Saturday, December 23, 2006

More 3rd Avenue El

It's with great joy that I announce the release of Fred Barbieri's Third Avenue Elevated Railway for MSTS. Fred's rendition is of the early days (1878-early 20th century) when steam locos ruled and Manhattan and the Bronx weren't as built up as they are today. This is a great route, complete with 0-6-0 saddle tank loco, cars, steam tram and trailers. On the street we have animated horse drawn wagons. At the stations we have people in appropriate 19th century dress. The many stations will keep you busy running this route.

The route and rolling stock are available free at . Go to the Files Library and look for the file . Be sure to read and follow the included installation instructions regarding rolling stock, X-tracks and Newroads.

Great job, Fred. Thanks and Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays to one and all.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Meet Sirgibby

Meet the Trainzer who is behind Sirgibby's TrainZone website, the repository for numerous narrow gauge add-ons, the Murchison logging route and great scenery textures and buildings.

Read the article at the VR Reading Room.


Monday, November 27, 2006

A New Look at LARS

New at the VR Reading Room at the Virtual Railroader website: :

A New Look at LARS by John D'Angelo and Lars Ljungberg.

It's all about Lars Ljungberg's new ProtoLARS freight operating system.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Virtual Murder?

For a new dimension in virtual railroading, have a look at Brian Eckard's review of an interactive book, Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. His review is at his Stuck Junction website.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Trainz Driver Edition

I spotted Trainz Driver Edition at Target last week. The three-disk set sells for $9.99. See my V-Scaler website for a full review.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sid Meier's Railroads released

Sid Meier's Railroads was scheduled to be released 16 October 2006. Look for it at your favorite game source. You can read more about this follow-up to Railroad Tycoon at the official website. For those who have forgotten, or maybe weren't here when it happened, Sid Meier is the creator of the original RR Tycoon. He's back!


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Subway Construction Set from ProTrainz

The long awaited Subway Construction for Trainz (SP3 and later) has been released by Magicland. You can get it at the Trainz Download Station. Just search for Subway. There are 50 items to be downloaded, some with dependencies (which Download Helper takes care of nicely). Instructions are available at the ProTrainz website and are in a 15-page Adobe Acrobat file.

This should make building subway routes a lot easier, but I would suggest reading the manual first. I, for one, am looking forward to giving this set a try.

BTW - when you go to the ProTrainz website, have a look around. There are a lot of great downloads, many free. You can also get collections, including the Subway Construction Set, on CD for a nominal charge. For people with dial-up connections, and those who like things neatly packaged, this is very handy.


Saturday, September 30, 2006

Kuju Rail Simulator First Showing

Quoted from the Kuju website:

Rail Simulator took to the Rails publicly for the first time last week at the annual European Games Convention at Leipzig and announced a working partnership with Deutsche Bahn. The first playable version of the game was exhibited on the EA Games and Microsoft Games for Windows stands which attracted 180k consumers, and was presented in the Business Lounge to worldwide press!

See also the Rail Simulator website.

From reading the full article in the first link, it would appear that Microsoft has some involvement. Of course, this may just be a poorly worded news release or a poor translation. Stay tuned!

Check out the video at the second link. It reminds me of Trainz, except the landscape grid appears much finer and the moving people at the station are awesome.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Dogbone Traction in Rail3D

Sanford Mace shows it can be done in Rail3D. This is the 4th and final
installment of Dogbone Traction, which began with Trainz and continued
to BVE, MSTS, and now R3D.

See it here.



Saturday, September 09, 2006

New at the VR Reading Room 9 Sept 06

New at the VR Reading Room

-- Dogbone Traction, Part 3 (MSTS) by Sanford Mace

-- Modeling an HO Scale Railroad Using Trainz by John D'Angelo


Thursday, August 31, 2006

New E-Book on V-Scale

I've just released my new e-book This is V-Scale: Virtual Railroading on a Small Computer. You can learn more about it here.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Transit Modeling - A Broad Niche

New at V-Scaler:

-- Transit Modeling - A Broad Niche

This is the first in a series that will cover all aspects of transit modeling - real and virtual.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Rudiger Hulsman's Fabulous F92 Train for BVE4

Rudiger Hulsman has created some outstanding items for BVE, including a beautiful set of track switches. His latest creation is an F92 subway train that takes advantage of the many customizing capabilities in BVE4. In Ruede's own words as posted on the BVE forum:

"Having worked for a long time in silence, this train is my first sign of life again to bring some "fresh air" into the BVE scene again.
So this train is indeed some kind of revolution:

"As far as I know, this is the first train for BVE that makes such consequent use of the possibilities the OS_ATS plugin offers
More that 2500 lines of source code lead to the most realistic train simulation ever in BVE.

"All 16 usable ATS-functions BVE offers have been used to make driving the train as accurate as possible. Furthermore, there are many other, non-usable functions for train systems and effects.

"All this will be operated from the new hi-res panel with more than 80 different bitmaps, accompanied by the self-scripted sound system with more than 85 sounds, which recreates nearly every sound of the original train."

This is a BEAUTIFUL train, but some people, including myself, have had difficulty getting everything in place and running. Here's what I've pieced together from comments on two forums:

1. Download Train

2. Downlaod U1 Route

There are three files to get:

-- Download Objekt-Dateien
-- Download Sound-Dateien
-- Download Route-Dateien

3. Install Ruede's Train into your BVE4 directory, e.g. C:/Program Files/Mackoy/BVE4

4. Look inside F92_en folder inside Train directory. There's a folder entitled Readme. Inside the folder are two Word files: Manual_F92.doc and Tutorial_eng.doc . I suggest you print out the Tutorial - it's only one page.

5. The Tutorial tells you to change "Instructor" and "Controller" in the "Option" menu to "U-Bahn" when you first run the train. This may be confusing if you haven't tried it. The Controller and Instructor are tabs on the window that appears when you select Option from the opening menu once BVE4 is launched. To set the Controller, click the Key Assignments button. Then select U-Bahn from the selection menu in the Key Assignments field. Selecting U-Bahn from the Instructor tab should be self-evident.

6. Continuing from step 5 (BVE4 is running, right?), open the Bentschen route folder and select U1 Fe-TI_F92neu .

7. Get out the Tutorial you printed and follow the instructions.

8. Enjoy!!!


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Vintage Trolley Color Pics

New at the VR Reading Room

- Vintage Trolley Color Pics by Alfred Barten

We present a group of 10 vintage trolley paintings used by the Standard Motor Truck Company to promote their trolley trucks. The article inlcudes a discussion of pitfalls in determining vintage colors.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

New at the VR Reading Room

New at the VR Reading Room:

Dogbone Traction, Part 2

- Sanford Mace responds to Dogbone Traction for Trainz with Dogbone Traction for BVE. The aticle includes complete instructions and downloadable reference files.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Here's a Fun MRR Simulator

Now here's a model railroad simulator that's inexpensive, easy to use, and fun to operate. Rule the Rail is available free in limited format and available as a complete package with access to add-ons and posting rights to a dedicated forum for the price of $15. Rule the Rail has a sibling program, Iron Horse, which is similar but based in western USA.

Both programs let you build your own layout, laying tracks, placing buildings, and shaping the topography. You can then place trains and operate in DCC mode or in a signal-controlled system like a traditional model railroad. Both simulatrs are great for visualizing planned model railroads, but don't expect to use them as as substitutes for track planning software. The available track sections are too limited and do not translate to any specific radius.

Minimum system requirements are:

Pentium II 450 MHz
128 MB RAM
150 MB Free Hard Disk Space
16 MB 3D Video Card with DirectX 8 driver (recommended:
GeForce 2 MX or better; ATI Radeon or better)
DirectX 8 compatible sound system

Try the free download and see for yourself! You may be glad you did.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Cure for hot, humid weather

It's in the 90s and HUMID here in Massachusetts. Appropriately, Auran has just announced its new Ship Simulator here. You can download a free working demo (95 MB). You'll cool off just by driving through the water.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rail3D 2kD Reaches Build 100

Alan Perryman has posted an interesting and informative piece describing Rail3D 2kD and its latest incarnation, Build 100. You can read it at UK TrainSim.


New at the VR Reading Room

New at the VR Reading Room:

-- Let's Populate Those Small Stations by John D'Angelo

This Download Gold series for Trainz article describes Andi Smith's invisible station, which adds passenger load/unload capacity.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Perhaps you'd like a train sim for your cell phone?

They're not here yet, but stay tuned. RedbossGames is working on Train Tycoon. According to, the game is licensed by Chris Sawyer, creator of Transport Tycoon, Locomotion, and Rollercoaster Tycoon. The screen shots bear a strong resemblace to Transport Tycoon Deluxe.

I seldom use my cell phone, but this could change everything.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Want a train sim for your PDA?

Look no further than Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe (OTTD). You can read more about it at the Open TTD Wiki ( and the at the Transport Tycoons Forum ( OTTD is open source, based on the original Transport Tycoon Deluxe by Chris Sawyer. OpenTTD is coded in C and runs on Mac, Linux, Windows, Unix, BeOS, OS/2 and a few other platforms, including Zaurus, PSP, Pocket PC and Palm OS. 5,


New at the VR Reading Room

New at the VR Reading Room:

-- Using SCABs for the Darjeeling Himalayan Model Railway Project

This article describes a creative solution to the problem of collaborative work on LARGE routes. It is being successfully employed by the Trainz Narrowgaugers on their Darjeeling Himalayan Model Railway project.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Trainz AI

New at the VR Reading Room

-- Adventures in Trainz Artifical Intelligence by John D'Angelo

If you're using Trainz AI, this is must-reading!!!!


Entire Glasgow Tram System in Trainz?

Entire Glasgow Tram System in Trainz? Well, not yet, but the effort is well on its way. Here's a site worth visiting if you're a tram lover. It's also worth visiting if you're interested in web design. There are a few things missing, such as the owner's name, but there's a lot to like - especially the slide shows.


Stop by the VR Reading Room. We're on a prototype tram roll with more to come.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Center Entrance in Boston, Part 3 is now available at the VR Reading Room.

This part covers the Boston center-entrance cars.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Center Entrance in Boston - Part 2

Center Entrance in Boston - Part 2 (Historical development) is now ready at the VR Reading Room.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Center Entrance in Boston

New at the VR Reading Room

- Center Entrance in Boston - Part 1

This is the first of a four-part historical series on Boston's famous center-entrance cars. The article was first published in the May-June 1992 issue of Electric Lines.


Saturday, April 29, 2006

Yellow signal for TMTS

News release from PI Engineering:

As you have probably noticed, in the last few weeks our website announcements and news have slowed somewhat. You may have also picked up from our previous story that the professional side of TrainMaster is booming.

What it adds up to is that we are currently inundated with professional and commercial work for our TrainMaster simulation platform. These jobs have real schedules and real deadlines...and we have only so many resources we can assign to them. As a result we have decided that a week at the E3 conference in June and a similar time commitment for the NMRA show in Philadelphia in July is not justified. Besides the attendance time for personnel, these shows take up an enormous amount of preparation time, time we just can't afford right now. So we have decided to withdraw from both these shows.

Date Posted: 27 Apr 06

-- Al

Be sure to visit our V-Scaler and Virtual Railroader web sites.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

New at the VR Reading Room

New at Virtual Railroader

-- Central States Scenario for Locomotion; includes downloadable scenario



Saturday, April 22, 2006

Saturday, April 15, 2006

New Postings

New at the VR Reading Room:

-- "Calculating Diverging Curves For BVE" by Tom Beevers

New at V-Scaler:

-- "Transport Giant: Getting Acquainted" by Alfred Barten

Enjoy and stop back here often for announcements of new postings.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

New at the VR Reading Room

New at the VR Reading Room:

-- New York Railways 86X Crosstown Route by Alfred Barten

This project is in Rail3D, but the route is suitable for modeling in any sim. Included are downloadable route and rolling stock.


Monday, April 03, 2006

New at the VR Reading Room

Two new postings at the VR Reading Room

-- The Trainz Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Project: First You Build a Mountain (by John D'Angelo)

-- Converting DEM Files to Trainz Maps (by Bill Slack)



Trainz gets 5 out of 5

Here's one HAPPY Trainz reviewer. Bumscorner gives Trainz a 5 out of 5. It doesn't get any better!

-- Al

To learn more about Trainz and all the great train simulators out there, be sure to visit my Virtual Railroader and V-Scaler web sites.

Friday, March 31, 2006

New Steam for TrainMaster

You HAVE to have a look at these screen shots from TrainMaster Train Simulator. There's nothing I can say that will do them justice.

-- Al

Be sure to stop by our VR Reading Room and V-Scaler sites.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

For Your Reading Enjoyment

New this week at the VR Reading Room -

- VR Railfinder: NYCTA

- Miss Springfield: Car 554

- Old Maude: America's first high-speed electric locomotive

- Conway Electric Street Railway: hilltown original

- Shelburne Falls & Colrain St. Ry.: the spirit lives

I've reorganized the Reading Room into functional sections to aid in browsing.



Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Trainz Hits Walmart

For years Trainz has existed in relative obscurity - not because it wasn't a great sim - but because it had no marketing clout here in the States compared to Microsoft's Train Simulator and well known games from other publishers. Suddenly it's a new day with new opportunities. Trainz 2006 has been spotted on Walmart shelves for $19.95. "That," as the saying goes, "changes everything."

-- Al

Visit our Virtual Railroader Reading Room and our new V-Scaler column for beginners.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Trainz For Mac Goes Beta and More

Watch the Trainz website for their March 6 newsletter. Mac for Trainz has truly gone beta and Service Pack 1 for TRS2006 is in the works. Look for special attention to CMP and backwards compatibility issues with TRS2004 content. Also, Rob Shaw, premier add-on developer, has joined Auran and will lead the Trainz effort. This is all great news.

-- Al

Be sure to visit our VR Reading Room and our new V-Scaler column for beginners. Virtual Railroader for January-February is about to be released.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Interview with Mike Hambly of BlueArrowTS

Henk Plaggemars, our man at TrainMaster Train Simulator, interviews Mike Hambly of BlueArrowTS. You can read it here.

Now, Henk, if you'd just tell us when to expect the new TMTS we would all be most grateful.

-- Al

Visit our VR Reading Room and V-Scaler websites.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Enough is Enough

It's not uncommon for folks to decide enough is enough, especially where software is concerned. In the train sim field we have folks who prefer BVE 2 over the newer BVE 4, people who prefer Transport Tycoon Deluxe Patched over TTD's official successor Locomotion. Now we have official announcement from the gents who operate the Razorback Railway that they are sticking with Trainz 2004 and are not supporting the new Trainz 2006. You can read their announcement here.


Be sure to stop by our Virtual Railroader and V-Scaler websites.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hover Cars for Locomotion

Want a glimpse of the future in your Locomotion lineup of vehicles? Have a look here for hover cars. Really cool!!!

- Al

Visit our VR Reading Room
and our new V-Scaler for beginners

Saturday, February 18, 2006

MSTS Rolling Stock Converts to TrainMaster

When P.I. Engineering announced plans for developing a new TrainMaster Train Simulator, they included conversion of MSTS rolling stock to the new format as one of their goals. PIE has announced their success in this endeavor here. The new TMTS is expected to be released later this year.

- Al

Visit our VR Reading Room to further your virtual railroading experience
and our new V-Scaler to find out what it's all about.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A New Jersey Shortline You Can Simulate

The March 2006 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman has an excellent article by Stephen A. Lynch entitled "The Rahway Valley." It describes a 15-mile shortline in New Jersey that connected the Lehigh Valley, the Central of New Jersey, and the Lackawana railroads. For most of its existence from 1897 to 1992, it served as a freight-only carrier, serving industries along its route. This makes a great setup for switching activities.

The article describes the prototype through photos and track plans, and even includes a suggested model railroad plan, which could be useful for those who like to simulate model railroad layouts.

A companion article, "Modeling Rahway Valley No. 17" by Tom Piccirillo, provides a paint scheme for a Rahway 70-ton diesel switcher.

-- Al

Visit our V-Scaler introduction to virtual railroading
and our
Virtual Railroader Reading Room

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Introducing V-Scaler

Today I launched V-Scaler, an introduction to virtual railroading for people who are wondering what VR is, or whether or not to get involved, or even how to get involved. Newcomers to the hobby will also find the publication interesting and valuable, as I intend to go into each major sim (and some not-so-major sims) in detail in future articles and go into ways to get the most out of your sim.

You can find V-Scaler at

-- Al

Visit the VR Reading Room at

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

North American Trains for Locomotion

We've seen great 3rd party train packs for British Rail and the Netherlands. Now we have some for North America. Specifically, Plastikman's Amtrak pack adds to his growing collection, which includes SP Daylight, Santa Fe Super Chief, and container freight. Among other things in the pack, you'll find GG1's, E44's, E60's, AEM7's, AEM7AC's, HHP8's, and NEC Amfleet coach in Acela paint. I counted 34 items in all, including non-Amtrak F7, GP7, and SD40 locos.

You can get the Amtrak pack at AMI Trains (

Meanwhile, we're eagerly awaiting the release of metalagel's Northeast Corridor scenario, which will be a perfect match for the electrics.

Great work, guys.

-- Al

Visit the VR Reading Room at

Friday, February 03, 2006

Coming: Trainz for Macs

That's right, Trainz is headed for the Mac. The February Trainz newsletter has a request from Auran for beta testers to test the upcoming version of Trainz for the Mac. If you're a Mac fan, this has to be GREAT news! You'll need a Mac with 1GHz CPU / 32MB GPU / 512MB RAM / 1024x768 screen resolution if you want to be a tester.

- Al

Visit our VR Reading Room at

Keeping an Eye on TrainMaster

In case you haven't discovered it, you can keep up to date on the development of the new TrainMaster Train Simulator from P.I. Engineering at . The latest posting adds some stunning screen shots to a growing collection. TMTS is going to be a highly realistic simulator when it's released (no dates yet).

- Al

Visit our VR Reading Room at

V-Scale in the Media

If you're a logging fan or just want to see V-scale make it to the established media, you'll be interested in Rich Blake's excellent article "V-Scale Logging: Making Layout Space in Cyberspace" in the Winter 2006 issue Tall Timber Short Lines (

- Al

Visit our VR Reading Room at

Friday, January 20, 2006

Simulated Train Crashes

A friend of mine told me he and his young daughter had a great time playing with Microsoft Train Simulator. They especially enjoyed watching the crashes. In case you haven't tried it, MSTS has the best simulated crashes of any train sim I know. When a train derails or runs off the end of the track, the locomotives and cars go tumbling through the air, crashing, and often burning upon landing. Wouldn't you just know it? Someone has a web site devoted to MSTS crashes. It's The MSTS Crash Site at

- Al

Visit our VR Reading Room

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Another LoMo Site

Oops! I meant to include AMI Trains in yesterday's post. It's a Locomotion site dedicated to British subjects (pun intended). Have a look at

- Al

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Set Your Sites for Locomotion

Here are a few sites for Locomotion fans. These are not necessarily new sites, just sites I haven’t mentioned before.

For starters, there’s ChrisTrainz for Locomotion ( You’ll find a number of Netherlands trains originally created for MSTS and converted to Locomotion.

Then there’s The Loco Railbuilding Guide ( where you’ll find illustrated guides by Albert Bos for easy and advanced users. These are nicely done and well worth a look.

Finally, there’s Locomotion UK (, which describes itself as “The ultimate resource for Chris Sawyer’s Locomotion.” This site has a bit of everything from downloads of Locomotion Demo and Patch to tips, news, messageboard, FAQs, etc. I find the vehicle database particularly useful, being organized by transport type and year.

- Al

Visit my other web sites:
Virtual Railroader
Complete Works in Progress

Saturday, January 14, 2006

It's A (Gasp) Bus Simulator!

Well, why not? We've found that with train simulators we can have all sorts of transport vehicles follow a path, just the way a train does. We've seen planes, boats, hot air balloons, love canal boats - you name it.

VirtualBus (Copyright 2002-2004 Marcin Kompanowski,
Adam Popio³ek, Kakish, Maciej Fidor, Qbasob) is available free at . You can also find it at . It downloads as a ZIP file, which extracts into its own folder. Look at the readme.txt file first. It will explain how to get started.

I've only had a cursery look at VirtualBus, but several things stand out. First, you have control of the steering wheel, which means you can drive off the road. Second, controls, such as steering, revert to default position once you release the key. In other words, right arrow turns the steering wheel to the right, but returns it to center once you release the key. When you finish or exit the route, you will see a summary of your performance (you're expected to arrive at each stop on time, leave on time, wait till passengers have gotten off/on, and not drive with the doors open).

Although I didn't try other buses or routes, there is provision for them. The view is from the driver's seat, and graphics are full screen 3D with the ability to rotate and raise/lower the angle of view.

This is a sim you can have fun with.

- Al

Visit my other web sites:
Virtual Railroader
Complete Works in Progress

Friday, January 13, 2006

Progress At TrainMaster

Now that Henk Plaggemars has taken over as chief Evangelist for TrainMaster, you can expect to see regular news from PIE as their new TrainMaster Train Simular develops. Henk has set up a screen capture page. The first shots are here. Bear in mind that this is a work in progress, and screen captures are taken during testing. I think you'll be impressed the detail and realism emerging in these captures.

- Al

Monday, January 09, 2006

Mechanik Remembered

When the history of train sims is finally written, Mechanik will certainly occupy an important spot as an early cab-view sim. It was an MS-DOS sim written by a pair of college students in Poland. Mechanik was just disappearing from scene when I became involved in train sims five years ago. It had been eclipsed by BVE, a more sophisticated cab-view sim written by a 14-year-old Japanese student a few years earlier and had just been "discovered" by the western world.

Christopher Lees has written a thorough how-to guide explaining where to get Mechanik and how to install and run it on current Windows systems. He is also hosting several Mechanik routes.

Visit Chris's BVE Cornwall site ( for the guide and the routes.

- Al

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Round and Round We Go

I've lived through enough calendars - 66 to be exact - to have discovered some of life's patterns. One is the recurring themes in my life - sports, trains, writing, music, art, sports, trains, writing, etc., to name a few. Some leave and return, others ebb and flow. My interest in railroads is one that ebbs and flows, while my interest in games is one that goes away for awhile and then returns unexpectedly.

I had completely forgotten until recently about the dice and card games I created over 50 years ago as an adolescent. Mostly they were about sports. My friend and I used our bubble gum cards to select team rosters; then we played schedules and kept reams of records. I never had any railroad cards - though I have since found some at train shows - so I never created any railroad games. I DID have a big stack of airplane cards and managed to develop a Monopoly-like board game whereby the planes were purchased for flying transport missions, which in turn earned money for buying more planes. I won't try to credit myself with anticipating the Tycoon games of the '90s, but but they did have transport and finances in common.

My interest in games was renewed when Microsoft released Train Simulator in 2001. Although train simmers, especially MSTS fans, abhor the term "game," train sims are guilty by association, and some - like the Tycoon-type sims - ARE games.

The recurring themes in my life can take the form of themes within a theme. Within the train sim theme are the various train sims that take turn coming to the fore. I've gone through long stretches of focusing on BVE, Rail3D, MSTS, Trainz, and Locomotion, while having more than a passing glance at a number of others. In the process I've learned to appreciate the special qualities that each represents. If I want to drive a rapid transit or commuter train schedule from the driver's seat, I choose BVE. If I want to build a rail network with lots of signaled control, I look to Rail3D. If I want to have some fun with train sim photography, I choose MSTS. If I want to simulate train operations using more than one train, Trainz is my choice. If I want to build an empire with trains and other forms of transport, I choose Locomotion.

My interests along each of these lines cycle with some frequency, thus I am glad to have all these sims at my command. I even cast a wistful glance now and then at my unfinished modeling efforts in O- and HO-scale, but that's a story for another round.

- Al

Friday, January 06, 2006

Do As I Say, Not As I Don't Do

I normally write about what I'm doing or thinking. Today I'm writing about what I HAVEN'T been doing - keeping my computer defragged. Ignorance is bliss, as they say, until it sneaks up from behind and knocks out your trusty PC just as you are about to perform some critical task. Such was the case as I started to assemble the December issue of Virtual Railroader. When my PC wouldn't boot up, I suspected a virus had snuck past my arsenal of anti-virus protection, firewall, and multiple anti-spyware programs. The repairman, however, was quite clear in his assessment: too much fragmentation of the hard drive.

I've always known that hard drives become fragmented in time as programs write and delete data. I've also known that this will slow down your computer. What I didn't know was that fragmentation leads to corrupted files. Moreover, I had never stopped to think about the excessive write/delete activity that takes place with games, especially full 3D "games" like MSTS and Trainz. In other words, train sims are big-time offenders.

The moral of this story is that defragmentation should be a regular part of your PC housekeeping routine, just like backing up your data. Consider defragging your hard drive at least once a month. If you run sims regularly, consider defragging more frequently. If nothing else, it will save you a lot of aggravation and possibly a costly repair.

- Al

Please visit our VR Reading Room at Virtual Railroader.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

News From TrainMaster Train Simulator

P.I. Engineering announced two new members have joined the TMTS development team. One is our old friend Henk Plaggemars, who many of you know from his work at Auran, developing and promoting Trainz. The other is Dan Toth, a training conductor consultant who will be providing technical input for the professional training side of the TMTS project. The full news article is here:

- Al

Visit our new VR Reading Room at Virtual Railroader (

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Try it Again, Sam

I had my first clarinet lesson last week. Since then I've been dutifully practicing, trying to play good quality notes from C to A. Today I took dead aim at the dreaded squeak. I practiced removing the instrument from my mouth, reinserting it, and trying to get a good note on the first try without hunting around.

Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!

After much experimentation - and a timeout to wrap some padding around my right thumb where the thumb rest was gnawing at my bone - I discovered I wasn't puckering tightly enough. That solved it.

The key word for this experience is one I've come to associate with computers: PERSISTENCE. I've spent many an hour through the years wrestling with computers - or is it software? Sometimes I've finally given up and asked for help, but more often than not I found the answer by keeping at it.

There's a balancing corollary to persistence, however. It's called taking a break and turning your attention elsewhere for awhile. It can do wonders for giving you a chance to come up with a fresh approach to solving the problem, just as wrapping my thumb helped solve my clarinet squeak.

So ... when you tire of banging your head against the proverbial wall, try kicking it for awhile, or doing something entirely different, like taking up the clarinet.

- Al