Trainz Railroad Simulations
are Addictive

My mini-review of Trainz

trainz coverMy introduction to Trainz

I've been fooling around with Trainz software since 2006. When I'm at my Mac computer and have some free time I often load up Trainz Railroad Simulator. I have the iPad version too. There have been a lot of improvements since the launch of Trainz. It keeps getting better and better.

Here's a computer program that's fun, addictive, and educational about railways around the world. I started with the 2006 edition that I picked up as an impulse buy at a train show. I'm glad I did.

First of all, driving a steam engine or a diesel on a railroad somewhere in the world and picking up and dropping off loads will kill an hour or two before you know it. You have the choice of easy control or full-blown access to the locomotive's controls. You can change turnout direction, couple and uncouple, and just have a ball. Or you can can let someone else do the driving. Watching the Canadian transcontinental in the 50s negotiate trackage through downtown Toronto or jumping aboard the modern Maglev train is awesome. 

There are so many routes and options. 

Building your own virtual empire

trainz manualClear instructions

This is where things really get interesting. The program includes the option called "Surveyor" where you can build your own route, scenery and trains. You are limited only by your imagination. It is available on the iPad version as well but I find that less functional.

I'm still a novice at this. However, I did build a virtual extension of my basement model railroad on my iPad. This is really taking the "beyond the basement" idea to a whole new level. Not only can you interchange cars with other modellers in your area (and some people do this by mail), you can interconnect with others worldwide.

Trainz Exchange

Built into the program is the ability to download images and other people's layouts from a global library. You can purchase additional assets and you can upload your own images if you become a creator. The cost is reasonable and buying a "ticket" can also speed up downloads.

There are some amazing virtual modellers sharing their work.

I decided to add this page after receiving an email from Auran about the next release: Trainz Simulator 2009: World Builder Edition (TS2009) was the core program designed primarily for content creators and route builders and Trainz Simulator 2009: Engineers Edition (TEE) was designed more for those who enjoy driving and controlling trains. I bought and installed the Engineers Edition on my old PC. 

Both editions were totally compatible so will operate seamlessly when both are installed. There have been more recent updates. Trainz was developed in Australia. You can often find Trainz Simulator being demonstrated at Train Shows at a dealer's booth. Try it for yourself.

Time to get serious about Trainz

Back in September, 2009 I bought and installed the 2009 World Builder Edition.  I use my Mac 99% of the time, but I've kept my old Dell laptop for running train related stuff like jmri, Ship-it and the Lenz connection to my layout. The graphic capabilities and RAM were less than ideal for building routes in Surveyor. Time will tell.

Fellow Nottawasaga Model Railroad Club (NMRC) member, Bill Payne, found an article in an old Model Railroader planning book with a Chapter 14 entitled Collingwood and the Meaford sub.

I couldn't find the trackplan in the Model Railroader database accessible from their website. I think it was in 2002.  Bill gave me a photocopy. It doesn't show the name of the publication, only page numbers.

We are currently (2015) building a layout based on the Collingwood harbour and grain terminal and the line to Meaford in our new permanent home at Bygone Days in Collingwood. Benchwork began in September 2015. You can follow progress on my NMR club page.

Collingwood grain terminal
Photo: skotdog's photostream, Flickr (2006)
Collingwood grain terminal

Collingwood was a major port on the Great Lakes until the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened to ocean-going ships.  The harbour is now being turned into condos, homes and shops but the landmark grain terminal building remains.

We think it will make a great and recognizable scene for folk who know Ontario and visit our layout. We hope to have something to show in 2016.

What has this got to do with Trainz? Well, I've not about to rip out my new UNRR HO Utopia Northern Railroad. However, I thought it would be fun and educational to build a virtual Collingwood and Meaford sub railroad. 

The Barrie-Collingwood railroad ran for a few years but has been discontinued. It didn't extend to Meaford and most of the track has been ripped up and turned into nature trails. The railroad moved a few cars a week between Collingwood and the CP connection at the real Utopia. I found a virtual layout of the Meaford sub on Trainz that I could adapt.

You can find some pictures of the former CN station at Craigleith on my page about the historic landmark on the shores of Georgian Bay. My eventual Trainz plan is to recreate my fictional Utopia Northern with a connection at Utopia to the real Collingwood and Meaford sub. The chapter Bill gave me shows a model trackplan based on the railroad and also contains several drawings of the previous real trackage at both Collingwood and Meaford.

To top it off, Bill and NMRC members Dolf Roelofsen and Brad Lebeck have blueprints of the Collingwood trackage. We intend to build a close approximation of the trackage at Collingwood.

So that's the plan.  I'm still new to Surveyor and have only fooled around with it from time to time.  I decided to start out in the forums. I'm glad I did. I have found a fantastic set of tutorials that covers everything from track-laying to signalling and running trains.

If you are new to the Trainz Surveyor module as I am and also want to get serious about building your own virtual layout, check out Chuck's  Trainz tutorials.

Trainz on the iPad

Now that I use an iPad every day I can run Trainz anytime I like. 

It comes with the Midlands session and the USA Country and City session as well as tutorials and rail yard. It allows you to build routes in Surveyor but I'm not sure how effective it is to load other assets. While basically free, they now sell additional routes in the app. There are some free ones that can also be downloaded. These are posted by other modellers. You can also upload your own creations but I had difficulty trying to do that.

 But the basic price is right, around $10 USD. I have become familiar with the controls on the iPad. It only seems to work in horizontal mode. The Trainz controls are the ones that a typical user would be familiar with. The iPad is an amazing machine and it's great to have the Trainz app. 

When more iPad users discover Trainz I'm hopeful even more routes will be added by the developers. They are usually ahead of the tech curve for railroad simulations.

After using Trainz on my iPad for a few months I found it excellent for running trains, but using Surveyor to build your own railroad is more difficult to do than on a desktop or laptop-type computer.

The developers will probably correct this as more people download the basic app. Trainz is now available for the Mac as well. I've downloaded it. You need a Mac with the Intel chip. It won't run on the older PC chip hardware.

From time to time when I have an hour of free time and no honey-do jobs to do around the house, I load Trainz on my iPad.  I am still struggling with the creation of a route. There's a steep learning curve and the iPad version functionality isn't quite the same as the full simulator version on my Mac. I'm trying to install a bridge which entails setting the height of the track as it crosses over itself, setting the gradient and the vertex of the scenery. Not easy to do!  I have never downloaded the free extra content so I decided to look at other uploaded railroads to find someone who has done this so I can study their method in Surveyor mode. I came across the Allagash Ry. If you are familiar with the free Internet magazine, Model Railroad Hobbyist, you will recognize the name of Mike Confalone from the magazine. This is his iPad route creation and it is well done and fun to operate. Another excellent free route is the Glacier railroad route in Montana. If you have never looked at the free content it is certainly worthwhile to do so if you want to run trains or build your own route. You can upload your route creation, too. Sign in to Auran and create a username and password ane then go to Extra Content on the Main page in Trainz on your iPad. Have fun. Let me know how you make out by sending me an email from my Contact page. 

Back in 2013 I struggled with building the UNRR Trainz version. It turns out the iPad version isn't all that well supported, probably because not enough people have bought it yet. There was a lot of bitching in the Trainz forum for the iPad about the lack of upgrades and lack of assets when i began using it. While there are some bacic assets such as locomotives and train cars and some buildings, there was no way to reach the Download Station, again probably because assets built for the Mac or PC are not compatible. Some things don't work, such as the load/unload option for logs. The most annoying problem occurs when trying to upload a route to the Free Content. I keep getting a fatal error that I'm missing an asset: a thumbnail.jpg that is supposed to be saved on the description screen under Edit Route. Unfortunately, the jpeg doesn't save so uploading always fails (after about 6 hours tying up the iPad). I've been trying to upload the route overnight without success. I checked the forum for workarounds and found some information about merging the route into a newly created one but I can't get that to work either. I sent a ticket to Trainz looking for help but nobody has replied. Very frustrating. I have made a number of attempts so that visitors to my site, like you, could play running trains on my Trainz version. The route I've built is not restricted by basement walls so the mainline is longer and North Point and South Point don't share a turntable through a backdrop as they do on the "real" Utopia Northern.  Also there's no way to duplicate slip switches so I have had to create it by using turnouts that don't overlap. Let's call the whole exercise a rough approximation of the UNRR. For now, only I can play with it. Maybe some time in the futureā€¦ . Now in 2015 I am busy trying to build a new layout so the virtual railroad is on the back burner. Maybe some of these problems have been resolved.

If someone out there reading this knows what has been upgraded for the iPad version I'd love to hear from you. Send me an email from my Contact Me page.

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