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Thread: "Best" Train Simulator

  1. #1
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    Default "Best" Train Simulator

    Posted by request:

    Hello all,

    I know that this question probably has been asked 1000 times already, but I figured I would give it a 'fresh' go. I put the word best in quotes above as in the meaning "best for my use".

    So with that in mind, lets move on:

    I was thinking about getting into V-Scale or virtual railway simulations.

    For my background, I have taken an interest in model railroading and while I have started to get pieces together to start an N-scale layout, I have not begun as of yet. I recently sold my house and my current space allowance has been curtailed. So a model railroad isn't in my near future. I have heard about Microsoft's train simulator and after seeing a demonstration on a full scale train simulator at a train museum, I figured I would be interested in virtual railway simulations for the computer.

    What I am looking for:

    I am mostly interested in steam trains, so obviously the program I choose should have quite a good selection in steam trains. However, I don't mind a few older diesels as well (e.g. GE catfish).

    Having the controls in front of you in cab view also leads me to the next thing I am interested in. I would like a more 'hands on' approach and would like to use real train controls hooked up to the computer. So I would like a program that has this ability. With hands on control also leads me to another question. Does any of the train simulators support a split screen? Thus can you have a view of the controls and gauges on one screen and the front window view out another display?

    What program would best handle this?

    I am mostly interested in AMERICAN routes only...specifically the Pennsylvania & NY rail road lines. I am mostly familiar with the North East US prototype railways so this is where my interest lies. So I would like some good detailing in the scenery and would like to easily point out highly recognizable features and destinations (e.g Altoona's Horseshoe curve).

    Sounds have to be accurate as well. I don't want to change engines and have the SAME recorded whistle (or horn), bell and chuffing sounds. If I select a loco, I would hope that the associated sounds that are on the prototype are faithfully reproduced in the simulator.

    My main interest is the cab view of the train. As such I would like to see good details in the scenery and cab details. However, I am also interested in seeing the train 'move' from outside the cab as well.

    Unlike my requirements for the cab an scenery, I am not too much of a stickler on extreme detailing of the outside of the trains. But some detail is warranted. I would say I would like to see details mostly on the steam locomotives as they have the most moving parts.

    Do any of the programs offer tasks and exercises such as switching?

    Now before I go into my program choices I figured I would post my system specs and you can tell me what will (or will not) run on my system:

    Dell Dimension 4600
    Intel Pentium 4 2.8ghz processor
    2 gig ram
    2 500gb 7200rpm SATA hard drives
    ATI Radeon 7600XT video card with 256meg ram
    M-Audio multichannel sound card (SB compatible)
    Windows XP Home Edition (SP2)

    Now for my choices (and first impressions based on my readings):

    1) Microsoft Train Simulator
    2) Trainz
    3) BVE

    1) Train Simulator

    The first choice was Train Simulator. I only briefly looked into it and it is a 'dated' program by today's standards. Also since it is Windows 98 based, I wondered how it would fair on a Win XP system. After reading some recent reviews on the program, it does seem that it has issues with Windows XP. When checking out MSTS on line at Amazon, I see the program is still available and that they even have the program released in Win XP variants by Xplosiv and Atari. Once nice thing I did find out about MSTS is that you can hook up various external controls and THAT is a major plus. Being an older program I do have my reservations as how the program looks overall. I would say though considering it is older, it should run pretty smooth on a newer machine. I am hoping I would be correct in this assumption.

    The program's price is very attractive as I see that it sells between $10 and $20. But there are so many versions out there, what would work best for me.

    2) Trainz Railroad Simulator:

    This program is newer and it seems to get the best reward in terms of looks. The engines and rolling stock look stunning, however, the cab and scenery is just OK. I have read reviews and supposedly there are quite a few problems with getting Trainz to run smoothly. Even in You Tube I can see the jerkiness in the program. However, since that is an internet transfer, there is only so much detail you can see on You Tube.

    Supposedly this program can also interface to train controls too.

    One major downside to Trainz (that I read about) is that you can only register it once. So that rules out buying a used copy. While that isn't a major issue, I do have a problem with some programs that only allow you to put it on one computer. Is that the case with Trainz?

    Also I noticed that there seems to be a lean towards diesel trains here.

    Unlike a true train simulator, Trainz seems to be a simulation of a model railroad. So I am not too sure I would get into that. Can it do real life proto type routes?

    Trainz is also the highest initial cost.

    3) BVE (Boso View Express).

    The big draw here is that this is a Freeware program and it is the minimal investment of all. So this does fall into the "it can't hurt to try it" school. However, outside of cost in money is cost in time. Since this program only allows cab views, it does present a compromise right off the bat. Thankfully the best feature I want, which is the cab view, is what this program seems to excel at. Version 2 seems to be limited graphics wise...especially the 'in cab' view. But version 4 fixed this. The cab interiors are great.

    Scenery seems to be a mixed bag. It looks to run pretty smooth (even on You Tube), but it seems to be 'lacking' detail wise.

    As of now, I don't think BVE allows the hookup of external controls. Also I have not seen much in terms of steam trains

    But I did come across this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGIJ48hiVMI

    This is absolutely fantastic. The tracks and scenery look really good here too.

    My biggest complaint with BVE is that sometimes when you have a passing train, the exterior of that train looks very 'cartoony' and unrealistic. This is minor though and I can live with it.

    So as it stands now I am having trouble selecting which one I should try.

    Any pointers or suggestions would be appreciated from those who have used these programs extensively. If there is a program outside of these three that is worth mentioning (and fits my criteria) then please do tell. I am sure there is more out there, it was that these three came up in most searches.

    Criteria:

    1) Must run smoothly on the above Dell system (no choppy)
    2) Has to have a cab view with detailed interior
    3) Good scenery with recognizable landmarks on North-East American Routes
    4) Good selection of steam engines and older diesels
    5) Can be interfaced to external controls.
    6) No repeating scenery.
    7) Must install properly with as little "hoop jumping" as possible
    8) Having tasks or something to do (such as switching) will help as I would like to do more than just run a train down a track all day.

    Well, I think that about covers it for now.

    Thanx in advance for any advice.

    SP4884


    That is it. Do you have a word limit on your posts? Could that be the problem? I don't understand why something short can post, but this will not post.

    Thank You,

    Geo

  2. #2
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    Default

    Hi Nels,

    Wanted to point out to you that the Atari version of MSTS will not load BIN for some reason.

    Just from my experience with MSTS, the program might be dated but still it worth the time and effort. I'm sure every program out there has issues with the various computer and operating systems, there is enough experience in this forum to overcome most any issue that arises. On top of that I'd have to think the number of MSTS files in the library here far outnumber any other sim's files.

    One suggestion would be to find an original copy of MSTS and have a go at it, plenty of Pennsylvania and New England routes to choose from for a fairly low investment if it isn't satisfactory.

    Paul :-)

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Default

    The Atari version will not load Bin because it is not the version Bin was built with. You have to use the 1.2 update from MS or Obo's site.

    Mervyn
    Beer is not a matter of life or death, it is much more serious than that.

  4. #4
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    Criteria:

    1) Must run smoothly on the above Dell system (no choppy)
    2) Has to have a cab view with detailed interior
    3) Good scenery with recognizable landmarks on North-East American Routes
    4) Good selection of steam engines and older diesels
    5) Can be interfaced to external controls.
    6) No repeating scenery.
    7) Must install properly with as little "hoop jumping" as possible
    8) Having tasks or something to do (such as switching) will help as I would like to do more than just run a train down a track all day.

    In the world of train simulators, there is no single one that will meet all criteria.Bearing in mind your prference for NA routes the choice has to be MS Train Simulator. Whichever sim you end up with, there is a lot of learning to be done to get the best out of it.
    Beer is not a matter of life or death, it is much more serious than that.

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Default

    Others may be a little more knowlegable, but I run MSTS on windows XP for the most part is very good.MSTS as you know has had alot of improvements since it was released.With MSTS bin and the physics updates that have come out.Trainz for me I personally dont like, the only version of trainz I have bought was TRS 2004.The thing that gets me with trainz is when you download a route you got all these dependencies that you have to download to get a route running properly.As MSTS is set up different most of the stuff in MSTS routes is already there with way less additional downloads than Trainz requires.Although ive seen some very well done routes on trainz, I am a faithful MSTS user.Because repaints are much easier to do, and it seems that building models is much easier.Because with Trainz you have all these KUIDS which confuses me every time.

    I still run my copy of trainz from time to time, but I mainly stick with the MSTS program.As there are some very cool add ons out there.

    In trainz its easier to build routes, than MSTS.That alone was what attracted me to Trainz in the first place.Then I started dabbling in the route editor and since I first started that venture it has gotten easier.Also I personally believe its easier to use Demex in MSTS, than the hog program i believe for trainz.Never quite figured that out.

    MSTS right now is at or under 10 bucks and with that cheap of investment with the updates and BIN and all the other stuff out there can look great, even for an old game it has recieved a new lease on life.


    Anyway thats my take on it.Others more experienced with the inner working of MSTS will have better inputs on this.
    M. A. Payne
    Current Project B&O Parkerburg and Chillicothe Sub. Parkersburg to Cincinatti!
    Trackwork 95% Complete!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    I have the ATARI version as well and BIN does work with the update.

    As for which one? Why not all three and choose which you prefer?

    I have seen MSTS for as low as $5 in bargain bins at Best Buy etc. At worst the going price is $10.

    Just paid $10 for Railsimulator at Target.

    If you can find it, Merscom has Trainz Railways for $15. Not bad considering it comes with TRS2006 SP1 and TC1 & 2 on the disk.

    All three have their good and bad points and I use all of them. For the price of a newer video game you can go into a train sim coma with all these!

    Dave...

  7. #7

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    I think Your right about bve it is a mixed bag. There are alot of nicely detailed Uk routes that are available and do a good job of modeling the safety systems of uk trains but it all depends on who created the route as to how much detail there will be. Also bve is great for subway simulation so I think it's worth the free download but Msts Is a great program and you can't go wrong with getting bolth.

  8. #8

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    MSTS 1.2 / Patch 1.4 updated with MSTSBin 1.8.05 is still be best Train Simulator of all, has an enormous amount of Freeware add-on routes and rolling stock, including loads of steam locos like the Big-Boy and Pacifics, etc, which is un-matched !

    It can do all you are asking for and more ! I think that it also allows it to be run in separate windows or more than one monitor depending on your graphics card ?

    The just released PRR East-Region should be just what you are looking for: http://forums.uktrainsim.com/viewtop...?f=255&t=93346 and there is a lot more of the likes in various File Libraries, including your's !

    BVE-4 is graphically superior to all other Train Simulators but only allows trains to be driven in routes as per their scripts, which can be modified by experienced BVE programmers but not by users like can be done in MSTS. There is only one outside view and switching, making up trains and changing switches to divert to other tracks is not possible.

    TRAINZ has the most unrealistic looking default tracks of all, splined rails in switches, etc, unless you know how to replace them with better looking 3rd party ones !

    Support for MSTS-US is the best in your forums and can unreservedly recommend it and MSTS !

    O t t o

  9. #9
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    Hi All,

    Glad to hear the Atari version works with the 1.4 update, had read several people complaining it would not but didn't hear it was just the update that one would need anyway.

    Paul :-)

  10. #10
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    Hi Geo,
    I would also recommend MSTS as your best choice, with maybe Rail Simulator as a future option. At present, MSTS is still extremely well supported, and there is so much quality work available to add to it. I run MSTS on a Vista system without any real problems. The only thing I find problematic is MSTS does not work well with a wide screen monitor. With your system, I see a few potential issues that may be minor problems depending on how much you expect. A 7200 rpm HD will have a bit of stutter as new data loads. A 10,000 rpm drive gets rid of most of that, but the stuttering might not bother you. If you want to run really massive routes with lots of scenery, you will probably need 3 gig of ram. Many of us remember happily running MSTS on 1999 vintage computers when the program first came out. We didn't have high expectations then. I recently went back to running MSTS on a 750 Athlon machine with an ATI Rage Fury, while my machine was in the shop (that old tank of a computer has outlived several newer machines in between). You really notice the drop in quality and performance with that old clunker, but it seemed acceptable when the program first came out.
    MSTS has tons of quality components that can be added from the library here, that will allow you to tailor the program to you needs and expectations. To get the most out of the program, you will need to learn how to update files and use a consist editor. Some default routes and equipment have fatal bugs that will ruin your experience. The default stuff was not rigourously beta tested. If you want to enjoy MSTS, you will need to run routes and equipment from the library. I strongly recommend you start with a standard of upgrades to all your files, and maintain that standard. MSTS is not forgiving of error conditions. Hence add one thing at a time and test. This will save you hours of vexing hassle in the long run.
    Rail Simulator has very good graphics, but little really innovative work is yet available for it. That will change, but it may be a bit of time yet.

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