Model railways have been around for a very long time, and enthusiasts will sometimes build huge layouts stretching across hundreds, even thousands of feet.
If you don’t have the space or the money, though, you might prefer 3D Train Studio, which enables you to build complex virtual model railways, with moving trains, working signals, even cockpit cameras to help you monitor what’s happening in your custom world.
Designing and constructing all this can take a while, as there’s a lot to consider. This isn’t just a matter of choosing scenery, positioning buildings and laying out track. There’s also a whole event control system to turn signals on and off as your trains move around, or maybe start one locomotive, and stop another.
Fortunately 3D Train Studio doesn’t force you to start with a blank page. The New Project dialog includes several finished railways created by others, and opening one of these will immediately show you what the program can do.
Navigating around your 3D world isn’t quite as intuitive as we’d like, but once you understand the basics it’s easy enough. Hold down the right mouse button and drag (or use the cursor keys) to move the camera, spin the mouse wheel to go backwards or forwards, and select any objects – trains, track sections, buildings, signals or scenery – to move or manipulate them.
Alternatively, to see the railway in action, click View > Cameras > Cockpit Cameras, choose one of the trains and increase its speed. The train begins to move and you can enjoy your scenery from the cockpit, or switch back to the original camera view and see the train in relation to other objects.
The free version of 3D Train Studio does have some limitations, most notably that it limits you to 150 objects in a single layout (the $40 commercial build removes this and adds a few extras). It’s enough to get a feel for how the program works, though, and if you’re interested in railways, or this kind of in-depth simulation, then it’s worth a closer look.