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My comments on Train Simulator game

Steam locomotive working

Diesel-Electric locomotive working

My add-ons for Train Simulator

Model Railways 

 

My comments on train simulator

This article reflects my personal feeling about Microsoft/Kuju Train Simulator (MSTS for short) PC game. It is not meant to be an introduction of the game.

Train Simulator is the best game I have ever played on PC. It is really magnificent. It is not a game in conventional sense. You don't race with anyone or don't solve a puzzle. Rather you enjoy riding (I rather say driving) a train with realistic constraints. It is estimated that 500,000 people in the world regularly play this game (and the number is increasing). This game is basically a simulation. You drive a train of your dream. You can become a passenger also (but that's not much fun anyway). Earlier I played Flight Simulator. That was wonderful but I never fell in love with that as I did in Train Simulator. Manoeuvring a plane is a challenge, but once you take it to the skies, there is not much to see around you! Where as in MSTS, you drive a train along real (or fictitious) routes. The lush green meadows, Victorian style stations, hanging bridges and much more can be seen on your way. Your view is not just confined to the driver's cab. You can view the entire train (and surrounding scenery) in full 3D from any angle. That is an astonishing phenomenon. The physics behind MSTS is not 100% accurate but I must say it is really appreciable. The whistle of locomotives is scintillating. In real life, I don't like steam locomotives, but in MSTS I like to play (read drive) them most. The movement of wheels and pistons can be seen, which sparkles the engineer in every man's heart! (Women don't get too much fun from train driving - they prefer more to watch trains running as screen saver).

 I learnt a lot about railways from MSTS. I am always fascinated about rails from my childhood. I enjoyed (and still do) Hornby/Lima OO scale model railways. But MSTS gave me the true feeling of driving a real train! This game is very informative. Most trains have been decorated to the extent of real life train. The hissing sound of air brake release gives a feeling that now you can roll this 1500 ton train! Though I have never driven a real life train but now I can at least say that I can learn it driving in no time. I got so entangled with the game I started to delve the Internet to find out how electric motors, air brakes, power control etc work I had many doubts from childhood about trains. Most of them got answered by playing the game itself. In fact, my dad was also started driving trains once I installed the game to his computer (so far he used to play with Solitaire only).

 

In university, I had a course on transportation engineering. There I read bit of railway engineering. Sadly, the course was designed to make us get the pass mark in exam rather than imparting any real knowledge of train operations. I believe in some advanced Railway/Transport engineering courses a lot of traffic simulation is done. However, I don't know if any university uses MSTS to do that. In MSTS, one is not limited to play with the engine-coach-freight stock supplied. You can download virtually any loco, coach, freight car etc. from internet and make your own consist (rake).

I did some extensive studying on train operations. There from I got a good knowledge of train traction (factors affecting them), braking force, optimum steam generation rate, wheel slip etc. After that I modified a lot of locomotives' eng files (which contains the physical info on locomotives) to reflect more realistic behaviour. In fact, some people did very commendable research on this game and highlighted how it differs from real life trains. They have suggested all the formulas, which will make MSTS, behave more like real trains.

Then I did repaints of some famous locomotives and coaches in Indian Railways liveries (download information is shown towards end of this page). Unfortunately, MSTS is still not very popular in India (compared to Europe/America/Australia). This is because of the comparative high price of the game. However, it is a really good game people of all ages should enjoy it. If you can't afford buying it, check if your friend has a copy and install it from there. (Patch 1.2 of MSTS does not require original CDs in the drive during playing - which means you can simply install it from any copied version).

 MSTS has an open architecture. Which means anyone can create add-ons for it. You can create your own locomotives, coaches, wagons and even complete routes! However, these tasks are sometimes pretty complicated (especially creation of routes) and time consuming.

 Indian Railways fan club web site is at www.irfca.org

Working of Steam locomotive

 

Diesel-Electric locomotive working

The advantage of the diesel engine over the petrol engine is that it has a higher thermal capacity (it gets more work out of the fuel), the fuel is cheaper because it is less refined than petrol and it can do heavy work under extended periods of overload. It can however, in a high speed form, be sensitive to maintenance and noisy, which is why it is still not popular for passenger cars. Also, because of their inherent characteristics, diesel engines produce more torque than petrol engines.

The maximum rotational speed of the engine when producing full power will be about 1000 RPM and the engine will idle at about 400 RPM. These relatively low speeds mean that the engine design is heavy, as opposed to a high speed, lightweight engine. However, some high speed diesel engine has a speed of 1,500 RPM and this is regarded as high speed in the railway diesel engine category. The slow, heavy engine used in railway locomotives will give low maintenance requirements and an extended life.

The definition of tractive effort (TE) is simply the force exerted at the wheel rim of the locomotive and is usually expressed in Newtons.

By the time the tractive effort is transmitted to the coupling between the locomotive and the train, the drawbar pull, as it is called will have reduced because of the friction of the mechanical parts of the drive and some wind resistance. 

One thing worth remembering is that the power produced by the diesel engine is not all available for traction. In a 2600 HP diesel electric locomotive, some 450 HP is lost to on-board equipment like blowers, radiator fans, air compressors and "hotel power" for the train.

Diesel-electric locomotives come in three varieties, according to the period in which they were designed. These three are:

DC - DC (DC generator supplying DC traction motors);
AC - DC (AC alternator output rectified to supply DC motors) and 
AC - DC - AC (AC alternator output rectified to DC and then inverted to 3-phase AC for the traction motors). 

The DC - DC type has a generator supplying the DC traction motors through a resistance control system, the AC - DC type has an alternator producing AC current which is rectified to DC and then supplied to the DC traction motors and, finally, the most modern has the AC alternator output being rectified to DC and then converted to AC (3-phase) so that it can power the 3-phase AC traction motors. Although this last system might seem the most complex, the gains from using AC motors far outweigh the apparent complexity of the system. In reality, most of the equipment uses solid state power electronics with microprocessor-based controls. For more details on AC and DC traction, see the Electronic Power Page on this site.

Since the diesel-electric locomotive uses electric transmission, traction motors are provided on the axles to give the final drive. These motors were traditionally DC but the development of modern power and control electronics has led to the introduction of 3-phase AC motors. For a description of how this technology works, go to the Electronic Power Page on this site. There are between four and six motors on most diesel-electric locomotives. A modern AC motor with air blowing can provide up to 1,000 HP.

Characteristics of motors

Power transmission

Usually DC motors take current from third rail and AC motors take current from overhead wire (catenary).

Power loss is much less in AC transmission compared to DC transmission over long distances. That's why long distance electric trains use AC power transmission.

DC motors

High starting torque - in fact torque is more or less constant with varying speed as magnetic flux is constant.
Speed can be changed very easily.
Motor shaft can be rotated in reverse easily (just by changing polarity of current)
Easy to control under varying loads

Commutator and carbon brushes are liable to be damaged.
A overloaded DC motor (having current without/very slowly turning) will burn out. So, most DC motors have a min. continuous speed.

Power in DC circuit = Voltage x Current = Watt
Mechanical power output Po = Torque x 2 x pi x n where n = rotation per second
Electrical power input Pi = Voltage (V) x Current (A)
Efficiency Po/Pi

AC motors

Does not have commutator and brushes - thus less wear prone. Also, it helps to produce low speed high throttle (i.e. ampere) power.

An AC motor's speed is usually dependant on its design, but it may be controlled by varying the frequency of the input voltage.

Power control in AC motors is bit complicated. So, in locomotives often a 3 phase AC traction motors system is used.

diesel engine -> alternator -> rectifier (AC converted to DC & power control takes place with varying voltage & frequency) -> DC link -> inverter -> AC traction motors

Power is AC circuit a complicated calculation! But in brief, the power developed in an AC motor is related to the magnitude of the voltage, the current, and the internal resistance of the motor, and the frequency of the AC applied to the motor, because the frequency will change the phase angle.

Economy

Initial investment on electric locos and laying out electrified track is very expensive! So, it offers advantage only in the long run and with very heavy traffic.

source: www.crisny.org/not-for-profit/railroad/en_info.htm

 

My add-ons of train simulator

 Note: You can't download them from here. They are available at www.train-sim.com web site. This site holds world's largest freeware collection of MSTS related downloads. You need to register with them first (free). Then you can download whatever you want from there.

I included the actual filenames for the add-ons so that you can easily find them in the www.train-sim.com site.

 

Indian Railways WDM3A Diesel-electric locomotive

The most ubiquitous diesel loco in India

Filename: irwdm3.zip

 

Indian Railways WDM1 Diesel-electric locomotive

No longer used nowadays but they were among first imported diesel locomotives in India

Filename: irwdm1.zip

 

Indian Railways Palace on Wheels coach

A coach of famous and luxurious Palace on Wheels train. Create a consist of your own for full train set of Palace on Wheels.

Filename: irpalace.zip

 

Acela HHP electric loco in fictitious Indian Railways livery

filename: iracela1.zip

 

SD40-2 diesel loco in fictitious Indian Railways livery

Filename: irsd4021.zip

 

MSTS Stock Reporters - loco and rolling stocks summary at a glance

Filename: stockrpt.zip

Model Railways

Railway modeling is a wonderful hobby. But I won't say this is a cheap hobby! Rather it is pretty expensive.
To do it, you need time, money and space. First, you need to decide in which scale you want to model the layout. In India, there is no fixed layout for rail modeling. However, in Europe and America, a rigorous standard is followed for rail modeling. Remember that bigger scale you choose, more expensive it becomes. For example, a G scale locomotive is almost 3 times more expensive than a OO scale locomotive.

G [1:22] scale = Mainly used for outdoor/garden railway modeling.

O [1:48 to 1:43] scale = Not frequently used for railway modeling. Rather, die cast model cars adopt this scale.

HO [1:87] scale = Very popular rail model scale in North America.

OO [1:76] scale = Choice of rail model in Britain. A point to note that there is no OO gauge! OO scale models use same track as of HO gauge. For example, standard gauge width is 4 feet 8.5 inch or 1435 mm. In HO scale, it comes to be 1435/87 = 16.5 mm, but in OO scale it should be 1435/76 = 19 mm. However, OO scale models use 16.5 mm gauge. That means, both OO and HO scale train model will run on standard HO gauge tracks.

N [1:160] scale = Also popular model for railway.

Z [1:220] scale = A very tiny scale. Models are bit expensive than OO/HO.

Please note that most model trains are modelled as per Standard Gauge as this is the prevailing gauge in Europe and America. So, you'll rarely find any model based on Indian broad gauge.

How do model trains get their power?

Usually battery operated trains are rarely used for serious modelers (except in G scale). If the trains are battery operated, they are difficult to control remotely. So, these trains pick up power from track! Using a transformer, 9 to 12 volt of DC electricity is transmitted through tracks. One line acts as +ve and another like -ve. When trains need reversing, simply the polarity of track is reversed through the controller. By regulating voltage (& current), you can control the speed of train.

There are some special joints available for changing tracks (as in real life train tracks).

But this approach has some limitations. For example, in a single track, you can't have two trains running in different directions. Also, you can't achieve some layout configuration like reverse loops (as it would short-circuit the track) without some complicated modification of the tracks.

Naturally this method of transmitting power is only suitable for indoors. In fact, other than G scale models, all model trains are considered usable only indoors. Also, you need to keep tracks very clean so that they can carry electricity properly. For G scale models, you have several options. You can even have real steam powered locos there. However, they are really very expensive. Because of their big size, G scale trains can be powered by lead acetate batteries (similar to car battery).

Some model locos are designed in such a way that it can pick up current from overhead catenary (as in real electric locos). But maintenance of that catenary is a big problem.

So, still the most popular method of supplying energy to model trains is through track electricity. But note that European model train transformers will be of 220V where as American ones will be 110V. So, if you want your trains to be run in India, you better buy them from Europe. However, loco models would run anywhere (as long as line gauge fits them) as they need only 9-12 V DC from track.

Who manufactures model trains?

There are several standard manufactures! In Europe, most popular brands are Hornby, Bachmann, Lima etc. In America, there are numerous model train manufacturers. In India, still there isn't any. Usually, imported models are too expensive in India and they are not standardized. For used models, Ebay is a good option. Better still, watch out for model railway shows in your near locality.

How much does it cost?

Cost of items varies widely among manufacturers. This a very rough guide.
For Hornby (OO scale),
Standard co-co diesel-electric loco = 60
8 wheel 12 inch long coach = 18
4 wheel open wagon = 9
1 foot length of straight track = 2
A standard complete train set (with a loco, some coaches and wagons, transformer & controller, an oval track with sidings etc.) = 100 to 200

 This article was written by Saikat Basak on Sep 2005 © www.enselsoftware.com