The Friends of the
National Railway Museum

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

Last Update

Talk Synopsis

5 January 2006

Computer Interactives and Train Simulators at the NRM
Robin Gray
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.

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