Sunday, 12 May 2019

Just a quick note to say that I've added a new charity to the Suburban Glasgow website - the Save The Waverley campaign.  This is an amazing little paddle steamer that I've been on several times.  The last ocean going paddle steamer in the world, it needs a new boiler!

https://www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk/friends-of-waverley/donate/

Friday, 10 May 2019

Hello!  This is going to be a long post, so go get a cup of tea or coffee and settle in!



So where to begin...  I've been very happy with the reception of Phase 5.2, and of the route so far in general.  Now that I can (almost, more later) draw a line under it and say Phase 5 is now simply out there, I'm looking to the future to see where we stand with the route overall.  As per the original plan, there was one more Phase to do that would have completed the main bulk of the scope:


·         Clarkston to East Kilbride to complete the Glasgow south side services
·         Springburn to Cumbernauld to complete the missing part of the North Clyde Line
·         Dumbreck to Paisley Canal, although this really just made it in because I had planned to add in Corkerhill Depot, and by the time I completed the distant scenery in the area, Paisley Canal wasn't that far away!

But as this is the final Phase, and there have been quite significant changes, it made sense to review what would be done.  I guess the two main things are:

·         The 64 bit sim was introduced, thus massively increasing the potential size of routes
·         Someone successfully merged two routes with different start locations

So with that in mind, I've had a good think and a good bit of reconsidering what the plan is going forward!

Firstly, there are now eight phases in all, with the first five being completed.  The remaining three are:


  • Phase 6: This will begin with a "pre-phase" release containing merge of Suburban Glasgow and the DPS extended Edinburgh to Glasgow route from the Workshop, with links in place at Bishopbriggs and Carstairs. Trackwork will be included for the additional scope for Phases 6-8, but obviously the scenery won't be. Once this is done and released, Phase 6.1 proper will be.
  • o   Springburn to Gartcosh and the link to the WCMLNorth at Coatbridge FLT.  This will allow through running from the south to the Cowlairs area and on to the West Highland Line.
    o   Clarkston to East Kilbride
    o   Possibly Corkerhill Depot
    Once this is completed and released, Phase 6.2 will contain:
    o   Gartcosh, via Cumbernauld to merge with the Thomson Edinburgh to Glasgow route at Greenhill Lower Junction.  This will allow interesting scenario possibilities, particularly for freight, for through traffic from the south to go north as far as Stirling and vice versa.
    o   The remainder of the Paisley Canal Line.


  • Phase 7 will contain:
  • o   The link from Airdrie to Bathgate.
    o   Carfin to Shotts


  • Following on from this, the final Phase 8 will then be:
  • o   Bathgate to Newhouse Junction (near Edinburgh Park)
    o   Shotts to Midcalder Junction

    Not included in the list yet, but I am quite likely to add in Alloa and Dunblane to this as well.  Two short(ish) stretches of track heading north and east from Stirling.  Also, finally, and why I hesitated when I said that Phase 5 is complete, is that I’ve not created a “Workshop only” version of Phase 5 yet, although nobody has actually asked for it.  This is probably something I’ll look at at some point, although no idea when (maybe it’ll be long after Phase 5) as it’s not my priority.

    I’ll do the rest of the blog as more of a FAQ style thing, as people have been asking a lot of questions and making suggestions recently!  Hopefully this will cover most of them, and maybe add a few more f my own to the mix. 😊


    Where’s the West Highland Line South?!?

    UPDATE - since posting this blog, Milepost Simulations have kindly given permission for the WHL South route to be added to the merge.  So all systems go for the full merge!

    So if you’ve seen any of my recent announcements, you might be wondering where the West Highland Line South in all this as I had included it originally!  Well fear not, this is still part of the plan, and I would still like to include it in the pre-phase part of Phase 6, if possible!  However, there are issues with merging routes that I have to be very careful about, so let me move on to talking about that now…

    In Train Simulator so far, routes have been standalone packages, at least for payware ones, where we pay some money and the result is that we have a single route.  So how does merging two routes together affect this?  If you think about it, I am actually going against this system by creating all of this, so I need to be very careful.  What would happen, for example, if somebody downloaded Suburban Glasgow without first owning Edinburgh to Glasgow?  Could they go in to it, substitute out all the assets and then make it work without ever having had to pay for it?  I can get around this to an extent by enforcing the track rule from each individual route, meaning it will crash the sim if you try and load it without having the underlying route.  Still, I don’t want to be the one making routes potentially available to people without them paying for it, so I’m being extremely cautious here!

    It’s very unlikely, and to be honest, the end result would be so awful (imagine EtoG without Waverley, Haymarket or Queen St in it?) that nobody would want to – but the fact that it’s even possible throws up some questions – what if the Copyright owners have a problem with me doing this?  Even if it’s substandard, or perhaps precisely because it’s substandard, I can see people taking issue and having me remove my work if I’m not careful.  A lot of this thought has come from discussions with the people involved in previous merges, like the WCML and ECML merges, rather than just my own personal worry, so it’s something we’re all aware of.

    So to cut a long story short about WHLSouth, the current state of including it in the merge is that I’ve requested permission from Milepost Simulations (the creator of the West Highland Line South route) for me to include it!  I am currently waiting for a response.  If I don’t get permission, which I could understand, then I’m afraid it will not be included.

    For Edinburgh to Glasgow, although it was created by Thomson Interactive, the rights to it are owned by DTG.  DTG have always been clear with me (not specifically about route merging right enough, but in general) that as long as it can be on the Workshop and not manually downloaded, then anything goes.

    Also note that Darren of DPSimulation has kindly given permission to include his updates.


    How did you merge the routes with differing start locations together anyways?

    Although inspired by speedypete’s successful merging of the WCML and ECML routes, I developed my own method of doing this.  I’m not going to go in to too much detail about this, and if you’re not interested then just skip to the next bit!

    In a nutshell though, it works by reading in all the assets in to one big asset list, rather than having them defined tile by tile.  It then adjusts the location of each asset one at a time, by using an absolute coordinate relative to the start of the route (instead of per tile) and regenerates an entirely new set of tiles from that based on the new location.  From that point on it was a case of manually copying the tiles in to the base route (Suburban Glasgow in this case) and copying/pasting chunks of tracks.bin as appropriate!

    Also, the terrain and mixmap tiles are slightly different in the sense that they are a 128x128 matrix of points as opposed to a list of assets, so these had to be adjusted accordingly too.


    Will you be releasing any tools to the public to do route merging in the future?

    I had originally planned to do this, but because of the issues outlined above, and from discussions with others, I have decided against it.  I’m being very careful with what content I generate and where I put it, but I can’t guarantee that others would be too!  If people used my merge tool to distribute content illegally then I could end up having problems myself.

    That said, if someone really wants to do this and plans to release it to the Workshop without changing either route too much, then I would consider helping out.


    Are there any other issues with merging?

    One complication of merging routes, which applies whether the start location is the same or not, is the mapping of textures.  Not all routes use the same texture set, so you can end up with multicoloured tiles (where grass is represented by coal and ballast by snow) if you’re not careful!  Therefore, I included some logic to remap the mixmap tiles to different textures so they came out a bit more reasonably.  Still, as you can see from the screenshot below, there will be differences.  This is Edinburgh to Glasgow looking very much like WCMLNorth!  This is due to me retaining the WCMLNorth textures when I merged Edinburgh to Glasgow in to it.


    This is another complication of including WHLSouth in the merge, as I do not want to spoil the effect of the bespoke Highland textures that are included with this route, so I will need to find a solution to this before including it.  It is possible to add textures and effectively create my own custom texture set containing all of them but there are issues with this too, as then the route cannot be uploaded to the Workshop.  As mentioned above, especially now that I’m merging routes together, the Workshop remains an essential part of my distribution method!


    Can you merge in the JustTrains routes from Edinburgh to Dundee and Newcastle as well?

    It would have been fantastic to include the Scottish East Coast Mainline from JustTrains.  Obviously the line through Fife to Dundee would be good – but I’d actually be more interested in the stretch from Perth to Dundee!  If I’m extending from Stirling to Dunblane, then it’s about 20 rural miles further to Perth – almost doable in a single phase.  This would have given us – believe it or not - Glasgow Queen St to Dundee, which would have been an outstanding addition.

    But no, I’m not going to!  Since neither of these routes are on Steam, it means that I could never upload the merged route to the Steam Workshop when it’s completed, so I’m afraid this is out of the question.  Too bad!


    Are there any other routes you’d like to merge in?

    Absolutely, although this is limited by the proximity of other routes in Scotland!  I guess one of the most obvious choices here would be the Glasgow Airport Rail Link route, removing the actual airport link part.  This would open up the possibility of someone (not me I might add) creating the Inverclyde and/or Ayrshire coast lines.

    The second route, and if I include WHL South then I actually plan to try hard to get this done, is the UKTS version of the Oban line.  Again, as it’s not a Steam route I would need to just put the track on the Workshop (as long as it’s not bespoke track) and include the scenery part of it in the detail pack.  I’ve been trying to get in touch with the route author of this to discuss it, but I’ve not been successful so far as I don’t believe he’s active on UKTS.  If anyone knows him, Mike Hamilton, then please let me know!


    UPDATE - since posting this blog, I have been able to make contact with Mike and he has kindly given permission for his Oban route to be used in the merge.


    You said you were using the track from each route.  How will this work?

    Yes, mainly for the purpose of forcing people to have each of the routes in question for it to work, I’m going to be using the track and track rule from each route for the appropriate parts of the route.  This does cause issues at the points where the routes connect as there is a distinct jump in both the visual look of the route and also the config options etc.

    For the visual aspects of it, I’m trying to make the “links” happen under bridges or in tunnels etc.  Here is an example, this one being the link between Suburban Glasgow and Edinburgh to Glasgow just south of Bishopbriggs.


    I think it looks not too bad here.  From a config perspective, as long as the join does not happen across one single ribbon then it appears to be ok.  The best approach seems to be creating a piece of track away from the join, with all the properties set accordingly, and then “joining” them together using the join tool in the Route Editor in the sim.

    When (or if!) I do merge in WHLSouth, it looks like the link may have to happen at a level crossing as there are no bridges or tunnels in the vicinity!

    I know that many people (probably most people in fact) use the AP track with Suburban Glasgow.  Although this is probably what I would do myself if I was purely a user of the route, I will not be using it in its development as it is not Workshop compatible.


    You’re adding quite a lot.  What track and rule will you use for the new sections?

    This is actually not as obvious a question as you might think.  There are advantages and disadvantages of using one rule over another.

    For example, for the Bathgate to Newbridge Junction stretch, I’ve laid the track already, but there was no possible place to create a link between track types until well after Uphall station, where there’s a small bridge that can mask the join.  This means that I’ve put down several miles of track using the Edinburgh to Glasgow track and only put the link in just outside Livingston.  No big deal you might think, but the EtoG track does not support easements!  Obviously, in modern train sim, it’s a simple no-no to even consider laying track without easements so I’m pretty uncomfortable with this.  Still, there are no sudden tight bends so I guess it could have been a lot worse.  From Livingston on towards Glasgow it uses the WCMLNorth track, which does support easements.

    Similar question for the extensions I’m considering beyond Stirling – to Alloa and Dunblane.  I don’t particularly want to create an unnecessary track link here, but at the same time I don’t particularly want to create more route without easements!  So I’ll need to figure that out.  The easiest option would be to use the EtoG track, but in the outside chance that the route extends beyond Dunblane towards Perth (no plans, don’t get excited), then I might end up wishing I’d had easements here from the beginning.


    What will the new sections look like?

    Stuck this question in myself, but again, not an obvious question!  Each route, at least between Suburban Glasgow, Edinburgh to Glasgow and WCMLNorth, has its own look and feel.  So, for example, Edinburgh to Glasgow is made with a “driver’s eye view” in mind, meaning that you get a great view from the cab, but if you zoom out then you’ll not see much in the distance.  With Suburban Glasgow, on the other hand, I’ve tried to make it viewable as far as possible.  WCMLNorth is somewhere in the middle!  So what will the new sections look like?  I think the answer to that really depends on where the new stretch is.

    For Airdrie to Bathgate, for example, I’ll keep the Suburban Glasgow policy of “far out scenery and nearside detail” – but as the line progresses from Bathgate to Newhouse Junction, I’ll switch to the Edinburgh to Glasgow way.  Like the existing parts of the route where I blend in to WCMLNorth, I’ll try and make this progression gradual so you don’t suddenly jump from one world to another!

    On the other hand, the link to Alloa (and possibly Dunblane, not sure) will almost certainly be done with the Edinburgh to Glasgow cab view only style.


    Will you be using the new ATS OHLE pack on Suburban Glasgow?

    This is a good question and the answer is both yes and no!  I would like to, and I might even go as far as saying I plan to.  But add that to the endless list of things I plan to do, what with the new scope etc.  And consider the fact that even now, six years on, I’m still just a one man band building this route, then I can’t promise a time for actually getting this done!

    More restrictive though is the limitation of the Workshop.  I’m assuming the OHLE pack will never appear on Steam (or will it?), meaning the Workshop-only parts of the route (including Edinburgh to Glasgow, a prime candidate for the new OHLE) can never use it.

    But that said, I would like to use this pack on just the Detail Pack tiles (all of Airdrie to Bathgate, for example) at some point in the future.


    Will you be putting the route on the ATS website?

    This is something I would would normally have considered, as the ATS website acts as a very good “portal for all things train sim”, much like the DPSimulation website did a few years back.  But there are issues with me using the ATS website, or any other for that matter.  Or more to the point, there are issues with me not using the Suburban Glasgow website for the route!

    The main thing is that I have various permissions to include reskins and use assets etc, which are all linked and tied to my having the route on the Suburban Glasgow website for free, with the charity list in place etc.  For example, there is a DLC provider that has outlined that I can use their assets on the condition that the website I host my route on does not charge any money, either by subscription or even just by an optional “Donate” button.  If I put the route in a different place then these permissions would come in to question and I don’t particularly want to lose the ability to use them.

    The second point here is that this would only ever apply to the detail pack – the Workshop component will always need to be on the Steam Workshop.


    Will you be electrifying the Whifflet Line via Carmyle, adding in the link at Anniesland, updating the refurbished stations, and and and?

    Well….  Every so often I get asked all these questions, and the answer is usually no!  For as long as I’m working on the route on my own, then I simply don’t have the time to do extras like this, so I’m still declaring the route as being firmly stuck in 2013! (when I started making it)  Even something seemingly simple like adding a link at Anniesland will require a lot of reworking of nearby signalling, testing scenarios don’t break etc, so it’s not just a quick half hour thing.  Quite frankly, I’d rather be working on new stuff than trying to keep the route up to date as every little detail changes in real life!

    What might change here though, is if we ever get a Class 385 in the sim (not just a reskin, an actual Class 385 I mean).  This would make me seriously consider wanting to electrify the Edinburgh to Glasgow via both Falkirk High and Cumbernauld lines, which in turn would probably make me want to bring the other parts of the route up to date.

    I’m not sure I can see anyone making a Class 385 anyways, so this may be academic!


    Do you do this all on your own?

    Yes!  Since its inception as a WCMLNorth Extension in 2013, I’ve been the sole route builder for Suburban Glasgow.  This doesn’t include scenarios of course, which now come from three or four different people, but the base route building has just been me.

    This isn’t because I’m wanting to be particularly protective of the route, but more because I’ve never really thought about asking for help, except on one occasion where I asked for some help to get some assets made (Armadillo, Arena, transport museum etc) but got nowhere!  😊

    If anyone does come up and volunteer to work on the route then I’d certainly listen (without promising anything), especially with the massive changes in scope coming up.  I think I’d want to retain the core pieces to work on myself (Airdrie to Newhouse Junction, the Shotts line, Cumbernauld, East Kilbride etc etc).  But if someone came along and said “Hey, I’d like to make the Alloa line” or “Hey, I’d like to have a bash at the Ayrshire Coast and Inverclyde Lines, can I merge them to your route?”  or something like either of these then I’d consider it – even if it was from a complete beginner.  Maybe working as a secondary party on an outlying section of route is a good way of learning route building if someone wanted to get in to it!


    So I’m back to picking at bits and pieces of the route so I’ll make a progress update quite soon!  Not quite at the weekly Sunday update stage as I’ve not started Phase 6 in anger yet, but maybe before too long. 😊

    Take care…
    Iain

    Saturday, 4 May 2019

    Hello,

    Just a very quick update to say that Alistair Cowell has given me a patch to the Class 303 to correct the sliding window textures (which was my fault in the first place, not Alistair's!)

    I'm in the middle of generating terrain tiles for the merged route at the moment so I can't actually use my Railworks directory to generate a proper package (I usually rename the Content and Assets directories so it doesn't spend forever scanning them!) - so I've temporarily uploaded it to Google drive as a zip file.

    Just download it and copy the appropriate files to your RailWorks\Assets\DTG\Class303Pack01 directory.

    I will be updating both the full detail pack and Class 303 packs with the patch in due course of course, but since Alistair has gone to the effort of creating this, I'm making it available immediately for the moment...

    Get it from this link here

    Friday, 3 May 2019

    Good afternoon!  I'm just going to leave this here for a while. :-)


    A major route announcement will follow shortly!

    Tuesday, 26 March 2019

    Howdy, that's the final reskins up to date on the website so feel free to go and download them if you didn't install the full detail pack (no point if you did as you already have them)...  And now that's me going to finally declare Phase 5 done and dusted!!

    Time for my usual inter-phase break now for a couple of months.  I think the game this time is going to be Red Dead Redemption 2, although I've not completely made up my mind.  In the mood for something more Skyrim/Oblivion - but don't think there's really anything good in the genre at the moment!  I'd be happy to be corrected if anyone disagrees. :-)

    So see you in the summer for Phase 6!!  Beginning with the crawl out of Clarkston and out towards Busby, juggled in with either Corkerhill Depot or the line out to Stepps - or both!!

    Off to India to visit my in-laws in two days.  Have a good one!!

    Cheers
    Iain

    Sunday, 24 March 2019

    Dum dum dum.........

    Hello and welcome to Suburban Glasgow, Phase 5.2!

    Yes, it is now released and completed.  Finally!  This is by far the longest phase since I started building the route, so I'm delighted to get it out there now.

    So first of all, even though the route installation itself hasn't really changed, there are a few things to note.

    First of all, there are now two versions of the detail pack - the full pack and the bare pack.  The full pack contains a lot of stock reskins by Alistair Cowell and Gary Lennon, meaning that if you install this you will automatically have the unrefurbished Class 303, the refurbished Class 318, many Class 320 reskins including SPTE Orange, and of course, the Class 360 dressed up as a Class 334.  The bare pack is similar to previous versions and only contains the route and route related assets.

    The installation procedure is exactly the same for both packs.  However, I very strongly recommend installing the full pack as most, if not all bundled scenarios require the reskins installed by it.

    Secondly, the scenarios themselves have changed massively so please check out http://www.suburban-glasgow.org.uk/home/scenarios/ for more information.  They have been completely rewritten using accurate timetables and AI traffic, and also have more consistent requirements for DLC etc.  Most of them are loosely based on previous scenarios, so you may recognise some here and there, and of course, they have been extended in to the new sections of route.

    So to quickly install the route, if you more or less know what you're doing:

    1)  Subscribe to the Workshop route and let it install.  It can appear to take several minutes to trigger the installation.  If this happens, start the sim and just wait!  Once done, verify the version in the marker at the end of Finnieston Siding, near Exhibition Centre station, is 5.2e.

    2)  Unsubscribe from the Workshop route and download the detail pack from http://www.suburban-glasgow.org.uk/home/detail-pack/.  Remember that I recommend installing the full pack.

    3)  Using the Utilities.exe app, install the RWP of the detail pack.  It takes ages, especially if you are installing the full version.

    4)  Review the scenarios page above and decide if you want to install anything before running the final part.

    5)  Finally, navigate to RailWorks\Assets\tluamiani\NCL and run work_reskins.bat

    In the bare version, the output of number 5 will be minimal.  For the full version, full information about the reskins being installed will also be displayed.

    I think that's about it.  I hope you enjoy the latest version of this route!!

    I still have a little bit of housekeeping on the website to do over the next couple of days, as I plan to upload the new reskins individually to the Reskins section, and also update the Phase 5 charities list.  Then I'm off to India to visit the in-laws on Mar 28 and not back for nearly three weeks!  A long needed break. :-)

    If you have any issues, please don't hesitate to get in touch - even though I'll be in the other side of the planet from rainy Glasgow, I'll still check from time to time and can hopefully help troubleshoot issues.

    I'll post briefly when the individual reskins are uploaded and then that'll be me for a few weeks or even months until I come back, ready to get stuck in to Phase 6!

    Enjoy!

    Cheers, Iain

    Saturday, 9 March 2019

    Announcing Phase 7!

    Hello folks...  So I've been toying for a while with what to do with Suburban Glasgow once Phase 6 is complete!  Should I extend it more?  Should I tweak things a bit here and there etc etc?

    So here's what I have decided:

    1)  I will update the route to current day, whatever day that means!  That will include, but is not limited to, for the moment at least:

        - electrify the line via Carmyle
        - electrify the line to Cumbernauld
        - electrify Queen St and approach.  I doubt I'll be able to do much to Queen St itself though.
        - create Knightswood South Junction**
        - update Sighthill Junction by Springburn to be doubled.  Change anything in Springburn related to
           the electrification**

         I hadn't originally intended to do these to be honest, but due to increasingly popular demand, I have decided to go ahead!

    2)  Update the track and use updated OLE.  As many people comment (very often!) the OLE in Suburban Glasgow is rather outdated.  I opted to put catenary masts where they were in real life as opposed to matching them to the OLE wires, so it can often look misplaced.  This is likely to take absolutely ages, so don't be under any impression that Phase 7 will fly out the door!

    3)  Freshen up the parts of the route from WCMLNorth.  When I started working on Suburban Glasgow originally, I told myself I wasn't going to touch the WCMLNorth sections of the route.  This is for the simple reason that I figured that once I started, I'd just end up tweaking things forever and never work on my own parts!  Once the initial scope of Phase 6 has finished I'll go back and clean up the bits that need updating.  Note, I will NOT be adding easements to WCMLNorth**, despite the fact that it's probably the single most annoying thing!  Obviously not a criticism of the original route as it was created prior to easements being introduced to the sim.

    But things that will be updated:  Lineside foliage, more detail in the surrounding areas, "floating" track or other items, more accurate representations of various signals.  Plus anything else that anyone can think of!

    4)  Investigate merging with other routes.  I know that there are now ways to merge routes together, even those without the same start location.  I have not looked into how to do this yet, but it's possible that come Phase 7, I will do so.  The most obvious candidates would be WHL South and/or Edinburgh to Glasgow.  If we did merge in Edinburgh to Glasgow then it would blow wide open the possibility of Phases 8 and 9 to Bathgate and/or Shotts.  Don't get too excited though - if these things do happen it would be years away!

    **Note - there's a big dilemma when it comes to tweaking things...  Changing the trackwork on an already existing route with lots of scenarios created for it is a big no-no, as I've kind of discovered over the years of building this!  I'll not go in to all the techie details, but the bottom line is that if you replace a piece of track in the route, or even very slightly realign it, then you run the risk of breaking any scenarios that have AI there.  For any of the above that involves potential track alterations, if it turns out that too many scenarios will break then I am likely to abandon it.

    So one last thing before I sign off for the night - Alistair Cowell, who has very kindly donated several good reskins for Suburban Glasgow, and many which you can (or are soon to) find on this website has announced that he will be retiring from reskinning.  So thanks to Alistair for providing us with these.  Even though they're not exact replicas of the real thing due to differences in the underlying models, I think having something that represents the refurbished Class 318 and the Class 334 in the game gives us that missing link to a full complement of stock for the Glasgow area.

    I'll update here within the next few days on the definitive release date for Phase 5.2.

    Have a good evening!