The Friends of the
National Railway Museum

South of England Group
Vice Presidents: Richard Hardy; Sir William McAlpine Bt, FRSE, FCIT, FRSA

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3 January 2006

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Virtual Reality at the NRM
Robin Gray
13 November 2000

Robin Gray, the NRM's information technology specialist gave the Group a view of the future at our November meeting. The power of virtual reality was demonstrated with a "live" reconstruction of Locomotion hauling a train of caldron wagons, with additional human freight, on the Stockton to Darlington railway. The "moving eye" enabled us to see the whole ensemble, from the footplate sweeping up to a bird's eye view of the train and a sideways "helicopter" view of the train in full forward motion. We were slightly concerned that there was no crew on the footplate - but this is only a prototype. Robin also has ideas of 4468 doing 125+ down Stoke Bank on 3 July 1938. That will be a bit more of a challenge!

More virtual reality came with material developed by Corus Consultants (British Steel to you and me). To start with, a relatively simple level crossing scene, with a Class 159 in fictitious plain grey livery - well, it saves having to wash them. Then we saw the pièce de résistance - the audience were the first to see the new Leeds City station track layouts in virtual reality, as viewed from the driving cab, complete with sound. A choice of nearly 20 routes in and out of the station is available, and all on a single CD-ROM. This will enable drivers to familiarise themselves as the new station is developed, in effect to learn new routes before they exist. It can be watched at any convenient location, even at home on a PC. The displays faithfully reproduce the lineside features, signals and AWS, right down to tracks in course of construction and the catenary complete with shadows. But no other trains in sight - more cancellations? For those of us living in exile, it was fascinating to see well known Leeds landmarks reproduced in this way. Shame we ran out of track before getting to Elland Road!

Robin gave us an update on rebuilding the NRM website. A focus on ease of use and accuracy was welcome (we note that the current site STILL has no reference to the SoE Group website..hint, hint). And a list of material for sale from the shop would be useful.

And finally......a 4 minute whizz through 175 years of history and a view of the future - the special video prepared for the 25th Anniversary Dinner showing the Museum as it may be in 10 years' time. A really exciting prospect; and we love the tower - a real tourist attraction in its own right that will bring people flocking to the Museum - and they might just learn a thing or two while they're there.