Still havin' fun!
Posted 18 July 2004 - 05:08 PM
How's everyone else coming along? Anyone made it through the entire batch yet?
Posted 18 July 2004 - 07:46 PM
Posted 19 July 2004 - 09:26 AM
Also, I am trying to correlate the correct keyboard commands for each of the engine functions. It seems as though some commands require a combination of keys and that is confusing. When reading things like, “shove the Johnson bar forward” or “pull back the Johnson Bar” each command may need two different keyboard functions. I’m never quite sure of which keys to use and precisely when to use them. I guess it's something that comes with familarity and time. I play around with the W, A, S, D key and appears the W and S key are the same thing.
It is frustrating when the engine comes to a grinding halt after running great for several miles. Then I’m at a loss then to figure out just which keyboard commands keep it going or how to restart. I do use the F5 key to view the specs but most often I'm not sure just what I should be seeing. I’m hoping to gain enough experience on the explore route before attempting activities.
Bottom line, I have a feeling these prototype functions will not come easy, but I like this route mainly for its beauty and versatility, and really want to improve my efficiency. I rode the real thing on several occasions from St Louis to Little Rock during WW2 while in the military. It was probably known as the MNA during those years but that was too long ago to recall. The only thing I remember is getting off at Pine Bluffs to get a sandwich and make a quick call home. Boy, was that a dirty trip. Coal dust from head to foot!
Posted 19 July 2004 - 09:44 AM
Give this a try. Sooner or later you'll get the hang of it.
Posted 19 July 2004 - 10:57 AM
Essentially, the "W" and "S" keys (Johnson Bar) will control how long steam is admitted to the cylinders and that equates to available power. The "A" and "D" keys (Throttle) control how much of that available steam is admitted to the cylinders. They must be used together. Make steam available longer without using it and you'll have an angry and overworked fireman.
I advise letting the automatic fireman tend to the fire, which equates to the health of the overall steam generation, no matter how green and foolish you are while learning.
The F5 key (double-struck) paints a picture of both how much steam is being generated and how much of that steam is being used—among many other things.
It also shows you the available pressure in the brake lines. Brakes are tricky. MSTS begins with them APPLIED and unless you move them to "LAP straightaway, the application (in a steam locomotive) will bleed all your available braking pressure. YOU MUST WATCH YOUR BRAKE PRESSURE!. Remember, "LAP" holds what you have and stops the loss of pressure.
Your enjoyment will increase several fold if you stop and take time to read the documentation before attempting any serious driving on this hilly route. Your questions suggest you did what most do, which is to hop-in and just take-off. Not good. RTFM in this case is well warranted.
Your enjoyment will also increase if, instead of hopping in the cab as if it's a diesel and attempting to "do something," you just take the approach you are LEARNING something brand new. Don't try to drive it seriously. Just fiddle and tinker with different combinations of the Johnson Bar, Throttle, and brake to figure out what's happening in the HUD (F5) display.
As a general rule (from a standstill and with a light load) you want to advance the Johnson Bar into the 35% or greater range and wait for the available steam to build-up. More Johnson bar is needed if your train is heavy. When the consist begins moving (you'll hear a "creak"), start advancing the throttle enough to get keep things moving. How far depends on how heavy your train is and what the speed limit is. More cars=more friction, which will cause your Johnson Bar and Throttle to be adjusted accordingly.
Once you're moving, you should reduce the Johnson Bar, and adjust your speed with the throttle. It's something like moving into a higher gear in your car whereby once moving, you can reduce engine RPM, and still maintain forward speed more efficiently, using less petrol.
NOTE: THE JOHNSON BAR/THROTTLE COMBINATION IN A STEAM TRAIN IS VERY MUCH LIKE THE PROPELLER/THROTTLE CONTROLS IN AN AIRPLANE EQUIPPED WITH A CONSTANT-SPEED PROP. THEY MUST WORK TOGETHER. SIMILARLY, YOUR TRANSMISSION AND GAS PEDAL WORK TOGETHER IN A CAR. REALIZE THAT CONCEPT AND YOU'LL BE AHEAD OF THE GAME.
When a grade looms (hard to see in MSTS, admittedly), you should "shift to a lower gear" which in steam terms, means letting more steam enter the cylinder system by becoming available longer. Do that with the Johnson Bar. Transfer than extra steam to the cylinders with the throttle. Watch your speed. If it continues to drop, adjust both Johnson Bar and throttle.
Just like driving a car cross-country in low gear is stupid, it's likewise stupid to have the Johnson Bar in its upper range and the throttle in the low range. Imagine the poor overworked fireman trying to keep up with that inept foolishness!
- TIP: While green and learning, I advise driving with nothing but the engine tender and caboose. Get to know the engine and what it takes to keep it moving at a target speed both uphill and downhill.
TIP Learn the brakes! These do not "auto-lap" as do most diesels. While applied, they will suck your brake pressure to zero and release! you must manually "lap" them, and if you fail, you will have no brakes when you need them. They must be in "Release" to recharge the lines and will attain 70 lbs. when fully "charged." Use the f5 HUD to see your brake pressure!
TIP Remember, forward momentum is (usually) your friend. Use it, keep it as constant as you can, anticipating grades. Learn the route(s) (it's the way "real" steam drivers do it.
TIP: You can better "feel" the grades with your head out the window while learning. That'd be view #1 followed by the up-arrow.
TIP Remember, a tap of the shift+control+9 keys will make the "4" view camera static, and the train will pass-by and not be followed.
Finally, resist the temptation to fly a chase helicopter. This is train simulator and the scenery is an illusion and IS NOT designed for helicopter views as fun as that might be. If you want to fly, try Flight Simulator. Stay at ground level in Train Simulator for more immersion unless you want to "watch" from a hilltop as the train passes.
And as a postscript, I'd like to say that being able to control a steam engine is very rewarding and easily done. Those of us who enjoy steam want your experience to be good and want you to join us in your appreciation of the machine and the era.
Posted 19 July 2004 - 11:14 AM
Many thanks for your explainations of certain steam functions and operation. I will keep this close at hand while operating until I become more experienced by taking it all in slow steps to gain the perfection needed. I will also do the same for the URL MSTS STEAM FAQ you suggested. I had overlooked that previously figuring the STL&NA prototype would not apply to other steam types. Live and learn but that is what the forums are all about.
Thanks again for giving me the excellent information and resources. I know the rest will be up to me. Your prompt response and assistance are very much appreciated.
Posted 19 July 2004 - 11:23 AM
I just noticed you posted some excellent information above. I will answer fully when I've had opportunity to apply and digest your wisdom. I'll get the hang of this yet. Serves me right for being a MSTS diesel fan too long. Now the real work begins, but I'll accept and enjoy the challenge.
Posted 19 July 2004 - 11:34 AM
Please don't take any of my comments personally and I look forward to your comments. I spent more time than I should have on that response in the belief others may benefit also.
You provided the stump. I stood on it.
Posted 19 July 2004 - 11:35 AM
All of the supplied engines can be used interchangably as desired. There is a difference in the tonnage ratings of #3, in comparison to #'s 4,5. Prototype #3 had less power than #3,#4, and that is reflected in the abilities of the virtual models.
As for your questions on operating, and assuming you have read the operations section in the Manual and are still cornfused a bit, here's some additional explaination:
The W and S keys:
The W and S keys respectively INCREASE or DECREASE the amount of "cutoff" of steam to the cylinders. This is refered to as a "Johnson Bar" in a steam locomotive. INCREASING the "cutoff" by pressing/tapping the W key is akin to shoving an actual Johnson bar FORWARD to INCREASE the amount of steam being admitted into the cylinders on the prototype.
DECREASING the "cutoff" by pressing/tapping the S key is akin to pulling back on an actual Johnson bar to DECREASE the amount of steam being admitted into the cylinders on the prototype.
Admitting MORE STEAM (W key) at a given throttle setting to the cylinders results in MORE POWER at the expense of using MORE STEAM.
Andy's "gear" analogy works good in this situation. See the W/S keys as the act of shifting among 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th gears. You wouldn't put a vehicle in 1st gear and expect to run highway speeds, you would use 4th gear.
The same principle applies in managing your "cutoff":
* Use a LOT of cutoff (higher % number) to start the train, or pull strongly upgrade at lower speeds.
* Use much LESS "cutoff" (lower % number) to maintain upper track speeds on level/near level track.
Generally speaking, you want to use the least amount of "cutoff" that still allows heavy throttle application to maintain speed.
I suspect you're having the same trouble with the older style brakes as many others are that are used to "self lapping" brakes.
The brakes in the North Arkansas steamers do NOT "self lap".
Using a "self lapping" brake amounts to making the application rate you desire, and leaving the "brake valve" at that setting. Example: Appying 10% brakes, and leaving things be. (No more movement of the brake valve/keys required until you're ready to release the brakes.)
The brake valves modeled in the North Arkansas steamers correctly model brake valves that do NOT "self lap". To make a brake application with these brakes, you need to become accustomed to doing the following:
1. From the "Released" position, tap the " (quotation) key past "Running", "Lap" and to the "Appy" status. Watch your Brake Pipe Pressure (found in the F5 keys) until your brake pipe reaches the amount of reduction you desire. (If you want a faster brake application, increase the % of application rate by holding down the " key.)
Once the desired application is reached, hold the : (colon) key to bring the brakes back to LAP. (This will be indicated by the F5 HUD as well as the current action labels at the bottom of your screen.) Once in LAP, your brakes will now hold that brake set until you release them.
THAT is where many flub it: They apply brakes, but do not LAP the brake set, thus the brakes KEEP APPLYING until the brake application is strong enough to stop the train.
You have the correct approach in that you'll want to become reasonably proficient at operating the engines and handling trains BEFORE you attempt the activities. The activities assume the operator has become acceptably adroit with the basic handling of a train.
Hopefully, the above helps clear up some of your confusion. If further questions arise, don't hesitate to come back here and ask them. I will do my best to walk you through any process that is causing you trouble.
Running with realistic physics adds an entirely new dimension to this sim, doesn't it?
Posted 19 July 2004 - 11:36 AM
Reading Mike's post, just happened to think of something I might need to make all aware of:
On the North Arkansas, I have intentionally set almost all main line elevation changes between track pieces at .300. When in cabview or headout, this will result in a slight "tic" as the engine starts up or down.
I DID THIS INTENTIONALLY so you can have a visual "cue" when you have ENTERED a grade elevation change. (Computer screens lack "seat of the pants" sensations as well as oculative perception.)
This visual "cue" will only be apparent in the cabview or headout. It will be much more difficult to learn to operate the trains using a non-prototypical helicopter view.
Posted 19 July 2004 - 03:43 PM
Never quite figured out too much about that person 'etal'. How-so-ever ...
Thanks to all of you who have helped us neophytes (think that's right) understand the way those turn of the 20th century life like locomotives operated. Commonalities underlying individual differences. Almost human like in some physical ways.
I also like being able to see the sense of grade-change by using either the cab or 'hang-you-head-out-the-window' view (1 or 1+up arrow). I remember seeing and feeling the grade changes on the Rock in Illinois and Iowa which isn't exactly hilly territory. Same with flying. Instruments and seat-of-the-pants don't always give you same information. Need to use both and be able to discern which is most reliable under different circumstances.
The StL&NA is one phenominal simulation experience. It is an equally mental and nostalgic experience. I'm old enough to remember steam during WWII (some new, some old) and the entire diesel era. Also remember with fondness the attachment to such modeled routes as the Delta Lines, Gorre & Daphetic (and John's Deveils Gulch & Helengon). Later there was the steam/diesel V&O. Many others also, but this line and the early diesel concept of the Canton RR bring back fond memories and great operating experiences.
Thanks again to all of you.
North Ark and Canton boomer
Posted 20 July 2004 - 11:43 AM
Your vote of confidence is appreciated.
Thank you for writing your short course regarding steam engines, and especially their characteristics within the STL&NA environment. I have read it several times and learned much in the past 24 hours. I can now span the route full length keeping within the speed limits and controlling the operations without the mishaps of the past. You’re right. I had to completely divorce myself from the diesel frame of mind and think prototype in order to the run the route successfully.
Putting to use a few of the finer points you stressed has enabled me to become engrossed with the era and obtain greater respect for the remarkable job Andre has created. This has really afforded me the enjoyment you promised. I have also gained additional respect for the background and history that has allowed this marvel to be born.
Lastly, it has given me the confidence I was lacking along with greater sensitivity to tackle the activity operations I am about to pursue. Of course I am not even close to my eventual target level, but it has enabled me to grasp the light at the end of the tunnel - no pun intended. The taste you and Andre have given me for railroad history will not soon be forgotten.
And it never stops with the likes of LNE and the Overseans RR on the horizon. Whew !!! Can it get any better?
Thank you very much for your comprehensive anaylsis submitted just below Mike's great article.
I know it takes valuable time to write such well written and informative pieces but they will certainly be of great help, not only to me, but others who might need some help and answers. I pass along my kudos to you both, and for others who will glean valuable and important information that you will never know about.
Both posts are so well done I have made hard copies of each to keep in my ever expaning file folder of everything StL&NA. I find it difficult to explain to you both how much I appreciate all of this help you have freely given so others may enjoy our hobby as well.
This is truly a great place to hangout and can't recall when I've ever seen a finer group of knowledgeable and friendy paricipants.
Thank you both from the bottom of my heart,
Posted 20 July 2004 - 12:02 PM
Though I read the documentation thoroughly, and in spite of having driven other steam locos in MSTS, I learned most of those things in my post the hard way and it gives me pleasure to share what I've learned knowing that same pleasure I get from the StL&NA is only a heartbeat away from those also interested.
Truth is that I've become spoiled by that #3 ten-wheeler Andre has made freely available. It runs so well and sounds so good I wish my USRA Light Mountain worked as well.
I make some comparisons of the Johnson Bar to an automobile transmission (shifting gears) and the constant-speed prop in an aircraft and until I made the association I was floundering too. If you took my advice and just hit the rails with the minimum consist, nowhere to go, and nothing to do but get to know the beast, you are armed with the knowledge to have some challenging good steam fun.
Remember that sander advice Andy had for you. You'll probably need it from time-to-time when/if you let your momentum bleed and need to pour on the coals to keep moving!
There's a very good feeling which comes from having skillfully driven Jessica with a heavy load through those Ozarks.
I am very proud to read your report and to have invested my time with such a brave and excellent student of the era and its machinery.
Posted 20 July 2004 - 01:56 PM
Thanks for saying so!
I enjoy sharing things I've learned with others. I also am finding enjoyment in bringing a route to life, and then offering to others. If it becomes a learning tool, or causes a new found appreciation for the line, or era, or other aspect... that's an additional personal reward!
The greatest downside to this whole enchilada is the inordinate amount of time/effort it takes to bring a route to life and into the light of day. It would be WONDERFUL if I could do it in a month or so. (I have a list of routes a mile long that I would LOVE to bring to life and offer.)
But such is not the case. So, the kind words of appreciation, or the fact of one having an "enlightenment" of sorts through my route efforts... well... it helps to keep me going!
Posted 20 July 2004 - 05:28 PM
I'd be able to make a whole lot more progress on my route if I didn't have to break my addiction to running the NA!
John - it's great to hear how much you're enjoying steam operations. Unlike Andre, who's really been in the cab, my only experience is behind the keyboard. But even so, I have to agree with your comments about acquiring a taste of history. That's what I love about these sims - you can get some idea of what's involved in running something that's now only seen on the tourist lines. I grew up watching the narrow gauge steamers run past my house, but never really understood what was involved in the operations. Even though the sim makes a lot of simplifications, now I have at least a glimmer of what goes on.
One last tip - when you're pulling a really heavy train up grade, keep an eye on your steam production and usage numbers. If both your Johnson bar and regulator are too high, you'll be using more steam than the boiler's making, and your pressure will start to drop. I haven't run into that problem too severely on the NA, but when running on the Rio Grande Cumbres Pass route, it can be a serious issue. I keep the regulator at full open, and adjust the Johnson bar to maintain steam usage at just below the production level. Otherwise, you'll have to stop the train and let boiler pressure build up again.
I've had a lot of fun trying to make it up a steep grade without running the boiler out of steam on Cumbres Pass. Which really points out the difference between reality and simulation. If I were actually hogging the train up the hill and ran out of steam, I doubt that I'd see it as fun!
Posted 20 July 2004 - 07:49 PM
I printed out the original post you sent. It's it in my reference book and have begun working with it. I also downloaded the Train-Sim FAQ URL you suggested which I find to be very interesting. I am also going over the StL&NA manual again, taking a closer look at some of the technicalities I brushed over too quickly last week when I received the route. I originally thought it would be piece of cake, as one activity suggests, but I've gained a lot of respect for it in recent days.
Yes I have made some notable progress in the past day or so and I want to thank you for the tips you have given me in both posts. As Mike has said it's getting to know the route and the engine like the back of your hand. I've found it does require a lot of playing around and when you find that certain "thing" that works for you it soon becomes second nature with successive attemps. What would we all have done without the magnificant creativity of Andre?
I have been using #3 steam with caboose only and run it between different towns each time while capturing the sights and sounds and concentrate holding constant speeds on various grades. I continually refer to the notes I have picked up and I know soon it will all be automatic. Speaking of sounds, I forgot to mention to Mike and Andre how tremendous that whistle is. I even use the whistle out in the boonies when I pass an old shed. Never know who might wave back and it gives me a good excuse to let 'er rip. Also, I get goose bumps when I hear the realistic chugging sounds of the engine which are totally unbelieveable. The word totally is not normally in my vocabulary, but in this case, I could't find another that describes it better.
I apoligize for monopolizing your thread with my shortcomings. I know it is not how you intended it to be and you must have wondered who this intruder was. But perhaps we can all learn something from others more knowledgeable. I know when I begin the activities I will be much better prepared than I thought I would be a few days ago. This is all due to the unselfish and friendly help I have received right here. I am humbly indebited to those that have demonstrated their courtesies on my behalf.
Thanks again for your support Andy,
Posted 20 July 2004 - 09:48 PM
Your enthusiasm is also catching and I am going to have to run more of it than I have been now. I thoroughly enjoyed your comments and I would think Andre has as well.
I agree with you Andre and perhaps if and when the next version of this train sim comes out it will be easier to create a route. At least that is my hope as I would love to create some of the routes from my original neck of the woods. I certainly hope that the RE is given a lot of priority by those creating the next version of this train sim. But, looking back, I am sure you can be proud of what you have accomplished with this route. I told you, you were creating something very special, and I still think you have. What you have created is a love for running trains as they should be run on a route that is very well done and the excitement of being able to accomplish the very difficult but satisfying ability of being able to operate these magnificent steam engines correctly. The thrill is in that moment when you know you have been able to accomplish this very difficult task with the ease of a great engineer. How much better can it get that that.
John has said it with the enthusiasm of a child opening his first Christmas present. You should feel very proud of what you have accomplished despite the long road to the finish. To do something like that has got to be reward in itself. And I was right, wasn't I? I am very proud of what you have been able to do for people like John and myself. I have realized the potential of this game now and know that there is much more potential there.
Thank you for that Andre Ming!!! You have done the community very proud.