Advice on getting started in Blender and/or Gmax


Trainz Content Creator
So I've decided to FINALLY dive into the world of 3d modeling and I'm finding myself very quickly overwhelmed. Seemingly endless amounts of menus and features and finding if I click or hit something wrong on the keyboard, I find myself unable to get out of whatever "mess" I've caused. Mainly focusing on an older version of Blender, version 2.79 for use with the Trainz Mesh Importer and the even older Gmax with the Trainz Pack installed. Does anyone know and easy to follow tutorials, or is there just an element of trial and error with all this? For Blender, I keep finding new tutorials for newer versions and exporting FBX meshes, but I would prefer to keep with 2.79 and older IM meshes as I still use many older versions of Trainz, mainly TS12 for it's (in my opinion) superior content manager. I just feel so "in the dark" when working in Blender and Gmax isn't much better, compared to other programs used for Trainz content creation (Photoshop/Paint.NET/Audacity/PEV Tools/IM Editor/CCP). Does Blender/Gmax by their very nature have a steep learning curve, or am I missing something here? If so, what did any of you do to get started in 3D modeling and what helped you learn the best?

Edit: Are any other 3D modeling programs any "easier" to learn? (I use that term loosely).
I used Gmax for 7 years then Blender, Blender is way better. Also Gmax has a save bug in it so you must have 3 or more "saves". There is a .im exporter for Blender 3.0 and up.
I tried using Blender a few years ago and had the same frustrations with the complex user interface. Somewhere I heard the newest version was simpler/more intuitive. Any truth to it.

If so, the OP should at least give latest version a try.
When using Blender you need to find the complete keyboard shortcut file on the internet. Everybody that is new will hit a wrong key by mistake and have no idea how to correct it because there are so make shortcut keys. My common mistake is to hit H instead of G. H hides the object where as G allows you to move the object. If you cannot work out how to correct an incorrect keystroke search the internet there is always a solution. Do not give up on Blender although there is a steep learning curve you will find that most keystrokes will become second nature.
Check out John's tutorial first as this will ease you into using Blender.


Hi Jake,

Welcome to Trainz modelling. I would recommend you start with Blender 3 as there is a ton of material out there. One down side is that almost all of it does not pertain to Trainz but there are good places to start and there is Trainz related material for you to work on too.

Grant Abbitt has recently uploaded an introduction to Blender 3, the current version of Blender to YouTube “Blender 3 - Complete Beginners Guide”.

I would recommend starting with parts 1 to 6. As you are going to export your models to Trainz you don’t need to know how to create a scene and light it, which are the subjects of parts 7 and 8.

I have been working on a Blender Course for creating Trainz Content. It can be found here.

It has been written using Blender 2.9 and PBR Painter 2.2 but I don’t think that will present too much of a challenge as Blender’s interface has not changes much between version 2.9 and 3 and PBR Painter 2.2 is still the current version. I am about to update it to Blender 3 and PBR Painter 2.3. PBR Painter 2.3 is expected in late March or early April but the basics have not changed so downloading version 2.2 from Blender Market then updating later to version 2.3 would be no problem.

Learning Blender has its challenges as do all 3D modelling programs. The more bells and whistles the greater the learning curve. But keep in mind that Blender has been made to create much more than Trainz assets so the challenge is to determine which parts of Blender are needed and which can be ignored.

That’s where the Trainz community comes in. Ask lots of question on the forum. People, including myself, are always ready to help. Also don’t get too ambitious at the start. Like any locomotive engineer, if you try to start full throttle you will only spin your wheels and get nowhere. As you will see after introducing the interface both Grant Abbitt’s guide and my tutorials start with simple models and build on them by introducing more modelling tools.

In addition to Blender there are a few other programs you will need. Which ones depend on whether you are using a PC or a Mac or a combination of both, as I do. You can spend a lot of money on these but you don’t have to. There are inexpensive and free alternatives that can be recommended when you get to the point of needing them.

I think, as I am sure others do, that you are missing out on a lot of what Trainz has to offer if you are not into modelling your own content. Welcome to the club. Ready and willing to help you get started.

I know I've said it before, but I ditched GMAX way back and now use Blender. There is no reasonable justification I can come up with to use Blender 2.79. Yes, there is an exporter, yes, there are a lots of tutorials... but the same can be said for Blender 3.0 now. Blender 2.79 and earlier have that horrendous user interface that turned so many people off. Blender 2.80 and beyond fixed a ton of user interface inconsistencies. but also made all the old tutorials obsolete since so much changed (for the better).

If you tried to use Blender a few years ago and were gobsmacked at how unfriendly it seemed... try Blender again. Folks like Grant Abbitt, Josh Gambrell and "The CG Essentials" guy get you started on the right foot with Blender. The add-on market for Blender is crazy active and there are so many handy tools coming out its hard to keep up.

Tried Blender 2.32 when I started modeling... hated it, - uninstalled
Tried GMAX, produced 1 bogey set, and 2 Northeast east USA Caboose models. (They are on DLS) The experience was not fun...
Bought 3DCanvas... It was OK. Made a lot of models with it. (it's dead now)
Tried Blender 2.63 when it came out... hated it - uninstalled
Tried Blender 2.79 hated it - uninstalled...
Tried Blender 2.83 Ok. this could work...
Now using Blender 3.0 and it gets more fun everyday.
Blender is a great product, but at first, you will be overwhelmed with the interface, as people have stated. I know people want to get into the modeling aspect of trainz and really just want to make and export things. However, learning the terminology of the craft and truly understanding what you are doing will go a long way to satisfying the need to create what you really want. Tutorials help a lot and will get you heading in the right direction.

As people have mentioned, the old Blender interface is daunting, to say the least. What you see in the 3d view ports isn't always what you will end up with upon export, especially when it comes to materials and textures, which is why a good understanding of both the program and the terms used is paramount to success and keep the frustration level down. Wasted time making unnecessary mistakes is gone and you'll want that back, believe me. There is no magic program or tool that with the wave of a hand will get you that favorite locomotive or piece of rolling stock that works flawlessly in the sim. Be prepared to spend months, if not years getting to the point where you are not only comfortable with the programs, but have the confidence to tackle any project, quickly and efficiently.

Good luck!
I haven't used Blender in quite a very long time, so I have no idea what the differences are between the versions. The main reason being I have no purpose for making anything, and I'm too busy on other things to focus on making models which takes a high amount of concentration and being left alone time.

I will say that after coming from 3ds R4 for DOS and Max, I was confused as well. I found that setting up the standard 4-windows helps a lot in staying oriented. Getting used to the tools took quite a bit more after that.
Using the four-corners, put your Left or Right side in the top left, and top-view on the top right. The bottom left has the front, and the bottom right has camera or perspective. This is how 3ds is laid out as well as many other programs as well.
If you like that Quad view in the Modeling window... in Blender you toggle it on and off with CTRL-ALT-Q

I would also use the multi-window view in 3DCanvas/Crafter as well.