MSTS routes in Open Rails - Irish Enterprise North

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MSTS routes in Open Rails - Irish Enterprise North

Post  33lima on Sat 10 Feb 2018, 5:21 pm

'Irish Enterprise North' by Making Tracks is one of my favourite MSTS routes. This is not just because of the high quality of the product, but also because it features my local railway - Northern Ireland Railways. Playing the route rarely fails to bring a smile to my face, not least due to its convincing recreation of many familiar sights, from landmarks such as the Europa Hotel, Belfast City Hospital tower block and Windsor Park stadium, to the many stations on the route and of course the trains themselves.

I suppose we all have a particular fondness for the railways we remember from our younger years - in my case, those run by the Ulster Transport Authority and its successor, NIR. That didn't actually include this stretch of trackage! We often travelled the lines of the former LMS-NCC to Larne (as far as resort Whitehead, anyway) and Londonderry (again, as far as the branch from Coleraine to Portrush) and the old Belfast & County Down's surviving line from Belfast to Bangor, another seaside resort. But the line featured in this route - operated, before the UTA took over, by the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) - was to us terra incognita, not leading to any resort the family frequented, and was travelled maybe once or twice. Long after the 1976 opening of Belfast Central Station (soon to be more accurately renamed Lanyon Place) but about the time that the much more recent Great Victoria Street (GVS - a more utilitarian 1990s replacement for the old and terrorist bomb-wracked GNR original) I have become a bit more familiar with the northern section of the route, my railway interest having resurfaced and led to a certain amount of photographic effort - with results like this, taken recently about where the activity featured in this post begins.



This series of screenshots was taken on the activity 'Belfast to Lisburn stopper'. This is the sort of turn I like - a straightforward passenger run in a multiple unit.

I'm using OR version 4043 (not the Monogame one, as it places black textures on the front of this route's General Motors diesels) and am having good results with the profile in Nvidia Inspector illustrated below, which seems to minimise shimmer, whether in the moiré effects or 'Z-buffer fighting' when viewing surfaces like track beds or the sides of coaches at an acute angle.



Here we are, good to go. This is a platform-level view of my 3-car 80 Class DEMU at GVS. I'm at the driving trailer end, the power car car is trailing on this run. Behind me, the scene is dominated by the Europa Hotel, once famous for being a regular target for terrorist bombs. This site was a wasteland used for little but bus parking, in between the demolition of the old station and the construction of the new - I recall doing several stints guarding the place in the late 1970s, in between multiple patrols in the city centre out of the old Grand Central Hotel.



The 80 Class was a long-lived and successful follow on to the UTA 70 Class, the latter built locally but based on the BR(SR) 'Hampshire' sets. These local 'thumpers' lasted on passenger duties from 1974 until quite recently and the surviving set - hopefully headed for presentation at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway - has been used for Sandite runs. The 80 Class was BREL-built, based on the Mk2 coach bodyshell, and as stated in the route's manual, the trailers seen here are coach conversions which lack the central extra passenger doors fittted to most.

The train at Platform 3 next to me is a rake of ex-Gatwick Express air con Mk2s. Despite being regauged and refurbished at some expense, these coaches were little utilised and now languish at various locations. Here I am passing the General Motors 111 Class at the head of this train - the aptly-named 'Great Northern', whose line this once was.



Comparison with the real-life photo above will reveal how well the Making Tracks team captured the locale. A fair bit has changed in between - the route is set during 1995-2005 - notably due to redevelopment to the south of the station and some changes to the station itself - but as well as the Europa, locals will recognise other landmarks including the Boyne Bridge and, on the skyline to the left, the Presbyterian Assembly Halls.

It's just after 5pm during a summer rush hour and the boss has told me to expect grumpy passengers and longer stops from overcrowding, as the earlier service was cancelled. So the least I can do is try to keep to time. Easier said than done, as it happens!

...to be continued!


Last edited by 33lima on Fri 02 Mar 2018, 8:51 pm; edited 4 times in total

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Re: MSTS routes in Open Rails - Irish Enterprise North

Post  33lima on Sat 10 Feb 2018, 5:53 pm

Here is the view from the cab as I near the end of the platform. The Driving Trailer has a corner cab but the sim version shares this full-width cab view with the power car. For the latter it appears quite accurate, if a little clean! A neat touch is the functional theatre box-type route indcator atop the colour light signal - 'UM' I assume tells me I'm being routed onto the up main. 'up' being in the Dublin direction.



As I reach the crossover, you can see that the land to the side is still used for parking busses! These are in a mix of accurate liveries for the time - the ones with red trim from Citybus, successors to Belfast Corporation Transport, and the blue-trimmed vehicles being from Ulsterbus. Now, both are part of Translink, which also operates NIR and whose livery of that time my own train carries. I much preferred the previous 'sector' liveries on this unit - red and cream for suburban, blue and light grey (aka 'bumble bee' due to its prominent black and yellow lining) for intercity. The final, pre sandidte livery, silver grey and blue aka Red Bull, I also liked despite the full yellow ends. But I digress...



This is the passeenger view - it nicely captures the red and grey upholstery variant I remember.



Just beyond the station throat, we pass Blythefield Curve on our left. This leads back towards Belfast Central station. Note the banner repeater signals on this very tight curve, and the grafitti on the concrete walls. Up ahead on the skyline, you can see the floodlights of Windsor Park.



A little further on, I get a signal check before the main line. This comes as a bit of a surprise as I haven't had the track monitor on, but I manage to stop in time. The signalman comes on the blower to tell me he's holding me up for a delayed Enterprise Express service to Dublin, but the first train I see during my wait is another 80 Class heading towards me, off the main line and into GVS.



He's just passing by when the Enterprise rumbles across my front from left to right. Correctly, this is marshalled with a DVT at the Dublin end and its 201 Class loco - a relative of the Class 59 - propelling. The train is in the original livery of silver grey, dark green bands and magenta trim, again prettier I think that subsequent schemes.



Eventually the express clears the section ahead - I love the way train sims replicate the signalling! - and I'm off again, champing at the bit and with an ear cocked for the sound of grumpy passengers in the compartment just behind me.

...to be continued!


Last edited by 33lima on Sun 11 Feb 2018, 10:32 am; edited 7 times in total

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Re: MSTS routes in Open Rails - Irish Enterprise North

Post  33lima on Sat 10 Feb 2018, 7:56 pm

Here we are at my first stop - Adelaide, a little beyond Windsor Park Stadium and level with the goods yard of the same name, whose lighting is visible on the skyline to the right. The sky texture I'm using is from a set produced for Open Rails by Claus Visby Overgaard. The clouds slowly move across the 'sky dome' and this version is much preferred to stock OR.


I tend to switch between routes often, so with that and driving different trains, it's always a bit of a challenge to relearn braking and stopping distances each time. Here, I'm at about the right place, but a bit too often I brake too hard, too soon, and end up taking longer than I should to get stopped. Not something I want to be doing often on this trip, running late and with those grumpy passengers just the other side of the door behind me. I'd have felt more relaxed in a power car, despite the shake, rattle and roll of the big English Electric engine, thumping away back there.

Soon, I'm heading well out into Belfast surburbia, not getting up to anything like the 70 MPH speed limit in the mile or so between each station on this stretch of the line.


As you can see, this unit is subtly weathered, and it has a more faded livery than the other drivable 80 Class that comes with the route. You can't hear the sounds of course but the engine's throaty note is pretty good and you also get intermittent knocking sounds that I believe is the compressor going. The representation of the trackwork (using XTracks) is pretty good, with the concrete sleepers looking particularly like the ones seen on the real line, at least since being relaid with the CWR appropriate for the route's timeframe, when colour lights replaced semaphores. With this track, I can turn on OR's superelevation feature, without losing a third rail and/or it switching to stock MSTS track in some areas.

Outside Belfast and nearing Lisburn, I run into Hilden station - a halt really, where I just about halt with all of the train at the platform. I'm running about four minutes late at this stage, but it wasn't all my fault and I'm having a ball. With both 'dynamic shadows' and 'shadows for all shapes' turned on, frames per second aren't stellar but the long evening shadows do a great job of bringing the scene to life. It's one of those many touches that's helped Open Rails get me into train simming in a way that MSTS never managed to do.


A longer section, including a snaking embankment, brings me into the approaches to my destination, Lisburn. I've had no further signal checks so I'm not doing too badly, and will soon be rid of the grumpy passengers. In this self-satisfied frame of mind, I very nearly get caught out by a red about half a mile from the station, which I wasn't expecting. I tend to turn on the track monitor only intermitteltly, so perhaps I should have activated OR's 'signal glow' option, so that I could pick up these things a bit more easily. Just as I'm about to slide past the signal and SPAD by a few yards, it suddenly turns green and I breathe a sight of relief. I let off the brakes, open the throttle a couple of notches and roll towards Lisburn. As I pick up speed again and roll past the signal that nearly caught me out, I pass one of the other two 111 Class GMs in the NIR fleet, running out of the station towards Belfast


I didn't take a pic of my destination on this turn so here's one I prepared earlier (note the default OR sky - it's ok but not as good as the replacement I'm using). Lisburn is an impressive creation of GNR(I) architect William Henry Mills and has been tastefully maintained in a reasonably original state by Translink, in common with a handful of other NIR stations like Carrickfergus and Whitehead. Irish Enterprise North's version is a beauty, complete with courses of glazed coloured brickwork. Lovely!


This is one of those turns I could happily play regularly. Open Rails's ability to add a degree of 'randomisation' to either weather, or events, or both, is icing on the cake. Rain or snow, day or night, passengers happy or grumpy, bring it on!


Last edited by 33lima on Sun 11 Feb 2018, 3:46 pm; edited 5 times in total

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Re: MSTS routes in Open Rails - Irish Enterprise North

Post  slipperman12 on Sat 10 Feb 2018, 9:34 pm

Hi Ivor,
You've certainly got a gift for writing interesting accounts of (virtual) journeys you've made!

They are also very good advertisements for Open Rails - have you ever thought of creating videos for Youtube?

Well Done Smile

Cheers,
Ged


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Re: MSTS routes in Open Rails - Irish Enterprise North

Post  33lima on Sat 10 Feb 2018, 11:40 pm

Thanks Ged, most kind! I have thought of doing some Youtube videos featuring activities (so far I have just posted a couple of short clips to illustrate certain features) though it is a whole new art, compared to writing and throwing in a few pics. More clips of UK lines in OR would be good though, there seem to be more of them on routes from India and Russia!
Ivor

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Re: MSTS routes in Open Rails - Irish Enterprise North

Post  rufuskins on Sun 11 Feb 2018, 11:17 am

An excellent series of screen shots accompanied by an equally excellent narrative. OK OK OK Thank you for sharing.


ALEC - Supporter of MSTS and TSSH!

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Re: MSTS routes in Open Rails - Irish Enterprise North

Post  33lima on Sun 11 Feb 2018, 3:35 pm

Thanks Alec, glad you enjoyed it! I certainly enjoyed playing it and I hope it shows, if only as a 'thank you' to the folks who created the add-on and those now injecting a new lease of Open Rails life into this and other MSTS content.
Ivor

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Re: MSTS routes in Open Rails - Irish Enterprise North

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