How much scenery is enough?


Well-known member
I'd be interested to hear the opinions of other builders. Below is an image of Glasgow Queen Street as it stands at present. I've added buildings to the immediate area and from the station throat, the city appears full but is it enough? I could spend months adding more but I'd rather not if it isn't needed. Do many people tend to be looking at a route from such distance?


Perhaps it may not be such an issue today :D with high powered CPUs, GPUs and lots and lots of cheap RAM on board, but not everyone today has (or can afford) the latest rig with i9 CPU, 32GB RAM, RTX4060, etc. I cut my Trainz teeth on much more primitive systems and I quickly discovered that "less is more". "Less on screen assets" means "more performance".

I still use tricks such as using a limited set of buildings which I present to the track with different sides showing so they look like different buildings, and hiding lack of detail with foliage. Where possible I use assets with low polygon counts further out from the track and restrict the more detailed stuff to closer in. I studiously avoid anything made from Sketchup (hopefully that comment will not spark another forum argument).

Most Trainz scenes are passed fairly quickly as the user rides along with the train so why waste time, effort and frame rates on putting in a lot of detail that will mostly be missed.

It is easy to get carried away and try to build a city as it actually is but the penalty you pay will be in low frame rates, poor performances, long loading times, etc.

My thoughts.
I am not sure I am seeing where the track goes, but I would say unless you are doing drivable bus lines or trams your streets here look great. One easy way to distract is to put in details in the form of people going about their work and play, we tend to want to see what is going on. Also adding everyday things like trash bins, newspaper stands, vending machines, etc., Especially anything that might be unique to that area. And along the track, trackside items that one might be expected to see, and people working in the yards.
I'd say first decide how you want to experience the route. As a driver / passenger? As a railway modeller, from above? As a touring aircraft pilot? As a car, bus or tram traveller? Etc, etc. This sets your criterion, and then work to that. If the route is to be enjoyed through the eyes of footplate crew or passengers, there's nothing wrong with thinning out scenery and using backdrops. You can always specify the viewpoint for others' benefit in your route description.
Thanks for the replies folks. I think you're sort of confirming what I was leaning towards.

Forester1, the station roof is right in the centre of the image. Track goes north from there in a tunnel.

My intention is the route should be driven from the cab so it could be that what I have is more than enough. If I drive a train into the station, I can see roof tops beyond and not much else. I want to ensure a high quality experience and I know there are a number of routes in 'the other sim' that are also designed to be viewed from the driver's point of view.
I agree with Forester1 on this. When I've put together cities, I ensure they look busy and built up from the distance but not overly huge and eating up a lot of resources and focus my efforts closer to the tracks. If I want to fill in areas with buildings, I use the old Cityscape series blocks by Dave Drake (dmdrake). There are a number of these on the DLS. They have names such as Brooklyn, and so on, but they're generic city blocks with a bunch of his buildings setup in squares. Putting a bunch of these close together and then putting mode detailed buildings in the front with fences and what not usually does the trick.

For real though, we can go nuts building cities with the infinite details and in the end it's a lot of extra effort depending on the purpose of the route and also even with today's computers with their faster video cards, CPUs and gobs of RAM, this is still a resource hit when it comes to performance when setup with large goods yards, passenger terminals, and all those other details we want close to the tracks.
As has been said, it really depends on how the route will be experienced. How long will any one view be visible?
While individual clutter makes for a nice lived-in look, it also comes with a big performance cost.
I think the key word is simulation. If you can make it look interesting and non-repetative, you will have succeeded. Not only by placing the same item at different rotation angles but also by burying them at different depths.. Thus a tree can become a bush, a sky-scraper can become a shorter building, etc.
Here's a view of a route I've been working on for ages. The city of Hull is in the distance here. There's not much of a city to see when viewed from above. I set this up deliberately to look like a city on the other side of the small bay.