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General Questions

What is Open Rails?

Open Rails is a train simulator project compatible with Microsoft's Train Simulator product.

Is Open Rails freeware? Is there a downloadable version available?

Yes. A variety of downloads are available here.

Is Open Rails just an improved version of Microsoft Train Simulator?

Open Rails is not an improvement to Microsoft Train Simulator, but a complete new simulator that can use Microsoft Train Simulator routes, activities, consists and train sets. At installation, Open Rails looks for Microsoft Train Simulator entries in the Windows registry to locate any Microsoft Train Simulator files on your computer. It will offer to use them in the simulation.

The Open Rails simulator operates train services independently of Microsoft Train Simulator and without running any Microsoft Train Simulator code. Currently you must use the Microsoft Train Simulator Route Editor to build new routes, but we intend to develop our own Route Editor.

Can I use my collection of Microsoft Train Simulator locomotives and rolling stock with Open Rails?

The short answer is 'yes', but with some limitations around cab controls and gauges. Everything else should work very similar to Microsoft Train Simulator.

Can I use my collection of Microsoft Train Simulator routes with Open Rails?

The short answer is 'yes'.

Can I use my collection of Microsoft Train Simulator activities with Open Rails?

The answer is "Yes", though the signaling in Open Rails and performance of AI (computer-driven) trains is more rigorous and some activities may need adjusting.

Does Open Rails improve the performance of Microsoft Train Simulator?

No, Open Rails has no effect on the performance of Microsoft Train Simulator. Open Rails is a completely new simulator. With suitable hardware, most users running Microsoft Train Simulator routes and consists in Open Rails see significantly higher frames per second (FPS) because the Open Rails simulator uses modern graphics cards (GPUs) effectively. Loading times are much reduced and larger routes can be accommodated.

Will Open Rails make my Microsoft Train Simulator routes and trains look better?

Microsoft Train Simulator displays textures as 16-bit color even though most are stored as 24 or 32-bit ACE files. Therefore, the foundation is there to support these higher bit textures. Open Rails may also provide better lighting effects and texture effects which gives a better view of the current Microsoft Train Simulator models.

Will Open Rails improve my frame rates, decrease stuttering, make my Microsoft Train Simulator content look better or improve the lighting?

The point of Open Rails is not just better frame rates or display colors, but those are common side effects. Open Rails is more about the future!

Do I need Microsoft Train Simulator to run Open Rails?

No. However Open Rails does not yet have a route editor or an activity editor, so you cannot build your own routes and activities.

Are there any routes available for Open Rails that do not need Microsoft Train Simulator?

Most free and payware routes are packaged as add-ons to Microsoft Train Simulator and many locos make use of sound and cabview files from Microsoft Train Simulator.

Some Australian routes (New South Wales) have been packaged to work just with Open Rails:


Technical Questions

What computer specs do I need to run Open Rails?

In general, Open Rails currently requires a higher hardware specification than Microsoft Train Simulator, especially with regard to video cards (GPUs). Community members have Open Rails running on Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and 8 operating systems. Some Open Rails users, however, have reported difficulties with low frame rates (FPS) especially on laptops with onboard video because of the demands Open Rails places on the GPU.

The latest system and software requirements are shown below.

Does Open Rails achieve higher FPS by giving the graphics card more of the work in rendering the graphics?

Yes, Open Rails makes fewer demands on the CPU for processing information and rendering the graphics. The GPU and CPU now share these functions.

Why does my train operate differently in Open Rails?

With the current release, Open Rails software has implemented our first phase of independent physics for diesel, diesel electric, electric and steam engines. This more sophisticated physics model incorporates ground-breaking inertia and traction motor loading, plus wheel-slipping equations that more realistically model train physics. As a result, you may experience slower acceleration and longer stopping distances compared to Microsoft Train Simulator.

Why don't I see distant mountains?

Distant mountains, being demanding, were implemented only as an option in v0.9. Please tick the checkbox in
Menu > Options > Experiment > Show Distant Mountains.

How do I change my view?

You can move about in the route and locomotive in Open Rails with several camera views. The F1 key assignment window details all the views available in Open Rails. In current version of the Open Rails software, you can do more than Microsoft Train Simulator with BIN.

The #4 camera (trackside) automatically jumps as the train passes. Use the #8 key to "unlock" the #4 camera to a fixed view, which is movable like all the other cameras. Then just press the #4 key to jump to the next automatic viewpoint.

Use the #8 key to navigate the free camera to any viewpoint. Then use Shift+8 to return to a previous viewpoint.

You can view other (AI) trains using Alt-9.

Does Open Rails have working signals?

The Open Rails team has implemented a comprehensive and robust signal system which is detailed in the manual.

What should I do if I find problems, issues or stuff not working with Open Rails?

Open Rails is a constantly evolving project that runs on volunteer participation. Please feel free to post questions and comments about Open Rails on the forums. The Open Rails team monitors these forums daily.

What's the graphic engine in Open Rails?

Open Rails currently uses Microsoft XNA technology to display its environment. The XNA technology was developed by Microsoft specifically for computer gaming.

What about a route editor for Open Rails?

An Open Rails route editor is a key element of the project and identified in our project roadmap.


Installation Questions

Which platforms does Open Rails run on?

Open Rails works well on Windows PCs from Windows XP* onwards (including Windows 10). It does not work on Windows XBox, Windows Phone or non-Windows platforms.

* Windows XP requires Service Pack 3 (SP3).

32-bit or 64-bit Windows?

Open Rails is currently a 32-bit program that will run on either 32-bit Windows or 64-bit Windows. When run on a 64-bit Windows system there are some benefits as follows.

Programs compiled for 32-bit Windows are always limited to using a maximum of 2GB of memory. Many current PCs, especially 64-bit systems, have more than this. Fortunately it is possible to compile a program, for 64-bit systems only, which can use up to 4GB of memory and this is called a Large Address Aware (LAA) option. The downloads include both the usual version and the LAA version and you choose between them in the Options form.

What hardware does Open Rails require?

  • Processor : 2.0 GHz (32 or 64-bit)
  • Memory : minimum = 0.5 GB, recommended = 2 GB
  • Hard drive : 40 MB (but models require lots of space. The 6 routes in Microsoft Train Simulator require 1.4 GB)
  • Graphics Hardware : minimum = 128 MB dedicated video RAM with Pixel Shader 2.0, recommended = 256 MB RAM with Pixel Shader 3.0
  • Graphics Software : as provided by Windows. Open Rails currently uses DirectX® - version 9.0c
  • Sound : compatible with DirectX® - version 9.0c

Do I need Microsoft Train Simulator installed to use Open Rails?

You do not need Microsoft Train Simulator installed in order to use Open Rails.

When Microsoft Train Simulator is installed, then Open Rails can safely make use of all the Microsoft Train Simulator content as it does not change any Microsoft Train Simulator files.

Most non-Microsoft Train Simulator routes, activities and rolling stock make use of some Microsoft Train Simulator content, usually sound files, textures and cab interiors. If products designed for Microsoft Train Simulator are used on a PC with Open Rails but not Microsoft Train Simulator, then they are likely to work but some sounds and textures will be missing. Such files will be listed with warnings in the Open Rails log file.

How can I recognise add-on products for Microsoft Train Simulator that require Microsoft Train Simulator files?

Add-ons designed for Microsoft Train Simulator may rely on files from the Microsoft Train Simulator product. For instance:

  • Routes provided with an Install.bat file that copies shapes and textures from the routes on the Microsoft Train Simulator CDs.
  • Locomotives that re-use cabviews or sounds from the locomotives on the Microsoft Train Simulator CDs (see folder TRAINSET).
  • Rolling stock that have sound management (SMS) files that refer to wave files from the Microsoft Train Simulator CDs (see folder SOUND).

If I install Open Rails, will it change my Microsoft Train Simulator files?

No, Open Rails does not modify any Microsoft Train Simulator files.

Does Open Rails report data back to its creators?

Not at the moment. Data on how Open Rails is used will be very helpful for the project but, if we wish to collect usage data, we will inform you beforehand and you will always be able to opt out.