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Latest News (18th April 2019)
Welcome to the Railsimroutes.net Blog, where I'll be posting progress updates, work-in-progress screenshots, information about the progress I'm making with active projects, as well as anything else I feel is worth mentioning. Hopefully more frequent updates here will make the wait for upcoming releases more bearable! News from 2008, all the way back to 2001, can be found in the News Archive.

Railsimroutes.net YouTube Channel My openBVE videos and other comments from users and myself can also be found via my YouTube channel.



Blog and Progress Updates


Railsimroutes returns – work resuming on projects, new website design, content updates including updated openBVE help guide and computing section, new UKTrainSys bugfix release

Posted by Anthony Bowden on 10th April 2019 at 11:58 pm

Railsimroutes returns – new site design, work resuming on projects

Railsimroutes LogoWell it’s been an incredibly long time since the last update here at Railsimroutes… In the intervening years I’ve been very busy, and many things have changed with real life taking precedence. I studied for a Foundatation Degree in Railway Engineering and embarked on a career with the real railway, which as you can imagine didn’t leave much spare time to devote to the simulated world of openBVE.

However I now feel able to return to the hobby and I would really like to get my projects released. I intend to finish off some of the tasks I started working on back in 2014, make the add-ons usable, and aim to get at least something released. These releases won’t be as polished as previous versions, but given that all material will be released as open source and placed into the public domain, it can always be improved upon further down the line (pun intended!).

Given how openBVE has developed lately, I also want to release the UK Railway Infrastructure Object Library soon to give the project a boost and provide a nice graphical upgrade for developers or users who wish to use its objects and textures.

 

UkTrainSys plugin update – bugfix release v0.3.2.0

Railsimroutes LogoThanks to Chris Lees, I was notified (a long time ago!) of a bug in the Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) simulation where an incorrect variable in the ArmTss() method was reset upon passing an opposite-direction TSS f5 frequency. This was caused by a typo which Chris spotted in my code! Please head over to the UkTrainSys Plugin page for the updated version. I have also updated the Class 323 3D Cab Add-on with the updated UKTrainSys.

 

New website design and content updates

Railsimroutes LogoI wanted to learn HTML5 and revamp the design of Railsimroutes with a more modern format, using the latest web standards with a focus on current standards compliant browsers. So today sees the launch of the fifth incarnation of Railsimroutes, with a theme known as “Glass”. I hope you like the new design. It is aimed primarily at desktop PC and tablet users, but does employ responsive design for use on smartphones, which may be further enhanced in future.

  • The new site design has been hand coded from the ground up to be fully HTML5 and CSS Level 3 compliant, and now fills a greater width of the browser window. Both a Light and a Dark theme variation are provided to suit your taste, with the Dark theme being the default.
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  • I have updated the openBVE Help and Installation Guides to reflect Chris Lees’ ongoing developments with openBVE. The new guide gives step-by-step instructions for installing openBVE 1.4.5.x in Windows 10 “Creator’s Update”, and now also includes a guide for macOS Mojave users (I am now a Mac user as well as die-hard PC enthusiast!).
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  • The About the Site and History section has been updated, and the previous “Clarity” theme can be seen in the Railsimoutes.net Archive.
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  • The Links page has been updated although this is still a work in progress. There are also many more non-railsim related links included near the bottom of the page.
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  • The PC Specs section of the site has now been significantly expanded, and renamed Development PC(s) and Network with a new URL. This section covers my long standing interest in computing, from my earliest PCs to my present day machines, including my office/development studio and networking setup, software choices, and so-on.
  •  
  •  
  • Railsimroutes now has an SSL certificate installed, so the site can also be accessed via https://railsimroutes.net.
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  • I have also set up a mirror of the Railsimroutes website, which is also SSL enabled, at https://railsimroutes.com. This is hosted on my own server; feel free to use whichever you find more responsive.

Lastly…

Railsimroutes LogoMore updates shall follow soon! I am working on the AWS/TPWS implementation in Watford Junction to Rugby next, and also the UK Railway Infrastructure Object Library. I’m working on these projects as and when I get the odd hour spare between my day job and other real-life stuff which has to come first, but I shall try and do more regular updates even if they’re not all that exciting!

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openBVE v1.2.10 released, Cross-City South v1.31.11 update, and UkTrainSys v0.3.1.9 now available, with enhanced AWS and TPWS simulation, diesel multiple unit support, and various improvements

Posted by Anthony Bowden on 25th December 2010 at 11:15 pm

openBVE v1.2.10 released

openBVE LogoopenBVE has now reached v1.2.10, which marks the first stable release to feature cross-platform .NET support. This is great news for non-Windows users, who can benefit from the extended functionality, system simulation, and the AI support feature which new .NET plugins can provide. Please head over to the official openBVE homepage to download the latest stable release, as well as to read about the latest developments. Also, don’t forget to read the changelog, for a summary of various other changes which have taken place since v1.2.8.2.

openBVE users who also use my Cross-City South v1.31 route, should also note that the route is now updated for the new version of openBVE, and it also requires the latest version of the new UkTrainSys plugin for full simulation the class 323’s safety systems to be available, because I’ve now altered the route’s .Beacon commands to take full advantage of the enhanced realism of the new UkTrainSys AWS and TPWS implementation. More details can be found below…

UkTrainSys v0.3.1.9 now available, with enhanced TPWS and AWS simulation, diesel multiple unit support, and a few other enhancements

Railsimroutes LogoI’ve just released the next version of the UkTrainSys cross-platform plugin, which is now up to version 0.3.1.9. This latest release includes initial support for diesel multiple units. Other new features include the Vigilance Device reduced cycle time, far more realistic AWS and TPWS simulation, and several other improvements. Here follows some more information about the various features:

Diesel engine support:

UkTrainSys now has diesel engine support, which means that the plugin can be used with trains which rely on Simon Gathercole’s UKSpt.dll, such as Sprinters or the class 170 (although diesel locomotives are supported too, apart from ammeters and wheelslip protection – I’ll add these later). I’ve decided to recreate much of Simon’s complex diesel engine model, rather than the simple model. This means that UkTrainSys includes the requirement to hold the engine starter button down until the engines are running, as well as simulating the starter motor, and a percentage likelihood that the engine will stall on starting. I’ve also adapted the AI Support feature, so that the AI driver can start the diesel engine, even if it stalls, as well as restart the engine if it is shut down at any point.

Vigilance device with reduced cycle time:

It’s now possible to set an option within the UkTrainSys.cfg file, which enables the Vigilance Device reduced cycle time of 45 seconds, when the power notch is 6 or 7.

Miscellaneous changes:

Firstly, I’ve now implemented a solution for the infamous anomalous multiple-arm phenomenon, which a few people have commented on, when openBVE’s AI driver is enabled for the first time in a driving session. You shouldn’t see any weird, freaky stuff going on in the cab any more, provided that you don’t look over your shoulder, at least. πŸ˜‰

Secondly, when traction power is not meant to be available, openBVE’s internal reverser position is now set to neutral, whereas previously, only the power handle was set to zero. This means that regenerative braking is disabled when passing through a neutral section, for example.

Thirdly, I’ve also expanded the range of optional Data values which can be recognised via .Beacon 50 commands. UkTrainSys can now be informed of an upcoming terminal station, and this instructs the UkTrainSys AI Support implementation to leave the reverser alone after stopping, so that UkTrainSys and openBVE aren’t continually squabbling over their respective desires where the reverser handle position is concerned. .Beacon 50 can now also be used to instruct the AI Support to lower the pantograph or stop the diesel engine upon the next station stop, after the doors have opened. .Beacon 50 can also be used to inform UkTrainSys of an upcoming neutral section, now. As UkTrainSys will implement a tap changer in future, and a tap changer can take over 30 seconds to run down to notch 0, this beacon can be placed quite some distance ahead of a neutral section. When this neutral section beacon instruction is encountered, UkTrainSys begins monitoring the train’s speed, along with the distance to the neutral section, and decides when exactly to return the power handle to notch 0. UkTrainSys also checks to see if the tap changer is enabled or not, and if it is, the time taken to run down the tap changer is taken into account.

Lastly, the AI guard and related beacons, have been expanded to accommodate multiple stopping points at a station, and UkTrainSys selects which beacon to act upon, depending upon how many cars the player’s train has.

Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS):

For this release, I’ve also significantly increased the realism of the Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) implementation. With Simon’s previous generation of plugins written for BVE 4, the TPWS simulation seemed to be realistic to the end user, but it didn’t always work in a way which truly reflects how the real TPWS works. Thanks to openBVE, as well as openBVE’s API and documentation, I’ve been able to create a TPWS simulation which works just like the real thing, while also being backwards compatible with routes which were written with Simon’s BVE 4 plugins in mind.

For example, the implementation of the Overspeed Sensor System in Simon’s plugin, was a simplification of how the real OSS works. Simon’s plugin recognises the optional Data parameter of a single .Beacon 44002 or .Beacon 44003 command, as a maximum permissible speed. If the train’s speed exceeds the set speed which is encoded in the .Beacon command’s Data parameter, then the TPWS issues an OSS brake demand. This simplified system works well enough, however it doesn’t take acceleration or deceleration curves into account, for example, and it’s not how the real system works. My OSS implementation, works exactly like the real system.

UkTrainSys recognises a track mounted OSS as comprised of a pair of induction loops (beacons) – the arming loop, and the trigger loop. Where Simon’s plugin expects to read a set speed from only the trigger beacon, UkTrainSys can read a unique frequency from each beacon’s optional Data parameter instead. The permissible OSS set speed, is now determined by the distance between the induction loops, just like in reality. Furthermore, UkTrainSys implements a pair of on-board OSS timers, and the OSS timeout period can be set in the UkTrainSys.cfg file, to suit a passenger or freight train – there is no need to edit a route file to accommodate both types of train. Each timer acts independently of the other, being armed by different arming frequencies, and this allows for realistic nesting and interleaving of induction loops, as well as realistic system behaviour when travelling backwards over induction loops.

The Trainstop Sensor System (TSS) implementation has also been made more realistic. With Simon’s plugins, a single beacon acts as the TSS installation, but with the real system, a pair of induction loops form the TSS – as with the OSS, there is an arming and trigger loop. UkTrainSys recognises TSS arming and trigger induction loops based upon frequencies specified via the optional Data parameter of the .Beacon commands. When the plugin encounters a TSS arming beacon, one of two TSS detection states is activated, and only if a TSS trigger beacon with a suitable frequency is encountered while the arming beacon is still within “detection range”, will the TSS be functional. If a TSS trigger beacon is encountered without an arming beacon having activated the system, then the trigger beacon is ignored, as with the real system. Again, this means that induction loops can be nested and interleaved, and prototypical reverse direction behaviour can be simulated.

Automatic Warning System (AWS):

I’ve not only improved the realism of the TPWS simulation, but I’ve also implemented a more realistic implementation of the Automatic Warning System (AWS), as well. With Simon’s previous generation of BVE4 plugins, and the routes designed for use with them, a single beacon command is used to represent an AWS magnet. The new UkTrainSys AWS simulation also supports this legacy behaviour, but UkTrainSys can also now respond to an AWS permanent magnet, together with an AWS electromagnet. Both are defined via separate .Beacon commands, with a distinction between the magnetic polarity of the magnets defined via the optional Data parameter. This allows for a fully realistic AWS simulation, using only one beacon type, whether associated with a signal or a speed restriction.

When UkTrainSys encounters an AWS permanent magnet, the AWS is primed, the AWS sunflower instrument goes black, and a timeout period is started. If an energised AWS electromagnet is detected within this timeout period, then an AWS clear is issued (i.e. the bell/bing sound, and the sunflower instrument stays black). If no electromagnet is detected within the timeout period, then an AWS warning is issued when the timeout period expires, just like with the real AWS. This also allows for a slightly more realistic simulation of the AWS when travelling at very low speed over an AWS magnet associated with a signal showing a green aspect. At very low speeds, the AWS can be primed by the detection of the permanent magnet, but the timeout period can expire before the electromagnet is detected, which leads to an AWS warning being issued, even though the signal is green (Simon’s plugins also simulate this). However, with UkTrainSys, if you don’t cancel the AWS warning, it will actually clear itself when the electromagnet is detected, with the overall effect being an AWS warning horn followed by the bell/bing sound (assuming the electromagnet is detected before a brake demand is issued).

UkTrainSys also supports AWS suppression magnets, which are used on bi-directionally signalled lines. By inserting a suppression beacon before or after a permanent magnet beacon, an AWS inductor can be made to work in either a forward only direction, or backwards only direction. Should openBVE support networked tracks and bi-directionally signalled lines in future, this can far more easily allow for a fully realistic simulation of AWS under those circumstances.

A summary of the advantages of the new UkTrainSys TPWS and AWS implementation:

  • Acceleration and deceleration curves are taken into account when traversing a TPWS OSS;
  • TPWS induction loops can be nested or interleaved;
  • Passenger and freight trains can have their own OSS timeout periods set, with no need to edit a route file to accommodate either train type;
  • A single beacon type can be used to represent all kinds of track-mounted AWS installations;
  • By defining the AWS permanent and electromagnets separately, a fully realistic AWS simulation can be achieved;
  • AWS suppression is supported;
  • The above features allow for fully realistic behaviour while travelling forwards or backwards over AWS inductors and TPWS loops;
  • It’s more fun when the simulated systems work in the same way as the real systems, with the same advantages and disadvantages of the real systems;
  • Lastly, it’s more future proof. Should openBVE support networked tracks or bi-directional signalling in future, I think the best way to ensure compatibility or ease of code maintenance, is to make the simulated systems work with the same principles, trigger events, inputs, outputs, and variables, as the real-world systems.

Disadvantages:

  • Placing the TPWS related beacons is a little more difficult, but it’s really no big deal if the documentation is read, and you have a calculator, as well as the ability to type in a few numbers (which any openBVE developer has to be able to do anyway). πŸ˜‰
  • UkTrainSys can interpret the new frequency-based beacons in new routes, and it can interpret old speed-based beacons in existing routes (UkTrainSys is fully backwards compatible with legacy beacon commands in these routes), but Simon’s BVE 4 plugins won’t recognise the induction loop frequencies (or magnetic polarities) when encountered in new routes designed for openBVE and UkTrainSys.
  • Two beacons now make up an AWS magnet associated with a signal, but it’s only slightly more trouble than using one beacon.

UkTrainSys configuration files for openBVE trains

I’ve also released a set of configuration files which can be used with a variety of DMUs and EMUs available from trainsimcentral. If you are a Linux or Mac user, and want to enjoy some UK diesel traction in openBVE, then you can simply extract the latest UkTrainSys.dll into any of the supported TSC train folders, and then extract the appropriate configuration files into each folder. If you are a Windows user, then you might like to experiment with the new fully realistic AWS and TPWS implementation within the UkTrainSys plugin (on existing routes to test the backwards compatible legacy behaviour, and on either Cross-City South v1.31.11 or the AWS/TPWS test route available below, to test the new simulation). I would certainly appreciate any feedback. Please bear in mind that the guard’s buzzer sounds might play more times than they should – UkTrainSys expects the buzzer sound file to contain only one buzz sound, whereas these trains may contain two buzzes in the relevant sound file.

For more information and the latest downloads, plus complete documentation and example code snippets, please visit the UkTrainSys project page:


Railsimroutes.net - UK Train System Cross-platform .NET Plugin banner

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

[v0.3.1.9 now available]

AWS and TPWS test route for use with UkTrainSys (or any supported train class), and Cross-City South v1.31.11 update

Railsimroutes LogoAs with the enhanced neutral section and Automatic Power Control feature included in the last UkTrainSys release, for this latest version, I’ve prepared a test route so that the new AWS and TPWS implementation can be tested. I’ve also updated Cross-City South to v1.31.11, and the openBVE route files now utilise the realistic AWS and TPWS simulation features of the UkTrainSys plugin.

The AWS and TPWS test route is around 7 km in length, and demonstrates a variety of AWS and TPWS installations. Each signal is held at red until a preset time, and you can either drive safely or commit SPADs to test that AWS and TPWS are working correctly. There is also a signal and a permanent speed restriction located near to each other, which requires the co-location of a TPWS OSS associated with the signal, plus another OSS associated with the permanent speed restriction. The OSS induction loops at this location are interleaved, and you can test how this works when the signal is red or otherwise. You can also practice driving at normal and extremely slow speeds over AWS magnets, to see how the dual magnet detection works, especially when a signal aspect is green. There is also a single track section, which is equipped with AWS suppression magnets, and you can drive forwards and backwards along the route to test this feature, as well.

Screenshot Screenshot

The AWS and TPWS test route. On the left, is an AWS inductor, comprised of a permanent magnet, suppression magnet, electromagnet, and protection ramps for bi-directional running. On the right, is a pair of co-located TPWS OSS installations, with interleaved induction loops. Each OSS arming loop starts one of two independent OSS timers within the UkTrainSys plugin.

Download: AWS and TPWS test route [86 KiB – also includes updated neutral section test route]
Once extracted, the route file can be found here: Railway\Route\rsr_uktrainsys_test\

Screenshot
Note: Requires Cross-City South v1.31.11 (update | full version), along with UkTrainSys v0.3.1.9 installed with a suitable train.The unrefurbished class 323 EMU together with the combined 3D cab and UkTrainSys v0.3.1.9 update is recommended.

Also remember that you need openBVE v1.2.10 in order to use this latest 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.

Updated AWS inductor screenshots – Cross-City South v2.0 and Watford Junction to Rugby

While coding the latest UkTrainSys updates, I updated the AWS magnet objects which I’m using in my work-in-progress routes. As UkTrainSys now recognises both AWS permanent magnets and electromagnets separately, I thought I’d separate out these parts of the existing AWS magnet into their own respective object files, so they can be easily assigned to beacon or freeobj structure indices, as appropriate. Here are some examples…

In the first screenshot, is an AWS permanent magnet associated with a fixed distant signal, which has a protection ramp on both sides, as this is a stretch of bi-directional line. In the second, the same applies, except an AWS electromagnet beacon is also in place. In the remaining screenshots, are permanent magnets associated with permanent speed restriction advance warning boards, which have only one ramp, as these tracks are uni-directional. These objects will be included in the UK Railway Infrastructure Object Library, however you can actually download and use them now, as they are included with the AWS and TPWS test route (see above).

Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot

Also, here are some examples of full AWS permanent and electromagnet installations on the Watford Junction to Rugby route:

Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot

West Coast Main Line Video

Railsimroutes LogoLastly, anyone with an interest in the real West Coast Main Line, might like to take a look at a video which I uploaded to YouTube recently, which features the Old Linslade and Leighton Buzzard areas – two locations I’m modelling in my representation of the Watford Junction to Rugby section of the WCML. Those of you who noticed or commented on the Train Operated Warning System I demonstrated in my last openBVE video (the rotating orange lights with audible warnings), can now watch the real system in action.

This footage was filmed in October 2004 to assist me with developing this part of the route (only in standard definition unfortunately), but you’ll see a couple of class 87s which were still in service at the time. Also featured, are ubiquitous Pendolinos, class 321 EMUs, as well as classes 58, 60 and 66 diesels, and class 90 and 92 25kV AC electric locos. Don’t forget to change to 480p resolution for the best image quality.

YouTube video screenshot

And finally…

Lastly, I’d just like to wish visitors a happy and peaceful Christmas, and say thanks for all the interest shown in my work so far. πŸ™‚

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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 Bowden on 26th November 2010 at 9:25 pm

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 0.3.1.3 – 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.

Download:

Screenshot
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. πŸ™‚

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Posted in openBVE, Site News | 7 Comments »



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 Bowden on 20th November 2010 at 7:30 am
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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.

Screenshot
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.

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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!


Railsimroutes.net - 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:

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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…
$if($Sub(100))
    3000, .Beacon 44001;0,    ; portable AWS magnet
$endif()

$if($Sub(100))
    3183, .Freeobj 0;0,    ; 20 mph TSR advanced warning board
$endif()

$if($Sub(100))
    4200, .Freeobj 0;1, .Limit 33;0,  ; commencement of 20 mph TSR
$else()
    4305, .Freeobj 0;3;5,    ; no TSR so show discarded old rails instead
$endif()

$if($Sub(100))
    4400, .Freeobj 0;2, .Limit 97;0,    ; termination of TSR
$endif()

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
$if($Sub(100))
    4200, .Freeobj 0;1, .Limit 33;0,  ; commencement of 20 mph TSR
    $if($Sub(101))
        4205, .Freeobj 0;4;-4,  ; track workers shown based upon another $Sub variable but only if the TSR is shown
    $endif()
$else()
    4305, .Freeobj 0;3;5,    ; no TSR so show discarded old rails instead
$endif()

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.

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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.

Screenshot
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:

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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 Bowden on 14th October 2010 at 12:20 am
Screenshot
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:

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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:

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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.

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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):

Screenshot
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:

Screenshot

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:

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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:

Screenshot

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 ]

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

Posted by Anthony Bowden on 5th September 2010 at 7:30 am

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. πŸ™‚

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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 Bowden on 11th July 2010 at 6:00 am

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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:

β†’ 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:

β†’ 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. πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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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 Bowden on 15th March 2010 at 8:00 am

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. πŸ˜‰ 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: Β» http://openbve.trainsimcentral.co.uk/openbve2.html Β«

Please also consider posting your feedback in Β» this thread on the openBVE forum Β«, 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 Β» this page Β«. Where video driver settings are concerned, you can read Β» this page Β«. 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. πŸ™‚

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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. πŸ™‚ 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 Β» 19 fps Β« . But with openBVE 2’s renderer, I get an impressive Β» 155 fps Β« instead.

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

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
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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 Β» class 323’s 3D cab Β« for example, or Β» Roberto Benini’s EM A1 3D cab Β«). There are various other changes too; please visit the Β» openBVE homepage Β« for more. πŸ™‚

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Posted in openBVE, openBVE 2, Site News | 4 Comments »