Posts Tagged ‘Cross-City South’

Transition curves and superelevated track created using the Object Bender tool, and Cross-City South v2.0 progress update

Posted by Anthony_B on September 5, 2010 at 07:30

Railsimroutes LogoI’ve been doing some more work on Cross-City South v2.0 during the past couple of weeks or so, and I’ve been making good use of odakyufan’s new Object Bender tool, where incidentally, the code was so well written and the functionality comprehensive enough, that Object Bender has been made into an official openBVE tool. Please see the new Object Bender section on the official openBVE homepage for more information: Developing for openBVE: Object Bender.

The output from the tool is such, that I’ve decided to replace all the curved track objects used in the Cross-City South route with new objects generated by Object Bender (from a set of “template” objects which form the intial segment in each type of track – please see here for an example of what I mean), and later I’ll do the same with Watford Junction to Rugby, too. I had already manually created a full range of suitable UK style track objects incorporating cant, as well as objects to be used in transition curves, however these objects had one rail lowered and the other raised in height, to suit the cant model used in older versions of openBVE (therefore enabling the wheels to be visibly touching the rails at all times in earlier versions). openBVE v1.2.7.3 features an improved superelevation model however, where one rail is raised above the other (which remains at the same level), so the existing objects were no longer so suitable.

I had started to make some progress in manually modifying my existing objects, however Object Bender has now saved me many days of work, possibly weeks, thereby preserving my sanity and enabling me to easily generate a much more comprehensive range of superelevated track and transition curve objects to create some very nice results, even better than what I’ve shown in Watford Junction to Rugby for a long time now. The slight downside is that the generated objects have a larger filesize compared to the objects I’d entirely hand-written, however Object Bender’s command line arguments also let me automate and recreate many hundreds of track objects, from a handful of source objects, with great ease via shell scripts. This benefit is simply too good to pass up – if I decide that I want to improve or alter my depiction of track in future, all I have to do is edit the handful of template objects and I can recreate the entire library of track objects with just a double-click. An example batch file for Windows users, based on the one which I’ve written for myself, can be found below, along with a sample shell script for Linux users too.

Here’s a selection of screenshots to demonstrate what nice results can be gained quickly, thanks to Object Bender and a little object building skill:

Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot
Birmingham Cross-City South v2.0 with superelevated track and transition curves, created via
odakyufan’s Object Bender tool. Also note the embankment (dike) with curved cable trough
in the last screenshot, with the vegetation handled via Object Bender’s /a command-line
argument (please see the Object Bender documention for a tutorial).

One problem I have encountered during the latest Cross-City South superlevated track upgrade so far, is how to accomodate pointwork (switches) on superelevated curves. There are examples of this at Longbridge, between Northfield and Kings Norton, and just after Kings Norton, too. On Watford Junction to Rugby, I took the easy option and handled such situations by transitioning back to uncanted track on either side of points (only with the visual representation of the track – the cant applied via the .Curve command remained constant throughout the points). With Cross-City South v2.0, I’ve decided to gradually alter the height of the other tracks leading towards and away from crossovers connecting superelevated tracks instead, while also rotating the point objects around the Z-axis. This way, the crossover itself is superelevated to the same degree as the tracks being crossed between, which looks better visually, and I presume it’s also more prototypically accurate. Here’s an example between Northfield and Kings Norton, with some new custom pointwork objects I’ve been working on for this location (amongst others):

Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot
Birmingham Cross-City South v2.0 with superelevated track and custom-built crossovers.
Note the clamp-lock point machines, too.
Note: For those of you familiar with the real Cross-City South, please be aware that these screenshots depict the line prior to the recent track renewals on the real-life route. I’ll work on the renewed track (plus such changes as the upgraded 70mph / 112km/h sections beteween Redditch and Northfield), once I’ve sorted out a few more remaining tasks along the route, such as realigning overhead wire objects due to altered curve radii, improving the stations, and finishing the remaining scenery objects which need to be updated with new textures, 3D trees and vegetation.

Object Bender has most definitely made route building easier and more enjoyable for me, however one problem which needed to be solved, was that when a track object is superelevated, the terminating height of the ballast shoulders on either side of the sleepers is also altered. In a route, and depending upon the design of the track objects, this can lead to gaps appearing between tracks running side-by-side, and between the ballast portion of the track objects and dikes (i.e. the embankment beneath the track):

Screenshot
Depending on the design of track objects, gaps can appear
between the ballast shoulder and dike, or a parallel track,
when superelevation is applied via Object Bender.

I’ve solved this problem, by expanding the ballast shoulder in the track object to include two faces at increasing angles, such that at the maximum level of visible cant I’ll ever apply in my routes (160mm in my case), no gaps appear and the cable trough isn’t obscured, while I can continue to use only one template object for creating the full range of curved track pieces, at differing degrees of superelevation, via Object Bender. The ballast portions of the dike objects are also extended. This solution does lead to more faces being rendered, but hopefully it’s not too much of an issue, performance wise. Here’s a screenshot:

Screenshot
Extended ballast shoulders in both the track and dike objects,
to remove visible gaps when cant is applied via Object Bender.

Screenshot Screenshot
Screenshot Screenshot
On the left, are the original objects, and on the right, the new versions. Note the custom vertex normals
applied to the ballast shoulders in the last screenshot, to help remove the angled appearance
which might otherwise be visible with certain lighting parameters.

Object Bender supports some markup which can be applied to template objects before they’re processed, for example, to determine the desired texture coordinate shifting in generated segments (please see the Object Bender documention on the openBVE homepage for more information – I think the tutorial is clear enough that I don’t need to explain it further). I was originally going to suggest expanding the supported markup a little, so that Object Bender could be instructed to leave the X and/or Y coordinates of any vertex as it is in the original template object, which would for example, solve the ballast shoulder issue above in an easier way for the object creator. However, I quite like the appearance of the solution I came up with, so I don’t think such a change to Object Bender is too important, but might be nice to have, nevertheless.

Lastly, for more advanced users, or beginners feeling more adventurous, here’s a sample batch file for Windows users, and a bash script for Linux users, which you can adapt and expand if you want to automatically create a range of curved objects using Object Bender’s command line interface, rather than the GUI. There is a simple example of a suitable batch file included in the Object Bender documention, however rather more can be done with batch files/shell scripts. These following example scripts use variables to reduce the amount of duplicated text that you might otherwise need to type, and they also create a logfile which you can read, which is handy if you’re generating a large number of objects, to more easily check for any errors which might have occured during a lengthy object bending batch process.

For the Windows batch file, you need to give it a .bat extension. The text highlighted in red (including the less/greater than characters), should be replaced by any paths or filenames which are appropriate for your purposes. Where <Your_File_To_Append> is concerned, this object file could contain fishplates for example, or overhead wires, which are appended to the object generated in the previous line (please see here for more information). You can see fishplates added to my curved wooden sleeper based track objects in the above Cross-City South v2.0 screenshots – this is how they were appended to the files generated via Object Bender.

Sample batch file using Object Bender to automate curved object creation (Windows users):

@echo off

rem Set variables (paths and extension for all files)
set objectbender_path=<Path_To_Folder_Containing_ObjectBender>\
set exe=ObjectBender.exe
set obj_source=<Path_To_Your_Source_Object_Folder>\
set obj_final=<Path_To_Your_Route_Object_Folder>\

rem Clear the screen and ask user for confirmation
cls
echo Proceed with object creation? This will overwrite any existing files.
echo Press Ctrl+C to cancel, or any other key to proceed . . .
pause > nul

echo.
echo.
echo Processing files and creating log. Please wait . . .

rem Create a new log file with time stamp
echo ___________________________________ > %objectbender_path%objectbender_log.txt
echo New log [%date% at %time%] >> %objectbender_path%objectbender_log.txt
echo. >> %objectbender_path%objectbender_log.txt

rem Use Object Bender to create finished objects from templates

rem 500m right curve
%objectbender_path%%exe% %obj_source%<Your_Source_File> %obj_final%<Your_500m_Right_Track_Object> /n=5 /s=5 /b=25 /r=500 /g=1435 /u=80 /v=80 >> %objectbender_path%objectbender_log.txt
%objectbender_path%%exe% %obj_source%<Your_File_To_Append> %obj_final%<Your_500m_Right_Track_Object> /a /n=1 /s=25 /b=25 /r=500 /g=1435 /u=80 /v=80 >> %objectbender_path%objectbender_log.txt

rem 600m right curve
%objectbender_path%%exe% %obj_source%<Your_Source_File> %obj_final%<Your_600m_Right_Track_Object> /n=5 /s=5 /b=25 /r=600 /g=1435 /u=80 /v=80 >> %objectbender_path%objectbender_log.txt
%objectbender_path%%exe% %obj_source%<Your_File_To_Append> %obj_final%<Your_600m_Right_Track_Object> /a /n=1 /s=25 /b=25 /r=600 /g=1435 /u=80 /v=80 >> %objectbender_path%objectbender_log.txt

rem 700m right curve, etc. . .

Linux users can adapt the following shell script to make use of Object Bender for automating the creation of multiple files. Your script should be given a .sh file extension, and be made executable (for example: chmod +x myscript.sh). The script can be executed from the Terminal prompt by typing, for example: ./myscript.sh). Don’t forget that Object Bender requires Mono to be installed, too.

Screenshot
Important note: Object Bender determines whether a command line argument is a pathname, or another command line argument, based upon whether or not the argument string begins with a ‘/’ character. In Unix based operating systems, this character is the directory separator character, so if you supply a path which begins with ‘/’ (such as /home/username/etc), it will be interpreted as a command line argument which is other than a pathname, and the tool won’t work as expected. You can get around this by supplying relative pathnames (i.e. ../yourfolder/etc), or by using the following modified version of the tool, in which I’ve altered the program to intepret the ‘-‘ character as a non-path command line argument instead (the recompiled executable is temporarily available here, with source code modifications here as well (also requires the official Object Bender source code from the openBVE homepage). The following script assumes the modified executable is being used:
Sample shell script using Object Bender to automate curved object creation (Linux users):

#!/bin/bash

# Set variables (paths and extension for all files)
objectbender_path=<Path_To_Folder_Containing_ObjectBender>/
exe=ObjectBender.exe
obj_source=<Path_To_Your_Source_Object_Folder>
obj_final=<Path_To_Your_Route_Object_Folder>

# Clear the screen and ask user for confirmation
clear
echo "Proceed with object creation? This will overwrite any existing files."
read -s -n 1 -p "Press Ctrl+C to cancel, or any other key to continue . . ."
echo
echo
echo "Processing files and creating log. Please wait . . ."

# Create a new log file with time stamp
echo _____________________________________ > $objectbender_path/objectbender_log
echo New log [$(date)] >> $objectbender_path/objectbender_log
echo >> $objectbender_path/objectbender_log

# Use Object Bender to create finished objects from templates

# 500m right curve
mono $objectbender_path/$exe $obj_source/<Your_Source_File> $obj_final/<Your_500m_Right_Track_Object> -n=5 -s=5 -b=25 -r=500 -g=1435 -u=80 -v=80 >> $objectbender_path/objectbender_log
mono $objectbender_path/$exe $obj_source/<Your_File_To_Append> $obj_final/<Your_500m_Right_Track_Object> -a -n=1 -s=25 -b=25 -r=500 -g=1435 -u=80 -v=80 >> $objectbender_path/objectbender_log

# 600m right curve
mono $objectbender_path/$exe $obj_source/<Your_Source_File> $obj_final/<Your_600m_Right_Track_Object> -n=5 -s=5 -b=25 -r=600 -g=1435 -u=80 -v=80 >> $objectbender_path/objectbender_log
mono $objectbender_path/$exe $obj_source/<Your_File_To_Append> $obj_final/<Your_600m_Right_Track_Object> -a -n=1 -s=25 -b=25 -r=600 -g=1435 -u=80 -v=80 >> $objectbender_path/objectbender_log

# 700m right curve, etc. . .

exit 0

If you need any help with using Object Bender or writing scripts to automate curved object creation, please feel free to ask. 🙂

openBVE v1.2.7.0 released, new Railsimroutes.net site design, Cross-City South v1.31.07 and miscellaneous project updates, Watford Junction to Rugby screenshot featured in the UK’s PC Gamer Magazine, Genova Brignole – Recco route (as far as Genova Nervi) released

Posted by Anthony_B on July 11, 2010 at 06:00

openBVE v1.2.7.0 released

openBVE LogoToday sees the release of openBVE v1.2.7.0, and some interesting changes have taken place. To begin with, the handling of key and joystick buttons has been revised, and key repeat is now possible. This means that you can hold a key down, and after a short delay, the keypress will be repeated continuously until the key is released again. I’m glad that openBVE now supports this functionality, and this is great for quickly moving a power handle to the limit of it’s travel without having to keep tapping the key, or for sounding the horn in a long and loud fashion, for example. The fly-by camera has also been improved, and now, the leading vehicle (of the nearest train) is tracked by the camera, which is great for loco-hauled trains in particular. 🙂

Superelevation is now simulated differently as well; in previous versions, when cant was applied, the train would simply rotate around it’s z-axis, but now, the outer wheel is raised instead. Cant is also interpolated better now, leading to smoother transitions between differing levels of cant. I’m currently rebuilding the canted track objects used by my routes to make better use of these openBVE improvements, such that the wheels will remain on the rails when passing along superelevated track, and the cant transitions at either end of such sections:


Superelevation and wheel-rail interaction in openBVE v1.2.7.0 and Cross-City South v1.4 - click to enlarge
Superelevation and wheel-rail interaction in openBVE v1.2.7.0 and Cross-City South v1.4 - click to enlarge
Screenshot showing superelevation in openBVE v1.2.7.0 and Cross-City South v2.0.
Note the wheels touching the rails throughout the transition curve (scenery is not finished yet).

Cant behaviour can also be adjusted now, via the new 'Options.CantBehavior' command. Previously, cant was always applied towards the curve centre, i.e. banking inwards, and this couldn’t be overidden. Also, it wasn’t possible to have cant on straight track. Now though, cant be in either direction, regardless of the direction of the curve, and cant can be applied on straight track too. How might this be useful for simulating a real railway? Well, on the 11th July last year (exactly a year ago as it happens), I was unexpectedly invited for a visit to the preserved Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway, and this line has a curve known as Chicken curve, and one peculiar feature was that the cant at this location leaned outward from the curve rather than inwards. So, openBVE can simulate this too, now. Class 20 “chopper” (20154) was our traction on the day, and here’s a photo for fans of the class 20, which I took before we departed from Toddington:


In the cab of a class 20 loco at Toddington, on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway - click to enlarge

In the cab of a class 20 loco at Toddington, on the
preserved Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway.

The simulation of track inaccuracy has been overhauled, too. Previously, the familiar cab and vehicle sway was achieved with horizontal and vertical movement, but now, cant inaccuracy and bounce is also modelled, and cars rock from side to side as well as moving vertically and horizontally. While we were testing the new inaccuracy model, I found that this was an interesting way to represent the effect of travelling over more poorly maintained jointed rails. I’ve made some adjustments to the track accuracy in the newly udpated Cross-City South v1.31.07 (see below for download), and travelling over pointwork or on the jointed rail sections of the Cross-City South, should be a little more interesting now, especially when the class 323’s 3D cab is used. 🙂

Essentially, I think .Accuracy values of 0 to 2.0 are suitable for continuous welded rail, and values of 2.1 to 4 are suitable for jointed rails. I’m aware that not everyone may be sure about the new inaccuracy model, however I think it works well when used sensibly, and I would also point out that the development release has been publicly available for testing for at least three weeks, so if you don’t like it, you’ve missed your chance to give feedback prior to the latest stable release. Nevertheless, if you have any comments, please let us know. Personally I prefer the new algorithm and enjoy the representation it can give when accompanied by the sounds of jointed rails, but some may prefer the old; please give it a try with the updated Cross-City South v1.31.07 and class 323 3D cab though (see below), as this update shows what the new inaccuracy model can do. Also bear in mind that you may only prefer the old algorithm because you’re used to it, not because it was more realistic; the old algorithm had it’s limitations.

Also, BVE4 style timetable textures can now be displayed when 3D cabs are used, and not just with legacy 2D panels, although this is considered an experimental feature. The timetable texture can be shown as part of the in-game user interface overlay, or as part of a 3D cab (animated object); if the latter is not specifically catered for within the 3D cab, then the former is the default behaviour. Adding BVE4 style timetables to a 3D cab is easy to do; I would recommend simply creating an object with a four-vertex mesh and default texture applied (which is shown if there is no timetable image to display), and add this object to your panel.animated file. Then, make use of the new 'TextureOverride =' command:

Object for timetable texture (timetable.csv):

CreateMeshBuilder
AddVertex,-0.35,2.9,11.52
AddVertex,-0.06,2.9,11.52
AddVertex,-0.06,2.6,11.52
AddVertex,-0.35,2.6,11.52
AddFace,0,1,2,3

LoadTexture,some_suitable_default_texture.png
SetTextureCoordinates,0, 0, 0
SetTextureCoordinates,1, 1, 0
SetTextureCoordinates,2, 1, 1
SetTextureCoordinates,3, 0, 1

Addition to panel.animated file:

[Object]
States = 3d_cab\timetable.csv
TextureOverride = timetable

I’ve added the aforementioned timetable functionality to the class 323’s 3D cab, but it’s commented out by default, as displaying the timetable images via openBVE’s UI overlay makes more sense where the Cross-City South and class 323 are concerned, plus the feature is still experimental.

You can download the update here, and if you want to experiment with the 'TextureOverride =' command, please see the included ‘Readme_3DCab.txt’ file:

3D cab for unrefurbished class 323 – July 2010 [1.7 MiB]

For more detailed information about the new cant behaviour, and timetable support in .animated objects, please read the official openBVE documentation. For details of all the changes introduced with the v1.2.7.0 release of openBVE, including those not mentioned here, please see the changelog.

Cross-City South v1.31.07 update

Railsimroutes LogoAs openBVE v1.2.7.0 has been released, I’ve updated Cross-City South v1.31 to remove an obsolete timetable texture, changed some of the timetable images to make them suitable for both openBVE and BVE4, and made adjustments to track inaccuracy to take better advantage of openBVE v1.2.7.0’s new track inaccuracy model. I’ve renamed the route folders to more clearly indicate which sets of routes should be used with openBVE, BVE 4 or BVE 2, as well. I’ve also decided to finally split the openBVE routes away from the BVE 4 routes, as testing every openBVE improvement across numerous route files for 100% backwards compatibility with BVE 4 is somewhat inconvenient, and this also lets me get rid of all those pesky "detail levels" in the openBVE route folder, as these simply aren’t needed with openBVE. The new naming convention is as follows, and should be much clearer (the BVE 2 foldername is as it is, so it’ll fit within the size constraints of BVE 2’s small file selection list):

▪ <YourPath>\Railway\Route\Bham_XCitySouth_BVE2\

▪ <YourPath>\Railway\Route\Birmingham_Cross-City_South_BVE4\

▪ <YourPath>\Railway\Route\Birmingham_Cross-City_South_openBVE\

Cross-City South v1.31.05 users can download a smaller update here, which updates v1.31.05 to v1.31.07:

v1.31.07 update for existing Cross-City South v1.31.05 users [1.03 MiB]

If you have an earlier version of Cross-City South installed, or you’re not sure which version you already have, please download the full version instead.

Screenshot
Important note: Please delete the existing Birmingham Cross-City South folders in your Railway\Route\ folder, before installing Cross-City South v1.31.07, whether it’s the update being installed, or the full version! If you don’t, you’ll end up with four Cross-City South route folders rather than three, and you might not be sure which is the right folder to use (incidentally, this is the reason why I haven’t changed the folder names until now).

Genova Brignole – Recco route (as far as Genova Nervi thus far) for openBVE released

Information IconI wanted to mention that a fantastic new route has been released for openBVE, the Italian Genova Brignole – Recco route (as far as Genova Nervi thus far, and 8.1 Km in length). This is one of the most graphically excellent routes I’ve seen to date, with superb textures, and I’m impressed; the route is beautiful. There are some animated objects to enjoy, and staggered catenary as well, which is great to see; pedantic people like me will note that some registration arms pull in the wrong direction, though. 😉

You’ll likely need to read the included PDF instructions before operating the newly released ALn501 – Minuetto v2 train, but it’s well worth the effort. Incidentally, the train comes with some very detailed exterior car objects. These look very nice, although they would benefit from the addition of custom normals to smoothly shade some of the surfaces. Please note that these exterior car objects may have quite an impact on your framerate; even on my Core 2 Quad Q9650 / GeForce GTX 260 system, I get around 30fps in the external view, which is down from anywhere between 80 – 300 fps in the cab view. If you have a slow PC, you may want to stay in the cab. I’m looking forward to seeing this route develop further. 🙂

Screenshot Screenshot
Screenshot Screenshot
The Italian Genova Brignole – Recco route (as far as Genova Nervi thus far), available
from BVEMania (Trenomania) (see the Download section)

Miscellaneous news

Railsimroutes LogoI’m officially announcing the Railsimroutes.net UK Railway Infrastructure Object Library today, which will contain all the objects and textures which are shared between my two upcoming openBVE route projects, Birmingham Cross-City South v2.0, and Watford Junction to Rugby v1.0. This library will be maintained by me, and all developers will be welcome to install and use this library with their own projects, without any conditions or requirement to seek permission.

The library will contain all sorts of objects, including track, catenary, signals, lineside objects, some basic scenery, and so-on, which might help to make new routes easier to develop. It will also have the advantage, that whenever I update the library, perhaps with higher quality textures or better objects, any routes which call upon the library, will also get updated. I’ll plan it carefully, to ensure that changes remain backwards compatible. I anticipate that the library will be released along with Cross-City South v2.0 initially, and then it’ll receive it’s first update when Watford Junction to Rugby is ready.


Railsimroutes.net - UK Railway Infrastructure Object Library banner

UK Railway Infrastructure Object Library
[Now in development]

Next, as you may have noticed, I’ve decided to increase the version number of my upcoming Cross-City South upgrade for openBVE, from version 1.4, to version 2.0. I think I’m making enough changes and enhancements to the route, to justify a version 2.0 release instead. 🙂

I’ve also updated the openBVE Help and Information section to cover the installation of openBVE in Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx). It’s hard to imagine how installing openBVE via the Ubuntu Software Centre could be any easier, and installing openBVE via this method, also makes installing and running the latest official openBVE release with Mono, easier too. I’ve decided to remove the instructions explaining how to run openBVE with Wine, as I’m experiencing problems with the version of Wine available for install with Ubuntu 10.04, relating to GDI+ (and the problem isn’t just occurring with openBVE, either). Perhaps something to do with a Beta release of Wine being supplied rather than a stable release, I don’t know. Running with Mono is much easier though, if you can live without plugin DLLs.

Screenshot Screenshot
openBVE Help and Information updated for Ubuntu 10.04 users

I was lucky enough to have one of my screenshots published in the July issue of the UK edition of PC Gamer magazine, where I also gave a brief overview of the work being undertaken on openBVE 2. I will admit that it was nice to handle such a press enquiry! Here’s the screenshot which was chosen for the article, shown amongst screenshots of various simulators, such as Railworks, X-Plane, Sail Simulator, Space Shuttle Mission Simulator, and others:

Thumbnail image
The Watford Junction to Rugby screenshot chosen to appear in simulation
article “The Realists”, in the July 2010 issue of the UK edition of the
best selling PC Gamer magazine.

Incidentally, I also want to apologise for the lack of progress with my routes, and for posting so many screenshots and not delivering anything, which I feel that some of you are not impressed by. This is mainly due to me working on openBVE 2, which means that I don’t have much time to devote to the routes at the moment. openBVE 2 is a priority though, and a fantastic experience for me, so I hope fans of my routes will understand. Besides, both routes will run even better in openBVE 2, anyway. I know that the routes look more-or-less finished already, but they’re not – there are such issues as missing track in places, performance optimisations which still to be carried out, and an entire missing station to deal with at Rugby, to name but a few examples. I don’t make a habit of releasing junk and expecting people to be happy with it, so the projects won’t be released until I’m satisfied that a decent standard of quality has been achieved; that doesn’t mean they have to be perfect in every way, just not a disappointment.

New Railsimroutes.net site design

Railsimroutes LogoAs regular visitors will have hopefully noticed, I’ve redesigned the website, as I felt it needed an update, and I also wanted to put some updated website design skills into practice. The site was last redesigned in 2007 with a theme called “Modern”, characterised by a metallic grey colour scheme and smoothly shaded backgrounds, where Windows users would have been greeted with the Tahoma font throughout, and it was designed to be XHTML 1.0 and CSS Level 2 compliant. However, the content of the site wasn’t reorganised very much since the time of the previous “Retro Blue” design, and over time it became somewhat cluttered and untidy in my view.

This latest redesign is the fourth incarnation of the site, with a new theme called “Clarity” (hopefully it might live up to it’s name ;)). The new design is meant to be clearer, better organised, and easier to read. The site has been completely rebuilt from scratch; PHP is now used as well as HTML, and much of the site is XHTML 1.1 and CSS Level 3 compliant. I’ve tested the new site using Firefox 3, Internet Explorer 8, Opera 10, Chrome 5, and Safari 5, and everything works well. The site also works just fine in Internet Explorer 7 and earlier too (tested as far back as IE 5.5), but if you use one of those older Microsoft browsers, you might notice a minor rendering issue around the style selector dropdown box in the footer of each page. Essentially, I’m not happy having to devote much time to dealing with the quirks of browsers which aren’t properly compliant with more recent web standards, partly because it’s just annoying, but also because catering for them can lead to such browsers outliving their welcome (IE 6 springs to mind!). So, if you use Internet Explorer 7 or earlier and want perfect rendering, I would recommend upgrading to Internet Explorer 8 if possible, which is just fine.

I’ve also decided to reorganise the content of the site somewhat. The navigation bar has been expanded with the addition of Gallery and Help links, and the Projects and Downloads section has been overhauled to place emphasis on active projects, and non-help related information. Much more background information and history concerning my route projects is provided now, and information and downloads should be easier to find when they’re ready for release. You’ll also find a "What I’m currently working on" infobox at the top right of this page, which you can check to see what I’m up to, between blog posts. 🙂

I’ve taken the decision to remove some old sections of the site which never received much of my attention, and I’ve moved my old BVE 2 and 4 add-ons into their own de-emphasised legacy add-ons section, as they’re not really reflective of the quality of work I’m now producing; the emphasis is now placed on my upcoming openBVE projects instead. I’ve also introduced a sitemap, as a couple of people have indicated that some information was harder to find, previously.

I’ve also used a different selection of fonts this time:

  • Windows 7 and Vista users will get the Segoe UI font throughout (along with the rather nice Consolas for code snippets), giving the best appearance.
  • Windows XP users will also get the Segoe UI font, if Windows Live Essentials applications have been installed (for example, Messenger, Mail, Photo Gallery or Writer), or if Office 2007/2010 has been installed. XP users will also get the Consolas font with Office 2007/2010, or this can be downloaded free from Microsoft’s website. If neither Windows Live Essentials or Office 2007/2010 have been installed, but the free Microsoft Powerpoint Viewer 2007 is installed, then Candara (along with Consolas) will be seen instead. If none of these have been installed, then Trebuchet MS (along with Courier New for code snippets) will be seen, which are fonts included with Windows XP.
  • Others will likely see generic sans serif and monospace fonts (although these look very nice in Ubuntu Linux, for example).

Incidentally, I experimented with CSS3’s @font-face declaration for embedding fonts, so that a consistent text style would be seen regardless of which fonts are installed locally on someone’s computer. This does indeed work fine, but I haven’t yet decided upon a set of fonts which I like, and which are also released with acceptable non-restrictive licencing terms, so that I can host the fonts on my own server without issues. I’ll explore this again in future, however.

More observant visitors will have noticed that I’ve also renamed the site slightly. I’ve dropped the “UK” part of “Rail Sim Routes UK”, and the site is now called “Railsimroutes.net” instead. The site is still available via two domain names, railsimroutes.net and railsimroutes.co.uk; I have no plans to retire the .co.uk domain, although you might want to update your bookmarks if you still use it.

Anyway, I hope you like the new Railsimroutes.net design. 🙂

openBVE 2 Renderer Demo released, a new direction for me, some views on openBVE 2, and the release of openBVE v1.2.6.0

Posted by Anthony_B on March 15, 2010 at 08:00

openBVE 2 Renderer Demo released, and a new direction for me

openBVE LogoBefore I talk about the new openBVE 2 Renderer Demo, I just want to announce that aside from developing my routes, I’m also now working with Michelle as a C# programmer, and I’m actively participating in the development of openBVE 2. So far, apart from various discussions, I’ve worked on adapting openBVE 1’s .X object parser as a loading-stage plugin for the new program. So, while you’re using the program, if you have any problems regarding X format objects created via the BVE Structure Viewer (the output from this tool is what openBVE effectively supports), then you can probably point the finger of blame at me. 😉 Just to remind and reassure readers, I am still developing my routes, and I haven’t abandoned them!

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The openBVE 2 Renderer Demo

openBVE LogoAs many of you will know, openBVE 2 has been in development for some time, and I’m pleased to say that a demo of openBVE 2’s new renderer is now available for download. Unlike it’s predecessor, openBVE 2 is modular — many of the functions which were previously carried out within the program, such as loading and parsing routes or objects, or brake system simulation, is now carried out by plugins instead. This means that openBVE 2 is extensible in a way which openBVE 1 is not. For example, with openBVE 1, adding support for a new 3D object format, would require modification of the core program itself, and a new release. But with openBVE 2’s extensible architecture, support can simply be added via a new plugin, which means the core program need not be modified or recompiled. Clearly, this is a much better design in the long term.

The new renderer demo is intended for advanced users and developers only, and the main purpose of the demo is to test the performance of openBVE 2’s new renderer in comparison with openBVE 1’s, on a variety of computer systems. Indeed, no train simulation features are actually included at this stage, and not all visible features of routes, such as backdrops or animated objects, are accomodated yet.

It would be greatly appreciated if you could download and test the new renderer, and report your experiences; for example, what framerates you see, what viewing distance you find yourself liking to use, and what performance you achieve when equivalent settings are used in both the openBVE 2 Renderer Demo and openBVE 1. Hopefully you’ll find that framerates using openBVE 2’s renderer are far higher.

You can visit the openBVE Renderer Demo page for the download, and please read the information presented there carefully: » http://openbve.trainsimcentral.co.uk/openbve2.html «

Please also consider posting your feedback in » this thread on the openBVE forum «, or send some feedback via e-mail to Michelle. Alternatively, you can leave some feedback in a comment on this blog entry or e-mail me, and I’ll pass your feedback on to Michelle. It would be helpful if you could include certain information, such as the following:

  • Your processor model and/or speed (e.g. Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3GHz, AMD Phenom II X2 545 @ 3.0GHz, etc…)
  • Your graphics card model (e.g. NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250, ATI Radeon HD 5670, etc…)
  • The amount of RAM you have (e.g. 2GB)
  • What operating system you’re using (e.g. Windows 7 64-bit, Ubuntu 9.10 32-bit, etc…)
  • The settings within in your settings.cfg file (found in the Binaries subfolder of the openBVE 2 Renderer Demo)
  • Your video card driver’s image quality settings (e.g. 16xQ anti-aliasing, 16x anisotropic filtering)
  • The framerates you encounter while running the openBVE 2 Renderer Demo, and openBVE 1, with equivalent settings
  • Lastly, don’t forget to take into account, the information on the openBVE 2 Renderer Demo download page…

You can find some help regarding identifying your graphics card model on » this page «. Where video driver settings are concerned, you can read » this page «. Windows users can often just press Windows Key + Break to find out CPU model and speed, amount of RAM, and operating system. Michelle is very busy, but if you would like to send some feedback and find yourself unsure as to what to do, then I’d be happy to help you. 🙂

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I’m delighted to say that all the routes I’ve tried, benefit greatly from openBVE 2’s new renderer. Not only are framerates higher, but the viewing distance can be increased significantly as well. 🙂 This is also good news for those of you waiting for Watford Junction to Rugby. For example, take the highly detailed Bourne End Junction area, which contains nearly a kilometre of 60mph crossovers between the fast and slow lines, lots of complex overhead line equipment, and plenty of track and lineside detail. With a viewing distance of 3000m (yes, 3 kilometres :)), in openBVE 1, the framerate here is dragged down to a measly » 19 fps « . But with openBVE 2’s renderer, I get an impressive » 155 fps « instead.

Here are some other examples of framerate improvements. For detailed specifications of the computers used in these tests, please » see here «.

Settings in openBVE 1:

Viewing Distance: [3000m]
Resolution: [1920×1200 fullscreen]
Image Quality: [Anti-aliasing: 16xQ, anisotropic filtering: 16x]
vSync: [Off]
Interpolation: [Anisotropic Filtering]
Transparency: [Sharp]

Settings in openBVE 2 Renderer Demo:

Viewing Distance: [3000m]
Resolution: [1920×1200 fullscreen]
Image Quality: [Anti-aliasing: 16xQ, anisotropic filtering: 16x]
vSync: [False]
Interpolation: [5]
objectOptimization: [2]
blockClipping: [true]
All other settings: [Default]

Please note that all framerates were taken with the camera left at it’s initial position and orientation, to produce reliable and consistant results. In openBVE 1, the F3 external camera key was pressed once and left remaining at the start of the route, and the train moved to the end of the route via the Jump to Station menu, to ensure that no external car objects were lowering framerates.

Core 2 Quad Q9650 / GeForce GTX 260 based system:

Route: openBVE v1.2.5.1 (fps) openBVE 2 Renderer Demo (fps)
Ferrovia Genova-Casella 109 325
Chashinai Railway (Ishinden Line) 78 366
Saijou 117 423
Keio.net 220 327
Guaianazes-Estudantes High-Res 64 327
ATS-Sn/P Test Route 83 437
Uchibo 86 456
Network West Midlands 105 412
Watford Junction to Rugby 38 231

Athlon64 X2 4200+ / Radeon 2600 Pro based system:

Route: openBVE v1.2.5.1 (fps) openBVE 2 Renderer Demo (fps)
Ferrovia Genova-Casella 24 52
Chashinai Railway (Ishinden Line) 15 63
Saijou 17 67
Keio.net 40 88
Guaianazes-Estudantes High-Res 11 51
ATS-Sn/P Test Route 17 71
Uchibo 17 74
Network West Midlands 20 66
Watford Junction to Rugby 9 34

As you can see, on my systems, openBVE 2’s renderer is far superior to openBVE 1’s. Of course over time, more features will be added, and these will use some more of the newly available CPU and GPU resources and reduce peformance a bit. However, for those of you with slow computers, these extra performance reserves could mean that more detailed routes and trains could be usable than would be the case with openBVE 1.

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Some more framerate comparisons… openBVE v1.2.5.1 on the left, openBVE 2 Renderer Demo on the right. Remember that we’re interested in the framerate, not the graphical quality, at this early stage! Support for backdrops and smooth transparency will be added to openBVE 2’s renderer in due course. Also note that the viewing distance likely used by many openBVE users is the default 600 metres, but here, the viewing distance is 3000 metres instead.

openBVE v1.2.5.1 openBVE 2 Renderer Demo
Screenshot Screenshot
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All screenshots taken at 1920×1200 resolution, with openBVE’s anisotropic filtering setting enabled with sharp transparency/interpolation mode 5, and 16xQ anti-aliasing/16x anisotropic filtering (Core 2 Quad Q9650 at default 3GHz, and GeForce GTX 260 55nm)
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Community concerns regarding “openBVE 2”

Information IconI want to mention briefly the concerns regarding the name “openBVE 2” being changed soon, as architecturally, the new program is entirely different to openBVE 1, let alone BVE Trainsim, and I’ve noted some fears being expressed regarding the name change and widening scope of the project, particularly where add-on compatibility is concerned. However, I think these fears are being blown out of proportion. All openBVE content will still be compatible with the new program, so there’s no need to panic — add-ons aren’t going to suddenly become defunct. If any developers have concerns about this, please feel free to discuss them with either myself or Michelle.

I’ve also noticed people express concerns that openBVE 2 is going to be far more difficult to use and develop add-ons for. From the end-user’s point of view, and with cooperation from add-on developers (like me), it could actually be far easier, because it will be possible to install and uninstall add-ons from within the program itself, via it’s graphical user interface, rather than dealing with archiving utilities, self-extracting archives, different directory structures contained within them depending on which developer packaged them, and so-on. This kind of stuff is not easy for everyone, especially beginners, and it has to be repeated with every add-on. Where add-on creation is concerned, one of the benefits of the modular, plugin-based architecture, is that adding support for new file formats, such as file formats created by 3D modelling applications, becomes easier, not harder. It also means that route building tools, should they be made, can more easily interface with the host program via the new API. Those of us who prefer hand-coding methods, myself included, can still do what we’ve always done as well — it’s all a choice. Of course, with a program capable of rendering a vast world, it does become harder to make add-ons which fully exploit this new potential. Even I’m not exploiting this potential with my add-ons currently, but in future this may be highly desirable (just as I’ve upgraded my routes incrementally in the past), and the ability will be there for anyone who wants it, or who can envisage a use which even we haven’t even thought of yet. Anyway, the modular architecture makes it easier to build content creation tools, or provide support for existing tools and their file formats, which will make the growing possibilities easier to take advantage of. This does however, require some good programmers willing to devote some time to creating such tools, or writing plugins to support existing tools or formats; I recognise this, and I’m sure Michelle does as well. Lets try to be a little more positive about the future.

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openBVE v1.2.6.0 released

openBVE LogoLastly, openBVE v1.2.6.0 has also been released. Now is a good time remind ourselves that openBVE is a train simulator first and foremost, and with this latest release, the mass of the train is now affected by boarding passengers, which can slightly affect the performance of the train. A bug has also been fixed in the Jump to Station menu, and the Interior (Look Ahead) camera is now selected by default for 3D cabs (like the » class 323’s 3D cab « for example, or » Roberto Benini’s EM A1 3D cab «). There are various other changes too; please visit the » openBVE homepage « for more. 🙂

openBVE v1.2.5, Watford Jn. to Rugby progress, class 390 Pendolino, other developer’s add-ons, Cross-City South bugfix, and one million visits

Posted by Anthony_B on January 31, 2010 at 17:50

openBVE v1.2.5.0 released

openBVE LogoopenBVE v1.2.5.0 was released a few days ago, and various changes have been made to openBVE since my last blog entry. In this release, the main form (i.e. the window for route selection, setting options, etc.) is smaller so that it can be used on smaller screen sizes (e.g. 800×600) or with larger fonts, and if the window is resized, the new size is saved between sessions. The player’s train now derails when passing the end of the track, as well.

Michelle has also written an impressive RIFF/RIFX/WAV PCM/ADPCM parser, which she’s ported from openBVE’s successor to openBVE 1. This removes the need for two dependencies, namely ALUT and SDL, and her parser supports a wider range of sampling rates. Other improvements recently, include a shortening of loading times for routes using detailed animated objects (which eventual users of the projects being developed here will appreciate). Also, there’s the addition of the $Include preprocessing directive which allows text in other files to be parsed in place of the directive in a route file (with random selection of multiple included files), and point-based turns (via the .Turn command) are smoothened out, which gives much more pleasing results. Please see » this thread « for more discussion about these latter features.

Head over to the » openBVE homepage « to try the latest v1.2.5.0 release, and you can read the changelog for further details. Remember that the » developer tools « have also been updated as well.

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Watford Junction to Rugby progress update

Railsimroutes LogoIt’s been quite a while since I posted any updates regarding my routes, so I thought you might like to know what’s happening with the Watford Junction to Rugby project this time. I’m relatively happy with the state of the permanent way and between-station railway related lineside objects, so I’m now implementing some more scenery enhancements, including improved under-bridge shadow effects, moving road vehicles, and lineside buildings. I’ve also, at last, started working on the stations and so far I’ve created new photo-realistic lamposts, photo-realistic 3D platforms, and various signs.

Previously, the underbridge shadows I’d implemented were simple untextured meshes with alpha applied via the SetColor command. In addition, I’ve now applied a small 8×8 pixel texture where the outer 28 pixels act as the transparent color, and the inner pixels are nearly black. When this texture is applied to the existing shadow meshes and the color adjusted accordingly, smoothly transitioned shadows can be achieved. I’ve also added deeper shadows to the sleeper textures to improve the appearance of the track, and added more blue colouration along with reducing the lightness of the railhead, to make the rails look a little more metallic. I’m also implementing shadows cast by platforms and embankments as well. The way in which I’ve implemented the latter can give the appearance of dappled sunlight caused by trees, and increases the effect of warmth created by sunlight and the realism of locations within cuttings, although this feature will be optional in the final release as there’s a possibility that it may incur a performance penalty on slow graphics cards. Lastly, I’ve added some new photographic backdrops which I’m experimenting with at the moment. Take a look at the following screenshots to see how the route is coming along (please note that there may be some inaccuracies, as the route shows trackwork or infrastructure as it was in different eras simultaneously at the moment):

openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5 and Watford Junction to Rugby--click to enlarge
openBVE v1.2.5, and Watford Junction to Rugby with new lineside buildings, station details, road vehicles, scenic shadows, and backdrops.
All screenshots taken at 1920×1200 resolution, with openBVE’s smooth transparency enabled, and 16xQ anti-aliasing/16x anisotropic filtering (Core 2 Quad Q9650 at default 3GHz, and GeForce GTX 260 55nm)
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Class 390 Pendolino

Railsimroutes LogoSome of you may remember that the class 390 Pendolino was given an » openBVE exterior car update « some time ago, thanks to Cramaboule. I’m pleased to announce that I’m now working with Cramaboule to produce some detailed exterior models of a similar quality to the class 323 I’ve demonstrated previously, along with a full 3D cab, so there will be some more nice looking rolling stock to run on Watford Junction to Rugby. I’ll post some screenshots as the models are developed, but for now here are some photos of what we can look forward to:

Class 390 Pendolino photograph (Milton Keynes, June 2005)--click to enlarge Class 390 Pendolino photograph (Milton Keynes, June 2005)--click to enlarge Class 390 Pendolino photograph (Cheddington, June 2005)--click to enlarge Class 390 Pendolino photograph (Old Linslade, October 2004)--click to enlarge
Class 390 Pendolino photos (1400×1050)
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Other more recent openBVE add-on releases

Information IconSince my last blog entry, some high quality openBVE add-ons have been released. Just in case anyone missed these releases, here are some screenshots and links to some excellent new add-ons with rather beautiful graphics:

Note: All screenshots taken at 1920×1200 resolution, with openBVE’s smooth transparency enabled, and 16xQ anti-aliasing/16x anisotropic filtering (Core 2 Quad Q9650 at default 3GHz, and GeForce GTX 260 55nm)
openBVE v1.2.5, FEVF Railway and EM A1 3D cab--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5, FEVF Railway and EM A1 3D cab--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5, FEVF Railway and EM A1 train--click to enlarge
FEVF Railway and EM A1 3D cab.
Homepage: » FEVF Railway «
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openBVE v1.2.5, mtrain HD v2.0 and Hong Kong Island Line--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5, mtrain HD v2.0 and Hong Kong Island Line--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5, mtrain HD v2.0 and Hong Kong Island Line--click to enlarge
mtrain HD v2.0 and Hong Kong Island Line.
Homepage: » winsome’s Studio « | » Hong Kong Island Line «
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openBVE v1.2.5, First Brno Track and CD163 plus coaches--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5, First Brno Track and CD163 plus coaches--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5, First Brno Track and CD163 plus coaches--click to enlarge
First Brno Track and CD163 plus coaches.
Homepage: » Brno BVE Website «
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openBVE v1.2.5, Guaianazes-Estudantes route and CAF 440 train--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5, Guaianazes-Estudantes route and CAF 440 train--click to enlarge openBVE v1.2.5, Guaianazes-Estudantes route and CAF 440 train--click to enlarge
Guaianazes-Estudantes route and CAF 440 train
Homepage: » BVE Brazil Fans «
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Upcoming openBVE projects to keep an eye on…

Information IconThere are a couple of new projects in the works which I’m personally very much looking forward to seeing, namely » Odakyufan’s « representation of the Odakyu Odawara Line running from Tokyo’s Shinjuku station, and the new Iida line currently being developed. The latter will of course be known to BVE users as one of Gaku’s classics (see my links page), but the new Iida line, train and exterior car objects being developed at » http://mus-iida.jpn.org « look beautiful and very realistic so far.

Some superb early screenshots of » Odakyufan’s « representation of the Odakyu Odawara line were also published a little while ago. The Odawara line starts from Tokyo’s busy Shinjuku station, and the line is well known for it’s Romancecar limited express services for tourists visiting Odawara and the surrounding resorts, but it’s also a busy commuter route and the Odakyu Electric Railway uses it’s own OM-ATS safety system, which will be simulated in a semi-realistic way due to the absence of detailed technical information. Odakyufan has a goal of modelling at least the first five stations, and this will be interesting to see, as this section of the line is surrounded by densely packed buildings. The screenshots showing the exit from Shinjuku station, Japanese 1500V DC catenary and Tokyo’s buildings all look very promising indeed, and easily recognisable, even at an early stage of development.

Odakyu Odawara line -- click to visit homepage Odakyu Odawara line -- click to visit homepage Odakyu Odawara line -- click to visit homepage
Homepage: » The Web Presence of Odakyufan «
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mus-iida.jpn.org -- click to visit homepage mus-iida.jpn.org -- click to visit homepage mus-iida.jpn.org -- click to visit homepage
Homepage: » http://mus-iida.jpn.org «
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Cross-City South bugfix

Railsimroutes LogoI’ve uploaded an update for Cross-City South v1.31, which fixes the following issues:
  • Incorrect pathname in route files using the class 323 passenger views.
  • The ground repeater signal prior to Birmingham New Street station is now accurately modelled, such that the red aspect is nearest to the driver (i.e. the signal is as though it were upside down now, as in reality). Many thanks to Paul Sladen for pointing this out.
  • In the night routes, “P” has been added as the ArrivalTime argument of the Five Ways .Sta commands (to indicate that trains are not meant to stop). Thanks again to Paul for bringing this omission to my attention.
  • Also in the night routes, the repetition count for Background(0) has been added, which was missing previously, leading to a horizontally compressed background image.

Existing Cross-City South v1.31.03 users can simply download a small update to v1.31.05 here: xcs_1_31_05_update.7z [180 KiB]. If you’re using a version earlier than v1.31.03, you might be better off downloading the full route pack again, which also now includes the aforementioned update. The previously separate class 37 and 158 route files are now included in the main download as well. Please also note that BVE 4 doesn’t work on my current Windows 7 64-bit/NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 setup, so this update has only been tested in openBVE, as it’s inconvenient having to dual boot or use another computer every time I want to check some minor thing in the old BVE 4. There aren’t any changes which should affect BVE 4 users, but if any issues arise, please let me know with as much detail about the problem as possible, and I’ll investigate.

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Finally…

Railsimroutes LogoI noticed that the site has had it’s one millionth visit today (as opposed to page view), insofar as it’s possible to measure such things — the actual number of users of my routes will likely number in the low thousands, of course. Thank you to everyone who has taken an interest in my work during the eight or so years since this site was launched!