Elvas Tower Clarification…


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.

We’ve Moved! (Again…)


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.

Elvas Tower Forums are All Back

It appears that the frivolous DMCA complaint that was brought against Elvas Tower has in fact fallen apart.

All of the forums appear to be back up in operation once more. This event has had a significant impact on the site, with a huge  outpouring of support from its members. There may still be changes ahead for Elvas Tower — but all will be for the better.

Added Link to Elvas Tower


Added Link to Elvas Tower

After much deliberation, I’ve added a link to Elvas Tower. It’s become more well-known in the trainsim community, particularly for users of Open Rails. It’s more focused than the other well-known forums; it’s populated mostly by content creators and active testers and users of Open Rails. It also has a high standard for courtesy and thoughtful posting. So please, if you visit and wish to participate, do try put your best foot forward.

Windows 8 and MSTS

Windows 8 is here; there’s no getting away from it. And there’s been a lot of discussion about whether MSTS and its associated utilities do or don’t run well on it. First off, one thing has to be said:

Sorry, I can’t support Windows 8 and MSTS on this blog. I run Windows 7 (64-bit) and have no plans to move on to Windows 8. Maybe whatever next operating system Microsoft produces will hold some attraction, but Windows 8 is off the table for me.

So, any references I make to Windows 8 will be based on what I’ve learned in the general MSTS community, but it won’t be from personal experience.

Following is a brief, compiled rundown of what’s most commonly known about MSTS-Windows 8 issues:

Continue Reading…

Introducing ZDSimulator – A technical train simulator from Ukraine

In the past year, there have been several interesting developments in the train sim hobby. The team from 3DTrainStuff brought out Run 8 Train Simulator, which focuses on realistic operation and a multiplayer environment. Open Rails rolled out a new version also including multiplayer capability, and an ongoing series of “experimental” releases which make the current builds of the ongoing beta publically available. RailWorks also revamped their simulator as Train Simulator 2013. But to me, the most intriguing entry has to be a newly created simulator designed for professional use that is being ported into a standalone hobbyist simulator – ZDSimulator.

Continue Reading…

…Aaaand — We’re Back!


It’s been a while! The new host has been stable, and aside from a brief issue with false positives for some sort of spam or adware activity on the host’s domain early last year reported by a couple of TrainSim.com visitors, everything has been running smoothly. You may notice the “Contact” option on the menu now; it’s working as it should. Occasionally, I may open a posting for comments as well as I have a working anti-spam module installed on the site.

Have a great 2013, everyone!

Tsection.dat at Version 44

TSECTION.DAT build 42 caused quite a stir, but ultimately it may well have been worth it. Analysis of build 42 positively identified and publicized some tsection-related issues that had been in existence for a while now. The decision was made to roll back the affected clearances on turnouts and track sections that had been stable through build 38, and only carry forward changes made to objects that were new in tsection builds from 38 forward. This seems to be a “best of both worlds” solution, and should eliminate the need at this point for separate US and UK builds.

You should be able to use build 44 with all routes unless there is a very unique need in a route for a specific tsection variation. During the build 42 debate, I set up Train Store to swap out version-appropriate tsection builds depending on the route being selected. I like this method since it means that any route can be paired with the TSECTION.DAT build it was designed with in the first place. This totally eliminates tsection-based errors with signalling, AI’s and paths. I have yet to test with build 44, but when I do, I’ll post my findings.

TSECTION.DAT build 44 can be downloaded at TrainSim.com and UKTrainsim.com as usual.

(Note: Build 43 does not exist, for all practical purposes. It was released, but syntax errors were discovered and it was superseded by Build 44 within a couple of days. There are no routes that will ever need build 43.)


Just a few days ago, the standardized TSECTION.DAT file was upgraded to Build 42. There have been many conflicting reports that the clearance distances for various points (turnouts) are causing problems with some routes, especially older routes of all kinds and a fair number routes set in the UK. The simplest fix seems to be to use TSECTION.DAT Build 38 in the main MSTS “Global” folder for routes that have issues with Build42. Build 38 also works with a large number of freeware and payware routes, but it’s not “one-size-fits-all” by any means.

How do you know that Build 42 breaks a route? The most common is an “Activity ended – Ignored red signal” message when you pass a green signal on a turnout. If you watch the train pass the signal from outside the cab, you’ll see the signal change from green to red just in front of your locomotive as you pass it. Other issues can be with AI’s; they may get stuck at signals where they didn’t before, or have problems with their paths.

Manually switching out TSECTION.DAT files is a bit of a pain. The must-have utility Train Store can change them out automatically for you once you set up that feature. Train Store can be downloaded TrainSim.com and UKTrainSim.com.

The trickier part is getting a hold of TSECTION.DAT Build 38 itself, but it’s not too hard. The main trainsim sites try to keep only the latest version in their file libraries; normally this would be best practice. If you have older payware routes, some may include Build 38. XTracks version 3.20 includes it. This is the latest version of XTracks in the file libraries of TrainSim.com and UKTrainSim.com. If download XTracks, you should be able to extract it. Just run the installer and point the install location “dummy” empty MSTS folder or temp folder and let it run, then copy the TSECTION.DAT file and uninstall/delete the rest.) Open the TSECTION.DAT file in a text editor and you will see the version given in the header of the file.

For those who aren’t so fortunate as to have a copy of Build 38 on hand or want a quick solution, here is a zipped copy:  TSECTION.DAT Build 38