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!

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.

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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.

Java and Route Riter

Mike Simpson’s Route Riter is the go-to utility for both Open Rails and MSTS for checking and fixing rolling stock and route files, plus it has an invaluable set of tools for route builders and a good consist editor. It also includes the TSUtil suite and provides an interface to the TSUtil tools inside the Route Riter interface. TSUtil, however, needs Java to run, and that’s added some extra manual configuration steps to get it working in modern versions of Windows and Java.

The most common problem is that, after installing Route Riter or after taking a Java update with an existing, working Route Riter installation, you get an error when Route Riter Starts that says “You do not have a Java Runtime system” and Route Riter won’t work. It sounds bad, what’s really happening is usually fairly simple to fix.

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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:

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Memory for MSTS – Accessing Memory Space Beyond 2GB

There was an active discussion some time ago on the TrainSim.com forum about a means to increase MSTS performance by increasing the memory space it can access beyond 2GB — the normal limit for a 32-bit application. It is possible, and it can have surprisingly good results, particularly on a computer with limited resources due to the way Windows manages memory.

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Migrating MSTS

In the time I spend on the TrainSim.com forums, I’ve noticed a repeating “theme” of forum members and MSTS users — new and old — discussing the (sometimes daunting) task of migrating an MSTS installation to a new computer or through the process of upgrading the operating system on an existing one. Re-installing MSTS doesn’t have to be the only way to do it; in fact, it’s often far simpler to move or backup/restore MSTS to a new location without re-installing everything from scratch. It does take a bit of careful work and attention to detail, but with some preparation it can be done with a minimum of fuss.

Read on in the Tutorials section for more…

Op-Ed Addition

Newcomers to MSTS arrive in the forums all the time; there seems to be a recent wave of them, which really is a good thing. Unfortunately, not everyone takes time to read directions and tutorials, some post without spelling or grammar checking, feathers get ruffled… Here’s a bit of advice in an open letter to get started with your best foot forward — and not in your mouth!

Read more…

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.)

TSECTION.DAT Heartburn

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