Monday, July 25, 2005

A Great Time To Be a Model Railroader

There's probably never been a better time to be a model railroader. I just received my copy of Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette today and looked through the ads and reviews with envy. I especially like the On30 equipment because it represents an easy way to get into narrow gauge modeling.

On second look, it seems to me that prices are getting out of sight - just the thing On30 was meant to combat. It makes me glad I made the switch to virtual railroading 4 years ago. I won't try to tell you VR is free. After all, computers need to be upgraded, and the more you spend the better. Still, $1000 for a new PC every 4 years equates to not that much model railroading equipment. Scanning the reviews, I spotted a gorgeous DRGW K-27 that goes for $489 - a bargain considering the quality. That's half my 4-year new computer budget. Yikes! There's also a laser-cut boxcar kit for $138. DOUBLE YIKES!!

Speaking of bargains, check out the prices of niche publications like Tall Timber Short Line. Meaning no disrespect for this fine publication, but you can see that Virtual Railroader, which is absolutely free, including all the back issues, is a bargain that's hard to beat. Come see us at .


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I Finally Got Broadband

Well, I finally did it. I signed up for DSL and am loving every minute of it. My wife and I had been planning to do it for quite awhile, but there were all these questions we had that weren't answered by the carriers' web sites. So we looked for a blockof time and just called. We asked and found out everything we needed to know. In the end, DSL is costing us exactly what our old dial-up was costing, but DSL is lightning fast. It's a no-brainer in our case. I no longer plan my day around a 10-20MB download or have to stay offline because we need the phone for something else. If you're big on train simulation, broadband Internet access should be high on your wish list.

Broadband - cable or DSL - also makes email via Google an attractive proposition. The Gmail interface is great and has some neat organizational features. By having my email based in a central location, rather than on my computer, I can access my mail from anyplace via any computer with Internet access. Google even provides me with a notification icon on the Windows tray that lets me know when an email has arrived. Google also does a great job of filing junk mail in itsown folder so I don't have to sift through it to get rid of it. Finally - and here's the great part - Google provides over 2 GB of space and takes care of the backups. I like that!


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Virtual Railroading is Gathering Steam

When Microsoft abandoned further development of its Train Simulator nearly two years ago there was a feeling among onlookers that virtual railroading was going nowhere fast and that it was doomed to a future in niche markets. While it would be foolish to suggest that VR has hit it big, one can certainly see signs of good times ahead. At least some game companies are thinking that way.

Through the "dark" times Auran continued to forge ahead with Trainz, and for all practical purposes should be considered the leader until someone else comes up with something more successful. Just as Auran is set to release its new version, TRS 2006, news of Kuju and Electronic Arts working together to develop a new product, Rail Simulator, arrived to fan the flames of enthusiasm.

For those who don't know, Kuju is the company that developed Train Simulator for Microsoft. They are now back at it with EA, a major game company. We have little knowledge of what the new product will be like or whether it will even be compatible with the earlier Train Simulator (a million owners of MSTS are probably hoping it WILL be compatible). There is something to be said for being able to start over (if that's what Kuju is doing) with the ability to learn from one's earlier experience and not be saddled with one's prior mistakes or lack of foresight. (I don't mean to accuse Kuju of being shortsighted, but things develop rapidly in the high tech world and one cannot always anticipate what lies around the bend.)

Not to be lost in the shuffle is the promised TrainMaster from RailDriver, which is expected to be compatible with MSTS while adding new features.

All of this bodes well for the VR community and its hobby.

-- Al

Friday, July 01, 2005

VR Coverage in RMC

Keep an eye out for the August issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. It will be featuring the first of a two-part series by Mark Baldwin on his Gilpin Tram.
-- Al