Last week, I was bored and looking for something to work on, so I decided to embark on a semi-big route project. I was feeling nostalgic for some fallen flags on home rails, and I wanted something that hasn't been done yet, so I decided to modernize one of the first payware routes for Microsoft Train Simulator, the Maple Leaf Tracks Sandpatch Grade.

My first order of business was upgrading the almost 20-year-old route itself. I replaced tracks with US2 tracks with custom textures to emulate the original textures, replaced the Terrtex files, added ballast onto the Terrtex files, replaced the tree textures, improved signal colors and other small texture improvements.

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A view of the Rockwood junction area to demonstrate the new route textures.

After this was done, I was searching for some Chessie System locomotives to compliment the route, but was unsatisfied with the current Chessie locomotives available (They're good reskins, but the colors aren't to my taste for what I had in mind with the route), so I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and reskinned my own. After prototyping several different color combinations, I finally landed on the colors I liked so I moved forward with reskinning the first B&O unit, SD40-2 7610. Shortly after the skin was done, I was talking with the talented Parker Boots about making a custom Freight Animation that would make the SD40-2 100% accurate for the Chessie, and the final FA includes everything from the correct rock plows, a 3D battery inside the mailslot battery box, to the correct K5LA cab-mounted horn. I can't thank Mr. Boots enough for cooperating and working with me with his fantastic modeling and texturing work.

A Chessie Loaded Auto train departs Cumberland, MD and passes through the junction at VA tower.

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The same train in the above screenshot speeds through Hyndman, PA later in its trek to Rockwood, PA.

After the FA was done, I had a spark of inspiration. 3D cabs really add to train simulators for me, so I decided that's exactly what I was going to add onto the SD40-2. I took the 3D cab from one of Tyler Bundy's GM&O SD40s, did some small texture tweaking and reskinned the external paint job and voila, a 3D interior for the Chessie SD40-2s.

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B&O 7610 sits in Cumberland, MD, ready to depart on its trip over the grades of the Alleghenies. Disregard the fact that it's in Run 8 in the photo, as this was taken just after I got the 3D cab into the locomotive and was a bit broken from the transition.

Now for the future of this project. I plan on making a few more reskins of the B&O SD40-2 to include all the things that could have ran on Sandpatch in the late 1980's (Western Maryland, C&O and B&O blues, and CSX "Stealth"), and releasing those to the File Library in the coming weeks. The route itself is in a grey area with releasing it, as it uses some textures from the Train Simulations Ruel Subdivision, and I'm not entirely sure if I can release the route with payware textures included. The route would need rebuilt quite a bit to make it public-release friendly, but I do want to get it out in the world eventually. There are also a few related projects to compliment the route that I've been talking to people about, and I'm not sure if they want them to be revealed to the public yet, so I'll keep them under wraps for the time being.

Something in one of the screenshots that you may have noticed is a C&O GP15T. I made this as a "virtual kitbash", using parts from a bunch of different sources to make it as accurate as it possibly can. It uses the Green River GP15-1 as a base, a GP38 dynamic brake grid, and the exhaust from an SD50. Unfortunately, because of the amount of shape files that it uses, it would be a logistical challenge to track down the sources of all the parts and get permission to release them with the GP15T. After the SD40-2 project is over, I may go back and make the effort to optimize the GP15T to release and get proper permission to release it as a cohesive pack, so keep an eye out for that.

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C&O 1622 accompanies a duo of SD40-2s as they make their way through mountainous grades.

I have many more screenshots and plans to make a trailer video, so keep an eye out for those in the near future. As for now, keep an eye out for those SD40-2s possibly hitting the File Library in a few weeks, wear a mask, and stay safe in these uncertain times.