Model Railroadz

I bought the first version of Trainz so that I could make an electronic version of my model railroad. Soon after, I discovered how to make my own models to use in Trainz, so started doing a few of my model railroad structures. These are some that have been converted into Trainz, Weimer’s Mill and an Ice Stage, and the real train room for the Gesim Valley Railroad:

By its nature, a model railroad is limited in the available space and is usually quite crowded with track and uses sharply curved track. While I believe Trainz can be useful in planning a model railroad, in converting my track layout to Trainz, there were some limitations in doing a correctly scaled layout:

  • there were no fixed radius curves available, though most models would use transitions  for the curves anyway – it is not difficult to make the flexitrack conform to a curved shape, and transitions are automatic;
  • the 10 metre grid made it very difficult to create steep cliffs, especially where adjacent tracks were on different elevations;
  • the dighole created at the tunnel portals, and the fact that the tunnel entrance can be only be aligned at 90 or 45 degrees to the grid are severe limitations.

At the time, I lost interest in overcoming the “challenges”.  In recent editions of the simulator, Trainz has introduced a 5 metre grid, but the tunnel limitations remain. Nevertheless, some Trainz users have embarked on what they call Model Railroadz, choosing a model scale, say HO, them making assets 87 times larger to be used to construct a train room, these include walls, doors, ceilings floors, and other items. You can use any model available from the Download Station in your layout, only the features for the room itself have to be constructed to the larger size, 87 times for HO scale.

The posts on the forum show a number of very believable model railroad rooms and layouts – the Model Railroadz concept is explained here:

Model Railroadz Trainz Forum

I have been intrigued by this concept, and have again restarted constructing my model layout in Trainz, the Gesim Valley Railroad. This page will show the progress and discuss the issues that arise and hopefully get solved, and give some idea on how to go about this project. I assume you have a basic concept of how to use Trainz, and the various tools and Menus. For a successful project you should be able to make your own model to suit, using Max, gmax or Blender, otherwise you will be limited to what is available from others. I made a decision to make as many model for myself for this project, and generally I have prefixed their names with MRZ (for Model Railroadz) so they are grouped in the Trainz  menus and easy to find. I use Paint Shop Pro for making textures, sometimes Photoshop (easier for alpha channels), and 3dsMax for meshes.

The Project, Where Do We Start?

Choose a scale for Trainz to use, say HO which is 3.5mm track gauge, or 1/87 of real life.

Draw a track plan that will fit the available space, or like mine, convert an existing layout into a plan, so that you can get the dimensions correct in Trainz. Of course a little latitude is allowed, and even necessary to overcome the limitations of Trainz (portals and cliff angles). I had already drawn up a plan on graph paper long ago, so scanned it int0 the computer. While I had made changes to the layout since drawing the plan, it was a good start, and can be used as a template.

Work out the scale of the drawing, knowing a particular dimension on the drawing, a table width in metres for instance, calculate in Paint Shop how many pixels of the drawing match that width. Divide the pixels by that width to give so many pixels per metre. For the scanned image, I can then work out the overall dimensions of the image  in pixels, then convert to metres. This image will be used as a template for the track and table dimensions in Trainz, convert it to 2048 by 2048 (maximum image size) and save as a tga file.

In 3dsmax, make a plane 0.1 metres above the ground, now while the actual size is 6.13 metres by 6.39 metres to suit the scaled drawing, it has to be made 87 times that, so make it 533.3 metres by 555.93 metres and texture and map it with the tga file. It is useful to be able to see through the image in Trainz, so you could make the opacity in Max say 60%.  However, the white areas would be milky and hide things. You can make an alpha channel for the image (or separate bmp file to use in Max as the opacity file) that will eliminate the white and make the map translucent – this image uses black behind the white area and a grey behind the map.

Make a Trainz scenery asset, and export the model to that. Make sure you include an adjust height tag in the config file. I will eventually make my models available from the Download Station, or for this one as an example, a direct download from my website.

Starting in Trainz

You should think carefully before you go too far in Trainz as to what objects should be used first, and try to use layers for different objects, this way you can lock any layer and not accidentally move an object. Even so, the template often stops you from “picking” an object in a lower layer. Make sure you are on the correct layer when placing objects:

  • place the room objects on one layer (walls, floor, cabinets, doors, ceiling etc, I used the second layer and called it “walls” ;
  • do all your scenery on the route base layer
  • place the map template on another layer “template”;
  • use another layer for the track “track”;
  • make another layer for the backdrops you will use, for the sky I called it “sky”;
  • I made yet another layer for the scenery backdrops, those with mountains and trees – you will find that these have to be placed very near to the sky backdrop, and it is near impossible to adjust the correct backdrop unless they are on separate layers;
  • Finally, make sure you lock all the layers you do not want to move, and work on the correct layer.

There are two ways to get the difference in height, from the floor to the table:

  • the grid is the starting point, you can use digholes to delete the grid in the walkaround space around the table area; or
  • you can lower the ground in the walk around area – even with the 5 metres grid in use, it is hard to disguise the steep sloping cliff around the table, and requires a curtain to hide the “cliff”.

For the project, I make use of digholes, these are not always easy to use with beveled table edges, (you need to cover the jagged holes along the bevel with a ground spline) and deleting or moving the dighole can be an issue. I have made my own digholes, better suited to the large sizes needed, and with a cross mark in the center so it can be easily selected, moved or deleted. I believe the size limit is a maximum dighole about 6 by 6 grid squares (60 metres square) – rectangular ones are useful.

Making the Table

  • add grids to the base grid to cover the whole room area, and make and name the required layers;
  • place the map template asset in its correct layer, as it was made 0.1 metres above the ground in Max, it should not flicker, and it should be see through if you used an Alpha channel;
  • adjust its position to suit, and lock the template layer;
  • using digholes cut out the “wasted” baseboards – try to use a dighole that is easy to place and move, and especially to find the center of each dighole “later” so you can adjust them. You can over lap them.

The blue area is the digholes and the map template shows on the remaining baseboard where the track will be laid. You can see the room set up with models of the panel I use, the overhead diagram, the walls, ceiling, lights, carpet floor, and wall pictures –  all large models made especially for this project. The models have night lighting.

Making the Room

The models I made for my room are:

  • light brick walls, known as Marino Cream colour, a scenery object 360 metres long and 300 metres high;
  • carpet tile floor spline, 50 metres wide;
  • ceiling spline, I have a white coolite suspended ceiling in the train room;
  • scenery models include, a door, pictures for the walls, and overhead fluorescent light fixtures;
  • the room furniture includes control panel, power cabinet, fast clock, and overhead track layout diagram panel, these have night lighting as you see in the picture above.

Work on the “wall” layer. Select the oversize walls you wish to use and place and rotate on its correct layer it to suit the room. Lower the height to what will be the floor height, mine is -65 metres, to suit my model table height.

Find the spline model for your floor, there are tiles or timber floors available in the large sizes, I made my carpet floor in Max and placed adjacent splines at -65 metres to cover the whole room area.

Place the furniture, cabinets, doors etc to suit. When finished lock the layer so it does not get moved later.

Working on the Train Table

You will need a spline to do the table edges, I have made a timber grain edge 10 metres high that can be placed around the edges. Make sure you hold down the Shift key when starting a new spline at right angles to the end of a spline already placed, or they will join and form a curve. There are curtain splines available if you choose to cover the height to the floor. You will need some legs to support the table. One model available is a trackside object, you lay an invisible track around the table edges, and then attach the legs to that track.

Laying Track

You may lay the track and adjust the ground level later, or if you know one part of the table is generally higher then the other you can raise the ground to suit first. Choose the track asset you wish to use and using the map template place track and junctions to match, just lay the track correctly, making tunnel and elevation changes later. You may be surprised at how sharp the curves actually are in a model railroad, put in as many spline nodes as need to follow the template, and then remove some of them later to smooth out the curves.

While you can use track grades it is best if you can keep the track level where there is only a small elevation difference in your real model railroad, it can become hard to raise the ground under the track to the correct grade later, without effecting adjacent tracks.

Placing Portals

Tunnel portals create a dighole that is hard to disguise – if you make for instance a rock tunnel entrance large enough it can interfere with adjacent portals. The dighole forms slopes at 45 degrees and uses a full 10 metres grid square, the 5 metres grid choice does not help here. The ground cannot be raised near the entrance to cover the portal top. I have made my own tunnels, and used some special scenery objects, textured to match the ground colours, to place on the top of the portal. This is the tripple portal, the single portal using the scenery objects, and matching wall splines, and finally using foliage to hide the entrance cliffs and top.

Models

While I have been making mostly aircraft models for Tranz over the last year or so, I do have a number of models for general use, ships, industry items, scenery models etc. I am trying to use mostly my models so they mirror those used on the model railroad, and need to construct a few more to suit. General models for Trainz will have the usual usernames, but any such as walls, ceiling, cabinets and similar that have to be constructed to suit the room size, 87 times larger than those for the HO track scale, will be designated by the prefix MRZ for Model Railroadz, they will also have the scale (HO) used in the name to distinguish the size, for example, MRZ Light Brick Wall, HO scale.

While there are many assets available on the Down Load Station, I was having problems finding some to suit. The sheep and cattle by Dinorius Redundicus are excellent, but I was not happy with the Auran horses, so made my own. I had made a stockyard spline a long time ago, so used that as a basis to create industry stockyard models to suit my layout. As you know, if you use the water in Surveyor and wish to have it on different levels, the two bodies of water must be separated by one grid square, not always possible.

I have made a water surface as a scenery item, it can be height adjusted and is animated to give the impression the water is not still. I have included a number of different texture colours in the model, that can be swapped using the config file. I could not find any common bull rushes to place in the pond, so made some animated ones that sway in the breeze.

Coaling Facilities

The mine delivers the coal to the coal cars as a moving load, the train passing below the hopper to load. The coal tower has two tracks for accepting coal and then to deliver it using the animated chutes. The waste is delivered to the surface using the animated pit head model and dump hopper.

Control Panel

I acquired an ICL Main Frame computer, one of the originals. This provided wiring, switches, power supplies and cabinets that I could use for the model railroad. The main control panel is a desk that was once a computer punch card machine, very useful. The power supplies are still housed in the original ICL cabinet. These are the models of the equipment in Trainz, the control panel has a linear track diagram, and an overhead panel has a more diagramatic display of the track layout. I also include a picture of the wiring behind the panel for the real model railroad. At least we do not have to provide the wiring in Trainz!

Backdrops

I made a series of 12 joining river backdrops some years ago, and these are handy for the layout, but I will be updating the quality of the tree to sky interface. I also decided to make some sky backdrops with clouds, I find 90 and 180 metres long models work well, using 45 metres high is suitable, and include a 90 degree corner model. Of course they can be rotated, are double sided and height adjustable.

Container Yard

The container yard is not industry interactive at the minute, I need to investigate if it is worth while making it unload trains and load the container ships. I find my very old model of the container ship (and the animated container crane) is too large for the space, so will have to make a smaller ones to suit. I have made a ship model for the model railroad, it may be seen in the third picture of this article, mounted on the wall, so I can work in the isle space around the layout. Perhaps this one would make a suitable model to use in Trainz.

Logging Camp and Flying Fox

The logging camp includes a loading station for logs (I have made some to suit) and an operating flying fox to deliver logs from the top of the mountain.  It uses my donkey engine I built as part of the pile driver model some time ago, I have separated out the donkey engine as a new model.

Classification Yard and Turntable

I am trying to mirror the actual layout of track in the model railroad, being short of space for most model layouts, it always appears crowded with sharp track curvature, nevertheless, I may use some creative latitude to make it look reasonable. I am currently using the Auran Oak track, but finding the segment length too long to make good looking sharp curves. For the diamond crossing, I have made a fixed track object to match the Auran Oak track (I made the fixed track junctions originally included in TRS 2006 when I worked for Auran, my username at Auran was Spock2006).

The turntable is a cut down version of my Sante Fe 120 foot table, while I have not included any night lighting yet, I find it easy to place my ground spot lights inside the building. I tried to use some tower yard lighting, but found the very large ground lighting effect made it hard to see the ground detail, so I have made my own light towers with only a light beam effect on the light themselves. There are one, two, and three light head towers, the single light is 9 metres high and the others are 15 metres.

Bridges

The route requires a number of bridges, the main bridge is a steel truss, and various timber trusses and trestles have been made.

Other Models

These include the welding works, with welding flashes and fire effects, and the water tower for servicing steam locomotives. Ma Barker was the subject of an animated model years ago, she was hanging out the washing – a bit of fun, every time she put something on the line, it would blow away. I have made her guest house in Trainz.

The new updated Weimer’s Mill, Tresco Station and the Produce Supplies, and older model available, now made into a multi Industry:

to be continued ……….

Kuid List of My Models Created for the Project

ROOM MODELS
MRZ Light Brick Wall, HO scale  kuid2:60238:90000:1
MRZ Carpet Floor Spline  kuid2:60238:90029:1
MRZ Ceiling 100m wide, HO scale  kuid2:60238:90010:1
MRZ Entrance Door  kuid2:60238:90012:1
MRZ Table Leg Grey  kuid2:60238:90013:1
MRZ Table Edge Timber Grain, HO scale  kuid2:60238:90014:1
MRZ Picture 1  kuid2:60238:90009:1
MRZ Overhead Fluoro Light  kuid2:60238:90011:1
MRZ Overhead Panel  kuid2:60238:90004:1
MRZ Fast CLock HO Scale  kuid2:60238:90035:1
MRZ Gesim Valley Map 2  kuid2:60238:12050:1
MRZ Power Cabinet  kuid2:60238:12015:1
MRZ Main Control Panel  kuid2:60238:90005:1

 

BUILDING MODELS
Weimer’s Mill New  kuid2:60238:90038:1
Timber Howe Truss Bridge 1  kuid2:60238:90037:1
Steel Truss Bridge 1  kuid2:60238:90027:1
Dighole 60m by 60m  kuid2:60238:90001:1
Dighole 100m by 20m EW  kuid2:60238:90003:1
Dighole 100m by 20m NS  kuid2:60238:90002:1
Cliff 1-20H  kuid2:60238:90016:1
Cliff 1-30H  kuid2:60238:90017:1
Cliff 2-20H  kuid2:60238:90025:1
Ground Spline for Cliff 1  kuid2:60238:90018:1
Tunnel 1 Single  kuid2:60238:90028:1
Tunnel 2 Double  kuid2:60238:90031:1
Tunnel 3 Double Narrow  kuid2:60238:90036:1
Tunnel Bore Double  kuid2:60238:90033:1
Tunnel Bore Single  kuid2:60238:90032:1
Timber Bridge 1  kuid2:60238:90037:1
Timber Trestle  kuid2:60238:90039:1
Stone Arch Bridge  kuid2:60238:90040:1
Donkey Engine  kuid2:60238:90042:1
Timber Truss Bridge 2  kuid2:60238:90043:1
Timber Truss Spline  kuid2:60238:90045:1
The Grove Station  kuid2:60238:90052:1
Stockyard 1  kuid2:60238:90053:1
Stockyard 2  kuid2:60238:90047:1
Stockyard Empty  kuid2:60238:90058:1
Welding Works  kuid2:60238:90054:1
Welder  kuid2:60238:90056:1
Water Trough  kuid2:60238:90064:1
Farm Gate Closed  kuid2:60238:90065:1
Farm Gate Open  kuid2:60238:90066:1
Finlay Turntable  kuid2:60238:90067:1
Logging Flying Fox  kuid2:60238:90068:1
Tunnel Mine Entrance  kuid2:60238:90070:1
Log Pile 1  kuid2:60238:90071:1
Log Pile 2  kuid2:60238:90072:1
Log Pile 3  kuid2:60238:90073:1
Logging Station  kuid2:60238:90074:1
Cliff Face 1 in 10 slope  kuid2:60238:90051:1
Turntable Ground Texture  kuid2:60238:90069:1
Ice Stage Industry  kuid2:60238:90076:1
Produce Supplies  kuid2:60238:90076:1
Water Tank  kuid2:60238:90085:1
Ma Barker Guest House  kuid2:60238:90087:1
Tresco Station  kuid2:60238:90088:1
Coal Tower 2  kuid2:60238:90090:1
Coal Mine 1  kuid2:60238:90091:1
Coal Mine Hoist House  kuid2:60238:90092:1

 

TRAINCAR MODELS and PRODUCT
Logging Car Standard Gauge  kuid2:60238:9596:1
Large Log Product 7 metres  kuid2:60238:70075:1
Fixed Track Diamond 20 degrees  kuid2:60238:90084:1

 

SCENERY MODELS and OTHER       
Cactus 1  kuid2:60238:90020:1
Cactus 2  kuid2:60238:90021:1
Cactus 3  kuid2:60238:90022:1
Cactus 4  kuid2:60238:90023:1
Horse 1  kuid2:60238:90059:1
Horse 2  kuid2:60238:90060:1
Horse 3  kuid2:60238:90061:1
Horse 4  kuid2:60238:90062:1
Horse Sam  kuid2:60238:90063:1
Farm Gate Shut  kuid2:60238:90065:1
Farm Gate Open  kuid2:60238:90066:1
Pond Water Surface  kuid2:60238:90077:1
Bull Rushes 1  kuid2:60238:90078:1
Bull Rushes 2 animated  kuid2:60238:90079:1
Light Tower 1 light  kuid2:60238:90081:1
Light Tower 2 Lights  kuid2:60238:90082:1
Light Tower 3 Lights  kuid2:60238:90083:1
Water Product  kuid2:60238:90086:1

Models are not yet released.