Fifteen Years of MSTS

Microsoft Train Simulator is turning 15 years old, and it’s still going strong. Not bad for software that’s officially listed by Microsoft as “unsupported” by Windows Vista and later versions. But it’s still possible to run it in Windows 10 on its own, and Open Rails will keep MSTS content alive for the foreseeable future.

How far have we come? Well, just for fun, here are a couple of screenshots. (Click the images to see the full versions.)

The first is the original MSTS Marias Pass route, from the cab of the default Dash 9.MSTS ShelbyNext is the same spot on Marias Pass 5 (A more modern re-worked version of the Marias Pass route) from a modern cabview of the Dash 9, and taken in Open Rails.Open Rails ShelbyQuite an improvement!

Elvas Tower Clarification…

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Elvas Tower Clarification…

There’s been some confusion with respect to availability of the Elvas Tower forums, as that’s where a large portion of discussion of Open Rails goes on.

The Elvas Tower forums are currently open and readable to anyone; you do not have to be logged on with an account.

Registration for new accounts is currently not open.

Disclaimer: I have no connection to the operation or administration of Elvas Tower. I simply report the current state of affairs around the MSTS / OR community.

Open Rails 1.1 Released

A new Stable version of Open Rails (v1.1) is now available at the Open Rails website. The download link is here on this page.

This version adds several MSTS compatibility features, such as refilling steam locomotive tenders from water troughs between the rails, support for speed limits in temporary restricted speed zones in activities, better brake functionality, improved sound handling, better handling of cab lighting in tunnels (night mode switching), and more.

There are also numerous improvements and additions to features specific to Open Rails, many persistent bugs fixed, and overall underlying improvements to the application code to allow for future development.

If you haven’t tried Open Rails, or if v1.0 wasn’t quite close enough to an MSTS replacement for running trains, it’s well worth trying out this latest version.

Note: Currently, there is an alternative route editor in independent development, but there is no replacement for the Activity Editor or other MSTS built-in editors yet. Open Rails provides an vastly improved environment to operate trains in. Creating and editing MSTS content still requires the original MSTS toolset or other third-party tools.

A New PC Build

Not long ago, I detailed a way to fix a broken power switch connector on a Mac Mini. That fix got the computer I’ve been running MSTS and Open Rails on for years back to work, but it was clearly time to replace it. I had actually planned a replacement computer build nearly two years ago but it just never got to the top of the priority list in the budget. With the old computer on its last legs, it was time to move ahead. Continue Reading…

Fix a Broken Power Switch Connector On a Mac Mini (Original Style Case)

I’ve used a Mac Mini that runs Windows with Apple’s “BootCamp” dual-boot solution for years. In fact, this particular “Late 2009” edition Mini has run Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 10. It runs MSTS and Open Rails, even Flight Simulator 9 and Flight Simulator X. While it’s not the fastest thing on the planet, it’s been surprisingly good. MSTS can run with all settings maxed-out, and Open Rails and the flight simulators give decent performance at moderate settings.

The older original design Mac Mini has a known flaw where the connector for the power switch may separate from the motherboard, rendering the computer useless. The standard (and expensive — around $300 US!) is to replace the motherboard. Not a good investment on an old computer. But here’s how to perform a simple fix to get the Mini back in action, more appropriate for an old machine that’s probably not going to be kept around forever.

Read more in the new Tech section…

Clearing Trees on Tracks in Open Rails

Beginning with Experimental version  x.3369, it’s possible to clear trees appearing on the tracks in Open Rails. Not every route has this issue, but you’ll know it when you see it — Trees appear too close to the rails, in between the rails, in tunnel openings — anywhere a tree has no business being. If you run the same route in MSTS, the offending trees are nowhere to be found. So what’s going on?

When a route is built in the MSTS Route Editor, it’s possible to create “forest regions” — simple boundaries that define an area for trees to be automatically populated. If the tracks fall too close to, or even inside of, the boundaries of a forest region, MSTS will automatically suppress the trees that would intrude on the tracks. Open Rails doesn’t use the same method to separate trees from the rails, so some routes will display trees intruding on the tracks.

Early attempts to apply an algorithm to find and suppress tree/track conflicts where a forest region intrudes on the tracks could remove the trees, but incurred a heavy impact on frame rates. A recent re-evaluation of the methods has finally resulted in a successful means to prune away errant trees without adversely impacting frame rates or causing any other problems with scenery objects.

Read more in the “Tutorials” section…

We’ve Moved! (Again…)

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We’ve Moved! (Again…)

With thanks to an associate of mine in the information technology and security arena, the site has been moved to sub-domain on a new host. The old host just wasn’t keeping up, and tended to serve up pop-under ads in spite of a no-ads promise. If you entered the old URL, or clicked an old saved link, you should be redirected here to the new host.

Everything should be in place — I spent a day importing the old files and database, and re-configuring references so the images and files all work as they should. If anything is missing, I’ll probably track it down in the next few days as I double-check the site.

Windows 10 and MSTS

Windows 10 is out, and of course the question to ask is, “Can it still run MSTS, and how well?”

Windows 10 does run MSTS and in fact it runs it quite well!

There are two ways you can begin running MSTS under Win10; one way is to upgrade your current Windows 7 or 8 installation to Windows 10. In that case, everything will simply continue working normally. The other way is to install a fresh copy of Windows 10 and then re-install MSTS, and restore your routes and trains from backup.

Either way, you’ll find that MSTS runs quite well under Windows 10.

Continue Reading…

Route Riter Final Version – 7.6.26

Route Riter has been, and still is, the must-have utility for maintaining an MSTS installation. Mike Simpson, the author, stopped updating it with version 7.6.26.

Another programmer and trainsim hobbyist convinced Mike to release the source code to him for continuing development. In itself, that’s not a bad thing.

Unfortunately, a couple of bad things have subsequently happened.

First, the follow-on version of Route Riter (7.7.x) initially garnered reports of installation problems and bugs.

Second, the programmer who holds the source code became involved in some unpleasant and retaliatory behavior at Elvas Tower and TrainSim. It very nearly caused Elvas Tower to shut down the forums. Since then, accusations have flown, bad behavior has blossomed, and in general a dark cloud has settled over the MSTS/Open Rails world.

Right now, as of the date of this post, the only version of Route Riter that is positively known by the trainsimming community to be reliable, simply through sheer numbers of satisfied users, is version 7.6.26.

The download page for the newer version, not released by Mike Simpson, contains a “Buy Now” link for US $20.00. The download, however is free. The current programmer apologized in a forum post that there was a problem with the web page’s shopping cart function. However, the problem has not been corrected yet.

Version 7.6.26 can be downloaded from Mike Simpson’s website HERE.

If Mike’s website or link ever goes away, the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine has cataloged the download. Here are two working links which will let you download Route Riter 7.6.26:

Link 1, based on the latest version of Mike’s Site: Wayback Machine Link 1

Link 2, based on an older version of the site — which may compose better in your browser: Wayback Machine Link 2

Currently, I can only advise using version 7.6.26. Subsequent versions are NOT authored or supported my Mike Simpson, Route Riter’s original author. Subsequent versions have not been extensively tested in the trainsimming community, and, as such are not widely trusted.

Editorial Note: Route Riter version 7.6.26 and earlier is the work of Mike Simpson and no one else. Any DMCA-related claims pertaining to version 7.6.26 and earlier are solely in Mike Simpson’s hands. No other parties should be allowed to lay any claims to version 7.6.26 or earlier. With respect to version 7.6.26 and earlier, this website does not recognize any DMCA claims from any party other than its creator, Mike Simpson. Rights to subsequent versions may be held by other parties. This post does not link to any subsequent versions. The MSTS Roundhouse does NOT endorse any version of Route Riter beyond 7.6.26.