What’s next for CTC 3.15

CTC 3.14 was released a couple of weeks ago, which included the addition of the drawbridge feature, and a customer request to save the time factor along with other data when saving the status of the game. Even if the game was stopped at the time will be saved, too. This applies only to asynchronous mode.

One thing we’ve found is the tremendous amount of data that are saved and restored. This was especially noticeable when converting TD3 territories to CTC, where we use a streamlined method to generate the load data essentially the same way when you’re saving the game. But if you have a lot of start times, like every full hour for every weekday, you end up with a lot of load data. So we worked on that to at least reduce that amount by removing redundant data, e.g. a block to be initialized to free, when the load of the scene itself did the same thing already. That has reduced the data tremendously. While the reduced data already benefits scene loads with 3.14 (if re-generated), the reduction when saving user data will be made available with 3.15.

Another change for 3.15 is the addition of new signal types. Besides of the regular type, we added the switching type and the dual type – a combination of regular signal and switching signal. This reflects situations you may have in real life systems. We haven’t implemented the functional differences yet, so for now the new types document only the different intended purposes but work the same as the regular type.

There is also another signal type for a completely different purpose: the end of track signal. End of tracks are currently signaled with a hidden signal – a simple way to cause a train to stop at the end of the track. But there are real life systems, where routes are established by hitting a button at a start signal and another one at an end signal. For routes that can end in a stub track, there is a button at the end of the track that acts as an end signal. Our new end of track signal type covers this setup. End of track signals can never be cleared, and cannot be used as a start of route.

A picture is better than a thousand words. It shows a simple station at the end of a line with a run-around track.

New Signal Types

New Signal Types

End of tracks can still be equipped with a “hidden signal” – if that stub track is not intended to hold a train. Each of the signal types except for the end-of-track signal can be aligned to exit blocks heading left, right, up, or down.

Another item we’re working on is the merge of platforms and work areas.
Platform and Work area are very similar, in CTC more so than in TDP3. So we decided to add a new type, called “Station”, that features all of the above and then some. So, in a scheduled station stop you can specify dwell time, departure time (or not), new heading direction (or not), reverse direction (or not; here flip forward/backward), new length (or not). Exclusively to stations we will add a track number to station tracks and the schedule stop. This is to address a situation in large passenger stations, where a particular train is expected to use a particular track. The station is the same, but if you want to use another track as scheduled, you have to announce it ahead of time, so the people on the ground can prepare for the track change – if you don’t you can still do the stop, but you may have to wait a little bit longer before you can leave the station.

A CTC territory will feature either the station stops (which will be the default) or the platform/work area stops (as in TDP3), but not a mixture of that.

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What we are working on (between 3.13 and 3.14)

Sometimes things get a little mixed up of what you want to do, and what you’re actually doing, especially just shortly after a release update.

This is what happened.

There is one thing we haven’t mentioned here before at all, even though we have been working on this for quite some time. That is the CTC Editor.

There is not an official release of the editor yet, but we have been working on it “somewhere in between”. So consider the following a teaser.

We have all the elements of what one could call “low-level” editor. You can manipulate all components of each object type. This is simple enough for some, like switches and signals, but for blocks you have all the track elements (per grid square) that is part of the block description. And those elements are linked together in some way. That structure is reflected in how the editor works.

For instance, in TDP’s track builder, you select simple track elements and add as many as you want of this type just by clicking the grid squares. The TB will figure out which of the elements can be combined into a block.

In CTC you can do the same, but you have to define a block yourself first, and then add track elements within this block – these addition will not change how this block is related to other blocks for example. So this is actually more cumbersome than in TDP’s TB.

This is ok if you make only small changes, but if you start from scratch, it is not that great. Therefore the CTC editor has a drawing capability, where you would just draw a bunch of lines, like on a sheet of paper. Then you click a few buttons, and that bunch of lines will be converted to a list of blocks, switches, and what not, that makes sense for the lines you just have drawn. Then you can link them together, and you have a valid territory except for open-ended lines – blocks that link to nothing. With a few actions you can add group of signals at once, and open ends of blocks can be equipped with an entrance/exit, or just kept as a stub track with correct linkage. A – very technical – link maintenance tool is available to cover the rest, e.g. linkage of blocks that are visually separated but logically connected.

Much better, wouldn’t you say.

But that’s not the end of it. Especially for larger territories you can get lost what needs to be taken care of. On this we have been focusing the last few weeks.

For instance, the block lengths is one such thing. How do you make sure that the lengths are accurate – and you didn’t miss one? I have seen instances in TD territories where the lengths didn’t make much sense. So to help you with this, we added a feature into the CTC editor, where you can visually check the accuracy of the lengths. For instance, the 2 tracks of a double track line from A to B should cover the same distance. With this feature you build test routes from A to B with all the different variations you may have along the way, and you get a graphic showing all lines next to each other where the block length are accurately shown to scale.

Another sub feature of route testing is to get a graphic representation of all schedules that would touch some elements of the route. Here you can check if the times of platform stops make sense.

While working on the editor, we added the drawbridge object to CTC. This is something that doesn’t exist in TDP3, so we would not have to convert them from TDP3 scenes – in other words they are only handled by the CTC editor. While you cannot have simple lines cover drawbridges, you can place drawbridge objects on the scene that the lines from the drawing would be converted and linked such that the drawbridges are correctly linked to the other objects.

I know, all of the above is a little bit abstract without seeing an example. We’re going to make some videos so that you can see yourself how it works.

The drawbridge works now nicely in CTC, so with just some minor things to round it up, it will be included into the next CTC 3.14.

With this other things have been an a back burner I’m afraid to say. So unfortunately not much progress for helper function and enhanced signaling and routing. The reason I’m mentioning this here is that there was a recent suggestion to implement a route storage feature, in TB3 also known as route stacking. To set a route in advance and to activate it when it is possible after a conflict has been cleared, is indeed a nice feature we would like to add to CTC as well, so that is something we had in mind for some time as part of the enhanced signaling and routing package. The idea of numpad routing may be added as part of this package, too. The latter was also proposed in our forum, and that was definitely not on our idea list. But we’re always open to ideas and suggestions.

But for now, it looks like CTC 3.14 will have the drawbridge (almost finished) and some other more technical changes. It is the technical change that causes us to move ahead with an official update – it is needed for a territory conversion from TD3 to CTC.

As always, enjoy the game.

The WebRailRoader Team

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What’s next after CTC 3.13

First my apologies. Yes – we promised to have the helper function available for 3.13, and some pieces are already in, and while we got already trains pushed by a helper working, there are still things to do, like when to engage, when to disengage, communication, and some other interaction. The new territories that we placed in our directory (and another coming soon) don’t need helper function, but they make use of the foreign train feature. So we included the foreign train feature, and made some other corrections for 3.13.

The foreign train feature, by the way, works different than TDP3’s version. We don’t have the automatic feature, but our traffic is directional. So you can see from where the train is coming from. Not that important from the function point of view, but we think it is more realistic. When converting TDP’s numbers of train frequency, we split them in half between either directions of a single track crossing. For double track crossing, we assign the whole number of one particular track to one direction, while placing the number of the second track in the opposite direction.

The new territories have foreign trains running in the FULL version of the territory.

But for the next version of CTC we think we will have the helper function completed.

We also have started working of enhancing the signaling and routing function mentioned in my previous post. The first step is to define fixed route sections, which are regular route sections but with additional information to align switches which are not traveled by
the train using that route but rather protecting it. They will be used for train routing – as opposed to switch routing. Switch routing will continue to work as before – creating dynamic route sections as needed, however it will be possible to route into an occupied track, and the signal indication will be a steady yellow signal symbol.

We might throw in a drawbridge track element for the next release. Some territories in our library suggest some drawbridges on the scene, but only as a comment. But we all know, that it takes some time to lower and raise a drawbridge – more so than for street drawbridges. Also, railroad drawbridges are normally open for boat traffic, and lowered only if a train approaches the bridge. And there is ample advance warning for the boat traffic before a bridge is actually lowered.

Once we have the drawbridge feature implemented in CTC, we will modify the territories to make it real.

As always, enjoy the game.

The WebRailRoader Team

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What’s next after CTC 3.12

CTC 3.12 was mostly about adaption for TDP3 territories, e.g. possible multiple start times on a particular weekday – or even non at all, and pick a couple of trains of a regular schedule, and place them where you want. We actually run those trains – and only those – and maneuver them so that they get to the supposed starting blocks. Then we save that game status and incorporate that into the scene data that you can download.

The conversion of TDP3’s train schedule handling turned out to be tricky. There are some conditions where decisions need to be made to fit in our CTC scheduling scheme that are not so obvious. That involved some TDP3 investigations – we almost can open now a TDP support group – except for serial number lookup we probably can answer any TDP question you may have.

Anyway, because of this, we haven’t completed the helper function and the foreign train handling yet – we decided to delay that and do it for 3.13.

But we don’t want to do only what TDP does, we want to do something more.
For instance, we are thinking about expanding the signalling and routing by differentiating between train routing (from station to station) and switch routing (typically within a station) Switch routing allows routing into an occupied block and the train runs under caution – since this is switching. And you have – in a station – far more switching signals than signals for train routing. And while switching only signals have to be clear (or at least neutral) for a train route, the train’s behavior is really governed by the train signals as opposed to the switching signals.

Another thing we want to add is “more comfortable” routing, like pre-progamming a route that would not be possible at this moment, but would be set once it is possible, or automatic routing based on train types, destination etc.

As always, enjoy the game.

The WebRailRoader Team

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What’s next after CTC 3.11

With the changes in CTC 3.11 we have implemented a few things you’ve enjoyed in TDP3, mainly passing a red signal (also requested by our customers) and work areas. There are things in TDP3 we haven’t addressed yet but we will.
Continue reading

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What we are working on for CTC Release 3.11

In CTC Release 3.11 we will add the possibility to give an order to a train to pass a red signal.

It will be possible to do it in two ways: (1) by giving an order while in contact with your virtual train engineer via phone conversation [this is considered to be like a written train order], and (2) by setting a special indicator at the signal to be passed.

In Germany, the special signal indicator is called “Ersatzsignal”. We will implement the functionality in a similar fashion, which is: the permission will be active for about two minutes, after which the permission is withdrawn, and the permission is valid only for the next approaching train – if there this another train behind it, the permission is not valid for the 2nd train, even if the signal still indicates this (in order for the 2nd train to pass a red signal, you need to reactivate the permission again).

The signal symbol will flash in yellow, if the signal has the indicator on.

For hidden signals there is only the option via phone authorization.

Now, as you know, passing a red signal is a dangerous operation. The system will not check if the switches are aligned properly or if the next track section is actually free – that is YOUR job. Of course, allow to enter a block with a train already in it is what you actually want to do, therefore your train engineer will do his part and pass a red signal with restricted speed, prepared to stop at any obstruction.

Part of the enhancements for 3.11 is to deal with the consequences if something goes wrong. In preliminary testing I already caused a head-on collision, which the program does not handle very well – yet. It does detect that, but I tended to terminate the program instead of waiting for hours until the system deletes the involved trains, so that part is not very well tested and has bugs as I found out. But thanks to the save/load feature in introduced 3.10 we can now dig deeper into these scenarios.

As always, enjoy the game.

The WebRailRoader Team

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Upcoming in CTC 3.10

Just to keep you posted what is coming for CTC release 3.10:

The biggest change is the capability to save the current game status in a file, and load this some other time to continue. Since there is no end time in CTC, you just can play forever so to speak.

We got it working with the current set up in the available territories. There is some more things to do like how to integrate it re-load into the existing scheme, and we do some testing to make sure everything works as it it supposed to be.

Since the saved status needs to match with the base data of the territory itself, a special code will be added into the territory data, so that there won’t be any mixup. Because there was some substantial work into implementing this, and to create an incentive to purchase the general registration code, we have decided to add the save option only to the STD and FULL version of the territory files, and maybe in the FREE version of small demo territories.

Other changes include the possibility to zoom in and out using the mouse wheel, a correction affecting customers where the comma is standard to separate integer and fraction in floating point numbers, and some correction handling scheduling when midnight passes.

As always, enjoy the game.

The WebRailRoader Team

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Updates available

Hello –

For those who got into during the Easter Special promotion: congratulations.

In the meantime, we have been busy. We have upgraded CTC to expand the support of switches. which now can be placed in all different ways (TDP allowed only 4 variants), and added the support of slip switches, both single and double slip switches. These slip switches operate like most in reality, having two switch motors (there is a TDP clone out there that support slip switches with just one motor, they do exist in reality also, but are very rare). TDP never supported slip switches.

The latest addition to CTC is the support of what we call “superblocks”. They represent stretches of consecutive smaller blocks, where each of them have their own attribute, like speed limits, but which can be occupied by only one train. We have noticed some TDP territories where there is a stretch of track as a combination of several blocks. Since TDP places automatic signals between those sections, you can send a train into that stretch even though the previous train hasn’t left the last section yet. You usually find a hint saying please don’t do this, but nothing is really stopping you. In CTC you can define such sequence of blocks as a collection for a superblock. The occupancy status shows the status for the whole stretch, and you can begin or terminate a route only on the while thing, while the train will still run through the individual blocks as usual. You can also have several platforms located in whole stretch.

Finally – Toledo Terminal is back. We have done some research, and found that must of the crossings in the TDP version are shown as overpasses, when in fact there area really diamonds. Don’t blame the author of original the territory for it – diamonds were not supported by TDP at that time. We converted all crossing to diamonds (except one, which appears to have been really an overpass). This variant is available in the FULL version. The FREE and STD version still have the overpasses – and less trains in the schedule.

As always, enjoy the game.

The WebRailRoader Team

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Webrailroader announces CTC simulation software

On April 30, 2012, Softrail announced that it would stop selling the simulation program “Train Dispatcher” and any associated territories with that.

TDP, as you may know, is a game that shows the diagram of the tracks of a particular territory, and your job is to route the trains to their proper destination as set per schedule.

Webrailroader’s CTC is our own version of the TDP. While it was certainly inspired by TDP, it is not a clone. The general task is the same – the routing of the trains according the schedule, but we put a different spin to it. For instance, you can communicate with the (virtual) engineers running the trains on you territory.

This project was started quite some time ago, Continue reading

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Model Trains For Beginners Insiders Club

If you want to start a real model train layout, you may want to check out this

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