My Experience with the Train-Sim Community
By Jake Kulik
June 1, 2001 I purchased my copy off the shelf in the local Electronics Boutique. No problem with the install, good frame rate, good sound, good views. All was right with the world. Since Nels had a beta copy he had done some of the first repaints (look for the New Haven GP38). At that time I posted that there was only one exhaust trail coming from the GP38 and Nels answered with one of the first .eng file hacks: dual exhausts. Things got better and better (the head out for diesels, etc.), and Train-Sim.Com grew.
The download section steadily grew on a daily basis, basically repaints at first, but then two weeks later Kevin Combs released the SW1200 and SW900. New models! Yard goats at that. Others followed, and the library grew larger. What kept MSTS alive on my hard drive was that it became user oriented instead of Microsoft/Kuju dependent. Tutorials were written on repaints, file manipulation, route editors, etc. It seemed that every facet of the sim had someone working to change or improve it.
I decided that I could do my part. At FlightSim.Com, I was a voracious downloader, but I didn't contribute, because I didn't know how. I didn't possess that knowledge here either, but others were willing to share. I "liberated" my son's copy of PhotoShop (he went to an art school), and attempted my first repaint. Of course I was going to make the Totally Perfect Conrail GP38 on the first try, but that's when I learned that what you see isn't always what you get. The texture mapping was poor, and I was bummed...so I tried a boxcar, got it to work, uploaded it and must have checked 10 times a day to see how many downloads it got. I was happy with anything more than one. This encouraged me to try others.
The library started to grow quality-wise as well. When Train Artisan released the ESE v1.0 we couldn't get it fast enough. 3D Trains F7 was another milestone. Sky Conductor became a necessity. Some offerings were pay ware, some were free, but all were setting new standards for the sim. John Fowlis' 4-6-2 was amazing. Ian Morgan's track truck was buried in the maze of files, but he enabled us to survey our routes with it. I was fortunate to be a beta tester for Chip Buchanan's GP15 with the see-through air intakes. Sam Spade's cab views are of the highest quality. I spend more time railroading the PO&N, East Metro and Hoboken Shore than I do on the default routes. It seemed like every day someone had uploaded a "must-have". That trend has continued to this day.
What prompted me to write this was my dumb luck at releasing the rotary snowplow (plough). When I got TSM I stumbled through the tutorials, and then decided to take my usual path - start a project by winging it to try to learn what I needed to know when I needed it (I'm not a big fan of RTFM - Read The Fine Manual). After some mental anguish (and references to all the forums), I managed to construct, animate, and convert it into MSTS. It was rough around the edges, but it did function. In my nightly perusal of the forums, I saw Ron Paludan's snow file mod post. I replied with a screen shot of my plow and said that I had just the thing for all that snow. We conversed off line and said he was willing to host the plow on his site. I uploaded it rough spots and all at Train-Sim.Com and Ron's site that day.
I was perfectly happy with it in the first release, having no prior 3D experience; I was thrilled to just see it function. Then Chuck Hebert thought he could do a steam engine file and add "snow effects". Harold Clitheroe thought likewise, and my personal mailbox zoomed over quota as files got tweaked and zipped off everywhere (in my haste, I had left out a .con file on one version, but most folks overlooked that - thanks). When Chuck and I released the steam rotary I couldn't get over it. All I did was add a smokestack, but Chuck's magic made it come alive. Now with the modern rotary and snow effects in the blade area plus the sound files it's reached a new level.
What I'm proudest of is that this WASN'T a solo effort. In the truest sense this was a community project that went far beyond anything I had imagined. Ron started the snow craze, Harold is managing to get the track textures "snowed in", Chuck will probably have the MSTS cows spitting snow next, and all the other projects that are ongoing, whether they be route building, locomotive or rolling stock issues, cab views, file tweaks, sound mods, you name it - this is what makes Microsoft's motto - As Real As It Gets - ring true. My thanks to all the people and 3rd party vendors responsible for ANY add-on - a simple repaint or a complex locomotive and route package will all be welcomed here. Hopefully anyone who downloads files from this site will be encouraged to try their hand at a project. The atmosphere that Nels has fostered here is indeed that of a "clubhouse", and I feel like I have many friends sharing the same passion about MSTS. Things can only get better.
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