Category Archives: Trains

3D modelling for Train Sims

My 3D modelling journey started 9 years ago in the winter of 2001. I made a few static models for MSTS1 and a pump trolley but my first “proper” rollingstock model was the GWR 4 Wheel Siphon and it has never been updated – till now….

Here’s the initial test in Rail Sim, hopefully I’ll get it working in MSTS/OR, TRS and Rail Sim.

First wagon

Knuckle Coupler

I’m used to making chain link couplings for UK Steam rolling stock, but with the tutorial I thought I’d do a bit of research and experiment with a knuckle coupler.
I found some good drawings of an ARA ‘D’ type in a 1920’s cyclopedia of US steam (CD Rom from PI Engineering)
What an awkward shape! I’ve been working on and off for several days using boolean intersections and subtractions. Welding points where 3DC was not totally accurate, consolidating and optimizing.
I finally ended up with about 400 polys of coupler (Will probably aim for less in the final version) I suspect that’s not too bad considering some chain couplings I’ve made were similar poly counts.
It is probably worth the detail as that is part of the model that people tend to watch very closely.
I’m quite pleased with the result.
I can now add this to my library of parts….

Tutorial 3a – Deck and Chassis

On with a bit more model making. This time the decking and chassis.
First – study the plan and photos. Mike managed to get photos of the real thing, I also have a source of original photos for this particular model, including a few good colour (color Open-mouthed) schemes.
Looking at the plan it seems I need a central rectangle. I can then extrude out the sides of this rectangle twice to get the side decks and extrude the ends
to give me the front/rear platforms by the steps.
From the photos and plan, it looks like there is a chassis extending down to just above the wheels. The decking is probably very thin and there is a small (about 4") side plate around the edge.
For the decking I start by dragging a cube primitive onto the scene.
Check the hierarchy and may sure the new cube group is a child of the main group – this will help with accurate positioning later.
I right mouse click on the cube. Select "Scale -> To Size" and scale it to the size I need.
Right click again and select Properties. Change the X and Z coordinates for the group to 0. This should make the primitive central on the model if the hierarchy is correct.
Now in the perspective view, right mouse drag the decking to the correct vertical position (watch the side view pane)
To start the series of extrusions, hold down the Ctrl Key and select both sides of the box.
Click on the Extrude Operation button on the left menu
If you have the 3DC main panel set up to show the object history, you should now see a parameter adjustment panel for the extrude just below the operation buttons.
Make sure both option boxes are checked and adjust the extrude size by looking at the plan view pane.
Repeat the same procedure for the second width extrude.
Now with the 2 sides selects, hold down the Z key (to restrict movement) and use the scale tool in the side orthographic view (bottom right of the viewport) to add the angle by the steps.
Repeat the 2 extrudes for the ends of the cube.
Now I’m going to delete the vertical sides where the steps go down (8 faces in total) and all of the underside faces.
By running the DoubleSide operation on the whole object, I end up with a deck with 4" side sheets.
I now select a few of the underside faces. This can sometimes be difficult after running the double side operation (3DC bug) – an invert operation usually lets you select them.
We then extrude down about 0.5m (1.7ft) and there we have a very nicely shaped chassis and deck.
(A Consolidate operation will then reduce the polygon count a little)
The Cab comes next …..

Tutorial 2 – The hood

Catching up with Mike – without the video. This is going to be a long blog….
It was a bit hard to see exactly what Mike did on his video, but here is my interpretation.
1. Starting with the Extrude object tool – use the mouse to drag this onto the scene.


2. This starts up a new window with 4 panes. Click on the little vehicle icon and select the side elevation plan.
This tool is not the easiest thing to use, but the general idea is to draw the outline. Don’t worry if the image you’re using isn’t square, it will be scaled correctly afterwards.
I start with a click in the bottom left corner and click to add the first point above it.
The square at the end of the line appears white.
Click on the end of the square again so it turns blue – otherwise the extrude tool will do a bezier spline between all the points.
Basically just work your way around the section, making sure all the points are blue and that the X and Y coordinates match for vertical and horizontal lines. The points can be dragged around the scene and you can zoom in for fine adjustments.
The last point doesn’t need to be blue, it just needs to be placed exactly over the first point (the green one)
Finally add a horizontal line in one of the other panels to give the object some thickness.
Click on the save button and close the window to return to the main screen.
3. First I selected a 30% transparent blue material and used the fill tool.
The new object needs to be positioned and scaled – I select the face that is going to be along the centre line and run my shift centre operation (square with blue X button)
Note – the Extruded object was created in a group that is a child of the Main group.
I then set X value of the object position property to zero. (right click object/properties)
This should centre the edge of the object relative to the main object.
I can now change to 2 or 4 views (menu View/Selection). Using the orthogonal side view, use the position and scaling tool on the lower right of the window to make the object fit over the plan.
4. Switching to 4 view I can now select the outside face in the perspective view. With the "X" key held down, to restrict the movement to the X axis, I can now use the front/rear view drag tool (bottom right) to make the object the correct width. (My plan isn’t cropped correctly)
5. Next I select the 3 top outside edges (Hold down the ctrl key, use edge select tool on right) and drag down the Y axis of the object modify widget to put a slope on the engine hood.
6. I select the front vertical edge of the lights, I can hold down the Z key and use the top view to shift the edge back a bit to add the front angle over the headlights.
7. With the same 3 edges selected from 5, I run the chamfer operation. You need to watch this one – sometimes in 3DC, the points need adjusting. I had to move the highlighted point in the image below down a bit.
8. With more "modern" models I would probably select the 2 new edges and chamfer them again to give an even smoother curve.
9. Ditto with the front vertical edge. I had a similar problem with points after the chamfer and had to make a few adjustments (I can feel a new plugin coming on, possible with multiple chamfer options!)
10. Finally I had to flip the object on the X axis before mirroring it on the X axis as the mirror only works one way. (This also removes the internal face)
I also ran the consolidate operation to remove a few extra polys from the flat faces.
And here it is with a solid texture applied. Canvas does not use smoothing groups – instead, for an object, angles over a set value are smoothed automatically.


…in Seattle!
It was good to meet up with Mike and some of the other Aces team this week.
However it dos mean I’m going to be a bit behind on the tutorial until I get back to the UK on Tuesday.
An interesting Devcon, pity I’m not allowed to say anything about it.
I now have much more detailed plans for the switcher and Tim C gave me some close up photos of a real one, so hopefully I’ll be able to make a reasonably detailed model now.

Tutorial 1b

Keeping up with Mike 🙂
Just as a demo, I used the small images Mike posted to paint the inside of my model bounding box.
First I adjusted the material properties in 3DC so tha material ambient value is 100% – this means the material will ignore any lighting effects within the modelling tool. I currently have ambient light, two direction lights and one point light in the scene, which is the default when starting 3DC.
Next I load the image into the texture tab (second one from the left) by clicking on the image and selecting the file.


I can now use the paint brush tool on the right bar to fill the face with the image.

I repeated this process with the side and rear images.

For some reason the top view fill wouldn’t align with the display, so I used the alternative method of filling a face – which is generally more reliable than the paint tool.

First Select the face with the face selection tool (second from top on the right)

Align the display with the top view image – viewing down from above with the front to the left in this case.

Click on the fill operation in the operations panel on the left:


I also changed the display options to make it look a bit more like Max


Tutorial Update 1a

I don’t normally work with backdrops but to keep in sync with Mike’s model I’ll give it a try – never too late to learn a new technique.
My normal method is to make parts and position using known dimensions off of plans. A bit like making a plastic kit.
I found a side elevation of the SW1500 on the net, chopped it to the limits of the loco.
Adjusted the box on top of my generated model to the right height and position, inverted it, pasted on the image and locked it.

Trains and Planes

I’ve been playing with trains in MS Train Sim (MSTS) and Trainz (TRS2004) for 6 years now, time for a small change.
For various reasons Don't tell anyone, the release of Rail Simulator last week was a bit of a dissapointment. This also helped my decision
I’m going to do more Flight Sim X (FSX) modelling and flying. I’ve always enjoyed flight sims over the years and as an added bonus, the new MS Train Sim is based on FSX.
I think I’ve settled in the Classic British flight sim forums as they seem to be the best fit with my area of interest – old stuff like my trains – anything after 1930 is too new Open-mouthed
I’m not sure what to use this blog for, but I’ll start it as a progress monitor for my FSX exporter for 3D Canvas Pro.
The state as of today is that I can export models with the same features as suppoerted within 3D Canvas, that is:
  • Material colour and specular shine
  • Animations
  • Texture Map with/without Alpha
  • Bump Map
  • Specular Map
  • Environment Map

The rest of the properties need an extra plugin to set the values. These will be stored against the material as a string property.

Along the way I have found that I needed to reverse all the animations and vertically flip the texture coordinates. It must be something to do with the max/gmax exporter being opposite to DirectX standard "right hand" coordinate system (which 3DC uses). The XtoMDL program must then compensate.