Computer Interactives and Train Simulators at the NRM
8 September 2003
Once again the Museum provided the opening speaker
for our season with an enthralling talk by Robin Gray on the work at the
Museum on train simulation. Thanks to Chiltern Railways allowing us to
use their new computer projection facilities Robin was able to give us a
full multi-media presentation, with film clips and a demonstration of
the Microsoft Trains simulation.
Robin began with a review of recent activities at
the Museum and looked to future developments. A date, 27 September
2004, has now been set for the opening of the reserve collection at
Shildon to coincide with the date of the world's first passenger train
leaving Shildon on the S&D in 1825. NRM Plus, which starts in 2005,
will provide a showcase of the story of railway and is intended to
provide a platform for rail industry to show what is being achieved.
Simulators will be used as part of the audio visual presentation to both
educate and entertain the visitors.
The costs of railway developments these days are
enormous and Robin gave us some examples of how a "Virtual Railway"
could be used. Whilst humans could interact with this virtual railway,
it existed only in the computer memory and hence could be built (and
modified) without the enormous expense and disruption of actually
building the railway. Robin's first example was to enable us to watch
the departure of the first passenger train on the S&D from the
Mason's Arms (the world's first railway station).
Moving to the use of virtual reality on modern
railways, we were first shown an example of how virtual reality could be
used to enable visualisation of proposed track layouts. This is being
used by consultants to check layouts, looking for such things as signal
visibility. Once a layout was finalised, the same facility could be
used for route learning to enable drivers to become familiar with the
new layout in advance of formal route learning trips. This had been
done with great success following the Leeds update. The visualisation
included all the trackside landmarks and a realistic sound.
Concluding this review, Robin took us back to the
Museum and first showed us around the cab of the Bullet train. Once
included on Museum's web web site this facility will enabled the viewer
anywhere in the world to move an imaginary camera around some of the
best known of the Museum's exhibits. He then went on to show the work
that the museum had been doing with Microsoft and York University to
provide a simple train simulator to enable visitor to the Museum to
experience the thrill of driving a train. The work had first come to
the attention of general public in 2002 with a simulated attempt by
"Mallard" to break its speed record. The simulation was revised for
2003 by the addition of a cab with basic controls and instruments
(rather than using the computer keyboard used in 2002). Robin would
like to see the simulation based on a the Virgin Trains cab mock up
(used at the Millennium Dome) or the cab of Deltic 55008 "Green Howards"
(a project clearly close to Robin's heart). However, neither would
allow enough visitors to use the facility, risking great disappointment
for many, and so a purpose built multi-position facility was planned.
Robin concluded his talk by taking us on a trip
behind the Duchess of Hamilton as she stormed over the Settle &
Carlisle, courtesy of the Microsoft Train Simulator program.