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Getting the most out of simulation software often requires doing things not described in the user's manual.  Many of the tips and tricks described below were found on forums, or are simply just good file "discoveries" found in the download sections on Train-Sim.com.

Spittler Engineering Tips:

Experiment With the /anisotropic Switch.  Some options in Train Simulator can only be specified using "switches" when the program is launched.  The /anisotropic switch controls functionality that affects graphics performance, and takes advantage of advanced features in newer graphics cards.  This option may or may not improve graphic performance, depending on the graphics card and system.

Anisotropic filtering is an advanced technique for rendering three dimensional images which supposedly improves image quality for textures which are viewed at an angle (i.e. not being viewed perpendicular to the surface).  As a very interesting side effect, we noticed that with the anisotropic switch enabled, we were able to go from 1280 x 1024 as our top resolution to 1600 x 1200.  Increased resolution adds detail to the display, and makes the images on the screen smoother and more lifelike.

To enable this option, create a desktop shortcut that starts Train Simulator (if it doesn't already exist).  Select "properties" for the shortcut, and modify the shortcut "target" so that  /anisotropic is appended.  On my system, the command becomes:

"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Train Simulator\train.exe" /anisotropic

 The quotes are part of the command, and the /anisotropic switch is outside the quotes.

Experiment With the /fsaa Switch.  FSAA is an acronym for "full screen anti-aliasing".  This technique has the effect of reducing the jaggies present on diagonal lines.  FSAA is most useful at lower resolutions and may not even work well at higher resolutions.  Implementation of the /fsaa switch is similar to that of the /anisotropic switch with /fsaa replacing /anisotropic in the example above.

Run MSTS in Windowed Mode.  Train Simulator can be run in a window.  This is useful when running the simulator while doing other computer tasks.

Running MSTS in a window can be done by modifying it's shortcut, in a similar manner to that used to enable anisotropic and fsaa operation, in fact, these options can be combined with windowed mode within the command line.  The key is to append "­vm:w" to the end of the command (no quotes, though).  As an example, I run MSTS windowed in anisotropic mode.  My Windows shortcut looks like this:

"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Train Simulator\train.exe" /anisotropic -vm:w

Install Sky Conductor.  Microsoft® and Kuju did a nice job on the skies within Train Simulator, and at first glance it might not seem necessary to improve them.  Once you see Sky Conductor by "How in the World", however, you will never want to look at the default skies again.  Sky Conductor is a free add-on which runs outside of Train Simulator.  It modifies the default files for Train Simulator so that when an activity is launched, the new clouds and weather are used.  There are a number of different sky options which can be selected for each sky type.

Download Good Maps and Charts.  If you want to know where you are and where you are going, there is no substitute for a good map.  We like to have two different kinds of "map".  The first is more of a schematic representation of the tracks.  It is not to scale, but shows the track layout, including switches and mileposts.  We use the "PowerPoint" formatted map by Gene Maisano.  The filename is route5.zip.  You can view this file even if you don't have Microsoft® PowerPoint by downloading the free file "ppview97.exe" from the Microsoft website (thanks to Joe Morris and John Lynch for pointing this out).  We also like to have a "to scale" map that gives us the big picture.  We use printouts of Tim Vasquez's color topographic map (mrmap.zip) for that function.  Both of these files can be downloaded from Train-Sim.com.

Use a Periscope.  This is kind of a novel tool which comes in handy for getting a bird's eye view of what is coming up ahead.  Using an external view, go out as far in front and above the lead locomotive as possible.  Next, use <ctrl-shift-9> to allow the view direction to be controlled by holding the right mouse button down and moving the mouse so as to direct the view ahead of the locomotive.  We used this quite a bit to help us anticipate when nice scenery was coming up ahead while taking screenshots.

User Contributed Tips:

Enable Time Accelleration.  If MSTS is started with the /timeacceleration switch included in the shortcut, time can be sped up once in the simulation using "ctrl-t" to speed up time, and "shift-ctrl-t" to slow it back down.  (See above for how switches are added).  This can be useful to shorten the wait at a siding, or to quickly get to a prime screenshot location.  Be careful though, it can be quite a challenge operating a train at accelerated speed.

by: Barry Andrews - Australia ("cytrain" on Train-Sim.com)

Did we miss some important discoveries of yours?  Let us know at judd2@juddspittler.com, and perhaps we can add them to our list.

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 Judd Spittler

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