A concise overview
The software is centered about a powerful database and database manager called the ContentManager.exe which doubles as an FTP download manager over a secure internet link, a three dimensional graphical user interface (GUI) world building tool called Surveyor that allows railroad route construction and a GUI run-time Driver module which lets people enter their own virtual world and 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 sophisticatedsoftware suite most average people will ever possess or touch!
Fortunately, while the early learning curve is daunting, the software is user friendly and there is a bit of help, from the TrainzOnline Wiki to this Wikibook. User knowledge can bloom once the user taps into the excellent .pdf file manuals and the Trainz communities. Over the years, there have been and still are also quite a few Trainz veterans that have put together how-to tutorials pages, and many of those will be featured here with a synopsis and links ahead of our coverage. The new user will find even dated How-To tutorials for Trainz UTC, TRS2004 and TRS2006 still have relevance as the Surveyor and Driver user interfaces have remained very stable and only changed incrementally.
• Do 2-3 chapters in one sitting, then Drive the tutorials, and next do 2-3 chapters more.
• When you see an example, mimic it and experiment. The manuals are all about basic operations and features. They are foundation stones you will do well to master.
• When you've done and got yourself distracted by a fun part of Trainz so you are learning by doing such as we challenge here, start over again at a slow measured pace. When sitting on the 'throne' if by nothing else. By then your experience will reveal new nuggets of information in the manuals text.
• Then repeat a third time. Note the pdf manual for your release is hidden under the installed folder "Extras". No, we don't know why either! But read the 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 railroad 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 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 and CC's—our valued creative content creators.
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, 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 individual members of Yesterdayz Trainz appear in the main Auran/N3V web forum as well as other forums like TPR's and their popular content you'll find is used in many DLS downloadable routes and often built-in content 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 publisher releases 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 are free, 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 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.
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.
Enjoy. If a new user, please proceed down the New User Track for additional guidance.
- 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.