Monday, 27 January 2014

Bulleid Q1: Who wants to be bulleid?

So what's next for Victory Works?

Well once upon a time I accompanied my father to a celebration of the Eastleigh Works for the Eastleigh 100 celebration. We had a great day, clambered over and photographed some classic Southern locomotives and in the process got chatting about an oddly shaped 0-6-0 freight locomotive (showing there as a live steam model) which my father remembered seeing regularly in the Portsmouth area back when he was a young boy.

My love of hard working freight locomotives kept this one in my head for a few days after the event so I started to research them and become even more enamoured with the class with it's austerity design and "old school" wheel layout.
As you may have guessed the locomotive in question was the Bulleid Q1 and eventually my research led me to build a model of it for Railsimulator which had turned into Railworks by the time I released it.

It was ok for the time and my skills and I'm flattered that a lot of people still seem to enjoy it. However still being enamoured by the Q1's I've obtained a lot more materials and reference since then and I can say without shame that it is in fact a very poor guess at a Q1.

The body shape is wrong - very wrong as I'll show below.
It was built in the day when polys were precious so it's very basically detailed.
The textures were average at the time, but don't hold up with the new shaders and the TSX graphics engine.
The steam and smoke effects were a copy of the defaults from the locos included with Railsimulator.
The internal motion was faked with 2 pistons just pumping back and forth.
The physics and simulation were a straight copy of the Black 5, as were the sounds.. and the cab!
The wheel slip, a MAJOR factor of driving an 0-6-0 weighing 52 tons wasn't accurate due to failings in the simulation engine.

I was happy at the time and for my first effort at a loco build. But I think the time has come to do this mighty locomotive justice.
So the first task is to correct the body shape. Just looking at these 2 images you can see that the old boiler casing (yellow/orange lines) is nowhere close to the correct curves in the diagram (marked in red, blue and green).

Worse than that, the cab is a good half a metre too thin giving the windows an odd elongated effect and changing the entire profile.

And the knock on effect of that was that the tender, who's sides mimic the curve of the cab sides, is all wrong as well!

So the first job is a full rebuild of loco and tender, not to mention detailing everything to current standards - rivet counters rejoice! I don't expect to retain more than 10% of the original, if any to be honest.

Obviously there are a lot of new effects to add - new particles effects for steam and smoke, steam chest simulation and working cylinder cocks.

Also for this build I am totally rebuilding the wheel slip physics in script. Yup, no longer will you get shonky effects with wheel slip based on whether the loco is coupled before/after the scenario starts. Wheel slip will be dynamic based on the actual consist mass and length, gradients and conditions using real world equations.
Sanding will become the essential part of driving the Q1 that it was in real life, and in Advanced Mode the sand will be limited to a realistic amount so you can't just turn it on for the whole journey.

I've been working on the wheel slip on and off for a few months just using the old model as I knew it would be an essential part of replicating the Q1 realistically so I needed to crack that before I started on the model rebuild. It's taken a lot of testing and adjusting so far to get it to slip properly but I'm pleased with the results and there is more tweaking and improving to come.

Also on the todo list is a custom sound set based on C1/33001 which ran at the Bluebell railway until 2004, fully modelled Stephenson's gear which can be seen quite clearly due to the open frame design, a working steam reverser for those who drive from the cab, and a system to create the numerous combinations of "improvements" made to these locos over their lives including hydrostatic or single/dual mechanical lubricators, windows(!), side protectors and AWS.
As you would expect for a payware model, a full cab will be included with as many controls working as possible. I am blessed to be in contact with an ex-driver of these locomotives when they worked the Southern region under BR and he is a goldmine of detail on the practical driving practice, not just what the books say it ought to have been like.
I'm also looking to add a new method for the player to check the fire level in an attempt to make it possible to drive with even less reliance on the HUD for those who like it "real".

I normally save feature lists until near the time of a new release as they inevitably change in the creative process, but I'm 99% sure on all of those that I've listed above. I'm also hopeful that more features will be added to enhance the experience.

I also need to give some thought to appropriate stock, which will also be looked at for it's braking properties.
As well as having the power classification of 5 (the same as a Black 5) which the Q1 struggled to apply to the rail due to it's 0-6-0 configuration and light weight design, it also had very weak brakes and was known to be quite a handful pulling unbraked stock. During it's testing in 1943 a 900 ton train at 45mph took over 3 miles to stop! An S15 could stop in 1 3/4 miles in comparison.

Going to be fun to drive, isn't it?  ;-)

Monday, 20 January 2014

GWR Steam Railmotor - View from the rear

First off a very big thanks for all of the well wishing and excitement that's been shown across all kinds of media, it really is appreciated.
After posting the previous post which had a picture of the driving wheels I did see a question asking if the railmotor had animated valve gear - the answer is, yes to a point. Rather than being stuck in a "neutral" running position like all releases to date (to the best of my knowledge) the railmotor gear has 5 sets of animations - 2 forwards (maximum and half), neutral, and 2 backwards (maximum and half). It changes based on the current reverser position and gives a very pleasing effect of notching up/down as you drive.

Now as promised, it's time to delve into the details of the rear driving cab of the railmotor.

If the front cab with it's controls that are behind you and often moving, it's lack of coaling while under way and hand operated windscreen wiper (all in Advanced mode) isn't enough to keep you entertained then the rear cab adds another set of challenges for the railmotor driver.

In simple and standard driving modes the vestibule is just another cab, but at the back.
In advanced mode you can have the full experience of being separated from your fireman and a bulk of your controls and being expected to talk with him via a series of bell rings.
In the vestibule the usual tasks of notching up (moving the reverser as you gain and lose speed) and opening and closing the cylinder cocks are performed by the fireman.
In Train Simulator terms, assuming you are not using the auto-fireman (I would recommend not to for any locomotive but especially driving from the rear of the railmotor), then the jobs of using the blower, adding coal to the fire and filling up the boiler are also taken away from you as if the fireman in the cab is now performing them.
In addition you will need to request the fireman to create the vacuum to release the brakes.
All of this is performed either by the fireman’s own intelligence (cylinder cocks, coaling, watering and blower) or by communicating with him using the bell above the vestibule right hand window – the one with the wiper above it; this would be the usual position for the vestibule driver to stand.

Bell sequence and their meanings
These are shown on a plaque by the bell button, above the right hand window (image above)
1. Start
  a. If stationary or slow the reverser is set to 75%. Brake release remains enabled if already requested
  b. If moving (over 12mph) then reverser is set to 28%. Brake release is disabled
2. Stop
  a. If in motion the reverser is set to 75%. Brake release is disabled
  b. If stationary the reverser is set to 0%. Brake release is disabled
3. Brakes Off
  a. Brake release is enabled and the brake vacuum will not hold steady, steam (and therefore boiler pressure) is used by this until the signal for Start b. or Stop is sent to the fireman

Push the bell quickly in succession to tell fireman what you need him to do. There will be a delay and then a confirmation of the same number of bells. Wait for the confirmation before the next request.

So the driving procedure from the vestibule is as follows:

Ready to leave
• 1 bell to get reverser to 75%
• 3 bells to release the brake
• Move vestibule brake to the far right to release
• Open regulator as brakes release
• Once the brake vacuum is at 25 inches, move the brake back to central position

When at speed (over 12mph)
• Close the regulator to stop the fireman getting injured
• 1 bell to get reverser to 28%
• Open the regulator

Slowing for stop
• 2 bells to set reverser to 75% for finer control of approach
• Important: At this point the brake release is not available, so any brake you apply will remain on until you stop or request another brake release from the fireman (which if repeated is sure to make him angry!). Therefore be frugal in braking, measure the distance to stop against your slowing speed and apply the brake accordingly. Stop, go, stop, go braking is not a part of the proper driving of any steam locomotive.

When Stopped

• 2 bells to set reverser to 0%
• Important: This tells the fireman that you are stationary for a while so he can tend the fire if required. He will stop when it is back up to size or he receives 1 bell for start.

So that's it for the railmotor behind the scenes. There is more to it and you should be able to enjoy finding out how it performs (and how you perform driving it!) very soon.
As for me, well while the QA team at Dovetail Games (formally - the new name's gonna take some getting used to I think!) get busy making sure it's all in good shape I'm moving on to the next project, details to follow soon*...

* Please note that your definition of soon and mine may be wildly different ;-)

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

GWR Steam Railmotor - Let's get technical

In the previous post the feature list included detail of the retractable passenger steps.
These are modelled on the railmotor and are operational, however they need some "magic" to make them work.

Unfortunately although you can add platform markers and special signal markers to scenarios you cannot add lofted items, including platforms which means that ground level platforms must be added to a route. Everything else can be added in a scenario, but the area that spawns passengers (and allows them to disembark) must be added to the route itself.

From the manual:
The special Ground Platform Marker can be added directly to the route or just to scenarios that feature the railmotor – if you do the latter then you will need to be add it to every ground platform on every scenario that requires a pick up there.

Train Simulator 2014 introduced a new feature to the build menu which allows you to clone a route very easily. It also allows you to upload these cloned and modified routes to the Steam Workshop so the intention is to create some specific railmotor versions of certain routes, add some ground platforms and upload these so they can be downloaded for free.

You can also do this yourself for any route, or include ground platforms in new routes you are building.

Once you have added some scenery to look like a ground platform and laid down a platform loft (either an invisible one or hide the platform just under the ground) and platform marker you have all you need on the route.

To add the marker, tick the VictoryWorks/GWRSteamRailmotor assets in the object filter. Under the Miscellaneous tab find the asset called Ground Platform Marker (for Steam Railmotor) and place it in the middle of the track by the platform. Place the first marker past one end of the platform and the second past the other end. Make sure it is longer than the area where the railmotor will stop. Once these are placed, drop the small orange/blue marker below the ground so it can’t be seen.

This then enables the railmotor to know that it is next to a ground platform and will consequently keep the luggage doors closed (these are at platform level) and will open the passenger doors and extend the steps. The passengers will perform their usual disappearing trick at the foot of the steps.

The next blog post will be the last of  the "behind the scenes" on the railmotor and will detail how the rear cab functions in Advanced mode and how you work with the fireman at the other end of the coach.

Friday, 10 January 2014

GWR Steam Railmotor... or Steam Punk Time Machine?

Steam Punk Time Machine?? Odd words, but read on.. it's maybe not as crazy as it first seems.

Anyway, the awaited feature list is as follows:
  • Unique style of steam locomotive provides unique driving challenges
  • Simple, standard and advanced driving modes
  • Xbox controller support SIMPLE AND STANDARD MODES ONLY
  • Two completely different driving cabs STANDARD AND ADVANCED MODE ONLY
  • Simulated steam chest ADVANCED MODE ONLY
  • Cylinder cock management when driving from the front cab ADVANCED MODE ONLY
  • Boiler management with priming possible ADVANCED MODE ONLY
  • Notched reverser (front cab) and regulator (rear cab) ADVANCED MODE ONLY
  • Animated valve gear with two forward and two reverse positions
  • Dynamic steam and smoke colour and quantity
  • Dynamic driver location based on direction of travel
  • Opening cab doors, windows and roof hatch
  • “Hand operated” window wipers ADVANCED MODE ONLY
  • Lighting throughout the carriage and additional firebox effects
  • Custom sound sets for each driving cab
  • Dynamic destination boards can be set to any location via scenario locomotive number (up to 12 characters)
  • Selectable passengers wearing modern or period outfits (via scenario locomotive number)
  • Refuelling via coal sacks and water hose (included and available to add to scenarios)
  • Ground platform support with animated steps using special scenario marker – requires ground level platforms to be added/included with route
  • Power bogie test rig as a standalone, drivable locomotive with all control animations and drive motion visible from external and driving views
And as promised a view of both the cabs, the first image is standing with your back to the internal coal bunker and front windows looking at the boiler.. and yes, all the controls are attached to it.
Oh, and if you were wondering if that means that the controls, which are attached to the boiler, which is attached to the bogie, move when you go around a corner then that's also a yes!

The rear cab (or vestibule) is somewhat more Spartan, and a lot less hot and dirty. Here you can see the regulator with it's locking control, the vacuum brake lever with gauge, whistle chain, hand operated windscreen wiper and your lifeline to the fireman, the bell.

 Oh, and on that last feature item of the drivable test rig...

.. see, it's a Steam Punk Time Machine!
And although it looks insane, that is actually how the dedicated team who restored GWR Railmotor No. 93 actually tested their power bogie before installing it! [Video]
Soon you'll be able to do the same.

The next post will include details of the ground platforms and I'll follow that with a "how to" on driving in advanced mode from the rear cab, a long way from your faithful fireman (not the auto fireman, this guy is much cleverer!)

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Coming soon... GWR Steam Railmotor

The basic idea of the steam railmotor was to mount the boiler of a steam locomotive vertically directly over the driving bogie of a coach. It's a design far ahead of it's time and although they didn't last long - being replaced by the tank engine/auto-coach combination - they're one of those stepping stones that has a very large dose of charm.It also has a remote driving cab for a steam locomotive which created all manor of hurdles to overcome, unique ideas for driver/fireman communication and in the simulator (when driven in Advanced mode) is like having two totally different - and involving - driving experiences in the same loco.

If you don't choose to drive it in advanced mode (and you really should to experience the fun of driving from the rear cab) it's still a very pretty locomotive, and fits on at least 3 official DLC routes (West Somerset Railway, Falmouth, Memories of Maerdy - the last two in an earlier era) not to mention those on Workshop or available from independent sites.
It will come with 5 scenarios for the West Somerset Railway, the first of which is a rather unique test run.

The next blog post will have pictures of the interior of both cabs, and a full feature list so stay tuned..

Friday, 3 January 2014

So, here I am!

Well, this is my internet home.. I figured I should probably have one now!

It'll become the place to see work in progress pictures, read about ideas of upcoming releases and perhaps I may witter on about other things that interest me - most likely with a railway and/or simulation theme.

So hello to anyone reading this and thanks for dropping by.. there is certainly lots to come in 2014 but let's kick off with an image of the 56xx Add On which has been made available on Steam again since November and comes with a bunch of freight stock, 5 scenarios for the J94 Memories of Maerdy add on as well as a full Quick Drive set up.

The 56xx was the first steam locomotive released for Railworks (the previous name of Train Simulator 2012/13/14..) with an attempt at creating a realistic experience and was then updated with TSX textures and rain effects, and most recently with an optional advanced driving mode for those who prefer to drive with less work to do.

From the Steam description:
The 56xx Class is available in three control modes and a variety of liveries, including Great Western Railway ‘Shirt Button’ and large logo variants, and pre and post 1956 British Rail liveries. The main features of the locomotive include cylinder cocks with prototypical operation and dynamic cylinder cock steam, ejector operated brake vacuum creation including leakage management, feathered safety valves, dynamic smoke effects, notched reverser, operational reverser locking lever, steam leak effects when stationary, mason's valve and steam heating valve affect the heating system pressure gauge, custom head code lamps which can be set from the cab, operational water tank gauge, dual chime whistle with working in-cab chains and external steam blasts, plus operable front and rear windows, doors, seats and roof and window panels.

Although still a great drive, and I'm delighted to say much loved by many who own it, things have moved on with the simulator and add ons and I intend to continue developing to the highest quality and to continue to push the possibilities of realism.

The next release will be the GWR Steam Railmotor - pictures and feature details to follow in the next week or two.