Train Sim World

Creating Northeast Corridor - Boston - Providence

We talk to the development team about building Northeast Corridor: Boston - Providence in Train Sim World 2: Rush Hour

We are joined by Tom Walters who is the Lead Vehicle artist on Train Sim World 2, Matt Peddlesden the Senior Producer on Train Sim World 2 and Brandon Phelan who has been helping us to create Northeast Corridor: Boston - Providence.

What has your involvement been with Rush Hour?

Brandon: For Dovetail games I am contracted for hire. Dovetail will come to me asking if there’s things I want to be a part of and I will usually say yes. It’s been a good experience for me.
For Rush Hour, the creation of this route is the only involvement I have had. This is something I started on my own back in 2019 when Matt actually got me involved with testing a new project for Train Sim World 2020.
When I created this route, I never anticipated it would leave my computer, so it’s really cool.
When I first started, I began by playing around and laying track. I was then deployed with my job, and while I was away, I took my laptop with me and kept on working on this project in my spare time.
By the time I came back I had done, track, terrain, signals, a 24-hour service mode timetable along with some other little things.
Matt: For me it’s been about the broad spec of Rush Hour and everything that is involved. We felt it was important to get NEC back in the game, and the work that Brandon had already done with Boston to Providence wasn’t an opportunity I wanted to miss.
It had always sat with me that Brandon had created this amazing track plan and the working timetable and it left me thinking “How can we do something with that and bring it out to the people.” We then realised that with Rush Hour it fit really nicely into what we were trying to do, so I spoke to Brandon and we arranged to bring it across.
The way it had been built is very different to how we would have created ourselves, in terms of how it accesses assets. We have recently been focusing on solving those asset problems.
We have also made some changes to the route that we got from Brandon, and we’ve worked on some parts of the route that weren’t quite finished.
My work has been doing something similar with the timetable and I will be rejigging it as we create the MBTA F40PH-3C and the Amtrak ACS-64 and get them actually into the game. I will be updating the timetable to use those bits of stock.
I currently have all of the Amtrak services operational and I’m starting to get the MBTA parts operational too. It’s all lighting up pretty quickly now thanks to all of the hard work Brandon put into it to start with.

What gives this route the Rush Hour feel?

Brandon: What makes this fit into the Rush Hour theme is definitely the operations around Boston South Station, the other part of the line is usually busy but it’s not nearly as busy until you get right around Boston.
And then you throw all of the Amtrak trains on top of that and you have a lot of traffic at peak hours.
Matt: What this means is there will be a lot of services running in and out of Boston South Station. What will create that notion of Rush Hour is that it’s similar to the Dresden route where you will be following trains until you get near Dresden and then it’s a fight into the busy station.
The last couple of stops will be the worst ones because it’s where the density of services escalates massively as all these other lines converge. That’s what you will get coming into Boston South Station.
Brandon: It’s not uncommon to be waiting at a signal for up to five minutes or so waiting for some trains to move through tower one in and out of the station. It’s congested for sure and fits the Rush Hour theme appropriately.
There is a priority and Amtrak have that priority, so as a player you won't typically come across too many stop signals if you are operating an Amtrak consist.

What has it been like bringing Amtrak back to the game?

Tom: It’s great to see representation of Amtrak back in the game, they are the largest passenger operator in the United States and their absence has certainly been felt.
We have a great relationship with Amtrak so it’s great that we are able to get them back into the game so the players can drive Amtrak again.
They were very forthcoming with providing us guidance on how the locomotives work. Anything they could provide us to make sure we get it spot on. They are as passionate about Amtrak as we are about trains. It’s a good match merging both passions.

Can you tell us more about MBTA?

Tom: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) are a regional passenger operator in the Boston area, they have a very striking livery colour. This is a new partnership and a new area. We haven’t done any MBTA stuff for any of our products before so it’s all brand new.

How did you gather all the information you required for this new route?

Tom: MBTA have been very cooperative and keen to work with us, they actually asked if they could be in our game through Twitter and that’s how the relationship started.
We couldn’t go out to take pictures like we would normally, so thankfully Gary Dolzall was prepared to help and do it on our behalf. We arranged a resource survey and that’s been fantastic. It’s taken a lot of the guess work out and has helped us to capture the details we wouldn’t necessarily know to look for.
The rolling stock that comes with this is the F40PH-3C. MBTA have an ongoing rebuild program of the F40PH-2C's, which is a modernisation plan to keep them running for a good number of years more.
The F40PH-3C's are the more modern locos that we are including.
We are also including some of their single level coaches along with the cab car, it will be quite a different driving experience depending on which end you are at.

What do you find exciting about this route?

Brandon: This section of the Northeast Corridor is really unique in that it features the highest speeds on the entire corridor. Although the player won’t be able to operate the fastest train on this route that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to experience high speeds.
The ACS-64 has the capability to actually reach its maximum operating speed on this route, which is the first time you will be able to experience this. You are able to hit speeds of 125mph for sustained periods of time over the course of several miles. Roughly 80% of the route is 100mph or higher for this train.
So, the speeds and the variety in the scenery are also exciting. One moment you will be in a suburban area surrounded by trees, the next you will be diving down a 1% grade at 110mph into a trench below street level that’s surrounded by concrete. All things considered it’s really cool to see all of that in this package.
Tom: I am keen to see the reaction to more American Passenger content, we’ve done some Amtrak and Caltrain in the past. Traditionally there’s not as much variety in the US as there in in the UK or Europe.
It's great to have Amtrak back in the game and also bring something completely new with MBTA.
Matt: I like the fact that it’s got the variety of operators, you’ve got MBTA and Amtrak who have got different stopping patterns on the route. And it’s just a different feel, you’ve very got different trains to drive. MBTA is Diesel electric whereas Amtrak is overhead electric.
You’ve got the brand-new coaches and cab car on the MBTA F40PH-3C with its single deck coaches, it’s new and exciting.
To echo what Brandon said the changing scenery is great, because the last bit of the route is essentially where you are going from the countryside to the big city. You get that entire transition from being out in the fields with the trees to diving into the trenches in and amongst the local lines and dense traffic.
One of the things I am just really fascinated by with this route is, just South of Boston South Station is Southampton Street Yard, and there’s this big ‘balloon loop’ in the yard.
When looking at this route to start we noticed Amtrak trains don’t run with cab cars north of New York Penn, they only use the Cab cars South of New York Penn, so the question we had was “How do you turn a train around?”
They have a locomotive at one end and there’s nothing but buffer stops at Boston station. So how does the loco get on the other end?
Normally in the UK you would do a loco swap or something like that. When you look into the processes and procedures for Amtrak, loco swaps are actually time consuming because of all the retesting of brake lines you’ve got to do if you make any changes to the brakes.
So, what they actually do is reverse the train out of Boston station, South into the yard, around this giant loop and then reverse it back into the station again which now has the loco on the correct side again. That’s really unique, and it will be in there for the players to do. It’s something I’m really looking forward to seeing in the game.
I also have to mention how much I like the colour of the MBTA train.
Train Sim World 2: Rush Hour is coming this Summer. You can find out more about the British route featured in this pack in last week’s developer diary on here.
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Train Sim World
Creating Northeast Corridor - Boston - Providence