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A 'Virtual' Distraction




A new distraction has been keeping me away from the modelling bench. There’s not much ‘Broad Gauge’ in this post except that it was triggered by spotting this entry  in Annie's Virtual Pre-Grouping Layout & Workbench thread



I’d never given much attention to train simulators before, although I have done quite a lot with the Microsoft Flight Simulator. Now, prompted by Annie’s posts, I felt that I should look more closely, so I followed her suggestion to try downloading Trainz-A New Era (T:ANE). It seems that I chose a good moment, since the software was on offer at 10 USD (around £8), which seemed very little for such a sophisticated product.


I soon found myself thinking that it was a bit too sophisticated for me! The basic set included the entire East Coast Main Line (ECML), with a Deltic-headed train to drive along it. It worked and the scenery was remarkably detailed – much more so than is usual in FlightSim - but with a corresponding ‘hit’ on computer resources. The program needs a lot of memory and a powerful video card to run in a high level of detail!


The ECML and Deltic diesels are not my usual modelling territory but I noticed there was a free download of the West Cornwall lines available from the Trainz store. This seemed much more my territory, although I also remembered that ‘free’ software often implies ‘can of worms’.


I was a little puzzled when I first loaded it (which took a very long time) to find that the only ‘scenario’ offered was ‘Quick Drive – choose a train’. I found a list of trains and chose King George V located at Penzance. A nicely detailed scene appeared, including a red signal in front of my train that didn’t seem to be changeable!   Ignoring it and driving forward started fairly well … until I found myself being diverted into a dead-end siding!



Driving a ‘King’


So started a rather irritating learning curve. It appears that this ‘layout’ is populated by trains that are pre-set to run a pre-determined timetable. While a lot of the scenery looked good, there were some strange juxtapositions, such as Network Rail signage in what was supposed to be a 1930s scenario. Other odd things appeared too, like signals that showed a green light with a horizontal semaphore arm ... well, it was free!!!



Anachronism at Penzance Station


Part of my trouble was that I had jumped into a later version of some software that started in more basic form, several years ago. I began to find that a lot of the basic information I needed was only to be found by looking at earlier versions of the software and so I gradually learned how to place a train of my own and run it along the track. I think it will be a long time before I can try anything like back-dating the system to Broad Gauge days!


Despite the frustrations, I have been admiring the diversity of the scenery, including this view of Truro Cathedral from the viaduct just outside the station:



1486 with Truro Cathedral


Now it’s time to put all my modelling, both virtual and actual, on hold while I address family matters over the holiday season. In the new year, I shall hope to get back to making some progress on my ‘real’ Broad gauge modelling.


With my best wishes to my readers for Christmas and the New Year.



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  • RMweb Gold

I have always been slightly curious about train simulators, so thanks for sharing your experiences Mike.  I think I would miss getting my fingers dirty :)


Have a good christmas!

Edited by Mikkel
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  • RMweb Gold


I avoid train simulators, and sadly Annie's thread, as I know I could get sucked in and never produce anything.  Good to hear your experiences though.


Have a good Christmas.

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Chris, I felt exactly the same but Annie's Broad Gauge trains tipped the balance.  I'm hoping a bit of rehab over the holiday will prevent serious addiction :)

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