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View Full Version : The Hobby-weight Championship fight



WillPac
January 11th, 2010, 03:43 PM
As an avid train guy from N scale up to 1:1 scale, I thought it might be interesting to weigh the pros and cons of this hobby, essentially pitting Trainz against the 3D version covered by such magazines as Model Railroader and Model Railroad Craftsman in such categories as Time, Space, Money, Skill Level, Selection, Versatility and Intangibles. So without further fanfare….

…Ladies and gentlemen, focus your attention on the center of the ring, as our two contenders prepare to square off for the hobby-weight championship. It’s TRS (Trainz) vs. MRR (Model Railroading):

As a lifetime (well, close enough) model railroader, I have said this hobby requires three things: time, space and money. And most of the time, I was always lacking in at least one those (and it was always something different each time).

Round 1, Time: dead even, because this program is as addicting and time consuming as the 3D version. Trainz and MR finish this round even.

Round 2, Space: I think Trainz wins that one hands down, since the only space it takes up in on one’s hard drive. And a bigger hard drive is much easier to obtain and purchase than for one to build a bigger train room! Trainz takes this round 10-9.

Round 3, Money: Even though MRR would love to grab the crown from TRS, Trainz wins this category, even if you subscribe to the sites that take payment for custom content and often buy First Class Tickets. Model Railroading is a wonderful hobby; but it is god-awful expensive! One detailed but simple plastic structure can set one back $50, $60, $70 or more. That is more than TS2009 and any version prior to it. Locos run $85 and up, and if you want DCC control AND sound, plan on forking out at least $200. Trainz scores a knockdown, and wins the round 10-8.

Round 4, Skill Level: Hmmm, that can be a hard category to award, because everyone has different skill sets. If you’re happy with Trainz as it comes, your skill requirements are reduced to running a program, and learning the different parts of it, i.e. Driver and Surveyor. There is a reason why the manual is more than 300 pages! Add to that, CMP, Download Station, and the joys of missing dependencies, the skill requirements amp up exponentially.
But compared to MR, Trainz is child’s play. With MR, one must have skill (or know someone with it) in carpentry, track-laying, electrical wiring, painting (backdrops), lighting, scenic techniques, and knowledge in design and operation of said railroad.
I had a layout going, but the quality of the benchwork was far from great, and track-laying/wiring was a big headache. Of course, once we decided to adopt a special-needs child at my wife’s school, she got our bedroom, and the only room left for my wife and I was my train room. So what was started was removed (navigating around a queen sized bed was more of a challenge than I wanted). Trainz requires no nail pounding, no soldering, no messy plaster, no tricky wiring. Nirvana. So for me, Trainz wins this category 10-9.

Round 5, Selection: Again, this question has different answers to different people. As an N-scaler for so long, I have been impressed with the amazing growing selection of locos, rolling stock, structures, people, cars, scenic materials, etc.
But Trainz also has a wealth of choices, especially in the scenery/texturing options. Although MRR has a ton of wonderful engines available out there, until TRS came along I had never had in my livery an engine in Southern Pacific’s Black Widow paint scheme. I now have four! I could never come up with the cash for Con-Cor’s gorgeous Union Pacific “Big Boy”, but with TRS, I got one for the price of admission.
Taking both at face value, MRR gets the nod by a hair, but with TRS’s incorporated DLS and CMP, the score narrows even more. Both are constantly offering new choices. Both clearly have “limited releases”, since even TRS has custom-content-creating users who move onto other venues. MRR scores a 10-9 edge.

Round 6, Versatility: This is where I think TRS pulls away decisively. Although both versions allow you to run any train in any setting to suit your interests and whims, only TRS can shift easily with you if your interests change. If you design a layout that depicts a 1970s coal hauler thru the Appalachians and suddenly decide you want to try logging runs in the Pacific Northwest using 1930s steam power, then by George, you can. In fact, you can really do so in either MRR or TRS.
But with TRS, the changes take place with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. Drastic changes in MRR could require heavier alteration devices, like hammers and crowbars!
TRS wins this one with another knockdown in the 7th. TRS wins on points 10-8.

Rounds 7-10, Intangibles: Here is where MRR makes up some lost points. Because as detailed as we make our TRS routes, they are still just a 2D representation. There is just something about seeing life in miniature that makes MRR so appealing.
I may not have a layout (for now), but every November we rearrange our living room for our ever-growing Christmas village. With 73 businesses, plus a trolley car system, and a connection with the D&RGW passing thru town, this display has never failed to elicit at least a “wow” from any viewer. Pretty sure I wouldn’t receive the same response were this reduced to a computer monitor. MRR takes round 7, 10-9.
Of course, one of the dangers with 3D things is their chance of breakage if mishandled. Anyone visiting a layout has to be viewed as a potential danger to everything within their reach, especially if they are children. I view my dog and kids with a higher level of distrust during the holidays than I do the rest of the year! TRS does not have that problem. TRS takes round 8, 10-9.
Engines, rolling stock, track and some scenery require periodic maintenance to sustain a level of reliable operation; with TRS, Auran does all of the maintenance, leaving us to create and drive our trains. There are no derailments in TRS (unless you choose that option). TRS captures the 9th round, 10-9.
MRR is by and large a social hobby, and getting together to run some trains (what is usually called “an operating session”) is the backbone of the hobby. TRS, not so much. Yeah sure, we have the forums, but it’s not the same fellowship one gets from MRR gatherings.
On the flip side, getting a handful of working adults together at the same time, for several hours, has become increasingly more difficult in these busy times. TRS’ AI engineers are always available. But nevertheless, MRR takes this round 10-9.

Despite its solid showing near the end, the veteran train champion just didn’t measure up well against the young stud with its new moves and amazing potential. Ladies and gentlemen, the winner by majority decision, the new Hobby-weight Champion of the Rails, is TRS!

American_Connections
January 11th, 2010, 03:50 PM
First piece of advice- keep your font mall so one ac see it in one page! I can't even read this! Nice to see another Oregono here though!

pware
January 11th, 2010, 04:02 PM
Well said - while I have dreamed of setting up a model rail road and am a regular visitor to MMR shows to admire the skills and dedication, I have always been put off by the many disadvantages you have elucidated, especially my considerable lack of space and carpentry skills.

For me it was a "no brainer" - when the first version of Trainz was announced, I ordered a copy.

Peter Ware

WillPac
January 11th, 2010, 04:46 PM
First piece of advice- keep your font mall so one ac see it in one page! I can't even read this! Nice to see another Oregono here though!
S:o rry about that..I wrote this long diatribe in Word, then just copied and pasted.

Gary_Evans
January 11th, 2010, 04:56 PM
Maybe Kent (AC) needs to update his system. I had no trouble reading your post.

I fully agree with the post and have often thought of writing something similar but never got a roundtuit, glad you did.

If had had put the time, money and space into the two layouts I have created for my pleasure, it would have taken thousands of hours, thousands of dollars and would occupy the entire house and garage.
Thanks Auran for producing a product that allows many of us to enjoy our hobby beyond our wildest dreams:) .
G

JCitron
January 11th, 2010, 07:01 PM
As a former N-Scaler myself, I well remember the high cost of the individual components. The fact that everything, mostly the rolling stock, is limited edition makes the cost even higher. Kato and Atlas have become very famous for that, and sadly have priced out young people from entering the hobby.

I could add a another plus to the Trainz side though. There's the size of the components for one. For me this has become a factor since I tend to drop things a lot, and I can't see small things as well anymore. With Trainz you can't drop them or break the locomotives. At one point, I dropped by accident my very fondly remembered D&H Alco RS-3 on to the floor. I saw it hit the concrete and smash in to bits on the basement floor. My heart sunk into my stomach as I picked up the pieces and put them into the junk box.

I also found the same issue with painting the models. I had enough trouble painting the sides of a building and gluing it together square that I became so frustrated that I threw away some expensive models right into the trash bin. I spent more time picking up pieces with cat hair all over them because I had dropped the glued parts on to the carpet than I did trying to put the model together.

I agree that there is the touch and distrust factor particularly when it comes to kids. I had this issue with my N-scale layout, and lost some items over the years. The other factor is cats. My two current felines like to steal things, and at one point I found a very expensive B&M GP40-2 sitting in my kitchen on the floor along with some very old boxcars and church. I initially thought it was my 5 year-old nephew that took them, then one day I caught the culprit. My big fluffy cat was walking down stairs one day with a house in her mouth. Not a mouse, but a house! She took it and dropped it on the living room floor, and went back up stairs again to take something else.

With my diagnosis of Parkinson's, that spelled the end of model railroading the way I remember it, but at the same time I had been into the 3d world, and Trainz came along and replaced my frustration.

John

WillPac
January 13th, 2010, 02:01 PM
John:

I feel your pain. I have collected N scale stuff since my dad got my brother and I some unprototypical Atlas Fairbanks Morse C-Liners in ATSF Warbonnet paint way back in 1972. But with this ragged economy, I wound up selling almost all of it this past November, just so my kids would have a decent Christmas. Now all I have left of it are some SP Daylight cars by Kato, those funny foursome of Model Power cigar reefers, and a small box of scenery material, like Plaster Cloth and Woodland Scenics ground foam.

I forgot to mention another strong vote for Trainz, as I am currently working on what had been nothing more than a pipe dream in the 3D world: a layout situated here in the Pacific NW, with SP and UP trains. But the real beauty of this program: my original trackplan was largely an urban switcher, with Portland, Beaverton and other outlying suburbs. But with Trainz, I am now working on a line that stretches from Seattle to Eugene, a distance of 283 miles. No way ANYONE could model that without a spare gymnasium to call home! I might even push it further south into California, time permitting. Working on Seattle now, and building a good-sized city is a time-consuming enterprise, to say the least!

JCitron
January 13th, 2010, 02:49 PM
John:

I feel your pain. I have collected N scale stuff since my dad got my brother and I some unprototypical Atlas Fairbanks Morse C-Liners in ATSF Warbonnet paint way back in 1972. But with this ragged economy, I wound up selling almost all of it this past November, just so my kids would have a decent Christmas. Now all I have left of it are some SP Daylight cars by Kato, those funny foursome of Model Power cigar reefers, and a small box of scenery material, like Plaster Cloth and Woodland Scenics ground foam.

I forgot to mention another strong vote for Trainz, as I am currently working on what had been nothing more than a pipe dream in the 3D world: a layout situated here in the Pacific NW, with SP and UP trains. But the real beauty of this program: my original trackplan was largely an urban switcher, with Portland, Beaverton and other outlying suburbs. But with Trainz, I am now working on a line that stretches from Seattle to Eugene, a distance of 283 miles. No way ANYONE could model that without a spare gymnasium to call home! I might even push it further south into California, time permitting. Working on Seattle now, and building a good-sized city is a time-consuming enterprise, to say the least!

I got into N-Scale around the same time, perhaps a year or two before. I started with the old Rapido/Revelle Postagestamp Trains. My grand dad gave me a simple oval setup for Christmas one year. My dad then built a 2 x 4 layout that fit under my bed. I would use that for hours on end. He being a graphic artist, made me buildings and even a balsawood water tower, which I still have on a shelf.

I still have my kits, what's left of them, and most of my trains. I think someday I'll find a nice home for them rather than letting the motors seize up while the lubrication dries out inside them.

I agree with the other plus with Trainz. I too am currently working on an expanded version of my model railroad plan. What started out as a double around and back loop in N-scale, became a 158 mile shortline that connects to the old Boston & Maine (Guilford) and the rest of the world. The landscape is New England like, with shorelines and little harbors, along wth the bigger former textile mills. This pretty much echos the old B&M as it once ran through the Merrimack Valley where i live today. There's no way this could ever fit even in a stadium without some kind of compromise, besides a layout of this size would require constant maintenance that would rival the real 1:1 scale route.

John

WillPac
January 13th, 2010, 06:11 PM
Ah, a 158-mile shortline, with no sawdust, no crimped track, NO HELIXES (which even a compressed version in our tiny 1:160 size would be needed a-plenty).

Which brings up a question maybe u or someone else tracking this can: can you add a new section BETWEEN two existing sections? Or move sections around? Model Railroader had a series last year on the Beer Line, and the trackplan allowed for the three pieces to be put together in three ways, making a different look each time. Avalon Hill's old wargames like Panzer Blitz and Panzer Leader used a similar approach with their interchangable game boards.

JCitron
January 13th, 2010, 09:30 PM
Ah, a 158-mile shortline, with no sawdust, no crimped track, NO HELIXES (which even a compressed version in our tiny 1:160 size would be needed a-plenty).

Which brings up a question maybe u or someone else tracking this can: can you add a new section BETWEEN two existing sections? Or move sections around? Model Railroader had a series last year on the Beer Line, and the trackplan allowed for the three pieces to be put together in three ways, making a different look each time. Avalon Hill's old wargames like Panzer Blitz and Panzer Leader used a similar approach with their interchangable game boards.

Unfortunately a new section can not be inserted easily; not without some surgery and saving the route to a new temporary versions. I can say from experience that this is a pain in the FRED because one half of the route has to be deleted in one temporary version while being careful not to remove the wrong boards. The other half will have the inserted baseboards merged together, and then the two final boards merged together; one board being the one with the inserted baseboards, and the other with the lopped off sections where the original split occured.

At one point, some users developed the U-Make series (UM) baseboards. With these simple baseboard sections, one could easily add to an existing layout, or create their own based on the prebuilt and ready to merge sections. The tracks are laid out in a specific place on the boards so that they will line up with each other. A few people did some nice railroad yards that can be nicely added. I did this on one section of my route because my yard building is less than spectacular. I easily connected the UM yards in, customized the textures, buildings, and replaced the track. Once that was done, I blended everything into my layout in such a way that no one would know it was made by someone else.

With all of the double helix, any large convincing route would be one nasty backache trying to get them in place, let alone trying to find a derailment. On a layout that size, it would necessary to have remote cameras and remote control in order to keep up with the train and view any issues. I would probably say isles wide enough to accomodate a golf cart or some other mode of transportation to keep up with the size of the layout.

Another plus-point for the virtual layout/route is baseboard width. It's no longer necessary for pop-up sections for cleaning or repairs, or a maximum depth other than for cpu bandwidth because there's no requirements needed for the big hook to come in to lift derailed rolling stock back on to the track.

John

pommie
January 14th, 2010, 02:28 AM
One financial thing that was missed in the original post is the cost of a decent computer and the ongoing cost of an Internet connection, I don't know what anyone else pays for the net but I pay about au$85 (au$109 with wall phone) a month, so thats 2 or 3 pieces of rolling stock or about 1/4 to 2/3 of a loco a month (using Bachmann On30 au prices).
Yeah I know that I would need a years worth to buy the 2-6-6-2 :'( but a good graphics card is not cheap either :p :p

Cheers David

angelah
January 14th, 2010, 05:06 AM
Hello all Trainzers,
I used to build model railways (railroads if you wish) as a hobby, see my site, the link is below, and the sentiments mentioned above are quite correct.
One however, must also realise that a layout takes up storage space, a lot of it if the model is a large one, my longest was Hayling Island at 21 feet. No such problem with Trainz. There are 111 routes in this room and there is no way on earth I could have done that with the real item!
I modelled first in S4, a kind of 'OO' with attitude, then 'OO' and then 'N' gauge, so I did the course, as it were, apart from 'O' and larger, they really do gorge themselves on room space.
The expense was crippling! Fortunately my models were good and they were all sold which helped pay for the next one.
And then there's the traumatic experience of getting the thing to the exhibition venue and setting it up, then doing it all in reverse at the end of two days. Horse Cove ('N') was made almost completely out of foam board which made it light enough for me to carry two sections bolted together into the hall. Most of the guys stood there is amazement. They had several beefy chaps to each section all panting and puffing. The downside of foam board is the chance of damage, it dents very easily.
If you want to keep it at home and set up then you have either to have a spare room (not easy at times), an empty garage (so your car sits out in the elements and slowly rots!) or you will need to build an outhouse or lean-to, even more expense and a whole set of new skills required. The other option is to pack it away and then have to unpack and set up every time you feel like a run on your favourite line..... I rest my case!

Trainz has to be a better option for the home user of model railways. It is neat, clean, small (rather like me) - in fact just the size of your PC - and can be put away with a few strokes of the keyboard. Yes, you have to buy a PC, true, but that means you can use it for all sorts of things other than playing trains, so a computer is an investment for the home and all the people in it rather than an outlay for a model railway.
The other thing is we can run full-size! Wow... True scale, true time. You cannot do that with MR, not unless you buy and preserve a line of course, but then you cannot keep that in your living room either, can you, ha ha ha.

And for me it keeps my mind busy. If I did not keep doing something every minute of the day then my mind wanders back to the sad events of October 2007 when Alan passed away in my arms. So I thank Auran for Trainz, strangely and many might disagree, it keeps me sane, even with all the problems that come with it that can send you up the wall. Mind you, there are those who believe I am a total looney anway. These problems can be sorted out, this forum is the best place for that with probably millions of smiling faces looking at it. And there is another point; you make many, many new acquaintences here and some good friends, I know, I have done just that, and all without needing to venture outside the door.

In my view there is no contest. A real model is very nice, and I even joined a club and became a Group Leader, but there again it meant going out in all weathers, parking a car (if I could in a busy town!) and then coming home late at night alone in the dark, not a good idea round this neck-of-the-woods. Then I noticed this computer game called Trainz: Yes, the original version, that is where I started flirting with it and have never looked back - in truth I think we got married somewhere along the way!! Bought UTC, met a lovely guy called Henke when he came the England and had a beer, then got 2004 and began the long process of learning how to use it, and more importantly how to create a natural looking route and use textures. One reason why you never saw my 'first layout' on the Screenshots section. It took a year before I felt I was anywhere near good enough to even contemplate putting an image on the forum.
Since then I have created and sent up 23 routes. There are more on the way too, a completed version of the second section of my WCL series. Might put 1 and 2 joined together on my site for downloading, if I can work out how to do it.... brain-strain again.
I bought TC3 and 2006 and am now thinking of getting 2010, mainly just to see trees grow! I shall stick with 2004 for route creation because it allows me to reach a greater 'audience', that is, many more folk will be able to use them.
Trainz is incredibly addictive; time passes like the wind and I often forget to take medication on time or have lunch because my head has been stuck at such-and-such a place on a route trying to find an asset that will fit the bill for the building looking back at me from Google Earth on my second PC.
I love it; we all love it, even though a lot of us would not admit it and some throw it in the bin, only to sneak back and retrieve it later. Where would we be without it?
Well, it has been a long two-pennyworth. I hope it has proved an interesting diatribe?

God bless all you Trainzers out there.

Angela

American_Connections
January 14th, 2010, 05:48 AM
...The other factor is cats. My two current felines like to steal things, and at one point I found a very expensive B&M GP40-2 sitting in my kitchen on the floor along with some very old boxcars and church. I initially thought it was my 5 year-old nephew that took them, then one day I caught the culprit. My big fluffy cat was walking down stairs one day with a house in her mouth. Not a mouse, but a house! She took it and dropped it on the living room floor, and went back up stairs again to take something else...
John
Don't blame the cats, they just want to enjoy railroading like you do! Ha Ha.
I miss my N-Gage days very much. Have though about redoing it in Trainz, but would be so small for what can be with the game, guess I could just make all the straights longer. I set a baseboard display in the model of my house, but cannot see how th get a miniture RR set to operate inside a scenery item.
http://img151.imageshack.us/img151/7732/trainroom.jpg

http://img27.imageshack.us/img27/6721/frontviewt.jpg

cascaderailroad
January 14th, 2010, 08:22 AM
Using the A/A tool button, you can go back in, and edit your post, highlight it, and change the 6[/B]] tags, size to Font=2

Gary_Evans
January 14th, 2010, 08:42 AM
Angelah:
Great site you have!!!
You are a busy lady and I might add, a real asset to the Trainz forum.
Keep the faith.
G

davesnow
January 14th, 2010, 09:25 AM
Another thing TRAINZ has over model railroading.... you can RIDE in the locos. I love cab view so much. Makes it really closer to realism for me. I know a lot of TRAINZERS out there don't utilize (or even like) cab view, and I don't understand that. For me cab view makes TRAINZ a lot more fun.

JCitron
January 14th, 2010, 10:56 AM
Another thing TRAINZ has over model railroading.... you can RIDE in the locos. I love cab view so much. Makes it really closer to realism for me. I know a lot of TRAINZERS out there don't utilize (or even like) cab view, and I don't understand that. For me cab view makes TRAINZ a lot more fun.

I agree, Dave. Sitting in the cab looking over the route that I created, is quite amazing. I give the driver with a set of AI commands to go to the different stations picking up passengers, and I ride in the driver's seat blowing the horn and ringing the bell at the crossings!

It's quite amazing to see the landscape unfold in front of you as the train moves along, and the views of the different towns as I pictured them to be in my head while building the route.


@Mike (A/C) You might be able to animate your ultra-mini layout by using a sprite if your modeling program allows. You'd attach a miniture train object to a path and run it round the loop. I don't know the specifics, but I think this is how the modelers make birds fly around rocks, etc.

John

John

WillPac
January 14th, 2010, 11:05 AM
Angela:

Billy Currington recorded a song last year with the words, "God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy." So if you think you're a bit loony, then you are also normal! Besides, it's great to see a woman with so much enthusiasm and effort in this male-dominated hobby.

Someone gave me UTC as a gift, and I played around with it a little (the program ran fine, but Paint Shed would always crash on startup), but I was still hanging onto the dream of a 3D railroad.

But after selling almost all of my stuff this past November, TRS2006 as a Christmas gift from my brother was perfect timing. I have jumped into this porgram with both feet and am really enjoying this love-hate relationship we all seem to have (love Trainz, but DLS and CMP, not so much).

Trainz has a big bonus in that you don't need a pickup truck or van to show off your creation. Yes, your RR is only viewable on a small screen, so you never can get that "ooooo" reaction when a visitor walks into your train room. That is, until I hooked up an HDMI cable between my laptop and our TV. How about seeing Trainz on a 60-inch screen? Now that did elicit some "ooooo"s from my family! :cool: