More On Driving Steam Engines

Build 97 introduced new options for driving steam locos, here are some notes on the technique. If you have not already done so, please download the layout package “Russell Test” from www.rail3d.net to ensure you have suitable layout and locos.

The new controls

From build 97 onwards, locos can have functional cab controls. This is the Hunslet model from the Russell Test layout, which as it has a half-height back on the cab, allows us to see the new controls better:

This loco has three controls: the regulator (in the centre), the cut-off (right of centre) and a brake handle (right). There are also two guages, the one on the left is the boiler pressure, and the one on the right shows the brake pressure (pipe and reservoir).

For starters, open the Russell test layout and select and follow the Hunslet. With this loco you can see the controls from view mode 2 if you zoom in a bit (hint: mouse wheel now allows you to zoom). Notice how the controls move as the computer drives the train, particularly notice the operation of the cut-off control when starting. On this model the cut-off control operates through two compelte revolutions. You will find it helpful to have the hud display active so you can see the actual value of hte control settings.

In the cab

Now change to view mode 1 - cab mode. Because this is a fairly small loco, you are up close to the controls and you can’t see them all in one view (this is true of the real thing!). However, it is now possible to move around the cab and look out of the left, look at the controls, look out of the right etc:

To do this, use <ctrl>+mouse as if to move around a layout in view mode 5: ie put the mouse in the centre of the window, hold down the control key and move the mouse left to move left, mouse right to move right. You can also tilt the view up and down in the same way.

It’s worth watching the computer drive the train for a while, but once you’re ready, and obeying all the signals etc, let’s drive the train:

Taking control

With the hud switched on, and in view mode 1, put the simulation in drive mode.

The drive dialog opens as before, but we don’t need it - so move it off to one side out of the way. You can still use it (and the keyboard as well), but we’re going to use the new controls.

Move the mouse over the handle of the control: when the mouse is in the right place the cursor will change. Click and drag the control to the desired position. The hud is useful at this point to verify the setting.

Try this with each of the controls: the regulator should be quite easy, the cut-off is a bit harder because it goes round several times, and the brake is tricky where its arc goes in and out - but with a little practice you should find it easy enough to drive using these controls.

Head out of the window

One more thing - what about the classic steam driving position of leaning out the side of the cab, but with you hand on the regulator? You can do this.

Move the view to the desired position out of the side (driver is on the right of this loco). Make sure you are in drive mode.

Now Press <ctrl>+<1> - You have now grabbed the regulator, move the mouse up and down the window - as you do the regulator varies from 0 to 100%. Click the mouse button or press <ctrl>+<1> again to “let go” of the regulator. Similarly <ctrl>+<2> puts your hand on the brake and <ctrl>+<4> the cut-off.

This is one of the most enjoyable ways to drive a steam loco in R3D - you get a good view of the track ahead, and precise control of the loco.