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27-Inch Gauge Railway for MSTS 

Talyllyn Railway Route
By David Lloyd-Jones

Originally published in Woodbridge's Train Simulation Craftsman Volume 2, Issue Number 3, Third Quarter 2003; Published with permission. --Ed

Great narrow gauge advances have been made on Microsoft's Train Simulator (MSTS) over the past eight months with release of the complete Welsh narrow gauge Talyllyn Railway route created by Steve Pontin. 

It’s now possible to drive an authentic narrow gauge train the full 7.1/4 miles all the way up to Nant Gwernol and back to Tywyn Wharf station again. With the addition of Kevin Martin's realistic Talyllyn Railway locomotives and rolling stock it is also possible to run a prototypical Talyllyn Railway timetable with the correct trains that run just like the real thing. 

Since being releasd back in miid-2001, it has only been possible to run narrow gauge outline locomotives and rolling stock on MSTS standard gauge routes, which was far from ideal as everything is totally out of proportion. However, Steve Pontin's MSTS Talyllyn Railway route is designed to allow both TR and other narrow gauge outline rolling stock to run in a realistic environment, with the correct looking narrow gauge track and other railway infrastructure.

I haven't been on the real Talyllyn Railway for many years, but after using the simulation, I now want to return and ride the line again, which surely can't be a bad thing -- damn good PR for the Talyllyn Railway too.

Back to Steve Pontin's Talyllyn Railway MSTS route -- it's available by downloading it from the internet via the excellent UKTrainsim web site (http://www.uktrainsim.com), which at a shade short of 40 MB, can take quite a while on an ordinary 56K modem. This can take anything up to two hours depending on download speed -- we don't all have the luxury of getting the Internet down a broadband drainpipe just yet.

As an alternative, you can purchase a copy of the Talyllyn Railway route, rolling stock and activities on a CD-ROM from UKTrainsim for only £4.50 including P&P. To my mind, this is the easier option as it saves time and money and also gives you a CD-ROM master copy that you can use again and again if you need to reload the programme.

Of course, the 2 ft-3 in. gauge Welsh Talyllyn Railway is famous the world over for being the very first railway to be preserved back in 1951. This narrow gauge line runs from Tywyn on the Cardigan Bay coast of Wales some 7.1/4 miles inland to Nant Gwernol. The railway was originally constructed to carry slate from Bryn Eglwys quarry to a standard gauge transhipment siding at Tywyn. The Talyllyn Railway opened in July 1865 for public traffic between Tywyn and Abergynolwyn. The section between Abergynolwyn and quarry was worked as a private mineral tramway. 

The two original steam locomotives supplied for the opening of the line, Fletcher Jennings 0-4-0ST “Talyllyn” and “Dolgoch” can still be found working this line today albeit in a modified form. 

As a quarry line, the Talyllyn Railway was not a real success. The quarry finally closed in 1947 following a collapse of some of the workings, and the railway closed three years later when the owner Sir Henry Haydn Jones died in 1950. The Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society was formed the following year, and the rest as they say, is history.

Installing the Route 

Installing and adding the Talyllyn Railway MSTS route to your computer is a very simple task indeed. All you have to do is follow simple install instructions, which does all the hard work for you. Yyou could be up and running on Talyllyn metals within minutes. The same applies for all the TR locomotives, carriages, wagons and activities required to operate this route. 

Of course, you don't have to stick religiously to just the TR stock. You can also run any “'foreign”' narrow gauge locomotives and rolling stock too (MSTS is cross compatible -- you can run all MSTS stock on any route, but a huge American “'Big Boy”' pounding its way up to Nant Gwernol does looks rather daft).

Also available for free download via the UKTrainsim website is Kevin Martin's excellent Ffestiniog Railway locomotives and rolling stock, which not only look superb, but are suitable for running on MSTS Talyllyn route too. A Ffestiniog Railway double Fairlie and a rake of FR bogie carriages look quite at home on this narrow gauge route.

After seeing my name in several UK railway magazine picture captions instead of the correct “David Lloyd-George”' (a rather famous British Prime Minister), Kevin Martin sent me a copy of a Ffestiniog double Fairlie locomotive carrying the nameplate “David Lloyd-Jones” -- fame at last! As you might have all ready guessed, this engine takes pride of place in my MSTS narrow gauge locomotive fleet and very nice it looks too - thanks again Kevin.

Once up and running, the Talyllyn Railway route really looks the part, and it’s quite surprising how much fine detail can be incorporated into computer simulation. However, you have to remember that it is a representation of the line, built within the various restrictions of the MSTS programme, so Talyllyn Railway purists and rivet counters be warned. If Steve Pontin had built this TR route 100% correct true to scale, it would have taken him years to build and would need a massive computer just to run the programme.

Activities 

Operating the Talyllyn Railway route through the main MSTS menu screen is easy as it is set up in the same style as all the other MSTS routes, which allows you to simply explore the route using a train of your choice or engage in one of the pre-programmed activities, which come with the Talyllyn Railway CD ROM.

They are well thought out activities, and each can be completed in less than one hour. In fact, you can run up (or down) the whole line at normal operating speed of 15mph in around 40 minutes. Unlike the simple explore the route mode, an activity requires you to drive the train keeping very much to a strict timetable. An activity normally starts with the train at the station ready to depart. You have to wait for the guard’s whistle and the “okay to proceed” before setting off. An onscreen guide keeps you up to date with your timings. For example, it tells you the time you were meant to have departed the previous station, the actual time of departure, the time of arrival at the next station and how many miles to the next station.

A lot of the standard gauge lines on the MSTS run to a very tight timetable, especially the fast urban commuter routes. However, as you might have guessed, the pace on a narrow gauge railway is normally a bit more leisurely with ample time to get between the stations. Arriving on time is important, so is the standard of your driving, as at the end of the activity you are assessed on keeping to time, below the speed limit, the passengers’ comfort levels and ability to stop at stations.

There are no signals on the Talyllyn Railway route, but as the line is single track, arriving in the passing loops on time is vital. The train running in the opposite will wait in the loop for your train to arrive if you’re running a bit late. However, just like the real thing, if you arrive early in the passing loop and decided to carry on, as the stations are only a mile or two apart expect the inevitable head on collision (which my children love). 

Another small gripe, and this is levelled at all the routes on the Train Simulator, including the Talyllyn Railway route, is the lack of a decent track plan to follow. The Talyllyn Railway is not too bad to learn as it’s only quite simple, but some of the large British and American routes are so big it’s impossible to remember all the routes, passing loops and sidings. Imagine arriving at the entrance of a huge US freight yard with a long train of 75 freight cars hauled by three diesels and not having a clue where to go? It can be a little frustrating at times until you have learnt the route. Perhaps Microsoft will address this problem when they release a new version of their Train Simulator in the future.

A lot of the MSTS rolling stock has automatic couplings, but some of the free downloadable British outline stock have prototypical hook and chain couplings, which can cause a few compatibility problems with standard gauge stock, but not with UK narrow gauge as they are all chain couplers. 

Rolling Stock 

On to the Talyllyn Railway locomotives and rolling stock supplied for use on this route. Kevin Martin’s 3D simulations are excellent. The accuracy of the TR locomotives is amazing, and Kevin deserves much credit for the quality of his work. By using different historical TR locomotive liveries it’s possible to run trains from different periods of the Talyllyn Railway’s history. So, for example, you will find you have two versions of “Dolgoch” in its current and original livery. The models have also been enhanced to show off the “specular” lighting possible in MSTS that give a gloss type finish to paintwork that reflect the sun’s rays. The special effects have to be seen to be believed, especially if you run the trains in the late afternoon in the autumn. 

The stock supplied on the TR CD-ROM required to operate the pre-programmed activities includes: 

Fletcher Jennings 0-4-2ST No. 1 “Talyllyn”, built 1864 in both original and persevered livery.

Fletcher Jennings 0-4-0WT No. 2 “Dolgoch”’, built 1866 in both original and persevered livery.

Hughes Engineering 0-4-2ST No. 3 “Sir Haydn”, built 1878.

Talyllyn Railway four-wheeled carriages Nos. 1 to 3 supplied by Brown, Marshalls in 1866.

Talyllyn Railway four-wheeled carriage No. 4 supplied by Lancaster Wagon Co. in 1867.

Talyllyn Railway four-wheeled brake van No. 5 supplied by Brown, Marshalls in 1866. 

Corris Railway four-wheeled brake van No. 6, arrived on the Talyllyn Railway 1951. 

Ex-Glyn Valley Tramway carriages Nos. 14 and 15 built by Midland Railway Carriage & Wagon Co. Ltd in 1892 and 1901 respectively. 

Talyllyn Railway wagons -- 12 goods wagons. All pre-preservation goods wagons have been modelled.

My one and only gripe with the steam locomotives on MSTS is that until somebody spends a bit of time recreating the cab detail and controls for each type of locomotive, you are stuck with the cab view of the two default MSTS stream locomotives –- LNER 4472 “Flying Scotsman” or Orient Express’s Golsdorf Series 380. Okay, you can get away with it with a standard gauge locomotive, but not with a narrow gauge one. Talyllyn Railway’s “Dolgoch” with a LNER A3 controls just doesn’t seem right. Although given time, I’m sure this minor problem will be rectified, and it doesn’t detract too much from the overall simulation. 

Talking to Kevin Martin, who produced all the Talyllyn and Ffestioniog Railway stock, about the problems producing new cab views, he says the problem lies with the fact you need both 2D and 3D modelling skills. If Microsoft had gone for genuine 3D cabs then it would actually have been easier. It seems that you have to make the cab view in 3D, but then you end up having to animate the controls in 2D -- rather like a cartoon. Kevin is planning to make a generic narrow gauge cab view soon, which will be better than using a LNER A3.

In addition, he has just released Talyllyn Railway’s steam locomotive Kerr Stuart 0-4-2ST No. 4 “‘Edward Thomas” and plans to do the other two TR locomotives in the near future. Kevin also produces both locomotives and rolling stock from the Ffestiniog Railway and these are freely available from the UKTrainsim web site. These are up to the standards of his Talyllyn Railway stock. 

The Ffestiniog Railway has also started selling a CD-ROM of Kevin’s FR stock in FR shop at Porthmadoc. This CD-ROM contains versions not released on the internet and includes a green and War Department version of “Mountaineer”, “Linda”’ in blue and Penrhyn guises, two green liveried versions of “Prince”, a new model of “Princess” and a 2-ton FR slate wagon. On the FR front, Kevin is having a go at some of the diesels “Moelwyn”, “Criccieth Castle”’ and “Harlech Castle”. So there is plenty of MSTS UK narrow gauge stuff around.

Driving Tips 

Of course, the whole Talyllyn Railway is built on quite a steep gradient, so learning to control a train is paramount. The trick is to put the brakes on in the rear coach or brake van for the whole of the downward decent and just before you arrive at the stations on the upward journey. This stops the train rolling back down the gradient before the passengers have time to get off.

Also, just like the real thing, learn the route, so you can anticipate where you have to stop. Simply ramming the locomotive into full reverse will not stop the train; instead it will just carry on like the real thing, slipping and sliding away on the rails. Before you have regained control, it will be too late and you will have smashed through the buffers and wall at Wharf terminus. Microsoft has created a real simulator that emulates all the problems of a real railway. Add some rain or snow to your simulation and then you have got some serious problems.

I did learn one fact from the real Talyllyn Railway, which helped me enormously to drive trains over this route: the maximum speed was 15 MPH. Keep it under that speed and it will reduce the problems of stopping and starting in the right places. If you select one of the activities, you have to run to a strict timetable, again just like the real thing. Arriving at the right time and stopping the train in the right place takes some practice. So does pacing yourself between two stations. The beauty of the Talyllyn route, apart from the stunning scenery, is the fact that the route is only 7 miles long and an activity can be completed in under hour. Some of the MSTS US routes go on for hours and hours and cover hundreds of miles. We don’t all have the time to drive a train across a whole State. 

As I mentioned, you can set your trains to run at any time of night or day in rain, snow and brilliant sunshine. Some of the effects you can create are quite spectacular. Autumn time in the late afternoon is the best for superb lighting effects, while early morning with driving rain and mist is a very typical North Wales day. People who have never seen MSTS in action before are amazed by all the snow, although driving in these conditions can be quite difficult but not impossible.

Summary 

In conclusion, this MSTS Talyllyn Railway route is the first UK narrow gauge route, and hopefully it will not be the last. I predict that in a few years most of the more famous narrow gauge lines will be available for MSTS as interest in grows in this new modern way of enjoying trains. Imagine steaming across Exmore to Lynton at the controls of one of the L&B’s Manning Wardle 2-6-2T’s or through the wild rugged scenery of Tralee & Dingle in West Ireland. There is already somebody working away on a simulation of the Ffestiniog Railway.

As mentioned above, the Talyllyn Railway route is available as a free download off the Internet from the UKTrainsim web site or from them on a convenient CD-ROM for only £4.50. Yes, you read it right -- only £4.50. And this charge is only to cover the actual price of the CD and postage and packing. In addition you also get one month’s free premium access to UKTrainsim site, which I think is pretty damn good value for money these days as an average Playstation 2 game will set you back in the region of £45. 

Useful Links 

Talyllyn Railway Route for Microsoft Train Simulator is available from:

http://www.uktrainsim.com website -- As either a free download of the site or as a CD-ROM for £4.50 including P&P.

http://www.talyllyn.co.uk -- a site dedicated to the prototype, which also has the Talyllyn MSTS route available for free download or on a CD-ROM through the post.

Other Train Simulator web sites worth checking out are:

http://www.microsoft.com/games/trainsim -- home of the Train Simulator

http://www.train-sim.com -- A great American site with loads of downloadable material.

http://www.festrail.co.uk -- The Ffestiniog Railway website, which has a section where you can download Kevin Martin’s MSTS Ffestiniog Railway locomotives and rolling stock for free.

Articles and screenshots ©2003 David Lloyd-Jones. All rights reserved.






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