A locomotive driving simulator of a China Railways HXD3B electric locomotive, produced by CNR Dalian and Southwest Jiaotong University
A locomotive driving simulator of a China Railways HXD3B electric locomotive, produced by CNR Dalian and Southwest Jiaotong University

A train simulator (also railroad simulator or railway simulator) is a computer based simulation of rail transport operations. They are generally large complicated software packages modeling a 3D virtual reality world implemented both as commercial trainers, and consumer computer game software with 'play modes' which lets the user interact by stepping inside the virtual world. Because of the near view modeling, often at speed, train simulator software is generally far more complicated and difficult software to write and implement than flight simulator programs.

Industrial train simulations

A Ferrocarriles Argentinos Railway Simulator.
A Ferrocarriles Argentinos Railway Simulator.

Like flight simulators, train simulators have been produced for railway training purposes. Driver simulators include those produced by:

Signaller training simulators have been developed by Funkwerk in Germany,[8][9] The Railway Engineering Company (TRE) in the UK,[10][11] OpenTrack Railway Technology in Switzerland,[12][13] and PS Technology in the US.[14]

Types of train simulators

There are various types of train driving simulators that are adapted to varying training needs and can be combined to meet operators' training needs in the most efficient way.

Full-cabin simulators

Similarly to flight simulators, train simulators can be a replica of a full driving cabin, on a one-to-one scale. This type of simulator is opted for when a train operator needs an immersive training tool for particularly effective training sessions.

Intermediate, more compact simulators

Certain simulators can uphold a certain level of immersion while optimising the space of a training room. When a certain balance between immersion and scalability is needed, this type of simulator is chosen by instructors.

Portable simulators

When a train operator has various training centres, it is sometimes easier and more logical to invest in smaller simulators that can be transported from one centre to another. The company Transurb Simulation was the first to propose such a tool, which has now been adopted by many operators around the world and is becoming of a growing interest for smaller operators.

Consumer train simulation

There are two broad categories of train simulation video games: driving simulation and strategy simulation.

Driving simulation

Train driving simulation games usually allow a user to have a "driver's view" from the locomotive's cab and operate realistic cab controls such as throttle, brake valve, sand, horn and whistle, lights etc.

Train driving simulation software includes:

The PC game 3D Ultra Lionel Traintown, amongst some others, give a different experience to driving, by being in a 3rd person omniscient perspective, controlling the trains from a bird's eye view.

Peripherals specifically designed for use with driving simulations include RailDriver by US manufacturer P.I. Engineering. RailDriver is a programmable desktop cab controller with throttle, brake lever and switches designed to work with Trainz, TrainMaster, Microsoft Train Simulator and Rail Simulator.[22]

Strategy simulation

Railroad-themed strategy simulation video games are focused mostly on the economic part of the railroad industry rather than on technical detail. The A-Train series (1985 to present) is an early example. Chris Sawyer's Transport Tycoon (1994) was an influential game in this genre,[23] spawning remakes such as Simutrans (1999 to present), OpenTTD (2004 to present) and Sawyer's own Locomotion (2004). Sid Meier designed two railroad simulations: Railroad Tycoon (1990) and Railroads! (2006). The Railroad Tycoon series itself inspired other rail games such as Rails Across America (2001).[24]

Other genres

Some rail simulation games focus on railway signalling rather than economics. Examples include The Train Game (1983), SimSig (donationware) and Train Dispatcher

Design Your Own Railroad (1990) allows players to design railroads and play simulations on their designs.

JBSS BAHN (shareware) focuses on simulating a complex railroad lay out.

PC-Rail Software have nearly 90 different signalling simulations, mostly based on UK locations.


Train simulators are popular in Japan, where rail transport is the primary form of travel for most citizens.[25] Train video games have been developed in Japan since the early 1980s, with Sega's arcade action game Super Locomotive (1982) being an early example, before more realistic train simulators emerged, such as Ongakukan's Train Simulator series (1995 debut) and Taito's Densha de Go series (1996 debut),[25] as well as train business simulations such as the A-Train series (1985 debut).[26]

One of the first commercially available train simulators was Southern Belle, released in 1985. The game simulated a journey of the Southern Belle steam passenger train from London Victoria to Brighton, while at the same time the player must comply with speed limits, not to go too fast on curves and keep to the schedule. It was followed with Evening Star in 1987.

While commercial trainers on mini-computer systems had a longer history, the first two mass-market English 'computer game' railway simulators, Microsoft Train Simulator and Trainz, arrived within a few months of one another in 2001 and could run on Intel 80386 microprocessor based systems.

Before that, already in 1996, the free BVE was available to the public. Later on, the Open BVE, a free and open source project, was developed and re-written from scratch.

Some, like the wide-market release, Microsoft Train Simulator (MSTS), are written and modeled for the user mainly interested in driving. Others, like MSTS's principle rival, Trainz, were aimed initially primarily at the rail enthusiast-hobbyist markets, supporting features making it possible to build a virtual railroad of one's dreams. Accordingly, for four years Trainz releases bundled a free copy of Gmax digital model building software on each CD-ROM, hosted an asset swap website (Trainz Exchange, later the Trainz Download Station), encouraged user participation and dialog with an active forum, and took pains to publish in-depth how-to model guidelines and specifications with its releases.

Several other later challengers as well as Trainz (with a series of upgrades) soon matched or eclipsed MSTS's driving experiences one way or another. Railsim, actually a successor using the MSTS game engine upped the challenge to the aging MSTS by adding much improved graphics, so Trainz did as well, but also added interactive industries and dynamic driving features such as product loading and unloading, load-sensitive physics modeling affecting driving and operating and user interface changes to improve user experience (UX), such as a free-camera mode allowing roaming away from the train cars, free and clear of the train being operated-while still controlling it. This latter makes particular sense given the dearth of an assistant on a walkie-talkie while operating a train during coupling operations or other position sensitive tasks such as loading and unloading. Railsim and a couple of others came and went out of business, and Railsim was reorganized as Rail Simulator with the software company that wrote MSTS as its core, while MSTS aged and never did get upgraded as Microsoft had once begun and announced. In the last few years, Rail Simulator has changed its name to Train Simulator.

As the world market has shaken out, Australian Trainz in 2014-2015 upgraded itself with Trainz: A New Era, still servicing the wider route builder and driving markets, but now matching the 64-bit computing and graphics of Train Simulator. In the same five-year period, train simulators have moved to pad computer and phone platforms.[27]

See also


  1. ^ "Rail Operator Training Simulators". faac.com. FAAC. Retrieved 2019-10-04.
  2. ^ "Train Simulator for Pro-use" in Ongakukan website. Retrieved 2010-03-26.
  3. ^ "EADS - Very High Speed, Intercity and Suburban Train Simulators". railway-technology.com. SPG Media Limited. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
  4. ^ "First Great Western - Investment in driver training with new lifesize simulator". First Great Western. www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk. 4 March 2004. Archived from the original on 25 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
  5. ^ "LANDER Simulation & Training Solutions - Training Simulators - Railway Technology". www.railway-technology.com. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  6. ^ "New York Air Brake - TDS-5000". www.nyab.com.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-05-06. Retrieved 2013-07-18.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "BEST –Trainingssystem für die Ausbildung des Personals in Leitzentralen und Stellwerken" (in German). Archived from the original on 2013-04-12. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  9. ^ "SBB: Moderne Simulatoren für Zugverkehrsleiter" (in German). eurailpresse.de. 15 September 2009. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  10. ^ Ryland, H. (2005). "Operations - the value of training simulators [railway signaller training]". IEE Seminar on Safety Assurance. Vol. 2005. p. 17. doi:10.1049/ic:20050418. ISBN 0-86341-574-1. Since the Cullen Report into the accident at Ladbroke Grove, there has been increased pressure to improve the training of railway signallers. The Railway Engineering Company has responded to this situation by providing comprehensive signaller training systems. These have been installed for all workstations at all the IECC installations on Network Rail.
  11. ^ "TRE_CORPORATE_BROCHURE.pdf (application/pdf Object)" (PDF). www.theraileng.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  12. ^ Hürlimann, Daniel (20 September 2007). "OpenTrack presentation" (PDF). The 12th Conference of the railML Initiative (in German). RailML.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
  13. ^ "OpenTrack Railway Technology - Railway Simulation". www.opentrack.ch. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-05-06. Retrieved 2013-07-18.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ Lew, Alexander (2007-12-17). "The Best Free Train Simulator". Autopia. Wired News. Archived from the original on 4 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
  16. ^ BVE Train Simulator(archive), The Simon Tonekham Statesman blog
  17. ^ a b c d "Announcing Boso View Express (BVE)". Train Simmer. 2001-02-26. Archived from the original on 2008-10-07. Retrieved 2009-08-14. Boso View Express (BVE) is a freeware 3D train simulator ... under development since 1996. ... nor does it offer dynamic scenery (moving trains). It does feature ... trains that react accurately
  18. ^ "Microsoft Train Simulator". CBS Interactive. 2005-01-03. Retrieved 2009-08-14. BVE ... physics are comparable with the real trains. ... Plenty of routes and trains are available free too!
  19. ^ Baum, Peter. "Mechanik/ BVE". Retrieved 2009-08-14. the trains actually rock back and forth and lean into turns ... has still remained popular due to its superior sound, train handling characteristics, and its easily modifiable components.
  20. ^ Barten, Alfred (2005). "Virtual Railroading/Train Simulation FAQs". Archived from the original on 6 February 2005. Retrieved 14 August 2009. BVE is built linearly. There is no opportunity to branch, unless the branched version is treated as a second route. ... BVE routes can also be built using Notepad
  21. ^ Hanstater, David. "Editorial: BVE Train Simulator". Atomic Systems IP. Retrieved 2009-08-14. BVE is much smaller ... the only view is straight forward through the cab window. There are no outside views
  22. ^ "Train-Sim.Com Review: RailDriver". www.train-sim.com. Archived from the original on 2009-03-27. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
  23. ^ Daniel Emery (10 March 2009). "Inside Games: Creative Assembly". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-11-09.
  24. ^ Scott Osborne (October 12, 2001). "Rails Across America Review". GameSpot. Archived from the original on January 24, 2013. Retrieved 2009-11-09. While admittedly inspired by the hit Railroad Tycoon series, Rails Across America takes a broader approach to rail empire building and offers some novel, entertaining features.
  25. ^ a b Plasket, Michael (September 13, 2017). "Super Locomotive". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  26. ^ Robinson, Martin (21 March 2021). "Take the A-Train, or how I fell in love with a hardcore accounting sim". Eurogamer. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  27. ^ BumpyTuberGame Reviews (2014-09-26). "YouTube video game review: Trainz-Train Simulator for Iphone & Ipad (short route)". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2016-03-24.