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Yellowdog

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    Yellowdog

    My profile says that I joined this site on Nov 30, 1999. While I have been around for a long time, that has to be some kind of error since MSTS didn't come out til 2001. Ha ha. Nevertheless, it seems apropos to post in this topic on the "anniversary" of my join date.

    I grew up living about a half-mile from the Clinchfield Railroad mainline, but didn't get interested in the railroad until the early 90s (a few years after the CSX merger). That remains my primary era of interest, and I have many fond memories of the rainbow predecessor locomotive consists (usually 4 SD40-2s lashed together and humming) that CSX ran at the time. My buddy and I used to hang out on the tracks after school and on weekends (sometimes camping), trying out our hand at photography (and usually ending up just shooting roster shots). We'd cut through the woods in back of my house, or ride our bikes down "the main road," to get to the rails. If we were lucky, sometimes his dad would drive us somewhere trackside. At some point we got scanners and learned the local railroad frequency codes, so we wouldn't just have to wait for a random train. This helped us get to know the local train crews, too. And then we learned about the touch trace phone number and used it to track "our favorite" engines around the system, hoping for them to come back to our neck of the woods so we could try to catch them in the wild. I remember the excitement of when the first "widecabs" (C40-8Ws) started appearing (and blasting their K5Hs), coupled with the sadness of the repainting and/or retirement of the predecessor units--especially when we caught a favorite loco in-person trackside, no longer in beloved rusty Family Lines or Chessie livery but instead sparkling in a fresh coat of YN2... Exacerbated by our discovery of the Bullsheet; somehow we managed to get our hands on printed copies (long before the internet) and could then see the fate of everything on the roster. As we got old enough to drive, my buddy and I started spending summer days exploring all up and down the old Clinchfield system, sometimes hoping we wouldn't get lost...or shot. Those early days of CSX were some fun times; my favorite railfanning days. I railfanned some after college (still living near the old Clinchfield), and the advent of the internet allowed me to meet some really cool people around the southeast. I had some good times and did some fun things, as my railfan territory expanded or people visited in order to explore "my" territory. Around that time was when I put together the Frograil tours for the north and south ends of the Clinch. I also learned some Photoshop skills from some of my railfan friends who were semi-professional photographers. But with the introduction of the AC44s, and subsequently nearly every train on the old Clinchfield being powered by a matching AC44 pair, my interest in railfanning waned significantly. That's basically been the case to this day. While I will still try to get a peek at the motive power of any moving train, my last interest in real railroading was when CSX introduced the 47xx series SD70 units. Just something about those flared radiator EMDs (harkening back to SD45s)....

    In spite of what my profile says, I don't know when I got MSTS, or joined this website, but it had to have been shortly after MSTS was released. Maybe late 2001? My main interest in the sim was the same as my main interest in real life--early CSX. I was excited about MSTS because it had open architecture, which allowed people to create their own content. I had tried modelling in HO scale, but wasn't any good at it. I was hoping the digital realm of MSTS would be a better fit for me and my skillset and interests. So after getting the sim, I quickly set out to learn how to create content. Which is ultimately how I ended up here. I'm not sure how I got introduced to this site, or why I picked it as my primary site over other options. But that's what happened, and I decided to join. When picking my username, I used the same name of a daily CSX Kingsport Sub/North End Clinchfield local train, The Yellowdog--a local that had both a northern and southern timetable version. Nothing fancy, just a blue-collar workhorse. And was so named because it made so many stops along the mainline that it "was like an old yellow dog, stopping to pi$$ on every tree...."

    Through this community, primarily this website, I learned the specific skills I needed to reskin MSTS models. Not just how to incorporate Photoshop skills, but also how to "hack" the texture and shape files to be able to edit them at all. My first reskins started appearing here in the file library in early 2002. Like working in HO, I realized I was never going to be any good at building 3D models. And while I managed to figure out how to tweak the lighting section of an .eng file, I was never going to be any good at working out the physics, either. But I do I think I figured out how to make some decent reskins. This allowed me to eventually partner with folks like Dick Cowen, who were willing to tweak their freeware models (since I had no proclivity for 3D or physics work myself) to better fit the early CSX models I was trying to represent with my reskins. Somewhere along the way I reached out to CSX to become officially licensed to use their logos in my work. I also partnered with Jerry Sullivan in providing some info about the Clinchfield route in his efforts to recreate it in MSTS. Later I was invited to work with organizations like 3DTrains (which I declined, wanting to focus on freeware) and NALW (which I accepted). That partnership didn't last long as I was near the end of my original interest in MSTS because I was moving to St Louis to pursue a PhD program. The last MSTS repaint I uploaded was in 2005. Shortly afterwards I thought I had quit the hobby for good.

    I eventually finished my PhD and then several years later moved to Minnesota. When the pandemic hit, I was not looking forward to facing a lockdown/quarantine during the long, cold, dark of Northern winter. So I started thinking about what hobbies might help get me through it. I had enjoyed the creativity of MSTS reskinning--blending art, gaming, and low-level computer hacking, as well as a sense of community. Not sure what else to do, I thought I'd poke around to see what was happening in the MSTS world. I'd heard rumors through the years of MSTS2, so I decided to check out if anything had ever come of those rumors, and see if it would be viable to get into it. That brought me back here to this website, and ultimately introduced me to ORTS. I had created back-up disks of all my legacy MSTS material (trainsets and routes, etc), so I reinstalled everything off those disks. I even picked up some old MSTS disks on Ebay. I also looked into other train sim franchises and ended up making a few purchases that matched my areas and eras of interest, but was ultimately disappointed with the lack of open architecture to create my own material. ORTS seemed like it had a learning curve (especially having been out of the scene for so many years). But MSTS had been a learning curve, too. So I decided to stick with trying to learn ORTS. I got it installed, and then got the file structure set up properly to use my legacy content. It took me a while to look through and clean up that mess. Ha ha. But then I started relearning the process of reskinning--first working with some of the older MSTS models using methods I knew, and then gradually working with ORTS models learning newer methods and tools. These (and other) forums have been extremely helpful in that relearning process. When I saw Tyler Bundy releasing some high quality freeware models in the same era as my interest, I reached out to him to try to collaborate on some Clinchfield diesels (still having no 3D modeling or physics proclivity myself, ha). He was gracious enough to do so, and I reskinned a couple of models to upload. I guess you can teach old yellowdogs new tricks....

    As for the rest of my life...
    I work professionally in the healthcare field as a trained clinician. But these days I do more data analysis and process improvement than anything. I really enjoy the outdoors--hiking, camping, mountain/snow biking, rock/ice climbing, xc skiing, being on the water.... And even though the pandemic has waned, I find that easing myself back into the long, cold, dark of winter tends to bring me back to reskinning, too. I'm not as involved as I used to be back in the days of MSTS, but I'm pleased to have contributed some reskins to the file library since coming back and still like to do some things for personal use as I feel motivated. There's still so much to learn about ORTS and I know I will never master most of it. But these forums have been instrumental in helping me learn the skills to do the things I want to do. And they also hold so much information about anything else I (or anyone else) would want to master. I'm grateful for that, no matter how long my interest in the hobby may last this time. With that in mind, I decided to become a paying member, too. It's nice to give back. And it's nice to have a place where I can give back. Having this community in existence for 20+ years is pretty amazing (and it was a little wild logging in those first few times and seeing some familiar names). Hopefully it's a good resource for years to come, and a good legacy. Thanks to everyone who makes it happen!

    CN
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