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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.
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, The Railway Engineering Company (TRE) in the UK, OpenTrack Railway Technology in Switzerland, and PS Technology in the US.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Many consumer train simulations have been produced, often focusing on different aspects of real-life railways.
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.
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, 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).
Some rail simulation games focus on railway signalling rather than driving or economics. Examples include The Train Game (1983), SimSig, JBSS BAHN, Train Dispatcher, and the series of signalling simulations produced by PC-Rail Software.
Train simulators are particularly popular in Japan, where rail transport is the primary form of travel for most citizens. 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), as well as train business simulations such as the A-Train series (1985 debut). Non-commercial Japanese sims include the freeware BVE, first released in 1996, which was later remade as the free and open-source OpenBVE.
One of the first commercially available train simulators in the West 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. The first two train simulators to achieve large sales in the West, Microsoft Train Simulator and Trainz, arrived within a few months of one another in 2001. These featured differing design philosophies - Microsoft Train Simulator focused on providing a realistic driving experience, whereas Trainz focused more on the ability of the user to create their own content such as trains and routes.
The developers behind Microsoft Train Simulator, Kuju Entertainment, later released a spiritual successor called Rail Simulator, which was later purchased by a separate company and rereleased as Railworks.
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.
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
BVE ... physics are comparable with the real trains. ... Plenty of routes and trains are available free too!
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.
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
BVE is much smaller ... the only view is straight forward through the cab window. There are no outside views
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.