Route Building Diary
28th September 2012
Been a while since I posted on this page and it's fair to say quite a number of route projects have come and gone the way of the dodo. However the past 4 weeks or so have been spent working on, successfully as it happens, a short route for Trainz TS12 based on the Mount Hood Railroad in Oregon USA. It covers about 21 miles from Hood River to Parkdale - the prototype is operated as part heritage passenger/part working freight line but my version is somewhat freelanced. The route is finished and ready for distribution but try as might, couldn't upload this afternoon to the N3V/Auran DLS. So in the meantime I've sent it off to Trainsim.com and hopefully it will turn up in the file library there in a few days. That means anyone wanting to try the route will first of all need to download from TS, unzip the cdp file, install with Trainz Content Manager then use Content Manager to download the dependant assets.
So what's next? Well a few days off to take stock. The current train simming situation is not an easy one. Creating and testing a route for Trainz continues to bring home the limitations of that particular programme. However the recent developments with Railworks, as documented on the main page and my updated review, don't exactly endear that to route builders either. Default assets which are no longer default, the new EULA with its onerous clauses and ultimate sanction of losing access to the game do not endear it to freelance content creators anymore - despite what the fanboys and apologists for RSC are saying on the forums.
Anyhow, I've got a couple of routes in mind, fairly keen to kick off something narrow gauge but it is looking like being done in Trainz, as checking on Steam the rumours that Railworks Phorum Peninsula aka Project Platform has disappeared from the Steam shop appear to be true. As this supplies the primary assets for most ng routes if it has gone for good, then no-one who doesn't already have the route will be able to use it. Maybe RSC will create another asset pack selling for £4.99 (oh you cynic).
13th June 2012
Well sorry to say the Russian route didn't prove salvageable as somewhere during the low memory mess, Trainz had cleared out half the terrain textures already applied to the route and while I could have reverted to an older version from cdp I hate going over old work. So it's gone, kaput, knackered...not to be. Along with Trainz 12 which won't be finding a home on the development front any time soon for me.
Anyhow, sat at home this week with a particularly nasty kidney/water infection (try waking up a 2am in so much pain your mind has momentarily disconnected from your body) being tackled by antibiotics of a particularly psychotic nauseating variety, I eventually got round to accepting if I want to do another route it is going to have to be in Railworks. Not being well enough to sit at the laptop actually helps to focus the mind (when it's not trying to block out the pain) so I started getting really down and dirty going through past projects or interests even back to the pre train sim days. The one constant in that turns out to be Tehachapi in California. Now before anyone gets too excited, at this stage I am not saying I'm actually doing Tehachapi, rather that certain things triggered in my mind (maybe it was just the fever). The first SIAM game I played was probably TE91, while SP was still SP and SF was still SF, sadly no longer playable because MS decided even the command prompt in Win7 only recognises 64 bit software (Nice one Gates, let me know when they dig up the first 64bit MS-DOS programme). The attraction wasn't just the pass but all those mysterious little offshoots to places called Sanborn, Wash or Ravenna. Then there was Trainmaster 3 with it's add-on disc for Tehachapi, presented in full 2D but back then we knew how to use our imagination in connection with a computer game. You could actually storm up the Ravenna with the DOBKU or a heavy manifest and half closing the eyes (I didn't have an infection then) imagine yourself in those hill. Then came an article in the August 1994 Trains magazine describing a run on the loaded BKDOU, a spectacular description of a spectacular journey. Later on of course we got the excellent MSTS version (sadly sans Ravenna) from 3D Train Stuff though also sadly this is one of the routes with a proclivity to lock up when running the old dino-sim. Trainz also put a version on their latest edition which isn't bad, but let down by the host sim which has you driving a scale model railway (a very nice model, but still a model) version of the TEH pass only. In the meantime, the authors of the new Run8 simulation have revealed more of the core route which is going to be a large part of the Tehachapi network. Exciting stuff!!
Which leaves Railworks. I'm sure someone, somewhere must be doing a version of Tehachapi, in fact I'm rather stunned it hasn't emerged as a commercial add-on. There's been mention of freeware attempts from time to time but, like any of my announcements, are vapourware until actually available. So on the assumption that someone, somewhere is doing the core route, I've decided to have a go at The Ravenna, or to give it the proper title - Soledad Canyon route, from the San Fernando area to Palmdale. Now the line currently forms part of the LA Metrolink Network but I want to turn the clock back to an earlier time period, before Palmdale became the Milton Keynes of southern California, when the route was all about hauling heavy freight. I'm going to give it a shot, is all I can promise at the moment and if by some miracle I succeed then by that stage it should be able to ascertain whether there's an actual Tehachapi in the Railworks pipeline.
Anyhow meds kicking in so cheerio for now...
5th June 2012
Not good news on the Russian route. Trainz 12 has suddenly started crashing or hanging on trying to edit in Surveyor. On investigation it appears the install size has suddenly bloated out to 142Gb, taking up nearly 70% of my laptop's 212Gb total HD space. This cannot all be down to items downloaded from the DLS, indeed I think my ISP would have something to say on that issue. Waiting to see if any advice forthcoming on the Auran forum, but when you consider that TS12 installed on the main PC (including S&C 2009 and a couple of other routes) is around 11Gb, something is seriously wrong. If no other solution presents itself, then it looks like uninstalling TS12 is the only option - losing a month of route building in the process. That really is a kick in the groin and frankly I expected better from Auran/N3V. I could possibly try a clean install of TS12 and work on the route under that, but that's not going to cure an ongoing problem of data accumulating.
At present I'm too depressed to make any firm decision about future route building. I poured a lot of time and effort into this one and it really pees me off how the developers get away with putting out such shonky software. One possibility is going back to Railworks, not the ideal choice but at least the file sizes are manageable for a modest route and it doesn't grow the HD footprint like a contagion. I doubt I would start the same route over again, preferring something short and sweet to get back up and running. If only the guys making Zusi 3 would get a move on and put the final version out...
23rd May 2012
After floundering around for a bit, my next Trainz route project is up and running. I decided to put back the Channel Island routes until later in the year having found something far more interesting to work on! Purely by accident I discovered that the former Soviet Union has a vast array of narrow gauge railways, many of which run through surprisingly scenic areas (unfortunately many have also been or in the process of being abandoned). The particular prototype I've picked on is based on the lines around Apsheronsk in the Caucasus and a total route mileage of around 90km! Work started on 5th May and is progressing steadily, probably too early to predict a release date as yet other than (hopefully) towards the end of July. An issue this time may be the file size as it is already around 200Mb when compressing to a cdp for backup which probably means it can't go on the N3V DLS. That being the case I will probably end up loading to an independent site such as Trainsim.com.
One thing for certain is it won't be going on UKTS. Lurking on their forum as an ex-member I noticed yet another critical thread about Railworks summarily locked by the over zealous and pedantic moderation team over there - anything that might be seen to upset RSC is immediately jumped on. The particular thread also lamented why people from RSC no longer post on UKTS with the suggestion that a small minority of critics had driven them off. Well apart from the caveat if you can't stand the heat don't go in the kitchen and it can be difficult to defend the indefensible, I seem to remember some pretty acidic and thinly veiled nastiness from the RSC people themselves, particularly when fuelled by a couple of single malts... Perhaps the CEO of the company simply decided forum participation was no longer appropriate given how much the company and product has grown. In any event, if I'd felt even a tiny bit regretful about my decision to quit the UKTS forum and starting to think about creeping back, spotting it was all still business as usual over there quickly wiped that idea clean!!
23rd April 2012
Just to confirm the Cirencester route now available on the N3V Download Station. The KUID's you're looking for are: KUID 30024:100068 for the route and KUID 30024:100069 for the session.
21st April 2012
It's almost ready! My Swindon to Cirencester route for Trainz 2012 is in the final stages of testing and should be packaged up and sent to the N3V DLS over the weekend. In the meantime, I've set up a page with some information on the route - here. It's not the most spectacular or expansive route I've created, but most railways don't run along spectacular mountain passes or through cavernous valleys and that's what I set out to depict, in a simple route which hopefully clears the builders "block" I've been suffering the last few months.
18th April 2012
Work on the extended Swindon to Cricklade Railway for Trainz TS12 is advancing at a furious pace! Just a small section of primary 3D placement left, then it will be time to go through and do the signalling etc., followed by the small detail and of course a bit of testing. Next time I post, hopefully it will be to include some screenshots of the route in action.
Of course thoughts are already turning to my next project(s). While I still have a hankering to recreate some of the former Yugoslavian narrow gauge network (particularly the tortuous and highly scenic line from Gostivar down to Ohrid), ambition is currently tempered by reality. Favourite at the moment is recreating the railways which once operated on the Channel Islands - Jersey and Guernsey. Preliminary research indicates there is enough information to make a project viable and it should get the green light once my existing project is complete. I'll still be working in Trainz for this one, my thoughts on Railworks not having shifted since posting last.
6th April 2012
Still making progress with the Trainz route which I can now say is based on a few miles of the Midland and South Western Junction railway, not far from where I live. I have taken the Swindon to Cricklade railway as a basis and added not only its planned extension but a couple of miles either side, so it runs from Swindon to Cirencester. It's looking quite good out in the countryside though as always with Trainz, the shine drops a bit when you get in the cab. TS12 suffers from a lack of included UK stock and even some of the British content built into TS2010, now available from the Download Station shows up as having errors. However it is definitely worth perservering with. There's an outside chance I might also do the route in Railworks, but my feelings towards that sim are somewhat ambivalent at present. The developer seems to be ramping up their own (payware) route output to almost frantic levels, just today they have released Settle to Carlisle, not long after the Woodhead route and will be followed fairly soon it seems by London to Brighton. It has almost become a payware factory and with so much coming out I have started to question whether it is worth doing freeware for Railworks any more.
There's also an increasing dilemna for freeware route builders as to how many of the payware routes we should use to supply assets for our own projects, given the support within the community for that aspect is still a miniscule fraction of that enjoyed by MSTS or Trainz. For example the other evening I was driving the Class 390 Pendolino on RSC's North East Corridor route and thinking the tunnel sections would make an excellent resource for doing the Channel Tunnel. However I have yet to finish a run on the NEC without Railworks locking up and, sure enough, despite mine being the only train had a complete lock up just outside Philadelphia. Why should I force users of my routes to buy stuff that doesn't work properly? Woodhead is another example. In order to run it at all, I had to upgrade my main PC to Windows 7 64 bit as it simply wouldn't run under Vista 32 bit (the hardware part of the upgrade got botched, but that's another story - cock up on my part). However I cannot in all conscience use pieces out of a route for someone then to have to spend £25 on something they might not be able to otherwise use.
19th January 2012
The year has not started too well with a number of projects started but dropped almost as quickly. Distraction, burnout, changed shift pattern at work (= more tired in precious spare time), loss of enthusiasm for all the work involved - I can't really say. Certainly one of the challenges is keeping up with the standards being set by some of the more recent releases for both Railworks and Trainz. Route building has now become something of an art form, rather than just a representation of the infrastructure with a rough rendition of the areas it passes through. However, I'm not giving up entirely, got one or two irons in the fire for which I still have a bit of enthusiasm, just needs to be translated into something more material. I'll hopefully report back with better news in a few weeks.
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