Posts Tagged ‘Artwork’

Watford Junction to Rugby update, and collaborative project development

Posted by Anthony_B on March 12, 2014 at 23:41

Update on Watford Junction to Rugby project

Railsimroutes LogoI’m pleased to say that I resumed development of the Watford Junction to Rugby project recently. Currently I’m working on implementing new .Beacon commands which support the UkTrainSys plugin’s advanced safety system functionality.


Signalling along the entire 66.5 mile / 107.1 km route has been updated, with all aspects now comprised of animated objects with ground night lighting.

All Automatic Warning System (AWS) magnets are now comprised of beacons simulating the permanent magnets and electro-magnets of the real life system, and sections are now aligned with track circuit breaks and axle counter head locations.

All Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) induction loops are now simulated with beacons emulating the real life system in terms of induction loop spacing and frequencies.

There are four OHLE neutral sections modelled on the route, and all of these are now updated with UkTrainSys compatible beacons for the Automatic Power Control (APC) permanent magnets both before and after the neutral section, as well as denoting the start and end of the dead section of contact wire itself.


New signals awaiting commissioning (note the out-of-use covers), and modular AWS magnet objects
[Click to enlarge]

Collaborative development

The other significant development, is that the project is now open to third party contributions, to speed up development and bring the release date closer. Ben Leahy is the first developer to contribute to the project by building objects, and I’d be more than happy to hear from you, if you think you’d be able to contribute some more high quality, efficiently coded 3D models for the route, leaving me free to concentrate on the systems and permanent way infrastructure.

Currently there’s a list of objects which need to be created and added to the route. These include:

  • Station buildings from Kings Langley through to Rugby inclusive;
  • A few lineside buildings, such as houses, warehouses and the like, to be positioned at various locations along the route, but especially at Roade, Weedon, and Rugby;
  • A few road overbridges for the Weedon Line, as well as retaining walls at Weedon;
  • Road vehicles for road bridges, and the section of M1 motorway at Watford Gap;
  • Passing train objects.

If you think you can contribute any of the above, please get in touch and we can discuss options, and I’ll draw up an effective collaboration plan. Thanks 🙂

Blisworth pointwork and REBs – can you help by creating a new overbridge object for the site?
[Click to enlarge]

Information IconFor more information about these ongoing projects: - Watford Junction to Rugby Project banner

Watford Junction to Rugby Project - UK Train System Cross-platform .NET Plugin banner

UK Train System (UkTrainSys)
Cross-platform .NET Plugin

UkTrainSys plugin update; enhanced simulation of neutral sections and Automatic Power Control, neutral section test route released, and new screenshots showing improved Brecknell Willis Highspeed pantograph models and new sunset backdrops

Posted by Anthony_B on November 26, 2010 at 21:25

Railsimroutes LogoFirstly, I just wanted to say thank you for the positive reception with which the UkTrainSys cross-platform .NET plugin has been received; this was very nice to see! Based on feedback, I’ve now updated the UkTrainSys plugin, so that the AI driver will operate the Driver Reminder Appliance en-route. I’ve also implemented an enhanced neutral section and Automatic Power Control simulation, but first, a little background information might be in order…

Neutral section (phase break) installations

For those who don’t know, a neutral section (or phase break), isolates different phases of the power supply being fed to the overhead electrification system from each other. This is accomplished by inserting a short length of insulated material into the contact wire, which the pantograph head can still slide across at speed. In the UK, I gather these insulated sections are typically comprised of glass-fibre rods with ceramic collars threaded on to them, with the total length of the neutral section itself, being only around 4 metres.

At either side of the neutral section, are a pair of track mounted magnets, called APC (Automatic Power Control) magnets. Whenever an APC receiver on an electric train detects these magnets, the APC system flips the state of the air-blast/vacuum circuit breaker (ACB/VCB) between the pantograph and the on-train traction equipment, interrupting or connecting the supply from the pantograph and overhead line.

Thus, when a train approaches the first pair of magnets prior to a neutral section, the ACB/VCB is commanded open, such that there is no power being drawn from the overhead line when passing through the neutral section (this prevents the pantograph from drawing an arc and accidentally connecting one of the power supply phases to earth – the neutral section cantilever/support tubes are earthed so that the two separated phases aren’t connected in the event of an arc). When the train passes the second pair of APC magnets after the neutral section, the ACB/VCB is commanded closed again, and power from the overhead line can be taken.

See the illustration to the left, for an overview of the installation. The yellow arrow indicates the direction of travel; the red line indicates which parts of the contact wire are still live, even if the Automatic Power Control system has opened the train’s air-blast/vacuum circuit breaker, and finally, the blue line shows the location of the neutral section itself.

Updated UkTrainSys cross-platform .NET plugin (v0.3.1.3), with enhanced neutral section and APC simulation

Railsimroutes LogoAnyway, an updated version of the UkTrainSys plugin is now available together with the class 323’s 3D cab (version – downloads can be found further down), and I’ve made some improvements to the simulation of electric trains. Firstly, I’ve modified the pantograph behaviour – when the pantograph is rising or lowering, pressing the Up/Reset or Down button has no effect until either operation is completed. Pressing the Up/Reset button when the pantograph is already raised, will just re-close the air-blast/vacuum circuit breaker (ACB/VCB) if it’s open.

Secondly, and more importantly, I’ve significantly improved the simulation of neutral sections, and Automatic Power Control. Now, the APC magnets and the actual neutral section itself can be declared separately. This means that every time the correctly defined APC magnet beacon is passed, it will flip the current state of the train’s ACB/VCB. This however, does not affect the actual availability of line voltage from the contact wire.

What this means, is that if the ACB/VCB is tripped open by an APC magnet, but your train stalls because you weren’t travelling fast enough, you can now manually re-close the ACB/VCB by pressing the pantograph up/reset button. If the train’s pantograph is not within the separately defined 4 metre long neutral section, you can take power from the overhead supply once again, and move the train backwards or forwards as appropriate, so you can try to build up enough speed in order to coast through the neutral section without stalling, this time. If the train’s pantograph does stop within the neutral section, then line voltage is not available, even if you try to re-close the ACB/VCB. In this case, you have to hope that your train is on a gradient, such that if the brakes are released, the train will roll out of the neutral section due to gravity. If this isn’t possible, then you have some explaining to do!

There is a more interesting aspect to this, though – with UkTrainSys, you can now drive backwards through a neutral section, not just forwards, and still have the full simulation experience. On a unit like the 323, (I think) the APC receiver is located on the bogie beneath the pantograph, on the second coach. The beacon receiver on an openBVE train is located at the front of the train, however – where the driver is (thereabouts). If travelling forwards, then when the front of the train passes an APC magnet beacon, this triggers a point-based event, and a check can then be performed, which will only carry out the ACB/VCB operation when the train is so many metres beyond the beacon; i.e the distance between the front of the train, and the location of where the APC receiver is supposed to be. But what happens if the train is travelling backwards? The location where the APC receiver is supposed to be, will pass the APC beacon before what is now the rear of the train (where the driver and openBVE’s beacon receiver are located), will pass the beacon, and hence trigger a beacon related event. This obviously won’t work properly, as the action triggered by the beacon, won’t happen until it’s beneath the driver’s position, which is too late when travelling backwards.

So, the UkTrainSys plugin now includes what I’m calling the “Offset Beacon Receiver Manager” (OBRM). Whenever the UkTrainSys plugin passes an APC magnet beacon while travelling forwards, the plugin stores information about the beacon in an array. The stored information includes the beacon type, it’s location, it’s optional data, and an offset distance which equates to the distance between the front of the train, and the location of where the APC receiver is supposed to be. The OBRM continually checks whether the train is currently travelling forwards or backwards, and whether the APC receiver location has passed the actual beacon location, taking direction of travel into account. When the trigger point occurs, the OBRM issues a command to the APC system, rather than doing this via the SetBeacon() method. The only other thing to mention, is that jumping to a station clears the encountered beacon history, so you actually have to drive forwards over a beacon for it to be stored by the OBRM.

This means that you can drive an EMU like the 323 through a neutral section backwards, but it also means that a Driving Van Trailer (DVT) with an electric loco pushing a rake of coaches from behind, can respond to the APC magnets at the correct time and location, whether travelling forwards or backwards, too.


Important: Remember that you need openBVE v1.2.9.20 in order to use the new UkTrainSys .NET plugin, and also remember that this is an alpha release of the plugin, so it may have some issues, but they’ll be addressed as development progresses.

Also, the UkTrainSys changelog can be found here: UkTrainSys project page.

Short neutral section test route, for use with UkTrainSys and the class 323 with 3D cab

Railsimroutes LogoI’ve prepared a short test route so that you can try this new feature. The route includes two neutral sections; the first on level track, and the second on an incline. Using the class 323 with the latest version of the 3D cab update and UkTrainSys plugin, you can drive through the neutral sections and play with the new behaviour.

Screenshot Screenshot
The neutral section test route (the white board gives notice of the neutral section)

On the first run, just pass through a neutral section as normal – it should seem pretty much identical to the neutral section experience in Network West Midlands, using Simon Gathercole’s BVE 4 UKMUt plugin.

On the second run, you can do things differently though – approach a neutral section slowly, and let your pantograph (where the APC receiver is located) pass the first pair of APC magnets, such that the VCB is tripped open, and then apply the brakes and come to a halt. You’ll note that the Line Volts indicator extinguishes, the VCB indicator light illuminates, and that you can’t take traction power – your train appears stuck. However, when the 323 has stopped, you can now reset the VCB by placing the reverser to Neutral and pressing the ‘2’ key – you should hear the VCB closing with a thud. Provided your pantograph is in contact with a live section of overhead line, the Line Volts indicator will illuminate again, and the VCB indicator will extinguish. Now you can take traction power. But what happens if your train is so close to the dead section of overhead line, that you can’t accelerate enough to coast through the neutral section, without stalling? You have to go to the external view by pressing ‘F2’, so you can see what side of the neutral section your pantograph is on, and choose whether to move the train forwards or backwards, such that you can take a “run up” at the neutral section, next time.

If you do stop with your pantograph in contact with the neutral section itself, then there is no line voltage, and resetting the VCB or lowering and raising the pantograph won’t change this. If you are on level track, your train is stuck there (you can cheat, and jump to another station, though). If however, you are on a gradient (the second neutral section is on an incline), then you can move the reverser to Neutral, and move the power handle to Off, and then release the brakes. Your train will now begin to roll backwards due to gravity (in reality, you would need permission from the signaller to do this). When your pantograph makes contact with a live section of overhead line again, the Line Volts indicator will light up, and you can take traction power again. If you continue rolling backwards, you’ll pass the APC magnet prior to the neutral section – this will trip open your VCB, despite heading away from the neutral section, and you’ll have to apply the brakes, stop the train, move the reverser to Neutral, and press the ‘2’ key to reset the VCB. Once done, you can take power, and go back as far enough as is required, to build enough speed in the forward direction to successfully coast through the neutral section.

Screenshots showing new sunset backdrops, and improved Brecknell Willis Highspeed pantograph models

Railsimroutes LogoFinally, I’ve been busy taking photos of sunsets again this week, and I just wanted to post a few more screenshots of the latest enhancement to the Cross-City South v2.0 and Watford Junction to Rugby routes. I’ve also, finally, got around to improving the Brecknell Willis Highspeed pantograph model, which now includes a full 3D pantograph head, with textures used throughout:

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I hope you like the latest developments. 🙂

New cross-platform .NET plugin for UK trains released, class 323 3D cab and Cross-City South v1.31.09 update, openBVE v1.2.9 development branch, .NET plugins and AI support

Posted by Anthony_B on November 20, 2010 at 07:30
Updated: 22nd November 2010 @ 00:15 UTC (FEVF railway and steam loco update – see below)

New cross-platform .NET plugin for UK trains (EMUs currently), 323 3D cab / X-City South v1.31.09 updates, and openBVE v1.2.9 AI support

Railsimroutes LogoAfter the latest development branch of openBVE (v1.2.9 series) was released last month, I started work on a new open source, cross-platform plugin written in C#, which I wanted to be a suitable alternative to the plugin currently used by the class 323 EMU. Simon Gathercole’s UKMUt.dll has served me well since BVE Trainsim 4 was released, but after the latest openBVE developments, I knew the time had come to create a new plugin which could be developed to take advantage of the new possibilities which openBVE now provides. I also wanted to create a plugin which could be updated as openBVE develops, either by myself, or with help from other programmers and developers, so that the community doesn’t need to experience plugin-related problems for too long.

This new plugin is called UkTrainSys (short for UK Train System of course); it is modular in design, and aims to simulate a variety of systems that trains which run on the UK’s rail network may be equipped with. Initially, I’m working to recreate as much of the functionality found in Simon Gathercole’s range of BVE 4 plugins as necessary, although some new features are included as well. So far, the plugin features the following:

▪ Automatic Warning System (AWS);
▪ Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS);
▪ Driver Reminder Appliance (DRA);
▪ Vigilance Device;
▪ Traction and brake interlocks;
▪ Battery which can be discharged, recharged and overloaded;
▪ Overhead supply;
▪ Pantograph and vacuum circuit breaker;
▪ Automatic Power Control;
Power supply and electrical system circuit breakers (more for future use);
▪ In-cab blower;
▪ Head and tail lights;
▪ AI guard for station stop monitoring and buzzer codes;
AI Support which assists openBVE’s AI human driver in handling systems simulated by the plugin automatically
  (including support for visible in-cab driver’s hands and arms).

Note: Wipers, windscreen rain effects and diesel engine simulation are yet to be started. I’m also planning for various other systems to be inlcuded in future, such as TPWS+ (TPWS Plus), RETB, ERTMS, random failures, and a tap changer.

Users of trains which include plugins developed for BVE 4, will likely know that when openBVE’s AI human driver is enabled, the AI driver may not always be able to operate a plugin enabled train correctly, simply because openBVE has no way of knowing what systems are simulated by a plugin, and even if openBVE did know what systems were simulated, it still wouldn’t know what to do with them. Hence, the new UkTrainSys plugin uses openBVE v1.2.9’s AI Support feature, which lets the plugin assist openBVE’s AI human driver with operating the systems which are simulated by the plugin.

When you start a route, and enable openBVE’s AI human driver by pressing Ctrl+A, while using the latest release of the class 323’s 3D cab in combination with the UkTrainSys plugin (see below for the download), you will see the AI driver’s arms and hands reach out for the controls, and interact with them whenever necessary. The AI human driver will run through the startup and self-test procedure for you, pressing the AWS reset button, raising the pantograph if required, and setting the taillights and headlights. The plugin takes the time-of-day into account, so the correct headlight setting is chosen based upon the in-game time (and updated as the day goes on). The AI driver will deactivate the DRA before departure, respond to the guard’s buzzer signal with a buzzer response, cancel AWS warnings as they occur, respond to TPWS brake demands, re-raise the pantograph if it is lowered mid-journey, and so-on. The UkTrainSys plugin’s AI Support will also respond to a new beacon type, which instructs the AI driver to blow the horn at certain locations.

Note: Both the 323 3D cab and UkTrainSys plugin were updated on 21st November 2010 @ 01:30 UTC
Issues with TPWS Isolation, and the driver’s arms remaining visible after turning off openBVE’s AI driver, are hopefully resolved…
Inset image

I’ve updated the class 323’s 3D cab with new animations which require the UkTrainSys plugin (now included in the download), and I’ve also equipped Cross-City South v1.31 with the aforementioned new beacon type, so the AI driver can sound the horn automatically.

  • The updated 323 3D cab and pre-configured UkTrainSys plugin can be downloaded here [2.3 MiB]
    (The unrefurbished class 323 from Trainsimcentral is required first – the 3D cab and plugin update should OVERWRITE any existing files in the “Cl323 Unrefurb_openbve” folder).
  • If you are already using Cross-City South v1.31.071, you can download a small update to v1.31.09 link out of date [95 KiB]

If you don’t already have the route, aren’t sure which release of Cross-City South v1.31 you already have, or want to see details about the latest changes, please download the full version and visit the Cross-City South v1.31 project page instead.

Important: Remember that you need openBVE v1.2.9.15 in order to use the new UkTrainSys .NET plugin with AI support, and to enjoy the new 3D cab features! Also remember that this is an early alpha release of the plugin, so it has some issues, but they’ll be addressed as development progresses.

The UkTrainSys plugin also has it’s own project homepage, where just the plugin, source code, current and planned feature list, changelog and documentation can be found. Train developers with an interest is using the UkTrainSys plugin, now or in future, may wish to visit the following page and read the documentation.

Note: If you have downloaded the updated class 323’s 3D cab with the pre-configured UkTrainSys plugin, remember that you should not overwrite the UkTrainSys.cfg file included with the class 323 3D cab update! - UK Train System Cross-platform .NET Plugin banner

UK Train System (UkTrainSys)
Cross-platform .NET Plugin

[Alpha release now available]

I’ve also been working on some new backdrops for both Cross-City South v2.0 and Watford Junction to Rugby. I was happy with the daytime backdrops which you’ve all seen already, but the sky portions of the last set of sunset and sunrise backdrops were entirely hand-made (replacing low resolution BVE4-era images), and I wanted to replace these with photographic textures of a similar quality to the daytime backdrops instead. Fortunately, there as been some favourable weather during the past few days, so I was able to take some nice photographs. Here are the new sunrise and sunset scenes, shown with the 323’s latest 3D cab update, and the openBVE v1.2.9 / UkTrainSys plugin enabled AI support feature in use:

Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot

Recent openBVE v1.2.9 development branch updates

openBVE LogoTowards the beginning of the November, openBVE v1.2.9.11 was released (now up to v1.2.9.15), and Michelle introduced a new set of experimental preprocessing directives. These take the form of $if(), $else() and $endif(), and obviously, these allow for conditional parsing of blocks of code within a route file. This can be an alternative means of achieving what can be accomplished with the $Include directive, which is handy when only a small block of code needs to be conditional.

Personally, I’m finding this very handy for such features as temporary speed restrictions (TSRs). In this scenario, I can randomly introduce TSRs at different locations, so routes can be rather more fun to drive. At the start of the file, we can declare a variable $Sub(0), which has a random number assigned from within a certain range, and then use the value stored in $Sub(0) as a condition which is used by $if() directives. If the value held by $Sub(0) is zero, then the code within any $if() block which depends upon this variable is not used, but if the value is greater than zero, then it is. By using the $else() directive, we can show something else if the TSR is not to be included, such as discarded sections of old rail, left there by the track workers after they made their repairs and removed the TSR. Spate indicators could be handled in a similar way.

For example:

; Declare a variable which stores a randomly generated number…
$Sub(100) = $Rnd(0;1)

With Structure
.FreeObj(0) tsr_warn_20mph.csv
.FreeObj(1) tsr_20mph.csv
.FreeObj(2) tsr_terminate.csv
.FreeObj(3) discarded_rail_sections.csv
.FreeObj(4) track_workers.csv

.Beacon(0) portable_aws_magnet.csv

With Route

; Enclose the route commands related to a TSR within $if()/$else()/$endif() directives…
    3000, .Beacon 44001;0,    ; portable AWS magnet

    3183, .Freeobj 0;0,    ; 20 mph TSR advanced warning board

    4200, .Freeobj 0;1, .Limit 33;0,  ; commencement of 20 mph TSR
    4305, .Freeobj 0;3;5,    ; no TSR so show discarded old rails instead

    4400, .Freeobj 0;2, .Limit 97;0,    ; termination of TSR

It’s also possible to use these new preprocessing directives elsewhere in the route file. For example, a different object could be assigned to a free object index, depending upon a condition being true. You can also nest these new preprocessing directives; i.e. place $if/$else()/$endif() selection statements within other selection statements, for example:

; a nested $if()/$else()/$endif() selection statement
    4200, .Freeobj 0;1, .Limit 33;0,  ; commencement of 20 mph TSR
        4205, .Freeobj 0;4;-4,  ; track workers shown based upon another $Sub variable but only if the TSR is shown
    4305, .Freeobj 0;3;5,    ; no TSR so show discarded old rails instead

Support for these new preprocessor directives is still experimental, and not guaranteed to be included in the next stable release of openBVE, however I’ve not encountered a problem with the feature thus far, at least with regard to the things I’d like to use the feature for, and it’s really very easy to use. Some more testing would be beneficial, but I hope the feature stays, and I’ll certainly be making use of it if it does.

Other news – Chashinai .NET plugin updated with AI support, new Network West Midlands video, and FEVF railway updates

Information IconIn case you weren’t aware, the new cross-platform .NET plugin which is used by the trains which run on the Chashinai Railway, was updated earlier this month to include AI support, which is a lot of fun, especially with the Chashinai 9000 series train complete with ATS-Sn, ATS-P, ATC and TASC. As with the new UkTrainSys plugin, the updated Chashinai Railway plugin’s AI support assists openBVE’s AI human driver in operating the safety systems, so you can enable the AI human driver and even watch the startup procedures handled by the AI driver. The plugin source code is available as well, of course.

Screenshot Screenshot
Chashinai Railway Takahagi Line (9000 series train, ATS-P, AI driver enabled)

I also wanted to quickly mention that Steve Green has posted a short YouTube video of the upcoming Network West Midlands 2010 update, demonstrating animated level crossing barriers interlocked with the signalling, together with updated objects such as a new AWS magnet, which I thought looked really good:

Several other videos of the upcoming NWM release can also be found on Steve’s YouTube channel, and screenshots can be found on the Network West Midlands website.

Update: 22nd November 2010 @ 00:15 UTC

Lastly, I wanted to show something a little bit different – Roberto Benini, developer of the FEVF (Ferrovia Elettrica Val di Fiemme) railway, has released an animated Mallet Henschel & Sohn 6036 steam loco for openBVE, which is well worth a look, and I noticed that the FEVF Railway itself now has some moving trains at Cavalese station too. The route and train can be downloaded here:

Roberto Benini has also posted a YouTube video of the new loco:

openBVE v1.2.8 and increased rendering speed, openBVE v1.2.9 development branch with cross-platform .NET plugin support, Cross-City South v2.0 update, and openBVE performance with budget versus high-end CPUs, and discrete versus on-board graphics

Posted by Anthony_B on October 14, 2010 at 00:20
Updated: 16th October 2010 @ 22:50 UTC

openBVE v1.2.8 released, with significant rendering speed improvements

openBVE Logo openBVE v1.2.8 was released recently, which includes a reorganised renderer which can provide significantly higher framerates than the old renderer found in v1.2.7.4. This is achieved by rendering opaque faces (i.e. faces without alpha), using OpenGL display lists. There are two ways to enjoy the performance increase; if you currently have low framerates, then the boost could make routes more enjoyable, however if you already have high framerates, then you can increase the viewing distance significantly so that you can see much further away from the train, whilst maintaining similar framerates to those you are already used to seeing. You can visit the Official openBVE Homepage for the download and to read the changelog, as well as read this thread on the openBVE forum for more information.

Here are some framerate and image quality comparisons which I conducted on my main development PC (Core 2 Quad Q9650 / GeForce GTX 260), showing some notable improvements:

On the left is openBVE v1.2.7.4, and on the right, the new v1.2.8:

Screenshot Screenshot
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openBVE’s default viewing distance is 600 metres, however, here are some screenshots showing what the upcoming Watford Junction to Rugby route looks like with an increased viewing distance of 2000m. This particularly benefits the straight sections of this route, allowing you to see more than one upcoming signal at the same time. Thanks to the new renderer, it’ s possible to significantly increase the viewing distance, while still having very playable framerates on a good computer with reasonably detailed exterior car objects:

Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot

Most people are reporting better performance with the new renderer, however if you notice any previously unseen stuttering with the new renderer and detailed routes, I’d really appreciate it if you could contact me with some information about your computer’s specifications and the route being used, as it might be useful for me to know, when I draw up recommended system requirements and openBVE settings, particularly for the upcoming Watford Junction to Rugby project. Thanks.

openBVE v1.2.9 development branch released, enabling support for cross-platform .NET train plugins

openBVE Logo The latest version 1.2.9 development branch of openBVE, includes support for .NET assemblies (plugins), which enables cross-platform plugin compatibility, just as with openBVE itself. With previous versions of openBVE, and of course BVE Trainsim, only Win32 C++ plugins were supported, which limited their use to the Microsoft Windows platform, leaving Linux and Mac users to rely on openBVE’s built-in safety systems only, with a great deal of functionality found in plugin enabled trains unavailable. With .NET assemblies, these can be written in a variety of languages which target the .NET framework, such as C# or Visual Basic .NET, and users of non-Windows operating systems can also enjoy enhanced train functionality once new .NET plugins start to appear.

Anyone with at least some programming experience can visit the .NET assembly train plugin section on the official openBVE website, to download template projects to help you get started. If you’ve already developed a Win32 C++ plugin previously, you might prefer to look at the “C# project files (for updating from Win32 plugins)” download specifically. Anyone interested in making general comments can do so in this thread on the openBVE forum, while anyone wanting to help improve the design of the plugin API by making suggestions, can visit this thread instead.

I’ve started writing a replacement .NET plugin for the class 323, although I’ll design it such that it could be used with other trains too. I’ll release the new .NET assembly and publish the source code when there’s something worth showing, unless someone else writes a plugin which is sufficiently good enough, before me.

Edit (16th October): I forgot to mention that some .NET assemblies are already available; the plugins for the 1000, 2000 and 9000 series trains used by the Chashinai Railway have been ported to C# by odakyufan, and you can download them here (at the bottom of the page). These might be helpful if you’d like to see some example source code and structure, although bear in mind that openBVE .NET plugin support is still experimental at this stage, so you may need to check for both openBVE and plugin updates in future.

Of course, if you’re a more advanced non-Windows user and just want to enjoy driving trains, then you too can now experience some of the best in-cab system functionality available for openBVE. Here’s the openBVE v1.2.9.2 development release, with Chashinai Railway’s Misaki Line, and the 9000 series train with fully functional .NET plugin enabled safety systems, running in Ubuntu 10.04 32-bit Linux (itself running within a virtual machine under Windows 7 64-bit, in this case):

Chashinai Railway Misaki Line, and 9000 series train
with .NET plugin enabled safety systems, used
with openBVE v1.2.9.2 in Linux

Birmingham Cross-City South v2.0 update

Railsimroutes LogoIf you’ve been keeping an eye on the news infobox at the top left of the blog (or my Projects page), you’ll have noticed that I’ve been continuing work on the pointwork along the Cross-City South route, and I’ve also been working on updating the pointwork on the approach to Birmingham New Street as well. All pointwork between Alvechurch and Five Ways is now finished, and ready for animation to be applied prior to release. The pointwork on the approach to Birmingham New Street is a rather difficult task though. At this location, there are single and double slips, switched diamond crossings and three-way points, all crammed into a rather small space, and all located on quite a sharp curve. There are also a variety of point machines, including electric, hydraulic clamp-lock, and Westinghouse electro-pneumatic types, as well as cast manganese steel and conventional frogs. I like to model these kinds of details, so I’ve spent quite some time working on this area – I’m not finished yet, but will be shortly. Cross-City South was originally designed with a 25 metre block length in mind, however the pointwork doesn’t fit neatly, so much of the pointwork is contained in two large set-piece objects instead. I always felt that this task was going to be the hardest part of the Cross-City South v2.0 upgrade, as it’s rather tedious and difficult (and indeed I was right), however for me, the route wouldn’t be complete without it, as I want Cross-City South v2.0 to be of the same standard as Watford Junction to Rugby, so I’ll endure the pain.

Here’s a screenshot of one of the Birmingham New Street pointwork objects:


At first glance it doesn’t look like much, but on closer inspection, it’s actually rather detailed and intricate. This object features 4076 vertices, and loads 9 textures. Each rail is carefully texture mapped, to ensure that the Pandrol rail fasteners are as closely lined up with the underlying sleepers as possible, and that the inside of the railhead as depicted in the texture, matches the mapping on the object. Depending upon the location of a rail within the point assembly, different kinds of rail fasteners are depicted. If you examine the existing equivalent object in Cross-City South v1.31, you’ll notice that that old object is afflicted with z-fighting issues; I’ve taken special care to ensure that this doesn’t happen with the new version. In the case of the cast manganese steel frogs, these feature a combination of 3D geometry and use of a photographic texture of the prototype, to create the desired 3D effect:

Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot

Each fishplate is also modelled in 3D, and these are also responsible for much of the vertex count, incidentally – this also means that they can be easily removed to create a lower detail object, however. Each point blade has a texture depicting baseplates beneath it, and where the tie bar assemblies will go, oil-stained ballast is featured. The object has also been designed in such a way, that animating any of the point blades is very easy to do in future. I’ll post a screenshot of the object within the route, once I’ve finished the second of these pointwork objects, improved the appearance of New Street station a bit, and finished some other things.

Prior to starting on the New Street pointwork updates, I also spent some time working on the Kings Norton area. In the existing Cross-City South v1.31, I didn’t lay any track in the sidings to the west of the station, and instead, I included a simple texture depicting a pair of tracks on a flat surface to the right of the loop siding. Cross-City South v1.31 was designed for BVE Trainsim 2 and 4 with their cab-only view and lower resolution, of course, so there wasn’t much point in modelling the extra tracks. With openBVE, it’s well worth adding them, however:


Here are some screenshots of the updated pointwork and track geometry at Kings Norton (I’ll replace these points with the more recently installed concrete sleeper versions soon):

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You might have noticed that scenery has been improved a little in those previous three screenshots; I’m currrently adding the embankment/tree alpha shadow technique I developed for Watford Junction to Rugby, throughout the Cross-City South route as well. Here are a few more screenshots showing the latest scenery enhancements I’ve been working on, as well as little things like extended length sleepers beneath electric point machines, and disused trackbeds:

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Budget versus high-end CPUs, discrete graphics cards versus on-board graphics, and openBVE/Watford Junction to Rugby performance

Information IconSometimes I see people talking about poor framerates or image quality in 3D games which they use, such as openBVE, or others. Upon finding out about the system specifications in use, the cause of the low performance, in the case of Windows 7 and Vista, is often due to inferior graphics drivers being used (i.e. those bundled with Windows by default or obtained via Windows Update, rather than from the graphics card manufacturer). However, the other frequent cause of unsatisfactory performance, is a slow graphics card, and sometimes, a slow CPU.

Personally, I’ve used less-than-stellar graphics cards in my desktop PCs for use with openBVE, but being a geek, I’ve never used on-board graphics solutions (integrated on the motherboard) in a desktop PC before, as I’ve always dismissed them as not being up to much. It occurred to me that perhaps I was being too hasty in writing integrated graphics off, as I’ve never actually tried to play games on such a solution in a desktop PC myself. The same goes for budget CPUs, such as those in Intel’s Celeron or AMD’s Sempron lines – I’ve never been interested in them as I’ve always viewed them as merely cut-down versions of “real” fully-featured CPUs, such as those in Intel’s Pentium and Core product lines, or AMD’s Athlon and Phenom lines.

So, I thought I’d test openBVE on a contemporary budget PC to find out what it was capable of, with the cheapest of Intel’s newer CPUs that I could find – a socket LGA 775 based Celeron E3300 with the Wolfdale-3M core (the same core used in Core 2 E7xxx and Pentium Dual Core E5/6xxx processors), which runs at 2.5 GHz with 1MB of Level 2 cache. This CPU is combined with the cheapest of all graphics solutions – on-board graphics integrated onto the motherboard – in the form of Intel’s “Graphics Media Accelerator” X4500, which is a part of the G41 Express “Eaglelake” chipset. I was also curious to find something out – if a choice has to be made between a better CPU or a better graphics card, which is the best to go for where openBVE is concerned?

I ran the hardware in a few configurations, and tested openBVE’s performance with my upcoming Watford Junction to Rugby route. Here are the results, and in all cases, the best image quality that each graphics solution is capable of was selected, and in all except the last test (number 4), the following constants apply:

CPU: Intel Celeron E3300 @ 2.5 GHz
RAM: 2 GB PC-6400 DDR2 SDRAM (dual-channel configuration)
Operating System: Windows XP Home Edition (32-bit)
openBVE version: 1.2.8 (Sharp transparency, 1920×1200 fullscreen, 600m viewing distance)

Two locations were used for measuring framerates: Watford Junction, and Bourne End Junction.

Test setup 1:

Graphics: Intel GMA X4500 (G41 Express Chipset, 128MB shared video memory) [Antialisasing: n/a, Anisotropic Filtering: 2x]

Framerates (fps)
Watford Junction 12
Bourne End Junction 9

Test setup 2:

Graphics: AMD/ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro (256MB DDR2) [Antialisasing: 8x, Anisotropic Filtering: 16x]

Framerates (fps)
Watford Junction 34
Bourne End Junction 24

Test setup 3:

Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB GDDR3) [Antialisasing: 16xQ, Anisotropic Filtering: 16x]

Framerates (fps)
Watford Junction 118
Bourne End Junction 101

Test setup 4:

Lastly for comparison purposes, here’s what we get when the GeForce GTX 260 is paired with a faster and more powerful quad-core CPU:

CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 @ 3 GHz
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB GDDR3) [Antialisasing: 16xQ, Anisotropic Filtering: 16x]
RAM: 4 GB PC-6400 DDR2 SDRAM (dual-channel configuration)

Framerates (fps)
Watford Junction 179
Bourne End Junction 160

From these results, we can see that the budget Celeron E3300 is actually a rather nice CPU (which isn’t too surprising I suppose, given the architecture in use), and more than good enough for highly detailed routes such as Watford Junction to Rugby when paired with a decent graphics card. By comparing the two GeForce GTX 260 results, we can see that the speed of the CPU matters, however performance is also very clearly determined by the graphics hardware, and I would say that it’s the more important factor when it comes to openBVE performance. While I didn’t test the Core 2 Quad CPU with Intel’s GMA X4500 integrated graphics, I think it’s highly unlikely that framerates would have been much higher with this combination (overclocking the Celeron E3300 from 2.5GHz to 2.92GHz, made a difference of only around 1 fps when the integrated GMA X4500 was used). Intel’s on-board graphics is simply too slow, and the image quality is a bit poorer too, as there is no antialiasing, and the anistropic filtering level is rather limited (compare this screenshot using Intel’s GMA X4500, and a screenshot using the GeForce GTX 260). Intel’s driver control panel claims to support 16x anisotropic filtering, although openBVE/OpenGL reports that 2x is the maximum supported. The framerates don’t tell the entire story either though, as the much faster GeForce GTX 260 graphics card also gives more fluid and stutter-free performance than the budget Radeon HD 2600 Pro does. This is especially true when large textures, animated objects and higher levels of antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are used, as well.

So, if anyone is thinking of upgrading their computer soon and would like to run something like Watford Junction to Rugby, and money is tight, then my advice would be to bias your budget in favour of getting the best graphics card possible, while trying to keep some balance between the CPU and GPU in terms of what each is capable of. For the energy conscious amongst you, also bear in mind that newer generation graphics hardware tends to be more power efficient for a given level of performance. While quad core CPUs are nice to have, dual core CPUs are just fine, too. Indeed, running openBVE on only two of the four cores of the C2Q Q9650 CPU, by setting the affinity for the OpenBve.exe process accordingly, makes only a small difference to performance. Running openBVE on only a single core, even at 3 GHz, does result in performance being halved though, therefore I can’t recommend a single core CPU any more, when dual core CPUs are so common now. Of course, if you can live without the rich graphics or geometrical complexity of the latest openBVE routes, and only want to run less demanding examples, or those previously designed for BVE Trainsim, then even the cheapest contemporary hardware including on-board graphics, may suit your needs just fine where openBVE is concerned, if you don’t mind losing a little image quality and have realistic expectations.
For example: [ Uchibo – Intel GMA X4500 | X-City South v1.31 – Intel GMA X4500 | Saijou Line – Intel GMA X4500 ]