The Trainz Railway Simulator or Trainz Railroad Simulator is a franchise of successive ever-improving products by Australian Auran/N3V Games conceived and begun in the late 1990s and originally based on model railroading club needs. It is not strictly speaking a video game, but has a vast 'play' capability, with about 2,500 free routes available to copies of registered software, on what is called the ' ' (DLS).
A concise overview
The software is centered about a powerful database and database manager—called ContentManager.exe which doubles as a FTP download manager over a secure internet link, a three dimensional GUI world building tool (Surveyor) that allows Virtual World and Model Railroad constructing and a GUI run-time Driver module which lets people enter their own virtual world and, what else, operate realistically modeled trains. You don't have to be a bona-fide railroad enthusiast to enjoy Trainz, but it helps you to get started, for Trainz is likely to be the most complicated and 'sophisticated' software suite most average people will ever possess or touch! Fortunately, while the early learning curve is daunting, the software is user friendly once the user taps into the excellent .pdf file manuals.
As an aid to beginners and for those developing new routes, Trainz has a simplified driving mode called DCC, which provides a 'virtual dial' for train direction and speed, much as many users would be familiar with when operating home model rail road sets. The realistic CAB mode models real world trains' physics requiring much more planning ahead since controls have delays and friction forces are realistic — with steel wheels on steel rails one does not stop nor start a heavy train on a dime! — and both physics models do incorporate the extra mass of train-car loads into the mix of behavioral effects (although the effects are just far milder with DCC mode when driving a heavy coal train loaded to the gills).
The software system is extensible and flexible. For example, one can have a Trainz world where one only drives boats and ships, never seeing a railway! Similarly, many Trainzers have tricked out automobiles to cruise their layouts' road ways, and there is an odd airplane or two flying the skies at the whim of the layout designers.
The Trainz world is one in which each version's 'content', including that you make especially for yourself, is upgradable to the next improved version. At the same time the creative efforts of legions of Trainzers who have collaboratively built up a freeware library of over 280,000 'assets' available to become 'content' on a route (layout). In Trainz-speak, an asset is a library item available on the DLS and/or locally where it is prepped and filed away by Content Manager and is available to the GUI modules—if and when used and placed in a 'container', it becomes 'content'. The biggest container in that hierarchy is a route, which in the physical Model Railroad milieu, is called a layout; a term which is used interchangeably in the Trainz milieu, which is frequently spoken of as 'V-scale Model Railroading', for 'Virtual scale'.
The product entered development in 1997 and reached Beta testing as Trainz V0.9 in 2000 and was at that time bundled with the Gmax 3D modeling software. The Beta test version was circulated among model railroad clubs primarily in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, who cheerfully leaned into the challenge and created much of the original routes and content aided with the expertise of Auran developers. From the start, Trainz has been a vibrant online community, and still is. Like any large community, the Trainz community has sub-communities, which offer members an environment of philosophical togetherness and collaborative co-operation. Most of these sub-groups have their own forums, icons, logos, and names. The user will see notable user groups such as Blue Sky Interactive, Cardiff Workshops, HP-Trainz, JointedRail, Narrowgauge, Razorback-Railway, Trainzproroutes, Trainzland, Zatovisualworks—some of which offer professional-grade Trainz Payware, and some have become N3V/Auran partners, providing high quality new routes in various new releases. These and newer organizations like Yesterdayz Trainz appear in the main Auran/N3V web forum and all over the place in DLS content and routes included with the different Trainz versions. They stand apart from the greater Trainz community only in the way an organ is distinguishable from the body, they are an important part of the culture, and the fruits of their collaborations are the heart and soul of the best Trainz has to offer.
Like many major software systems, the Trainz programmers release Service packs (SP) which combine bug fixes and release of new features within one version of Trainz. In the corporate world there is usually an IT consultant or in-house staff available to manage these upgrades, but in the Trainz world - one occupied by private users - you will have to act as your own IT department. Fortunately the community will give you quite a bit of help. It is almost a certainty that anything you experience will be an experience many have had and solved before you.
Service Packs in Trainz Big Blue Screen of Death (BBSoD). A similar bug-hunting experience (without the BBSoDs!) has been ongoing with the new technologies in TS2012, which includes Speedtree tech, but whereas TRS2004 become iconic and was put on a pedestal after the release of SP4, and TRS2006 had similar eminence (some hardcore devotees are just now switching up to newer versions in mid-2013!) the newest Trainz simulator is still experiencing minor teething troubles, having bitten into the promising world of multi-core microprocessors, 64 bit processing and advanced graphics cards. It is however, unlikely a new user will be as critical or even notice many of the nits the Trainz tried-and-true power users are cataloging. The developers record for dealing with such is excellent and there is every reason to believe they will overcome the sometimes raucous and demanding voices of complaint on the forums at Auran.com., which is not always the case in equally powerful commercial database products. The scenario editor tool in Trainz SP3 modified the game so much that many Trainzers consider it a second major release. The tool was continued in the line's second major release, the 2003 release of the classic and best selling TRS2004. Many Trainzers have forgotten that that version had its initial share of bugs and even the occasional
Trainz 2004 was radically different from Trainz 1.0-1.3 in many important ways, yet enabled importing content (route maps, world making things like buildings, trees, miniature people, and even animals) from versions Trainz 1.0-1.3 (sometimes named TRS2001 or Trainz 2001), as is the case with all Trainz content - it can be imported, albeit at times needing some minor tweaks in the process. Trainz 2006 made similar strides, was perhaps more popular and in introducing the unified ContentManager with its combined upload/download and database management functions, stabilized Trainz into modes and forms of operations readily recognizable in today's versions. Versions since have improved upon that, and TS2009 made great strides in adding features to surveyor, justly earning the moniker, World Builder Edition.
Consequently, the list of available assets with which to unleash one's individual creativity just continues to grow, and a version tracking and control system can match the needs of a die-hard TRS2004 or TRS2006 devotee, as well as support an upgraded version suitable for TRS2009, TRS2010, or TRS2012. Taking new assets and even some routes and reverting changes in order to make them compatible with older versions is also possible, but more difficult.
The manual released as a PDF file with Trainz 2006 was so good that it is still published as the definitive Trainz operating manual for later versions, with updates to indicate the newer features. The Content Creation Manual from 2006 is a similar stalwart reference on how to make things in and for Trainz, but is now augmented by an online Wiki , accessible even from within Trainz operating environments. The Trainz Wiki reference pages, when different from the PDF manuals are the definitive word on the latest changes to asset definition and operation, although they do not always reflect the latest changes. When an asset has upgrading problems to a new version, the Trainz Wiki specifications of the technology generally show the way the advancing technology requires a new definition, or has superceded an old method. The technology changes listed therein are directly updated on the Trainz Wiki by the programmers and others.
As a consequence, Trainz is the oldest, most successful and flexible series of ever-improving computer simulators for running a realistically modeled 3D virtual reality world and interacting with the locomotives and interactive railway industries which are the focus of the series. There have been several simulators with better graphics engines, among them industry software giant Microsoft, but none with the staying power and huge library of user created content free to all registered users.
Releases and Versions
Each new retail release (a year coded name like TRS2006,TS2010, and now TS12) has usually included some new routes (usually in a partnership arrangement from one of the major user groups noted above) as well as re-validated  such possible extensions (assets) to one's virtual worlds, for free!(including older 'standard' routes bundled on many releases) for the new retail 'base version'. Such world building assets are the focus of many a talented content creator whose knowledge of graphics and painstaking dedication produce marvelous three dimensional self-defining graphical objects such as train cars (rolling stock), locomotives, interactive industries, scenery industries and other buildings, road and water transport vehicles (with visible traffic), landscaping scenery, animals, airports, track-side objects or other landscape assets such as telephone poles, road signs, billboards, interactive docks, cranes, railroad crossings at and for the new tech level in the new release/version. All assets in Trainz, including routes have a and a technology level tracking number called the . Trainz corporate website enables access to about 280,000
As each Trainz release is upgraded by a Service pack the 'Trainz Version' incrementally increases in lock step, and assets created for that technology capability are tagged with a Trainz-build tag number matching the Version number. The one refers to installed run time software technology—which also has an more exacting 'code build number' which uniquely identifies the version and increments with any specific patches the user has added, so is a bit more refined, while the Trainz-build tag refers to an assets base technology level like the base version number. The three correspond in lockstep, with the code build number being more focused and refined, so used in bug reports. Typically these upgrades extend incrementally the graphics delivery and abilities of the Trainz virtual worlds, and many service packs also extend capabilities by adding user requested feature improvements. In a very real sense, today's and tomorrow's Trainz versions are an invention of the vibrant on-line community joint effort and devotion.
Both the N3V 'Trainz Wiki and the web forum actively request features from users and offer a programmer-developer two way communications channel to and from the user base. This like the decision to focus the products on a less demanding video technology level is a philosophical and deliberate policy on the developers and company's part—Trainz is not and likely never will be a software system aimed at the newest or latest-greatest computer technologies and video cards—in stark contrast to the interactive demanding technologies needed for high end video gaming—but one written for and carefully targeting the average computer system capabilities retailed several years ago, thus spreading their market to the common folk who can't throw money away upgrading to the newest and expensive fads in computing. Put another way, once you put a version of Trainz on a computer that runs it comfortably, you have a lot of reason to keep the machine without replacing it for a long, long time. With a capable machine, the next version or two may also run fine, but you will likely benefit after half-a-decade by upgrading the old video card to one with more on card processing and memory. The new SpeedTree and Level of detail (an adjustment decreasing graphics rendering needs at longer Length of distances viewed) technologies are deliberately designed to both increase computational speed (they off load their drawing tasks off of your main Computer microprocessor (CPU) onto the optimized-for-graphics co-processors on today's video cards) and diminish computational loading, whether it be for Trainz or Hollywood. This graphics mode is the wave of the future now bearing fruit in computer gaming and simulations, feeding today's generation of high definition monitors or televisions.
An operational overview
In the simulator's run time environments (called 'Driver') the simulator is in 'play mode' and so might be confused with a mere computer game. Driver is the module which runs the virtual world and lets you travel through a 3D manifestation, a scenario or problem is known as a 'Session'', most being designed to play until finished in one sitting, 'a session' of playing railroad engineer. However in a full Trainz install (Some game like driving only versions have been published, including those for newer cell phone operating systems) you can become the world creator and alter and adjust the game play mode and the world content to add or subtract from the driving experience.
World building itself is fun, and perhaps the most addictive feature of the game, aside from creating your own 3D content, which again is engrossingly rewarding. For example, for a first foray into the world building module Surveyor, a new user might choose to extend and expand on one of the bundled Driver (game play) sessions to change the end conditions and scoring such that a long freight haul to a schedule scenario is morphed into one which also requires one to break down the train's consist (various connected cars) and deliver them to certain local industries outside the railyard which was the original session's destination (the stopping point of the original session). The next trial in surveyor might find one adding an industry off a new siding, adding consists and locomotives, and exploring the logic of the command sequences which define how a session operates. The important thing to realize is every new thing can be tackled in your own good time on a schedule of your choosing, with no pressure from your boss, and everything is sensible and your knowledge of things which at first look seem arcane and mysterious will become logical and commonplace in short order. The only requirement is a willingness to break things (experiment)—even failures have a reward, as now you know one thing which will not work!
This is possible as Trainz won't allow the new user to overwrite the stock content of ten-to-twelve railroads that are the part of each release in the series, and each of those will have one to six game playing scenarios, or 'Driver sessions' in Trainz-speak, that are also protected—so Trainz automatically clones such content giving the new user a private, single user, modified version which is equally playable. Similarly, when instead the new user attempts to change the Trainz Route (virtual world, or layout in Model Railroading), the system will then clone the original to make a private copy and the Session, so one can explore the benefits of such a world change immediately.
Trainz is thus extensible immediately and each release bundles a little bit of Railroad Enthusiast Created and debugged content in the release. It differs from the competing products in it's facility to create or alter a layout at will, and for-pay expansions are just as, if not more so available for Trainz, whereas such competing products require for-pay purchases to add in.
Content expansion has then one important difference and that is most content is end-user created by people that take pride in their work and most of the time keep it updated, and it's mostly free, so when a Trainzer sets the system aside for their own good reasons (job, family), dies or, becomes infirm or, is otherwise unable or unwilling to contribute further, we in the greater community continue his or her legacy in such cases. The majority of this content is Freeware (though sometimes the licensing is restricted*) after all and hosted on a central server where it is easy to find; if there are a few things which are a bit dated, we all got what we paid for and expecting perfection when paying nothing is foolish—more so, for we also all get that good start that a little update fix will make current, so griping about it is just plain silly if something is out of date and a tech level or two behind. It was free. This book will also guide you in such little fix-ups.
* Technically all content is copyrighted, but shared under a copy forward licensing arrangement similar to the GNU copy forward license or such similar licenses as content archived on the Wikimedia Foundation's Wikibook. The common license in Trainz is the asset must attribute the original creator when changed, and may not be used for commercial gain. This is very much true of all these similar licensing modes., or for that fact, this
How to proceed
The intent of this book is to guide you in various aspects of the many simulator learning curves. This is from the outside, a complicated package, but one which is easy to master step by step. Content creation is a foray into 3D modeling and another stage of growth and learning only tackled once one becomes familiar with the basic system, the web sites, and has some fun driving and world building. This part of the book is a general reference, and can be checked with and against advice received on the web boards, for many tips herein originate there and are vetted for relevancy and clarity.
The basic requirements are a computer with a separate relatively up-to-date graphics card and drivers but because much of the content is end user created and some is more computer friendly than others no matter how fast your computer is a content creator who doesn't think in terms of performance can sometime seem to bring it to its knees. When a software asset (a route and session, in this case) runs roughly and sometimes staggers, this is a likely cause.
A major source of information is theand in particular new users should read . At this point the book becomes like a railyard, with several diverging tracks. There is the general reference branch, which also details information by retail release names (Trainz 1.x, TRS2004 and UTC, TRS2006 and the Trainz Classics, TRS2009, TRS2010 and TRS2012).
On content creation
If you are new to creating content then please pay careful attention to new assets being made available in the community, and bear in mind that many users see nice features on the greater body of other users' work such as Level of Detail (LoD), working animated couplings (more applicable to UK items), shadows, visible loads, visible bulk loads, animated loading and unloading, changeable loco / wagon numbers and specular lighting and will expect to see them on yours. Yes many older assets on the Download Station do not have these features, but these are increasingly unused. Even simple scenery buildings these days will frequently have a smoking chimney and night mode lighting, may be available in several versions (Base house, house + garage, house+garage+breezeway/patio between, and perhaps various colors or siding looks etcetera). By connecting yourself up with one or more content focused open-to-new-member user groups like or you are not only going to find people that will happily give you tips and instruction, but masters who can help you learn the many steps of creating 3D assets to professional standards levels—people that will then urge you on when ready to upload something to the bigger stage of the Download Station.
Enjoy. If a new user, please proceed down the New User Track for additional guidance.
- As of July 2013 there were 2,485 routes on the Download Station; the actual count is higher because many routes appear in different versions.
- As of July 2013 there were about 280,000 assets on the Download Station, ranging from build 1.3 to build 3.7. However, this includes multiple versions of many assets.
- About 280,000 assets were listed on the Download Station in July 2013, including about 3,000 routes. However, many of these are different versions of the same asset. Also, some older assets will not work properly in newer versions of the simulator, and some assets are for use only within the game engine, so the actual count available for the user to access is somewhat less - about 220,000.