these via an add-on. Some comments on the forums regarding the Pannier tank - a tad too poweerful and at the same time using too much steam? Braking performance seemed much better though, compared to the Class 31 above. Incidentally, the new F4 HUD is emphatically unsuitable to driving a steam locomotive. Overall I would probably rate this pack 6/10. On it's so called "50% off" introductory price of £9.99 I guess we can't complain too much, but it's not worth £19.99 if it ever goes back up.

12th December 2010

I've decided to have another go at the Route Building Diary so have re-opened the page via link on the left...

13th November 2010

I've decided to take down the Route Building Diary page, it wasn't really serving a useful purpose any more. Details of any routes or other items that I'm releasing for the various sims will be announced on the main page (i.e. here) and at some point I will put together a page listing my published items.

7th November 2010

Hot on the heels of news about the Bristol to Exeter route add-on for Railworks from Just Trains, have released some new "in house" DLC of their own, none other than the famous LNER 4472 "Flying Scotsman" steam loco. More information at the RSC site and I would imagine for RW users the option to buy will automatically be available when you go to the RW page in Steam. The add-on appears to have garnered a favourable reception on UKTS from those who tried it so far and at £8.99 that is more the price level at which this type of content needs to be pitched (IMHO). So if you're a steam fan might be worth checking out.

5th November 2010

Although I'm currently taking a break from route building in Railworks, that doesn't stop me appreciating the good work being done by others. Known for some time that a Bristol Temple Meads to Exeter route was in production for release via Just Trains. This now has a release date of 24th November and can be pre-ordered at the Just Trains website for £19.99. Link to Boxed version. Link to DLC version. You also get 400 loyalty points credited to your account at JT which amounts to £4.00 off your next purchase. The screenshots and video clips indicate this will be a quality route with plenty of unique detail so I've gone ahead and pre-ordered - albeit I've been told it's going away for Christmas!

More screenshots on the TML Blog of their upcoming World of Subways LUL (LT) Circle Line. I'm sure most readers will agree this is looking fantastic and I know I could never put together anything approaching that level of graphical detail. Another one I'm eagerly waiting to purchase.

13th October 2010 have just announced a re-release of Railworks to be known as "Railworks 2, Train Simulator". The official news can be read at the RSC website and there are community discussions at UKTS and about the new features. One very important thing to note is that if you already own Railworks, you don't need to do anything as the update is free and will be automatically installed the next time you start Railworks after release date, which is 18th October. So if you already own RW, don't go out and buy the new version! On the surface this seems to be more of a makeover than a radical overhaul and upgrade. Key features seem to be a new menu system and a rather arcade style driver HUD. The only "core" improvement confirmed is working level crossings, everything else that has been requested or needs improving doesn't seem to have been touched, so nothing new for the power users or content (route) developers. Also still TBC, but unlike when Rail Simulator morphed into Railworks there doesn't appear to be any new default content, if that is wrong I'll be happy to confirm otherwise.

Far more exciting news is to be found on the TML Studios development blog. Work on the San Francisco transit project seems to be heading into the latter stages, while the main event for many will be the announcement that the next "pure" subway sim will be none other than our own London Circle Line! The preview screenshots look fantastic and far more realistic than any of the sandbox sims can offer. If this is backed with the existing TML timetable/career mode we are in for a real treat!

19th September 2010

Visit the website for details of their "Christmas Showcase", which includes a number of new routes and other payware DLC for Railworks. First up is the northern WCML from Carlisle to Glasgow which will be pretty much an essential purchase. At £19.99 a good price which includes a Class 86 loco, though remains to be seen whether this features the correct tap changer run up/run down type of power controller.

27th August 2010

Just like to announce that I've managed to get a new route released for Railworks. This one is based on the Vale of Rheidol narrow gauge line in mid-Wales and can be downloaded from UK Trainsim.

10th August 2010

Just a quick heads up... Rig 'n' Roll is now in stock at Amazon UK for the baragain price of £5.02 plus postage making £7.01 in total. Only one review on there but showing five stars but IMHO worth it if only for the virtual California!

8th August 2010

Due to hardware limitations my attempts to revive MSTS route building fell by the wayside. However that doesn't prevent me enjoying some of the classic routes out there. One such route is the Swindon to Highworth freeware project, long thought lost but has finally been released and can be downloaded from UK Trainsim file library (premium membership recommended as the files are quite big). The project showcases the route as it was in the early 20th century including a multi-platform Swindon station, vast yards but then suddenly you find yourself on a little single track branch line in the heart of the country. As you travel to Highworth you pass through an enchanting landscape of fields, woodlands calling at rural halts. The atmosphere of a bygone time has been superbly captured - an era when people didn't have to worry about their £100k mortgages, chavs, graffiti, happy slapping or owning the latest Ipod. This is probably as close to perfection as a route can get in MSTS - in some respects it's almost a work of art.

The route also comes with some superb period GWR rolling stock including the diminutive tank locomotives which worked the line and some GWR clerestory stock, which reminds me of Triang-Hornby in the 1970's!

Whatever your train simming interests I strongly recommend you download this exceptional piece of work.

1st August 2010

Hey this one looks good. TML Studios are already well known for their two "World of Subways" simulation plus their New York bus driver game (which I regret to say I still have to try), but their latest project looks as if it will be the best yet. Check out the TML Blog for a tantalising glimpse of a San Francisco based transit simulation which will include buses, trams and the famous cable cars!

Now I continue to have a love/hate relationship with Railworks (one of the reasons I've reverted to MSTS for route building - see the Diary Page) but recently upgraded the product with the first implementation of their career mode. This essentially adds/detracts points from an overall score as you complete various tasks during a scenario and uploads the final result to a public Steam server to share with fellow players. It is a bit gimmicky and a far cry from the "career" mode those of us with a wider knowledge of train simming may have experienced in Train Driver 3 or Densha de Go, but it is a start at implementing something that adds replay value to the game.

7th May 2010

I've just posted an updated review of Trainz to replace the rather outdated reviews of TRS2006 and Trainz Classics 3.

29th April 2010

If you're still putting off buying Railworks for some reason then think again as there's never been a better time to purchase the sim! For customers in the UK most on line retailers are selling Railworks at a mid-range price, the cheapest I've seen is Amazon UK where it's going for £13.98!! In addition there's a major FREE content update due in the next day or two adding several items of German traction and rolling stock to bring the core programme up to date with a forthcoming re-release on the German market.

(Previous rant self moderated and removed!)

27th April 2010

A new and long awaited truck driving simulation comes out soon - Rig 'n' Roll has been in the virtual workshops for what seems like ages but following a download only release in the Russian market it gets a DVD-ROM release in early May. Rig 'n' Roll is the sequel to Hard Trucks and unlike its rival 18 Wheels of Steel series, is said to feature a near scale map of California as the gameplay area (18 WOS and its European sequel use a cut down game world with small towns representing large cities). I've just been over to the Rig 'n' Roll Official Website and come away very impressed after viewing screenshots and a couple of the video clips. In fact I've taken a chance and ordered the game on spec from Amazon UK, who strangely seem to be the only on line retailer carrying it at the moment. A full review will hopefully follow.

12th April 2010

For a change, some non train sim related news. On my Strategy page I make a very brief reference to the Airline 6 business management game which, as the name suggests, simulates the running of a commercial airline company. A quick visit to the AirlineSimulation page, reveals that a new version - Airline 7 - is in preparation. You have to hunt around the site for information but this looks fairly interesting and many added features from the original. Note this is not a game in the glitzy Tycoon or even the old Air Havoc Controller (who remembers that!?) style, it is largely spreadsheet based but very absorbing nonetheless - particularly if you want to write actual timetables and fleet diagrams/cycles. At the moment the only downside seems to be cost - at $AUS 69.99 comes in at the higher end of the cost bracket particularly at current exchange rates of well under AUS$ 2.00 to the GBP £ - but that seems to be an interim pricing which buys you Airline 6 and later on the upgrade to Airline 7. Maybe the price will drop in time...

10th March 2010

Auran Removing Support For Older TRS Versions

Visit the above link for information that has crept in through the backdoor, with quite significant implications for anyone developing in or for older versions of Trainz - even the still fairly recent TRS2006. Note particularly that "support" is not just in the sense of technical support but also denial of access to upload/download from the DLS to varying levels of degree. Now I'm still mulling over the decision and what it means in terms of my own plans to build routes for Trainz. I'm on record as saying that TS2010 is a good incarnation of the software but even in my own case, the laptop I use for route building cannot run Surveyor in TS2010, though TRS2006 and indeed the more recent Railworks are fine. Probably more on the specifics in the route building log at some point, but the essential message from Auran seems to be - from September 2010 if you wanted to upload a TRS2006 (or earlier) route to the DLS or use TRS2006 (or earlier) to download content, you're stuffed...

The decision is, not surprisingly, generating a fair amount of heated debate on the Auran boards with opinions divided over whether this is a good move to clear out the deadwood or a business decision with the potential to alienate thousands of perfectly content TRS2004/TRS2006 etc. owners.

28 February 2010

Further to today's musings on the Route Building Diary, just thought I would post some useful links...

Minomachi Line for BVE - route and tram downloads.

Joetsu Border Line for BVE - route download.

And last but not least, the Tanigumi Line for BVE - route and tram downloads.

All the above routes run well under OpenBVE, the advantage of OpenBVE also being you can "mix and match" the train type, you're not tied to the traction specified in the route csv file.

NB: The BVE Route Wiki for Japan contains links to most Japanese routes available for BVE/OpenBVE, I'm sure there's many more hidden gems waiting to be found.

10 February 2010

I should have course have mentioned the up to date version of Trainz Classics 3 for TS2009 and TS2010 is featured at a different site - Trainz Simulator 2009: Settle & Carlisle. Still plenty of free goodies but a great deal of the free stuff released for the original version was incorporated in the new pack.

09 February 2010

If, like me, you are fanatical about UK Mark One coaching stock, I strongly recommend you get across to the Trainz Classics UK site. The developers have created a huge range now covering just about every type of Mark One built. For some of these you will need the original models as supplied in Trainz Classics 3 or the Trainz S&C 2009 pack, but there are plenty of standalone versions too. Loads of other goodies for Trainz as well. I cannot praise highly enough the efforts of the UK Classics team in providing this additional content which, in stark contrast to the micro-payware £10 a time culture of Railworks, is provided entirely free of charge. That's customer support.

27 January 2010

I've decided to rename the ECML Railworks project log, the Route Building Log. Visit the page to find out why...

25 January 2010

As mentioned below, I've just started the route building diary for my Northern ECML Railworks project. See it here.

24 January 2010

I recently rediscovered the joys of BVE or rather OpenBVE, which as the name suggests is an open source rail simulator which can run routes and trains designed for BVE. A full write up is pending but thought I would share my enthusiasm for this programme with my readers. I have found particular joy running the ECML route with the Class 50 though that is only a small example of the routes and motive power available for this programme. One advantage of OpenBVE unlike BVE2 or BVE4 you can "mix and match" routes and trains without having to copy and amend csv files and it's all menu driven. You can also obtain a rating of your driving performance at the end of each run, in this case it's recommended you don't SPAD the red signal on the end of Berwick platform trying to bring the train to a stand. BVE and indeed OpenBVE are both freeware and give the commercial sims a run for their money. Whether it's the accuracy of the physics, the smoothness of the graphics or the little touches like superelevation on curves and subtle cab movement, the ambience is immersive and of all the sims - it is perhaps the one that most fulfills the true experience of driving a train, rather than running a model through an overblown artistic landscape. Anyhow, here's some links if I've piqued your interest:-

OpenBVE - This is where you can obtain the latest version of OpenBVE. Please read all the instructions carefully and in particular note the additional programmes and utilities you need to download and install/copy files from to run the programme.

BVE Pages - The site of Eazypeazy and Guillyman. Here you can obtain the superb ECML Newcastle to Berwick route, amongst others.

BVE TMD - Here you can obtain the Class 50 and other fine UK motive power for OpenBVE.

There are of course many other sites offering files for BVE, however the above is intended to serve as an introduction if you are not already familiar with the programme.

On to other stuff, well running the northern ECML in OpenBVE has inspired me to have a go at creating the route or at least part of it in Railworks. This will be quite a major undertaking, bigger than any of the routes I've done for RS or RW up to now. I'm planning to start a "diary" page of progress on the project, thoughts on using the RW editor etc. etc. Sort of like a blog but without the reader feedback... More on that soon.

01 January 2010

I would just like to take this opportunity to wish visitors to the site a very Happy New Year. I aim to try and provide a bit more coverage of the scene during 2010 but time is an ever present problem.

2009 was a year of mixed blessings for the train simming hobby.

Rail Simulator got its own parent company, and was rebranded and resold as Railworks. The add-on market picked up a bit but still mostly payware and nowhere near the level of content MSTS or Trainz has. A number of issues carried over from Rail Simulator namely the poor and erratic AI signalling and despatching though for 2010 are promising a new Scenario Editor. That will be welcome as creating activities at present is not very intuitive or quick. Let's hope there are some other core improvements too.

Auran released their latest iteration of Trainz - TS2010 EE (aka Engineer's Edition). This was originally intended as a content pack add on for TS2009 but somehow transformed in yet another re-release of the full product. I haven't checked over fully enough to write a full review but so far my thoughts on TS2010 are somewhat mixed. The good is the inclusion of a number of new routes, of most interest to UK users is the ECML from Kings Cross to York complete with a new HST. Unfortunately though, below the surface it's the same old Trainz. No central AI, despatcher or running to a timetable. Just switch the points as you go, no better than Trainz CE in 2001. A new type of foliage has been introduced called "Speedtree" (these can be seen in other recent non railway games, such as Fallout 3) but in Trainz they look a bit incongruous against all the old stuff and sans foliage look like a row of something rude and oversized sticking up in the air. Optimisation has taken a hit. Auran have stated that a 64 bit computer is actually required for best performance and this shows in Surveyor if you try and create a route using the new 5m terrain grid while running under 32bit O/S.

MSTS still seems to soldier on though of course the bitter news fairly early in 2009 was that MS cancelled their second attempt at building Version 2 of the sim and disbanded the Aces Studio responsible not only for MSTS but Flight Simulator too. I don't think the hobby has really recovered from that blow as, with the World of Rails concept, MSTS2 promised to be a genuine next-gen simulation, not just a rehash of old ideas. The irony is that the "recession", primarily engineered by Governments and Banks for the purpose of population mind control and to distract from the pointless wars being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, is said to be over the worst anyway. So why couldn't MS have weathered the storm and emerged from the other side with their simulation department intact? Of course they're not the only company using "recession" as a means to screw over their staff and force in pay/job cuts and even redundancy...

Anyhow I digress, now some of the developers and artists previously working at MS/Aces have set up their own independent studio called Cascade Games Foundry. Their plans are all a bit cryptic at present and apart from a few hints hard to know whether train simulation figures high or even at all on their agenda. Another initiative called "Open Rails" has also started up. This is a community backed open source simulator which has as one of its objectives the ability to import MSTS routes. Can only applaud the initiative, but tread carefully where MS and copyright/code decompilation and use of intellectual property is concerned - even indirectly.

As for MSTS itself, during my route building hiatus in the summer I did briefly re-open the Route Editor. Unfortunately the experience reminded me just how horrible the tools are in comparison to more contemporary sims. Add to that many of the ancilliary programmes have gone the way of the dodo. Try getting TS Tools to work in Vista - after a struggle it worked partially for me. Demex - essential for distant mountains - can only be downloaded via a backdoor link but otherwise the original site is in an obvious state of disuse. The link to SW Reg to unlock the full version (needed for DM's) is still there but no idea if it still supplies a useable code and not worth gambling the money with no support site to get help from if it doesn't.

On other fronts, BVE continues to soldier on with reports of a new Vista compatible version in development. The unofficial Open BVE also has a good following, though what both versions need is a decent easy to use route editor. Zusi 2 remains one of the best all round sims, both operationally and for the feel of running a proper railway. However it is virtually impossible for the average user to create routes for. We are now in the fourth (or is it fifth?) year of waiting for Zusi 3 to appear, hopefully 2010 will be the one but I'll believe it when it's installed and up and running.

So, let's hope that somewhere along the line 2010 brings good fortune to the train sim hobby. Hopefully at some point I'll release another route for one of the sims and will keep you updated on that aspect. What news there was in 2009 has now been archived (see on left).

Happy New Year.


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